Like most horse owners at this time of year, I am getting fairly desperate for spring to arrive. What’s particularly galling is that while I look out at rain and mud, my family don’t hesitate to remind me that they are enjoying the height of summer in sunny Australia! However, with temperatures up to 40 degrees there at the moment, I’m not sure I would be getting much work done.
We have managed to keep the yard running well through this winter, but I am looking forward to making our next wave of improvements to the facilities, including resurfacing the arena and incorporating a new office, lecture room, kitchen, bar and a viewing gallery into one of the barns, which will make the winter months more pleasurable for all.
Although much less glamorous, we are continuing to invest in areas of hardcore around the gateways and feeding areas in the turnout paddocks. This would be my top tip for surviving the English winters as it means that you can keep your horses happy by turning them out, something I feel very strongly about, while knowing they can get out of the mud and you can lead them in and out without losing your wellies!
We have had some impressive horses on the yard recently, including a couple of colts from the Al Shira’aa stables who have gone back to Tom O’Brien to bring on. We have also just received ten homebreds from the Tomlinson family’s Beaufort polo breeding operation for starting. I love working with these horses, as they remind me so much of the Thoroughbreds and Australian Stock Horses that I grew up riding. Which leads me on to another very exciting development for 2018…
After some years of travelling back and forth, in 2003 I decided to make England my home, and at the same time we imported two Australian stock horse mares, one of whom was in foal, and some frozen semen, with the ambition to form an Australian stock horse stud. We kept the resulting foal, Diesel, as a stallion for a few years, before becoming my loyal and very popular demonstration sidekick, seen below being ridden bridleless at Your Horse Live a couple of years ago. Although we bred some lovely horses by him, my energies at the time were spent building up my horse training business, and of course enjoying the arrival of a couple of our own kids, too. Now, 15 years on, our lives are in a different place, and Penny and I have decided to import another stallion, along with some polocrosse playing friends.
Australian stock horses really are “the breed for every need” and originate from tough, athletic working horses used by the early settlers. Examples of the breed have represented Australia at the Olympics in eventing and showjumping, they make stunning show horses, competitive endurance horses and are popular in emerging equestrian disciplines such as working equitation. However, they are best known for their athletic ability in sports such as polo, polocrosse and campdrafting. We are delighted to be importing Haydon Oracle, a two-year-old chestnut colt, who’s pedigree comes steeped in history and performance. His dam is full sister to Haydon Angel Jewel, one of Adolfo Cambiaso’s top playing horses (Cambiaso has been the top-rated polo player in the world for the past decade), and his sire, Murrabong Victory, has bred numerous top performing polo, polocrosse, showing and working horses. We are incredibly excited about his prospects and can’t wait to get him over to the UK.
If you are interested in the history of relationships between man and horse, and of the Australian stock horses in particular, I highly recommend you watching this video featuring the Haydon Horse Stud, where we are buying Oracle from. It is describes how vital these horses were to the Australian soldiers in the First World War, who were fighting in the deserts of Israel, and in particular, their role in the Battle of Beersheba. It is moving to think that Oracle carries the blood of those incredibly brave horses.
Closer to home, I mentioned in a previous blog how my grandfather was part of a group of stockmen in 1948 who, on their Australian stock horses, drove over a thousand head of cattle 1300 miles from Queensland to the Bairnsdale sale yards in Victoria over the course of 21 weeks. An extract from the “Worker” magazine described the journey: “Stockmen who travel the Ingeegoodbee trail owe their lives daily to riding skill and the sure-footedness of their mountain horses. Stampedes are rare, but many times a day the drover takes his life in his own hands, charging down mountainsides littered with boulders and fallen trees, and under low-hanging boughs to recover cattle straying from the mob.” Anyone who has seen the film, “The Man from Snowy River”, adapted from Banjo Patterson’s famous poem, can envisage some of the terrain my grandfather had travelled over, and can understand the need for an exceptional stock horse!