Life After Racing – The Farmhouse


When it comes to endorsing the versatility of the Standardbred breed, The Farmhouse in Rotorua shouts it from the rooftops.

The horse trekking business is home to almost one hundred horses, forty of which are Standardbreds, that are used on a daily basis to safely transport riders from New Zealand and abroad to showcase the local scenery and native bird life.

Belinda Holmes is herself a former trainer and driver and is in charge of the care of the almost one hundred horses that are used on the 400 acre property. It was bought as a going concern by Taiwanese owners 25 years ago from its Kiwi founders.

“I’ve worked at the Farmhouse on and off for about 26 years and there has always been the occasional Standardbred here,” said Holmes. “That number has continued to grow largely due to the fact they are readily available, affordable, and have the best temperament for this kind of work.”

The number of customers at The Farmhouse can vary dramatically from week to week. Numbers range from fifteen individuals, right up to groups of thirty at any one time.

“We have large groups of Chinese and Taiwanese students who come and stay for ten to fourteen days at a time, and have horse riding included with their other daily activities,” Holmes explained. “The rides are all over the farm, up and down hills, through native bush and all treks have views out over Lake Rotorua and Mt Tarawera. The guests get to see a huge amount of native wildlife too like Fantails, Tui and native pigeons.”

And when it comes to showcasing New Zealand and the business to visitors, safety is of high importance. It is a large part of why Standardbreds are the first horse of choice for Holmes for inexperienced riders.

“We usually get them straight from the trainer and educate them ourselves. Those that have raced are especially good as there is not much they haven’t seen already,” she explained. “They are suitable for nearly every discipline and play a huge part in our business and we use them from the smallest children to the oldest of grown-ups. In my opinion Standardbreds make wonderful trekking and riding horses.”

One of the horses Holmes notes with fondness is Gypsy, who took everyone from toddlers to 92-year-old riders safely around the farm. The horse passed away sadly last year after a battle with cancer which broke the hearts of those who worked with her.

Another is Ard, who came to the team from Doug Gale.  He won two races in his career and joined the team after retiring early in 2016.

“Ard suffers from small man syndrome,” jokes Holmes. “His latest trick, which he thinks is hilarious, is to untie himself and then go along the line of horses and untie all of his friends. He doesn’t want to go anywhere, he just wants to let you know he could if he wanted to.”

The oldest Standardbred at the Farmhouse is Lord Chrimar. A rising 31-year-old, ‘Lordy’ won four races during his career and race from age three until the ripe old age of ten.

Their most successful racehorse on the farm is Phoebe Gladiator.

A rising 14-year-old, Phoebe Gladiator was successful on seven occasions during his career, but also placed 28 times. He won his first race for Tony Herlihy, and a further six for Dane Alexander.

The multitude of personalities on the farm ensures there is a horse for everyone, but mainly that all who visit have a positive experience. Which is reflected in the glowing reviews by customers on the website.

“I could write a book on our Standardbreds,” gushed Holmes. “I love them all.”