FIRST IN AUSTRALIA
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.
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
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.
most interesting result is how the horses looked and recovered after
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.
goes to show that with consistent conditioning and a gradual transition
with the help of boots horses can compete without the need for metal
Jen with Zamir and Peter Laidley from Hoofworks QLD at Agfest.
Endurance Success - July 2005
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
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"
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!
front hoof after the Tom Quilty Endurance Ride.
TO BAREFOOT ENDURANCE SUCCESS – Part 1 by Jen Clingly
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
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
After a lot more of the “it can’t be done” attitude
they voted unanimously to support the motion to allow barefoot horses
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Jen and Zamir (left)
with Jeremy and Ruby
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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
WARM UP &
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”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
for 3,500km of the Bicentennial National Trail!
By Joan Rylah.
Rod and Joan leaving
Irvenbank in far north Queensland.
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.
of the new horses had just returned to barefoot and the other two
had been completely neglected for many years.
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.
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.
Creek just south of Ebor in NSW. I think we crossed that creek something
like 30 times on that day and all on rock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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
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.
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!