While Andrew Bennie's career has taken him to the top of his field, the world-class equestrian judge says he'll never forget his humble Far North beginnings.
Andrew is a star in the equestrian world and has competed in and judged some of the world's most exciting and challenging competitions.
He is now a qualified British Eventing Accredited Coach, British Dressage List 1 Judge and FEI International Eventing Judge.
Amongst his many achievements, judging the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics and 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon (USA) were two events Andrew considers as standout moments in his career.
He was also recently selected to judge the first five-star United Kingdom equestrian event in over two years and is currently judging several top equestrian events around Europe.
Andrew's passion for horses started as a young boy and blossomed when the Bennie family shifted to Kaitaia in 1966.
He was 9 at the time and said it was the first time he and sister, Kaye, had the opportunity to keep a horse.
"Kaye and I both wanted to get a horse so we were lucky our grandparents had a dairy farm in Awanui," Andrew said.
"Grandpop initially wasn't too keen, as horses eat just as much grass as 10 cows!
"I have very fond memories from that time."
At 10, Andrew joined the Awanui Pony Club, run by the late Jean West and Heather Jone, which is where his equestrian career quite literally sprung to life.
Andrew's mother Lynda recalled how Andrew's first reaction to dressage was he "wanted to jump his horse, not waste time doing that (dressage)!"
With time Andrew came to appreciate dressage and learned it was fundamental to good riding.
Andrew said he eventually came to love all aspects of the sport and would spend every spare moment with horses, even practicing dressage at Ninety Mile Beach.
He said he also used to enjoy competing at the Kaitaia A&P show and remembered a funny story where his commitment to both the local pipe band and dressage made for an awkward public moment.
"At one of the A&P shows, I had jumped one of my horses in a show-jumping speed class," he said.
"I was also a member of the Kaitaia Pipe Band which was due to lead the grand parade at lunchtime.
"As I was changing into my kilt, they announced I had won the jumping class and that I had to go into the arena to collect my prize.
"I jumped on the horse in my kilt and rode in for prizegiving when the announcer shouted, "Andrew, if you are going to come in the ring in a kilt, make sure you next time you come in on side saddle!"
Despite his love of horses, Andrew was encouraged to focus on getting a trade and in turn undertook an electrical apprenticeship with Kaitaia's Ross McCulloch.
He later went on to work for the Kaitaia Hospital Board as an electrician, while continuing to ride and train horses as a side passion.
Andrew said despite enjoying his job as an electrician, nothing compared to the connection he shared with horses.
That passion for horses would soon supersede his day job and in 1984, Andrew was selected as one of New Zealand's Three Day Event team members to ride at the Los Angeles Olympics.
The event covered three disciplines- dressage, cross country jumping 30 jumps over a distance of 6-10 km, and on the final day, show jumping.
Andrew and his family fully expected he would return to New Zealand after his LA Olympics experience, however, his horse needed to go to England for six months' quarantine before he could return.
Keeping a horse in a foreign country with no budget was difficult and Andrew landed work on Ian Adsett's yard near Badminton, and soon immersed himself into the English riding world.
He went on to compete at top level events including Badminton, Bramham, Blenheim and eventually decided to stay in Europe.
In 1988 he was again selected to ride for New Zealand at the Olympics in Seoul, where his team won bronze.
Andrew said while his parents had always been supportive, it wasn't until he qualified for the Los Angeles Olympics that they fully understood his dedication to riding.
"I remember there was a moto for the LA New Zealand teams which was, 'Where there's a will, there's a way to LA'," he said.
"That's a motto that has stuck with me all these years and has continued to be one of my philosophies in life."
Andrew has continued to train riders and managed the 2016 Hong Kong Paralympic Team to compete in the 2016 Paralympics.
Back home in Kaitaia, mum Lynda, brother Rob and sister Kaye said they were very proud of Andrew and all that he had achieved.
Andrew keeps in touch with his family regularly and pre-Covid-19 enjoyed annual trips home to catch up with everyone.
Mum Lynda said while she missed her son, she was happy for the life he had built for himself overseas.
"As youngsters Andrew and Kaye rode all over the Far North and loved exploring and riding horses," she said.
"Andrew always had dreams of striving for the best and went after it.
"It just goes to show what young people can achieve if they go after their dream.
"Even though he mixes with important dignitaries in the equestrian world in England and Europe, he still speaks like a Kiwi and is quite humble about his life."
Andrew said he still had a horse of his own which he rode daily and training in dressage.
He said while he had been lucky to have had some very good times with horses, there was nothing nicer than the connection formed during the training process.
"I really enjoy training young horses and love when you experience that feeling of becoming a partnership, it's like you can almost read each other's minds," he said.
"There's also that special moment after training a horse through the levels and subsequently riding that horse around a big tough cross country like Badminton or the Olympics.
"Then to realise the teamwork between you and your horse has achieved something very special."
Andrew planned to stay in Europe for now, but said Kaitaia would always be home and was grateful for all the support and encouragement from family and friends over the years.