A double life works for Stephen

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There’s not a lot of common ground between mechanical engineering and racehorse training but Stephen Reed has been linking the two careers for more than a decade.

Stephen, the son of harness trainer Michael Reed, grew up around horses and found a way to keep them in his life after graduating as an engineer and starting work full time in the field.

“Horses are a lifestyle for me, not a job,” Stephen said.

“I got involved in racing through my parents and I’ve been around horses my whole life. They’re part of the family.

“My job pays the bills. Without it I wouldn’t be able to stay involved in harness training.

“I enjoy having a horse that’s fit and competing at its best. If they come home happy and sound, then a win is just a bonus.”

Training only a few horses at a time, Stephen works from a lush 120-acre property near Bunbury where they live in open paddocks rather than stables.

Trips to the beach are a twice-weekly treat, as part of his philosophy that a healthy horse is a happy horse.

“I often take older horses that are feeling a bit stale in their environment and routine. I have something different to offer and it’s a more back-to-nature approach,” Stephen said.

“They flourish when they come to this set up, where they get to roam around with other horses. They love it.

“Walking around and picking at the grass does their muscles and tendons good, along with the clean air.

“I don’t usually do as well with younger horses. There’s no magic wand to taking in and improving a horse.

“When you bond with a horse, work together every day and the horse trusts you, it will do well.”

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While most of the horses go back to their owner or move on to another trainer with time, 15-year-old retiree Lovers Delight is a constant presence at the property.

He left the track six years ago but there are no plans for him to leave Stephen.

“He’s grumpy at times but he’s great to have around. He’s very kind and a calming influence on the other horses,” Stephen said.

While Stephen occasionally trains thoroughbreds as well, it’s clear harness horses are the favourite.

“Standardbreds are great. They’re chilled, easy to handle and just stand quietly like they’re half asleep,” he said.

“Humans and horses have been together forever but it’s difficult to explain the bond you create when you spend time with horses and develop a partnership. It’s something you have to experience.

“People get involved in racing for enjoyment and the bonds they form. Success is the cream on the cake.”

Susan de Ruyter

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