Michelle Saba pays tribute to Fiona Bassett who died last month
Loyal, dedicated, capable and a very good horsewoman are just some of the words used to describe and remember Fiona Bassett by her friends.
Fiona Rachel Bassett died last month in Hawkes Bay, the area she grew up in. Raised on a sheep and beef farm with two brothers Andrew and Greg, she always loved animals and rode from a very early age.
At 17 she ventured down the road – Valley Road to be precise, to Byerley Thoroughbreds and Arthur Ormond in search of a job which developed into an interesting and worthwhile career.
“Fi in her inimitable direct way quickly let me know that she saw herself as indispensable to the future of Byerley Thoroughbreds,” Arthur Ormond recalled.
“She nailed that one, this extraordinary capable young woman did become indispensable to me, and developed into a superb horsewoman. Better than that, she became a special friend to Nic and I.”
Fi, as she was known to her friends, worked at Byerley for a number of years and when it became time to spread her wings she headed with some trepidation to Auckland to be interviewed for the prestigious NZTBA Scholarship to attend the Irish National Stud Breeding Course.
Not surprisingly she was selected to go and ‘nailed’ that too, graduating from the course at the top of her class and winning the much-aspired Gold Medal.
“The Irish experience clearly whetted her appetite for travel, as for the next five years Fiona was back and forth from New Zealand, to Ireland and the United States,” said Ormond.
“Working not only with thoroughbreds but also with other light and heavy horse breeds, and when the travel bug had worn off her first job back in New Zealand was at Westbury Stud, and from there she moved on to Haunui Farm.”
Fiona spent eight years at Haunui Farm, a number of them as Yearling Manager, before she returned to Hawkes Bay taking up a position with Lime Country Thoroughbreds. When they moved across the Tasman she joined Guy Lowry’s racing stable proving herself invaluable to all who worked with her.
“Fi wasn’t really a people person,” according to Shannon Taylor who worked with her at Haunui Farm, “but she was a very dedicated person to her job and loyal to her friends.
“She was a very good horse woman and good at teaching people and sharing with those she got along with. A lot of staff she worked with really learnt a lot from her. That will be her legacy.
“She could turn her hand at anything, fix a broken water pipe or a fence.”
I can attest to that firsthand, as Fi helped me out a lot with my own small band of horses, when she kept a mare or two at my place. The boot of her trusty V8 was like a mini workshop.
That car also rated a mention from Arthur Ormond as well.
“In our last years in the Valley the throb of the Holden V8 coming up the drive, followed by a team of Jack Russells bowling into the house, was the signal to get out the Heinekens. She was a good friend to us and we will miss her.”
Fiona is survived by her parents Chris and Graham, her brothers Andrew and Greg, her sister-in-law Taryn and nieces Heidi and Keira.