Branxholme trainer, Kirk Larsen, along with wife Michelle, have set about making a name for themselves not only in the Southland region, but on the New Zealand and Australian harness racing scenes.
With a string of winners to their credit, and with the stats to back them up, they have established themselves as not only trainers of racehorses, but of trainers of horses that have gone on to triumph in the competitive Australian market. These horses have achieved success in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.
With the completion of the 2009-10 racing season, the Larsen stable has also gained its 4th consecutive Southland Trainer of the Year title.
But to get quality racehorses you need to have a good, wide selection of yearlings, and every year Kirk and Michelle work hard to find quality stock not only for themselves, but for their New Zealand, Australian and also for clients from as far afield as Singapore and London.
"You never know where you'll get your owners from," Kirk says, "You get a kick out of getting them a winner and once they get that buzz, they're hooked."
And with the Larsen racing stables consistently churning out the winners, there are sure to be more happy owners in the future.
After more than a decade training out of Southland Kirk said there was no better place to base an operation such as this. The price of land and feed was cheaper than in the North Island and with technology such as the internet and digital cameras, keeping in touch with owners is easy.
Kirk was about 22-years-old when he and his brother Ricky started from scratch transforming bare land to a finely-tuned stable with a track, boxes and a barn for 15 horses. The process took about 12 months, including the planting of thousands of trees so each paddock had a shelter belt.
Today Kirk has approximately 31 horses in work. Kirk and Michelle's day starts at 6.00am with the horses given breakfast and Michelle doing work in the office. At 7am the work begins with the horses on their various individual training programmes and continues through to 12pm. with an hour for lunch, the work begins again bringing in the horses, brushing up and cleaning gear. A general day finishes with feeding up at 4.30pm. This routine continues 7 days a week, with the addition of workouts, trials and racing.
Kirk's day doesn't end once the sun goes down. Owners wanting progress reports on their horses means the phone can be ringing for up to three hours in the evening. From a racing background herself, Michelle admitted the workload could put a strain on a marriage but the fact they were both involved and interested in the sport had helped.
With so many horses in work, it would be hard for one man to do it all by himself, and Kirk has a good competent team of workers (3 full time, 1 of which lives on-site and 2 part time,) and support crew behind him.