While many people will be bandying around a few choice F words over the lockdown period, there are two that are helping Southland trainer Kelvin Tyler get through it – family and farming. The Riverton horseman is a proud family man. He trains in partnership with his daughter Aimee and works closely with his sons Jason and Michael who run the family’s 500 acre dairy farm.
While working with family can have its moments, Tyler said he is lucky to be surrounded by his loved ones at times like this. “It is pretty testing at times, but I am pretty lucky,” Tyler admitted. “Most other farmers don’t have their children interested in farming, but I am lucky I have got two sons who are keen on farming. “Aimee pushed me to get my trainer’s license in the earlier years. She loves being involved, it has been unbelievable really. We are a pretty close family. “We are all in it together and it works out nicely most of the time.”
Tyler was forced to turn out his 20-strong team a fortnight ago when the country entered Covid-19 level 4 restrictions, and while disappointed he said there has been a silver-lining. “We had close to 20 horses ready to race at the time. We were just gearing up for our local Riverton meeting,” he said. “But I am quite enjoying the break. I’m just doing a few jobs around the place and it’s been good. “It’s business as usual at the farm, nothing much has changed there. It’s a good outlet to have, to get out on the farm and do things out there.”
Tyler has been a lifelong farmer and he said he is grateful to have his farm in such a trying time. “I have been farming all of my life and I have always thought it has been the backbone (of the New Zealand economy) along with tourism,” he said. “I am pretty thankful I have got that going at the moment. “We milk about 550 cows on 500 acres. It has been propping up the racing account for the last few years. Without it I couldn’t do what I have been doing with racing. Dairy farming has certainly been good to me.”
Being such a tight-knit family, Tyler said it has been a tough last couple of weeks not being able to spend time with his grandchildren and he hopes other Kiwis are keeping to their social bubbles. “I go out to the farm and I can’t even give my grandkids a cuddle. You have got to do everything properly, which we certainly are,” he said. “Hopefully everybody is getting onboard so we can get out of this and get back to normal as soon as possible.”
Reflecting on the season to date, Tyler said there were many highlights and he was pleased with the stable’s 32-win tally, including two stakes victories courtesy of Lightning Jack. “We have had a great season with a lot of highlights,” he said. “Jason and Michael are both involved in the horse (He’s Got Power) who went up to the Karaka Million (3YO Classic, 1600m). “Obviously that trip was great, but that last trip up to Wellington, with the Oaks (Feel The Rush finishing third) and Wellington Guineas (Lightning Jack finishing third), that was probably the highlight of the season.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic has cast a cloud of uncertainty over what racing will look like in the future, Tyler said it is important for racing to continue in Southland. “Hopefully we don’t get left behind down in the bottom of the South Island and they don’t expect us to travel to Christchurch, which is eight hours away, to race for $10,000. That is my biggest fear. “There are a lot of horses down at the bottom of the South Island, you can see our fields stacked up really strong, we always have big fields and horses on the ballot. “Hopefully we don’t get left behind over the next six months.”