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Barefoot Hooves

BAREFOOT FIRST IN AUSTRALIA

On the 24th of April 2004, Jen Clingly from Golden Valley rode her 7yo purebred Arabian gelding, Imaj Zamir to a successful completion in the TEERA 160km endurance ride at Weetah.

This made Australian history in that Zamir is the first barefoot horse to complete 160km without metal horse shoes. He went totally barefoot for 130km and used Old Mac boots for the remaining 30km over rough very terrain.

Since the rule change this year which now allows endurance horses to compete barefoot, Jen and Donna Griffiths from Rowella have been training and competing barefoot. Unfortunately Donna’s horse, Mal, vetted out on the 160km ride due to shoulder lameness but he has since successfully completed an 80km ride barefoot.

The most interesting result is how the horses looked and recovered after the rides.

Both had much brighter eyes and attitude than most horses and neither had any swelling in their legs which is common in shod horses especially after a ride.

It goes to show that with consistent conditioning and a gradual transition with the help of boots horses can compete without the need for metal shoes.

Jen,Zamir,Peter

Photo: Jen with Zamir and Peter Laidley from Hoofworks QLD at Agfest.

 

Barefoot Endurance Success - July 2005

Jen Clingly and her purebred arabian gelding, Imaj Zamir recently achieved their goal of a Tom Quilty Endurance Buckle - barefoot!
They have become members of a very small group of barefoot endurance riders to do so without boots, and prove that with gradual conditioning, the horses's hoof can excel in such challenges and be safer in testing terrain.

This was the case when constant rain deluged the course and caused the organisers to halt the event at the 106km mark. "My horse felt sure-footed and was thinking about where to put his feet, while I saw others with shoes struggling like they were riding on ice-skates" Jen said.
Zamir finished the 3 legs of the course midfield with plenty of energy to keep going. The next day he showed no sign of swollen legs or stiffness which may also be attributed to the ETRT treatments he received from Nola Cooke during the ride, and the use of a Barefoot treeless saddle thanks to Wrangler Jayne and Tara Jackson.
Jen would also like to thank her dedicated crew, Deb, Delve and all those who 'warmed the cockles of her heart' with all their good wishes.
As you can see from the photo below, Zamir's rock hard hooves look very much like a wild horse hoof, complete with self made 'mustang roll' on the toe.
Well done Jen for 'keepin' it natural' and good luck with your next achievement - Parelli level 2!

Zamir's front hoof after the Tom Quilty Endurance Ride.


SECRETS TO BAREFOOT ENDURANCE SUCCESS – Part 1 by Jen Clingly

It wasn’t without a huge amount of trepidation that I decided to run my horses without shoes. I had bought a young Arabian gelding, Imaj Zamir, as an endurance prospect. He had never been shod and would willingly tackle any terrain. I thought it would be a real shame to shoe him.

During this time Cynthia Cooper introduced me to the whole concept of barefoot horses and lent me a book by American farrier, Jaime Jackson.

I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the thought of my horse running distances of 80kms without shoes on. Cynthia and I had some blazing rows whenever I thought of giving in, adding to that “can’t do it” mentality. The rules of endurance stated that you must compete on an ‘adequately shod horse” so I was weighing up whether to continue with a sport I love or chucking it in because it didn’t agree with my new philosophies.

Meanwhile the little horse continued to prove to me he didn’t need shoes. Also my 22 year old standbred gelding who had been shod all his life and suffered reccurring lameness was returning to complete soundness and acting like a 2 year stallion with his new bare hooves.
Before I knew it I was working with other barefoot endurance enthusiasts interstate including the very public vet, Steven Roberts who put together a very influential submission for the veterinary panel of the Australian Endurance Body to consider the merits of barefoot endurance horses.
At the TEERA (Tasmanian Endurance Riders Assoc) annual AGM I presented my personal reasons why I wanted the choice to compete on an unshod horse.

After a lot more of the “it can’t be done” attitude they voted unanimously to support the motion to allow barefoot horses to compete.
In 2003 I competed all rides in a full set of OLD MAC hoof boots to comply with the rules and then 2004 saw the rule change come into fruition and Zamir was off. Running bare….!!
He became the first horse in Australia to successfully complete a 100 mile endurance ride without shoes. Now he has clocked up close to 2000 competitive miles with a 98% success rate, and this year we found ourselves securing a coveted Tom Quilty Buckle in the most atrocious weather conditions.
To cap it off, in October 2005 he was the first barefoot horse in Australia to win a ride overall and secure best conditioned horse.

Alas I have developed an unhealthy obsession with hooves and have apparently become a radical advocate for barefoot horses.
I spend a lot of time as most endurance riders do training to achieve a high level of fitness, and the sport of endurance really is the ultimate test of the bare hoof. Rock crunching bare hooves can be established and maintained easily by commitment and dedication to training and trimming.
The following success tips are designed to give you an insight into the training of a barefoot endurance horse. I hope you can benefit from my experiences both good and bad.

Grow RHINO SKIN
Unfortunately there is a good possibility that you will run into much resistance and criticism from your vet, farrier and fellow endurance riders. To stand strong against this type of criticism you have to understand why barefoot is important and how it works. Then you will be able to explain to them why it isn’t harmful and why it is the best way to go.
You have to be brave to handle the ridicule, skeptics etc. The best thing I ever heard was “I will end up running the horse on his coronary bands”.
It really helps to have a support network – so when the going gets tough they will rasp your ego back into shape. Many times my closest barefoot pals have searched books and the internet to help me find answers to the confusions I faced.

I endured a lot of skepticism and teasing for using crazy looking boots on my horse at my first metal shoe free ride. I remember my chin wobbling as I held back tears even though my horse got through successfully. People were unrelenting in their nastiness.
Stand firm on your beliefs
If you think barefoot is best then stick to your guns – don’t be half arsed about it .

Hold strong to what you believe is right. People say I’m radical in my approach. But I never ram it down anyone’s throat.
However I do get off on getting out there and proving it can be done.
Acquire as much knowledge as you can. Barefoot is not something to go into haphazardly. Do your homework, learn as much as you can, take on board all available evidence and make an informed choice on you and your horse’s individual circumstances.

The WAY TO GO
The role model of a barefoot endurance horse is the wild horse. It is important to keep this in the back of your mind every time you are thinking and talking hooves. What you are trying to achieve is rock crunching hooves, willing and able to handle any terrain for long distances. It is not an easy feat.

The key to conditioning is to gradually build tough hardened sole callous. Otherwise high performance won’t be possible. To do this, the hooves have to be worked -through exercise and movement.
If your horse is mincing his steps you can’t expect him to go barefoot.
Your horse will need time and/or hoof boots.
It is also important to understand that no training program suits every horse. With endurance, you need a two year minimum commitment to get your horse to a consistently competitive level. A seasoned horse is one that having gained endurance status, has been in regular work and competition for a minimum of two full seasons, bare foot or shod.

My horse’s feet are by no means perfect. But they are competent and capable in performance. Natural hooves are all individual. They can differ either because they weren’t started on a barefoot program young, they may have been shod most of their life, or they may have been trimmed incorrectly. There are as many different reasons as there are different horses.
Rest assured that your horse whatever its breed, sex temperament, state of soundness is a good candidate for natural hoof care. However…..

IT TAKES TIME
– keep this in mind if your only goal is the front line
The secret ingredient I think, to a good endurance horse is taking it nice and steady. Old timers say a lot of wet saddle blankets will make a good horse and this is damn close to the truth. Put in lots of miles in the saddle, walking.
“Legging a horse up” – is to harden up their legs and toughen up their feet. Your local terrain will govern your program. Legging up tones up the muscles, tendons and ligaments and turns the fat into spunky muscle. Long distance walking stimulates the blow flow through the hooves to the heart.
Long steady work builds a solid foundation of fitness for your horse and you. It is the key to training a barefoot endurance horse – I can probably leave it at that.
But there is more…

SET REALISTIC GOALS.
Goals need to be realistic and flexible. It’s just as important to know when not to train as when to train.
You can never do too many training rides in the early days of your competition.
Being at an actual ride gives a young horse experience, a chance to learn the ropes, to give them confidence. Get them accustomed to things at home, like a thermometer up their bum, their pulse being taken, de-sensitize them to the noise of generators, lights etc.
I started my first competition with the attitude that I just wanted to get round.
I wanted to use it as an educational day-out for my horse and a good experience.

GET TO KNOW YOUR HORSE
Get to know your horse! His attitude, his strengths and weaknesses, his working heart rate, his resting heart rate, his drinking and eating habits.
Get in tune with them.
Be observant. Not only to improve their fitness, but to keep them sound and problem free.
Recognize what their natural ability is. When they are tired? When their feet are sore? Know their average speed?
The people who know my horse can’t believe he is an endurance horse because at training he is doing only that – what he has to, to tick along, burn his fuel and keep his metabolism going, and to stimulate hoof mechanism.
He saves himself for the arduous competition demands and I know and admire that about him – economically smart - is probably a good word for him .

BE METICULOUS WITH THEIR FEET
My guru, Pete Ramey’s words hit home hard, “ you have a high performance horse here, with the spotlight on his feet – keep them perfect!! Don’t be slack on this”.
To be inspired by someone who is of godlike hoof proportions and for them to have a go at me for doing a “council trim” on his hooves (using the bitumen to rasp).
I suddenly realized the importance barefoot horses abilities play in convincing the skeptics that it is possible and by having a hoof that looks a work of art at the same time gets them rocking back on their heels.

Get to know your horse’s hooves intimately, obsessively.
How do they break over? How thick is the wall? Is it smooth and straight down from the hairline to the ground? What is the frog like? Can you imagine where the coffin bone is sitting? Does your horse have concavity? Sole callous? What about the heel buttresses? How low are the heels? What are the bars doing?
How does your trim impact on your horse?
Have you got the mustang roll down pat – so that you don’t get splits, chips, flaring. When has growth exceeded wear? When has wear exceeded growth? When do I need hoof boots? Is his white line tight or stretched??
How does your horses move???
Is your head spinning?
In all honesty, you have to understand all of the above and what any of them are doing on your horse’s feet at any given time.

BOOTS
A newly barefooted horse may experience tenderness following the removal of shoes. This is not due to the trim unless it was a bad trim but rather a consequence of either lack of conditioning or the harmful damage inflicted from horseshoes.
Hoof boots allow you the opportunity to bridge the gap between conventional horse shoes and high performance barefootedness.
All our endurance training was done without boots and only for endurance competition in 2003 did I fit him out in a full set of boots to comply with the rules. I successfully completed 4 x 40km rides and 4 x 80km rides. I would never have been able to pursue this sport if boots weren’t an option.
In our first 100 miler in 2004 I used the Old Macs for the last 30km as I was concerned the terrain demands were too tough for the condition of his hooves at the time.
Old Mac hoof boots made all of this a reality. The are a valuable addition to my tack room and I take them to every ride like my lucky pair of undies!
A set can easily handle 3 x 80km rides. I know trail riders who haven’t worn out a pair in 5 years.
Even though Zamir can handle the long distances I wouldn’t hesitate to put them on if wear exceeded growth during any demands I placed on him.

Jen and Zamir (left) with Jeremy and Ruby

Secrets to Endurance Success - Part 2

Barefoot Endurance rider Jen Clingly has a string of 'firsts' to her name;
First Barefoot horse to complete 160km successfully in
Australia, First barefoot horse to win an endurance ride (1st across the line, 1st lightweight and Best Conditined) .
Jen continues with sharing her experiences as a rough guide to anyone considering going down the barefoot endurance road.

FEED
Keep it simple. Even though you are asking a lot of your horse especially at a competitive level, your horse has simple need and the more you complicate feeds or pump high protein, high sugar feeds the more set backs you’ll face. It took me ages to work out that rich Lucerne chaff made Zamir ‘ouchy’ on his feet.
Feed will impact on your horse’s feet. The feet are the first thing to show you. Check out the racehorses pumped to the eyeballs on high protein feeds and jilting about with mild laminitis.

KEEP IT WILD AND NOT TOO DOMESTICATED
A high performance barefoot horse is not just a horse without shoes. It requires a change in long standing beliefs about what is good horse keeping. It means keeping things simple and natural for the horse. The environment they live in will dictate the ability of their rock crunching hooves.

Zamir's front hoof after 140km at the Tom Quilty endurance ride.

Some of the things I have happening at home include:
1. Keep your horse running with his mates.
2. Diversify the footing. It aids in challenging and wearing the hooves more naturally. Gravel around their feeding areas and water trough helps keeps the hooves tough.
3.Moisture for the hooves
A good paddock will have a waterhole, pond, stream or like my place, a foot bath where the horses can step in while they drink or feed. Water conditions the hooves and keeps them hydrated. The periople shows you how hydrated the foot is.
4. never rugged unless it’s a freezing cold night after an endurance ride.
5. never stabled but have open shelter shed.
6. freedom to graze all day
7. meals served at ground level. Beverages the same.
Making the change to natural is a big call from what most of us have been taught about how to look after a horse. It is an adjustment to make, but one that cuts your horse keeping time to practically nothing and leaves you with more time for training and horsing around.

TOO MUCH TOO SOON –The valuable lessons I learned
My recipe for trouble included:
- Two rides back to back. Only 2 weeks apart - Zamir still a novice horse.
- Travel time to the ride was 4 hours. We returned home straight after the ride allowing no rest time for the horse to recover.
- Served rich green Lucerne hay in on the way home. (different feed from usual)
- Old Macs were worn for the 80km and not checked at the 40km leg. The conditions were muddy and at times up to fetlock deep. Mud compacted in the soles of the boot and because I didn’t take them off or rinse them through. The mud set like concrete and the result was concussive laminitis?
- After the long trip back home he got off the float and scoffed freezing cold water. – water founder?
- Stress accumulated from all the above and ignited a bad bout of mud fever

Note that Zamir got through the ride fine and with straight A’s. But the following aftermath was bad and he was sore and unable to move freely. He needed penicillin injections and painkillers. He suffered nose bleeds from the chemicals.
It was a frightening time because the vets couldn’t give me any answers. They advised an operation on the tendon to free the sesamoids. There was no relevance to this at all.
A good spell saw Zamir come right.
In regards to actual training and conditioning, I incorporate the following ….

WARM UP & WARM DOWN
Ease into all heavy work. Light trot for 10minutes before you start any thing more strenuous. Sometimes all I feel I do with my horses keep them in “warm up mode”.

HILL WORK
The terrain you live in dictates your training program and I am fortunate to live in the most beautiful riding country with every option of terrain at the doorstep except the beach. Hills and mountains are part of everyday work and they serve to develop the hind end of your horse and engages those back hooves to work and develop traction.
Down hill work strengthens the shoulders.
I never trot or canter my horse downhill – I tend to get off and walk or trot them myself. Saving my horses legs is really important and I think down hill work can lead to all sorts of problems.
Just another note - a horse gains as much training effect on the muscles and cardiovascular system training up hills as he would covering 3 times the same distance on the flat. Its good stuff, and important to incorporate into any training program because you will often encounter lots of hills in the Tasmanian endurance ride calendar.

ROCK WORK
I have never seen this one in the endurance training manuals but for the barefoot wonder horses it is imperative to expose your horse to gravel roads, forestry trails, rocky tracks, river beds and bitumen etc
Get your horse confident, surefooted and agile on all terrain.
Gradually extend time out on gravel, rocky trails and introduce short periods of cantering. When the horse is showing you his hooves are up to it – you’ll be galloping wildly and racing up gravel roads. Stuff I never did on shod horses.
If your not sure where your horse really is at with his ability to tackle the tougher going, test him on that terrain on the way home. More often than not the horse that is reluctant on the outset heads home flying without any care for what is underfoot.

HORSE CONFIDENCE
Until they are ready let them travel with a more confident leader. Time and experience will breed confidence. Bold brave horses are out there but even the submissive acquire a competitive edge which sees their ears back when another horse threatens to overtake them.
My other crazy recommendation in regards to confidence is train with a DOG. I have a mad arse fat black Labrador who follows us on training runs. She flies in and out of the bush, chases ‘fluffies’ into our path, and creates noise action and kaos. She has been perfect for desensitizing all my horses to things that can and will happen out on a ride.

MASSAGES AND THERAPY
To achieve the optimum working performance with your horse it is important to get them regularly checked. Muscle tension frequently causes poor performance or the beginning of more serious problems. Treatments like sports massage relieve muscle spasm, tension, sore muscles, lactic acid, improve the immunity system, reduces swelling and improves concentration.
I employ the services of an Equine Sports Therapist and ETR therapist to ensure the well being of Zamir. They complement my training style and the horse has never been better. Consideration should go into your horses well being. You need to find out what works best for your horse and you.

CROSS TRAINING
Getting your horse involved in other disciplines builds a great all rounder. They benefit from never getting bored with their work load and it gives them great focus.
Dressage complements endurance training as the horse has the advantage of mental education, and working their body in balance. As the horse becomes more balanced they use their limbs more efficiently. Dressage exercises also serve to strengthen muscles, tendons and funnily enough polish up their feet to a nice shine.
I have also taken Zamir on stints of mustering cattle in the central highlands and this gave him freedom and relaxation while still keeping him working and in top condition.

WILD TIMES
The fitter the horse I created, the more right-brained he became, and I had moments of big concern following a couple of rides where I started out the gate, spinning like a top trying to slow the speed he was keen to perform by disengaging the hind end and feeling like I was in a Ferrari doing donuts on the grass.
Zamir is agile enough to keep up the momentum and move us forward.
I found working on impulsion program (Parelli level 2), refining my “braking” technique and a more focused “pre-flight” check before the ride helped a lot.
Backing up and sideways brings us in tune most of the time.

MY FREE SPIRITED MATE
I am in absolute awe at the ability of this horse. At his consistently low heart rates, his quick recovery times, the traction, his wellbeing and soundness, his love of life and his love for me.
He is a true endurance horse, he knows the score, he reads the arrows, he indulges in food and beverage whenever he needs to without any restriction on his head, he is fast, agile and maneuverable on any terrain. Sometimes I really wonder if I need to go out with him, maybe a scarecrow dressed up like me would be sufficient.
If he is up the front he is always a strong contender for best conditioned – and he looks a million dollars following a ride cause he is not usually showing any tiredness, there is never any edema/swelling because, he is not dealing with the concussion effects of metal shoes on his feet or an elevated heart from the stress of concussion and lack of circulation and shock absorption.
He celebrates the start of every ride with childish exuberance and keeps reminding me of why I despise Arabs so much. He cannot contain his emotions well but I love that about him also.
Pre- ride the two of us are jittery fools and our energy feeds off each other. It is not good and can be down right dangerous. I am getting better and so is he.
To travel this far together builds the highest level of partnership and I can only wonder how hard it is for people to sell on their mates for money. Big decision I reckon.


Jen and Zamir

 


Barefoot for 3,500km of the Bicentennial National Trail!

By Joan Rylah.

Rod and Joan leaving Irvenbank in far north Queensland.

Six horses and two people trekked the Australian Bicentennial National Trail last year. Travelling from north to south with three horses that had been barefoot since 2001, and three horses just purchased in Far North Queensland three weeks before we set out.

One of the new horses had just returned to barefoot and the other two had been completely neglected for many years.

The horse that had just returned to barefoot, Milo, had four white feet and had lived his recent life in the sandy wetlands at Jullaten in the canefields near Port Douglas.

Consequently, he had very soft and very flat feet and wouldn’t even trot on smooth bitumen. The other two, Mitchy and Clancy, were living on good granite sands up on the Atherton Tablelands and so while they had had zero foot care for years (they couldn’t be caught but had some basic supplement feeding) the pebble-sand was a perfect medium for good hoof quality.

All six horses completed our trek with not one day of lameness, puffy swellings, no splints, nothing wrong at all. Their legs and pasterns are as clean as the day they were born. Now that’s pretty amazing! If anyone has seen other horses that have completed The Trail you will see dreadful legs and an unsound animal. The Trail is no walk in the park, its hard, hard going for shod horses with packs on.

Crossing Georges Creek just south of Ebor in NSW. I think we crossed that creek something like 30 times on that day and all on rock.

Here are the lessons that were made clear to us:

~ It is all about removing any flair, as soon as it appears. Nothing makes a horse walk slowly, resist trotting, hang back in the string etc. more quickly than flair. That includes the other challenges that came up like some eleven hour days, heavy loads and months on the road. It was all about being vigilant and proactive to just give a quick rasp of any flair and away they would go again.

~ Sharp, large aggregate rock (the type they seem to universally put on forestry roads, it seems) was the most difficult terrain for the horses. We used front boots whenever we came to this. I think this surface is so tough because it tends to be loose rock on a very hard road-base. It just chews away wall and makes their soles tender very quickly.

~ Travel slowly wherever the horses indicate they need to be slow. Believe what the horses are telling you! They are not shirking their duties – they’re telling you it’s tough.

~ When wear is greater than growth you need front boots. This particularly applied in the first couple of months. We seemed to go through periods of a week or so of needing boots for a particular horse. We think the relevant factor was the quality of hoof wall that was coming down to be the bearing surface. Poor quality, then rapid wear and growth not keeping up. We saw this in the three ‘new’ horses but hardly at all in our Tasmanian ones. Our Tasmanian horses have been on good diets with supplements all their lives with us (two years being the least period) and barefoot of course.

~ The amount of hoof growth does compensate for wear but this did not equalise until after about three months on the road.

~ The horses need supplement feed for the whole trip. The tropical grasses are high bulk and poor quality and in the drought country (90% of our travels) there is insufficient grass (and water), so we fed straight oats with dolomite, sulphur and copper.

~ Molasses, for adding to water, is absolutely crucial. Molasses is hard to pack (bulky and it leaks) but keeping horses hydrated was a life and death situation in the heat. And it affects their feet – we found to our surprise. Walls dry and one starts to see the surface cracking which we guess would have led to true splits/cracks if not addressed.

We didn’t need hoof knives or any of the other gadgets we use at home. It was dead simple trimming. Something we didn’t expect to see was the huge increases in wall thickness. My warm-blood cross ended up with walls nearly three-quarters of an inch thick (not including the white-line which have now returned to their usual thickness after nine months at home) and tough as nails.

We met many other short-term trekkers along the way. We saw some pretty shocking legs, feet and poor horses. Success on the Trail is not simply barefooting, it’s the whole deal.

The Trail has never been done barefoot before and every person was highly sceptical that it was possible. This was particularly so for the experienced trekkers who know the Trail and what long-term trekking involves.

Carrying heavy packs was thought to be the straw that broke the camels back, but that is only partly correct in our view. It is the flair that breaks hoof and destroys the horses’ legs – whether barefoot or not. And shoes that increase the concussion, create less grip and are totally un-forgiving on the rocky surfaces that make up almost the entire track.

As an example we saw a little arab with newly shod feet that had been trekking for only a week, it had swellings from the coronet to nearly the top of the cannon, sore splint bones and was struggling to keep going. There were a number of things that we could see: high heels, shoes nailed all around the hoof so no expansion possible, the horses were being pushed much harder over rocks than we would, no electrolytes or molasses given when these horses were showing signs of dehydration, no supplement feed only what they could get over night. It only had a few more days to go but it was going to be a sad and sorry sight by the time it got home and I guess would carry injury for the rest of its life.

In conclusion, our barefooting success on The Trail came from eliminating flair by having a correct trim, supplement feeding to keep high hoof quality and hydration through giving molasses water whenever they did not drink sufficiently.

And here’s to our fabulous horses: Danny, Fabs, Tooma, Milo, Mitchy and Clancy, four of them pictured after they had just completed 10 of the hardest days of the journey.


Brumby Tour 2010 Report
by Tracy Dunn
The annual Brumby Tour hosted by Jen and Jeremy of 'Wildabout Hooves' took place in the Northern Territory near Alice Springs in May.

I've always enjoyed camping, but when I signed up to join Jen & Jeremy from “Wild About Hooves” for their Brumby Tour, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Four days, outback style camping in the desert near Alice Springs, looking for brumbys! It was sure to be an adventure!

Arriving in Alice I checked into Toddys, where Grace, Sue and I were sharing a room. I was really looking forward to catching up with the girls and Kel. The 4 of us were students of the Cert3 Hoof Care Course 2009, so we all knew each other.

Jen and Jeremy picked us up that evening and took us out to their friends place. We had a bbq dinner (awesome Barra!) a bonfire and watched The Desert Brumby dvd (ABRU) at their “open air cinema”. It was an enjoyable evening and good way to start the tour. We met our fellow adventurers, Tara a hoof trimmer from the South Island of NZ and Jacky another previous student of the Cert3 Course.

The following morning we left Alice at about 8am and headed off into the desert. Driving along the red dirt road, I was surprised at how much grass there was and it was GREEN!! Apparently we were pretty lucky to see the desert covered with so much vegetation, after a good wet season everything was blooming.

It didn’t take long before “hawk eyes Kel” spotted our first herd of Brumbys. We piled out of the troopy, loaded with cameras and wandered off into the scrub, some of us in camo gear, others in subtle fire engine red shirts/jumpers!

The herd consisted of about 11 horses. A palomino Stallion, who had one blue eye, mares of various colours and 2 young ones, both paints.
We were very privileged to spend a bit of time with this herd, they were scared of us, but also curious. They’d run off so far, but then come back to see what we were doing. The Stallion was especially interested in us and was keeping a close eye on us all. As we were leaving, he actually trotted along behind Jen, at a safe distance of course, but it gave Jen a surprise!

The horses looked fabulous, they were in awesome condition, evidence of the good wet season.

We headed out to Palm Valley, the scenery was lovely, we couldn’t believe how much grass there was, it was unbelievable, certainly didn’t look like a desert at all. Palm Valley was a lush oasis, green grass waist height in some places and a small river, with clear flowing water.

We went for a short bush walk, up the hill overlooking the valley, it made for some lovely photos. We didn’t see any brumbys in the area, with so much grass and water around, they were no doubt quite spread out.

We then headed back to Finke Gorge, where we set up camp in a dry creek bed. The back drop to our camp site was fantastic, surrounded by rocky hills.

As night set in, we could hear dingos howling in the distance.

The next morning we packed up and headed out towards Kings Creek Station, where we were staying the next night.

Along the way we came across another herd of brumbys, a small band of 4 horses. The horses were wandering along the edge of the road. We did a U turn and headed back to check them out. They started trotting along the road, so we followed them. We ended up driving behind them in the Troopy, watching them gallop down the road for a while, taking some quick photos, before they veered off into the bush.

As we left the area of Palm Valley, it seemed more like we were in the desert, the vegetation became sparse and the ground rocky and dry.

One thing that I will always remember, was the incredible view we had from on top a small rocky outcrop that we climbed, to view some brumbys.

The next large herd we came across was a band of bachelors. They were grazing in a flat area adjacent to the road. We took the opportunity to head bush and “muster” them for a while in the troopy, which was quite hilarious, given we were towing a trailer and they could easily outrun us. However they were fairly cooperative, which was great. They probably felt quite safe, considering all the open area they could run into and how slow we were!

We saw a few more small herds as we headed to Kings Creek Station. On the way we also dropped into Kings Creek Canyon for a short bush walk.

We arrived at Kings Creek Station where we met Angie and her husband Chris, leading hand at the station. We were keen for nice warm showers after a night camping.

While at the station Kel and I went for a helicopter ride. It was incredible! Neither of us had been in a helicopter before, Kel was brave and asked the pilot to remove his door so he could have a better view and take photos. I was happy to sit securely in the back with my door closed tight! Its definitely something I will do again! The views from the chopper were unbelievable, we spotted several brumbys during our 30min flight (which actually felt like 10mins).

We also went for a camel ride and watched Jeremy, Kel and Jen trim the orphaned brumby foals, which Angie had rescued. Carlos Tabernaberri is going to rehome them.

After our stay at Kings Creek Station and with Chris and Angie as our tour guides, we headed to the Aboriginal Owned, Tempe Downs. The environment at Tempe Downs was a huge contrast to the area around Palm Valley and Finke Gorge. It was inspiring to see the land that the brumbys travel on, rocky, dry and harsh. Being born and raised in this environment, its no wonder the brumbys are so tough.

Here we came across a brumby carcass and were able to have a close look at the condition of the hooves this terrain sculpts.

We camped the night near Farrar Springs. We couldn’t actually go to the spring itself, due to aboriginal culture only men are permitted there and we respected their wishes. Kel, Jeremy and Chris were the only blokes, so they decided none of us would go there.

We didn’t see any brumbys while on Tempe Downs, but we did hear them. Sitting around the camp fire having a few drinks and chatting, a few of us heard horses approaching. Chris gestures, SHHHHH, we all listen and hear horses in the distance. About 15mins later Kel and I heard the brumbys crossing the rocks along the ridge on their way to the spring.

The next morning we said bye to Chris and Angie, thanked them for their hospitality and headed on our way for our last day. Leaving Tempe Downs we finally got to see some dingos! They were following Chris’s car, no doubt looking for scraps.

Next stop was a watering hole. There was tracks and trails everywhere, but we’d just missed the brumbys! There was fresh manure near the water hole. We split up in groups and walked along some of the trails, but didn’t find any brumbys, at least not live ones.

It was getting late in the day, so we piled in the troopy and headed off for the drive back to Alice, mobile phone coverage, hot showers and real beds!

We all thoroughly enjoyed the trip and were very sad to say bye to Jen and Jeremy when they dropped us back to Alice. We asked for an extension, but unfortunately we all had planes to catch and reality to get back to! However we’re already talking about planning to go another year! If you like camping, adventure, bush walking, lots of laughs, great bbqs/fire cooking, amazing scenery, horses and want to get away from civilization to where time slows down, then check out going on the Brumby Tour! Jeremy might even cook you Golden Syrup Dumplings, camp oven style!

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