There’s an easy, relaxed, communal feel as you enter the busy home of Tirohanga horseman Steve Drummond.
Everyone is looking out for the young ones, there are constant comings and goings, hugs goodbye and welcome are constant. Steve is very much the main man as he calmly oversees this busy household while also looking after his new business Opotiki Horse Hire.
“As you know my house is real busy, these fellas are getting back into horses.”
Some mates pull up, a gaggle of happy toddlers roam around, or delight in the clutches of older children. Several beautiful teenage girls sit chatting on outside sofas. A family member is cooking up delicious thin slices of venison that are being handed round. It is a harmonious scene.
Steve was born and raised at Snells Beach, his father a Scotsman and his mother a Chatham Islands Moriori. He was born with cerebral palsy, which has affected the muscle development in his left arm and leg, but has not held him back.
“I couldn’t really afford to get held back,” he says. “I used to wear braces and there weren’t too many guys like me in Opotiki so people looked out for me.”
When he was young his father remarried and the family moved to the Gisborne area where he first learned to ride with John Buchanan, who ran Riding for The Disabled in the city.
Years on, Steve remains an advocate for the organisation describing riding as “a good thing” for people with disabilities. “[Riding] a horse, it moves every muscle in the body; it’s got to be good for you.”
Horses have been part of his life, almost all his life. “I had a horse before I had a bike, we just rode horses. When someone came along with a bike we would try and swap them. Some of them weren’t into horses so you didn’t get to ride a bike.”
When he was older he started breaking in horses and doing track work for a living. “I did it a bit different from other people so it took me a while,” he says. “It is trust, it’s as simple as that. And respect. And if you ain’t got that you ain’t got nothing.”
Steve continues to work with horses and has recently started Opotiki Horse Hire, based next to the Tirohanga Store. He is offering rides along the beach, which he hopes will be a winner with families of young children staying at the nearby campground.
For the more adventurous there are rides in the Blue Mountains at the back of Tirohanga, through lush bush with spectacular views out to sea.
“We have a contract with the forestry up there to graze our horses, and we have to honour that,” he explains. “It’s great they have given us the chance to do what we want to do. The horses just run free, no fences.”
Having spent all his life riding in the area, he knows many treks varying from an hour to a few hours, even overnight.
He hopes to provide a pick-up and drop-off service in the future but in the meantime there’s plenty of parking at the forestry site.
This year he is planning a large group ride – bring your own horse or hire one – with a hangi meal. A forestry track suitable for a horse and cart means less able-bodied people will also be able to take part.