Hannah Simpson has an unusual passion—soaring over obstacles with her bovine best friend named Lilac.
- Posted on Nov 13, 2018
Lots of little girls dream about having their own horse someday, especially if they live on a farm as Hannah Simpson did. Growing up in the Southland hills outside Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, Hannah loved being around and caring for animals. But without a horse, something didn’t feel quite right. She didn’t just want to trot around the barnyard; she wanted to gallop through meadows and compete in show jumping.
Unfortunately, the feed and other costs of caring for a horse were beyond her family’s budget, so she tried to put the idea of riding out of her mind. That is, until one day when she was tending her family’s small herd of cows and her younger brother dared her to hop on top of one. Little did 11-year-old Hannah know that his attempt to challenge her would turn into something special. She carefully slid onto the back of a six-month-old Brown Swiss calf named Lilac, who surprisingly didn’t try to buck her off.
For days after that, Hannah rode Lilac around the farm at a walk. Then they worked up to a canter. Before she knew it, Hannah had the calf stepping over logs, which soon turned into jumping over fallen tree trunks—some as large as three feet in diameter. “I have always loved jumping,” Hannah told The Guardian. “And Lilac was always jumping out of the cow shed when she was young, so I think she likes it, too.”
Hannah’s friends and family quickly got used to her unusual passion. New acquaintances tend to “think it’s a bit crazy,” she admits, “but cool.” In time, she discovered that a few of the other cows on the farm were willing to canter and jump as well. “Lilac wasn’t really into cantering, but one of my other cows, Honey, cantered all the time,” she says. “She was speedy!”
Hannah spends the most time with Lilac, though, whom she rides bareback holding just a halter (she learned that the cow wasn’t fond of wearing a saddle). Despite years of soaring over obstacles—some as high as three feet—atop Lilac, she never planned on fulfilling her show-jumping dream with a cow. Even if Hannah could enter Lilac in a run for a blue ribbon, she knows her bovine best friend can be stubborn at times and probably wouldn’t behave around crowds and all the action.
Hannah did eventually get a horse, when she was 16. In 2015, she started competing with Sammy, a Standardbred whom you can see occasional photos of on her Instagram feed. The star of her Instagram, though, is Lilac. The truth is, Hannah still prefers riding her faithful Brown Swiss. “We grew up together,” she says. “Lilac is a special cow.”
Hannah, now 20, is studying to be a rural animal technician at Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill. But she always makes time for her longtime pal. “Lilac can be lazy when she wants, but she still loves jumping and river swims,” Hannah says. It’s been almost a decade since she made good on that dare to ride a cow—a challenge from which an enduring bond grew. Sounds like a pretty moo-ving friendship, if you ask us.
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