For 20 years Blake Keane has been announcing the riders at the House of the Year event in Hastings, but his legacy in the industry has extended further back than that.

"Cowboy Hat" Blake, as most people at the event know him, has been announcing for various horse shows and trials for almost 48 years, all by volunteering his time.

"I got asked by my neighbour many years ago if I could help out at a local event he had on so I helped him out and then next thing you know 48 years go by."

Keane said he has been doing the same job at the event for 20 of the show's 21-year history.


"All my time at the event I have been announcing the show jumping riders, even yelling at the odd kid to watch out and hoping a mother doesn't tear into me. But I've been doing it for much longer than that," Keane said.

"At one of my first events somebody asked me if I could relieve Charlie Matthews, who is one of our Olympic riders, so he could have a coffee and now I suppose I'm still a relief gatekeeper because Charlie never came back."

Keane said that when you have been doing it as long as he has you have to make your own fun.

"When I announce the riders I like to chuck a few jokes in just to lighten the mood of the crowd and it helps me not just rattle a whole lot of names on a list," Keane said.

"One day I'll have to stop. Either my voice will go or someone will drag me off the role, but as long as I can keep kicking I'll keep chugging along."

The 71-year-old has seen the sport change so much over the years but always sees the passion that people have for it.

"The sport has only really changed in terms of wealth. If you go back 48 years ago most of the riders would ride to events. Some of the people in Gisborne would ride to the train station and jump on with their horses just to get down to the Wairoa show," Keane said.

"Now you have all these big fancy floats and everyone thinks it's all about the money, but if someone has a true passion they can be like most of the early riders and still find a way."


Keane has seen many of the riders over the years grow up right before his eyes and sees them as not only friends but family.

"When I look at a list of names for an event I can pretty much say I know 58 of the 60 riders personally and not only from one or two shows. Most of them I've watched them from when they were riding ponies," Keane said.

"They start to become family. That's what we are here - we're family."