Starlight Farm is the inspiration of Tina Fagan, brought up deep in the heart of farming New Zealand in Te Kuiti with entrepreneurial parents Geoff and Christine Fagan. Her youth was spent exploring hills and bush, getting thrills on motorbikes and bringing up numerous pet lambs that will live many years and reproduce a little motley herd that will in time grow and later graze with the horses.
Damontez LS and Tina Fagan and the Fagan clan brothers Shane and Ross, Tina and sister Julia with the Sheep
Inheriting an elusive gene from one of my parents, I grew up with a very strong passion for horses. Against strong discouragement from both parents and even an attempt at redirection from my father to ride motorbikes my passion resounded and was eventually allowed to go and ride at a local riding school owned by a well known Show Ring parent Dale Bakewell at the age of six.
My first pony was a tenacious section A welsh pony named 'Sunny' (Kenmore Griffins). I remember my old fashioned velvet cap falling off my head more times than I actually fell off as we gallivanted around paddocks and jumped obstacles at great speed, my little red gumboots only just reaching down past the saddle flaps.
First competition Waitomo Sports 1988 with Sunny.
Thrills and spills with little 'Sunny' only strengthened my passion and by the age of nine I had my first horse adeptly named 'Starlight', 15hh stationbred gelding that I instantly fell in love with. Although not entirely suitable for a nine year old and yet through the challenges of been young and short and Starlight been comparatively tall and strong he taught me a lot, suffered and forgave my impulsive greenhorn antics, man from snowy river down the back of the farm, jumping thistles, racing my friends ponies, playing tag on horse back. He taught me the frustrations of float loading and such things as head shy and that you shouldn't try to catch a horse in the dark while carrying a touch light and that it is easer to follow the man wearing the red coat on the hunt field when you can't stop! More importantly he ignited my imagination and introduced me to the addictive taste of competition.
Under instruction from Dale Bakewell Starlight was sold to an older more experienced local rider and I began my career on ponies. The first of them been a 14.2hh, 4 year old mare Tomo Nasseelia by the same sire (Linden Changing Times) as the pony that would later jump pony Grand Prix (Hawkseye) for my sister Julia. 'Nasseelia' was a very talented and athletic pony and after trying her in a small hilly paddock in the middle of winter, where the only jump was a wire fence that she would bound over then drop her head and buck all the way up the hill, I had to have her. At eleven years of age I was on my way.
Tomo Nasseelia ridden by Tina at 11 years Grand Prix pony Hawkseye ridden by sister Julia
From this moment on I had numerous horses and ponies and went from local pony club events to Showing, Show Jumping and Horse Trials. Once old enough to have a driver’s license I was old enough to drive my own passion, along with my sister Julia six years my junior. We made quite an interesting team at only sixteen and twelve doing it on our own. Also during the school years I managed to find work during my holidays at various stables working with thoroughbreds and sporting horses, gaining valuable knowledge and experiences that will pay off later in life. My first serious Young Rider horse was a little power pack named 'Natural Vision' that to this day is still teaching young riders at the age of 29 and after 6 foals. And at eighteen I had my heavy traffic license and between my fourteen year old sister and I we would take a team of horses out to National events.
Natural Vision and Tusitala ridden by Tina Fagan
At about this time I was introduced to Parelli Natural Horsemanship and a journey down many winding paths to self discovery was begun that opened up a whole new world of horses to me. Always with an insatiable thirst for knowledge skills and passionate about anything horse this was a program that grabbed me at the right time, completing most of the level 3 at that time in the program in twelve months of starting. I had also begun my other passion for horses, the rocky path of 'horse breeding'.
Damontez LS playing at Liberty Natural Vision with one of her foals
By the time I was twenty and had experimented with a ‘normal’ life, trying my hand at commercial truck driving, retail sales and real estate sales I had decided that no matter how hard it seems that following my passion is what I am meant to do. Choosing to follow this path I had the opportunity to travel to Pagosa Springs in Colorado America to work and train at Pat and Linda Parelli’s International Study Centre for 6 months, where I surrounded with people from all walks of life and from all over the world with the same yet varied passion for horses. This was a place where I grew up and in many ways can still look back on and learn from the experiences had there, not only with horses but also with people. I was also officially awarded my level 3 here from Pat. This is where I truly understood that we are ‘only limited by our imagination’.
Parelli International Study Center May 2001
Later I would travel to Europe firstly Holstein, Germany, driven by my thirsty knowledge for horse breeding, the opportunity was given to me by a colourful welsh character and New Zealand horse breeder Paul Ffoulkes, where upon I viewed hundreds of mares and foals during foal brandings and famous stallions and mares during competitions and classifications. Since then I have been back again to work and travel in Europe and also going to Belgium, France, Great Britain and Ireland, making many friends and contacts to that will become invaluable moving forward.
Tina with Cassini I and Cassiano schooling, Holsteiner Verband. Foal Branding, Holstein, Germany
Standing my own New Zealand Warmblood Stallion at home based on my parents farm in Whitianga meant that I was also becoming greatly interested using AI and scanning my own mares, so back I head to Scotland where under the patient tutelage of Dugald and Jackie Low-Mitchell I learnt how to scan breeding mares at different stages, the art of insemination and handling semen and also how to confidently collect semen off a variety of stallions. I also met great persons in there daughters, well known equestrian and trainer Sandra Low-Mitchell and Jennifer who is based as a horse breeder in South Africa.
Starlight Farm is currently placed in the beautiful rural countryside of Pukekawa, while sister Julia is based only 15mins away in Te Kohanga, both properties are within 20 minutes of Pukekohe and 45 minutes from Auckland International Airport.
We have a breeding program well underway, our oldest progeny bred by Starlight Farm are now rising twelve years of age and are making there mark undersaddle. The warmblood stallion Damontez LS after a successful career of Show Jumping was turned to focus him on Classical Dressage with the help of talented and renowned Classical horse trainer Ramon Guerrero in the view to deepen my own knowledge and skills as a horsewoman and provide greater experiences to students, training horses and in inspiring performances. Unfortunately Damontez passed away suddenly in a paddock accident in January 2013. Frozen semen is still available to this wonderful horse. Keep watching this space though as we work on a replacement with one of his young offspring.
Starlight Ilex, Starlight Farm, Matamata 2009 Damontez LS bowing and Show Jumping 1.30m
Today with so much going on it is sometimes difficult to get a handle on everything that is happening at Starlight Farm. Tina has support from larger than life partner Marcus Ashwell, a professional ballroom dancer and principal of Dancewell Studios he adds another dimension to the international team and life at Starlight Farm. They also have two children together, Hannah four and Twyla three, while sister Julia Johnston and her husband Jarod have a one year old daughter named Javana which makes for exspecially busy times on the farm!
Currently our main focus at Starlight Farm is offering lessons, mentoring, clinics and camps to students across all walks of the equestrian scene. There is also a lot of focus on producing and training horses for clients from all spheres of equestrian. We also offer sales and support for national and international clients, sourcing quality horses to meet our clients specific needs.
Tina and Marcus Tina with Hannah and Twyla
Tina and working student Naho Iwakiri from Japan Tina and Julia with Damontez LS
Looking for your future star, want lessons, need a problem solved, want to breed? See us at Starlight Farm.
Starlight Farm yearlings growing up on the hills in Whitianga
Tina Fagan and KHH Stallion Challenge Champion "Rock Star"