From top to toe

A Cam­bridge cou­ple share a pic­ture-per­fect life­style on part of a re-pur­posed dairy farm, as DEB­BIE KNOWLES dis­cov­ers.

NZ Horse & Pony - - In This Issue - IM­AGES: MENDIP FARM PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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.

Look­ing ahead

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


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

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