From top to toe
A Cambridge couple share a picture-perfect lifestyle on part of a re-purposed dairy farm, as DEBBIE KNOWLES discovers.
A Cambridge couple share a picture-perfect equestrian lifestyle on part of a re-purposed dairy farm
With seven horses on her Cambridge property, Lorraine Downey has busy enough days without also heading off to work as a salesperson in the fashion industry. Her clever sense of style often has shoppers wanting to buy exactly what she is wearing, right down to the shoes! Some of this panache is sure to come from her keen interest in arts and the theatre.
Lorraine is the grandmother of seven, and has long been able to make the younger generation shake in their boots when she rocks out into any turnout class in the show ring.
She is quite happy to admit she likes “a bit of bling.” But, it’s totally the classy way she is able to put it all together − to complement herself and any horse ridden − that it always looks amazing and not over-the-top as some, unfortunately, seem to achieve. Top honours have been won in all variations of turnout, whether formal or smartest on parade, including Best Presented Hack at the Horse of the Year Show.
Lorraine’s modest comments about her turnout talents are: “I have a bridle made for each horse, as I have a thing about all the buckles lining up! I like my gear and clothes to be clean and very polished up and, of course, the colours of jacket and accessories must suit my horse’s colour. The horse must be in very good condition with a shining coat.”
To top all this off, Lorraine has worked for many years with Australian riding wear and saddlery creator Caroline Wagner.
The Waikato move
Lorraine and partner Colin Smith have been together for over 20 years. They live on a gorgeous seven-acre property opposite Cambridge Stud near Hautapu village. They moved to the Waikato from Tauranga for Colin’s construction management role, and have been here for 13 years now and the property has been transformed in this time from its original two bare paddocks.
Formerly, the 1960s small red brick house and land were part of a dairy farm. It then became a deer unit, before being subdivided into numerous desirable lifestyle blocks with close access to both Cambridge and Hamilton.
As Hautapu Road got busier, the decision was made to shift the house from the roadside to the centre of the property. Colin says: “It was re-piled, re-clad and had new joinery installed. The dining room area, ensuite for the main bedroom and a new kitchen were added.”
Progressively, new post-and-rail fencing and the re-building of the old deer shed into stables and tack room took place. Lorraine and Colin planted hedging and willow trees for shelter and privacy which the people and horses are certainly getting the benefit of now. It’s become a tranquil little hideaway.
Lorraine appreciates all her facilities, which make life with horses easier and especially with the recent addition of a roof over the wash bay. “If we did it again from scratch, we would have very open, large covered yards instead of stables, as I like to put them all under cover when the sun is at its strongest.”
Being in the construction industry, Colin is extremely handy to have around the property and his craftsmanship is evident everywhere. From the gazebo and mounting block by the arena to the lights up the driveway, a welcoming seat by the horse’s shady yards and the garden pergola; it all adds to the ambience of the overall scene.
If we did it again from scratch, we’d have large covered yards instead of stables.”
Anyone who has competed at the North Island Premier Showing Championships at Claudelands will recognise the gazebo; Colin and Lorraine used to help with the show and carted it there each year for the judges to relax in the shade between classes.
Colin likes to do things properly; an instance of this is when Lorraine asked him to bring home a pop-up flag (similar to a flappy coffee-cart one), so the horses wouldn’t be frightened of them at shows. Well, he did this but it came suitably inscribed with ‘Foxdown Farm’ on it!
In his spare time, Colin is a keen boatie and successful fisherman.
There’s also a great new mirror Colin put up beside the arena, with a story to tell. Heathcote Park Princeton (‘Flynn’) is the boss horse of the property and, when allowed to graze around the arena one day, he came upon an imposter. While killing said imposter, he wrecked the original mirror! Needless to say, Flynn does not get to graze around the arena anymore.
Flynn is the exception to Lorraine’s other horses, past and present, who are all off-the-track thoroughbreds. Mr Important has ‘a tippet’ of Arabian in his breeding and was imported from Australia after the tragic loss of her stunning park hack, Pierre (‘Larry’).
Lorraine says she thought she was purchasing a lovely ‘nana’s hack,’ but Flynn has been the toughest horse she’s
had. Lorraine says: “I love my thoroughbreds; they are beautiful, intelligent and have a great work ethic.”
Good things take time
Lorraine has always ridden beautiful horses. “I like a horse that just takes my eye. I don’t get too caught up in detail, as nothing in life is perfect, just a horse that says something to me – I LOVE HIM!
“Most of my horses have found me in one way or another; right time, right place and I have never really searched madly for them. I think slow, dedicated work, correct feeding and a balanced life for my horses has certainly worked for me to develop their minds, bodies and paces at a rate that suits them. My horses’ welfare is always foremost and we don’t rush things.”
For over 15 years, Lorraine has worked with Elaine Mccall to instil the finer points of her various horses’ education. They both believe the horse will come up in front when it has strengthened enough behind so, if it’s a novice horse, it gets ridden as such and not hauled up in front with a double bridle at its first show; despite the urgings of some of those ‘in the know’.
Pierre was one such case. The beautiful show type was purchased from eventer Lynne King as he was just not a jumper. After much work at home, Lorraine entered him into the Royal Show at Hamilton with the thought of “only hoping to stay on him and not realising just what a big deal it all was.”
Pierre and Lorraine won both the Novice and Open Park Hack titles; it was their second show together.
Lorraine began riding at about age seven. Her mother, Shirley Downey, hunted and her dad, Jim, always had a few unruly ponies on the farm that he brought home from the sales. She remembers “Dixie, a naughty three-yearold pony” as her first horse. As a child, Lorraine did round-the-ring jumping and hunting.
There was a 15-year break from the horses, while first married, and coping with four young children.
Lorraine began again with George, a racehorse her sister Sharon saved from a horrible life. Then came a big grey thoroughbred mare called Laura and, later, Touch of Class (‘Manny’), a striking looking 15.3 chestnut thoroughbred gelding with four stockings. They competed up to Open Medium level dressage and Lorraine notes that “dressage was more fun back then as you didn’t need a flash warmblood.”
Manny, unfortunately, had feet issues, so never reached his true potential.
After Lorraine moved from Wellington to Tauranga, her next stunning
Most of my horses have found me in one way or another... I have never searched for them.”
thoroughbred was the heavyweight hack La’dore del Rosso (‘Matt’). Matt was a great type, a very treasured horse and the pair won much together.
All in the family
Colin has two children, a daughter living in Europe and a son in Wellington. He has one grandchild.
Lorraine’s daughter, Vanessa Feaver, is her fantastic groom and moral support on show days. Horses have a lifelong home at Foxdown Farm and Vanessa’s retired thoroughbred Luke, by Half Iced, still enjoys life under drooping willow trees in the grassy paddocks. Vanessa is a mother to Connor, and works in communications and media.
Lorraine also has three sons: Troy is an area manager in Tauranga, Craig a project manager in construction in Tauranga and Vaughan a panelbeater in Hamilton.
Of her seven grandchildren, Vaughan’s daughter, Summer Neems, is the rider so far and she won Champion Lead-rein Rider at the NI Welsh Show on her four-year-old pony Prince of Thieves. This was his first outing under saddle and only Summer’s second show, so it was a huge thrill for everyone.
Also part of the Foxdown crew is Ice, a white German Shepherd, owned by Colin but under Lorraine’s care when Colin is at work. Stray cats seem to have their radar tuned into arriving at the stables, knowing they won’t be turned away, and there are always one or two in residence. Currently, it’s a rather large, piratey-
Horses have a lifelong home at Foxdown Farm, with peaceful retirement in the paddocks.”
looking, one-eyed ginger called Gingy and, before him, Blacky.
Lorraine has most recently competed on Porto no (‘Adam’), a 15.2 chestnut thoroughbred by Pins, who she describes as a “fantastic and sweet little park hack, who has been so consistent for me”.
Two new horses have turned up at Foxdown Farm recently. A day out at the races for Lorraine saw them come home with the lovely big saddle hunter type in It’s Got To Be You (‘Brad’), who Vanessa hopes to do a bit of dressage on.
A few months later, under the same Hong Kong ownership as Brad, It Has To Be You (‘Leo’) arrived on a transporter. e Hong Kong ladies who own, race and adore their horses, have been to Foxdown Farm to see them, armed with carrots and a genuine delight to see both horses content with their new forever lives.
While in Hong Kong, Leo was visited every day by his admiring owners and, when they turned up here to see him at his new home, he instantly recognised them.
Whereas Brad is a great hunter type, Lorraine has picked out the ner, very elegant Leo for herself as a hack. So, as Leo comes along, Adam will move on to a life of leisure under the willow trees.
Leo was good enough to win ve races, three in Hong Kong including the Hong Kong Classic Cup and nearly a million dollars in stakes. No slug himself, Brad, bred by Windsor Park Stud, won three races. Both good-lookers are by Volksraad and were trained here by Bruce Wallace.
And so, we are sure with all this TLC, the champions will long continue for Foxdown Farm.
ABOVE FROM LEFT Open- plan living to the lounge. The attractive, functional kitchen was added when the house was shifted. The practical stable block, of three boxes, with the central aisle used for tacking up and plaiting under lights LEFT Lorraine and Ice at the front door. BELOW The stable block and shady outdoor yards on the left
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR
LEFT Lots of lovely places to sit around the house; Lorraine on Flynn with Colin and Vanessa adding the nishing touches; looking back to the house through another of Colin’s helpful constructions; Ice the white German Shepherd is a great guard dog; the attractive head of Leo looking over the stable door; all the paddocks have wonderful shade for the horses