The acorn hasn't fallen far from the tree for a promising young Levin apprentice jockey, who is all eyes and ears as she gets a taste of the winning habit.

Riding horses is in the blood, but after a slow start to her career Temyia Taiaroa, 17, is now starting to boot home the winners.

Her grandfather Arnold Taiaroa was a handy jockey who began riding in the late 1960s in a career spanning four decades, while her father Evan Taiaroa was an amateur raceday jockey.

Taiaroa began her riding career in 2017, with her first winner Duffers Creek coming in just her seventh raceday ride.

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Levn apprentice jockey Temyia Taiaroa winning a race aboard Duffers Creek earlier this season.
Levn apprentice jockey Temyia Taiaroa winning a race aboard Duffers Creek earlier this season.

While inexperience meant rides were hard to come by, she was now gaining in confidence, with 10 of her 13 career wins coming in the last six months, and she was riding horses for respected trainers keen to make use of her 3kg apprentice allowance.

Temyia credited any success or improvement in her riding to the mentoring she had received since she joined the stable of respected Rongotea trainer Kevin Gray nearly a year ago.

Mr Gray was a renown mentor of apprentice jockeys. A host of top jockeys - Kim Clapperton, Lisa Allpress, Hayden Tinsley, Bruce Herd, Jason Symes, Vicki Costa, Andrea Gale, Eddie Lamb and Damon Smith - had served their apprenticeship through his stable.

Taiaroa said she felt privileged to have the opportunity to learn from the likes of Gray.

"After each ride he offers constructive criticism which enables me to improve and to see where I might have gone wrong or where I could have done better," she said.

"I love it. I want to keep learning and keep listening."

Mentoring was also on hand from the likes of Clapperton, who was a former top international jockey who rode in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and France.

Levin apprentice jockey Temyia Taiaroa talks with trainer Buddy Lammas after a race at Otaki last week.
Levin apprentice jockey Temyia Taiaroa talks with trainer Buddy Lammas after a race at Otaki last week.

Discipline was key. Each morning she woke at 4am and drove from Levin to the stables in Rongotea where she would ride horses each morning in trackwork either side of the breakfast break.

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In the afternoon, she would assist with stable duties, helping feed and water the horses and brush them, before driving home again in the evening.

Except on racedays, that was when she packed her saddle bag, whip and silks, to mix it in the big time.

Like most jockeys, Taiaroa was short in stature and had the luxury of not having to be overly cautious in watching her weight, tipping the scales at 49.5kg.

To be naturally light in weight was a huge advantage for a jockey, with many a fine career cut short in the battle to keep their weight down throughout their career, which often begins early in the teenage years before they have physically matured.

Temyia, who was also a former New Zealand Inline Hockey representative, had ridden horses since she was a toddler on a pony called Pebbles, and she spent most of her spare time at a riding class run by Levin woman Melanie Davies.

When the opportunity came to pursue a career as a jockey she grabbed it, and after starting off in Foxton, she made a moved north to Te Aroha to the stable of Peter Lock.

But being away from home and the support of her family did not suit, and she was grateful for the opportunity to join Team Gray.

In the meantime, she wasn't getting carried away by the wins as it was early days and she was just keen to "keep on learning".

"I have a lot to learn. I have to be patient. I am riding more trackwork, too, which is helping with fitness," she said.