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Top equestrian coach farewelled

By Hayley Gastmeier

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A man revered as a top equestrian coach of all ages and abilities will be farewelled today at the Tauherenikau Racecourse.

Stephen Field of Carterton died suddenly on August 13, aged 51.

Speaking from Mr Field’s home on Friday, gathered family and friends said he would be remembered for his “massively kind heart”.

Originally from England, Mr Field moved to New Zealand in 1990, taking an instructor role at the Moonshine Equestrian Centre in Upper Hutt.

He later bought the business and ran it for several years with his wife Carlene, who he met at the Tauherenikau Racecourse during a pony club camp.

The couple sold up their 100-acre property and moved to Wairarapa 13-years-ago with their son Jaden, who is now 23.

Mr Field was heavily involved with the South Wairarapa Pony Club for over a decade, working as head instructor at the Carterton branch for a time, and this year was the coach for the Wellington/Wairarapa eventing team at the NZ Pony Club Championships.

For the last few years he worked as head coach, five-days-a-week, at the Hutt Valley Riding for the Disabled.

Hutt Valley RDA president Shona Belcher said Mr Field had an enormous influence on the organisation and it would be impossible to fill the void left by his departure.

“He’s taught able bodied riders most of his adult life, but to teach these kids with disabilities is a whole different ball game and he just did it so well.

“He had this rapport with them that was second to none, and to fill his shoes is going to be so difficult for us, it really is.”

She said anyone who had seen Mr Field teaching the children would know of his incredible flair.

“I just used to sit there and watch him and was in awe really, of what he got out of these kids that nobody else did.

“It takes a special person to teach people with disabilities to ride, it really does, and he had that, he had what it took,” Mrs Belcher said.

“He was one in a million.”

Mr Field’s sister Kate, from England, said it had been his perceptiveness that lead to his high success rate with teaching others to ride.

“He was so good at judging people, that was his real skill. He’d know the right thing to say. Whether it was somebody who was very experienced but was never going to do a lot or whether it was somebody who actually had huge potential and could go on and win competitions, he always knew that and would always play to peoples’ strengths.”

Jaden said he would miss his father’s loud voice and raucous laughter.

Unfortunately“to his father’s disgust, Jaden took to motorbikes instead” of horses, Mrs Field said.

She said her husband had a gift for matching horses with people and could achieve next to impossible results with children, in one case teaching a blind girl to ride independently.

“We would get kids that would never go near a horse – like if you bought a horse near them they would scream, yell and run in the other direction – but by the end of the week with Stephen they all knew how to catch a pony, bring it in, brush it, ride it.”

Mr Field also worked for Agriculture New Zealand, placing troubled-teens into work on farms, and as a teacher’s aid at Heretaunga College and Makoura College.

Hannah Bentley, 31, was one of the first riders through Moonshine Equestrian Centre and was taught by Mr Field from the age of five.

Hannah Bentley, left, with Carlene Field, Banjo the pony, and Carolyn Hovell. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Hannah Bentley, left, with Carlene Field, Banjo the pony, and Carolyn Hovell. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

“If you weren’t doing something on your pony right he’d say ‘hop off and I’ll show you how it’s done’.”

She said he treated his students as though they were family and if he could not be at one of their competitions he would always phone to ask how it went.

“Even if you didn’t think you could do it, he believed you could do it and then you started to believe in yourself,” she said.

A service for Mr Field is being held today at the Tauherenikau Racecourse at 1pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hutt Valley RDA.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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