Australian Brumby Challenge ©
It has been an exciting few months anticipating the start of the 2016 Australian Brumby Challenge, and now it has finally begun. I made the trek from my winter base in South Australia with fellow competitor Pauly Daniels to the Brumby Junction in Glenlogie, Vic. This was to be the first time we would see which Brumby we had been paired with for the next 150 days. Let me tell you, Colleen from the Victorian Brumby Association doesn’t give much away, and it wasn’t until pick up day that we had any idea which Brumby we would have.
We collected our paperwork and inspected the Brumby’s. I had been matched with a lovely 9yo bay gelding, VBA Kai who was captured in August 2015 as a stallion in a small bachelor group along with VBA Magnus from the Long Plain Kosciusko National Park.
Kai was loaded with Pauly’s horse VBA Magnus for the trip back to South Australia. Both travelled well, and by Monday afternoon I had Kai home and set up in his yard to settle in for a few days. During this time, whilst feeding, watering and yard cleaning, I would do a little ground work with him, moving him around the yard and working on getting him to face up to me and stand still. Having spent 8 years running as a wild stallion, and 1 year at Brumby Junction in a large herd, this was certainly a huge change for Kai, so I kept the sessions short as I didn’t want to do too much too soon before he adjusted to both his new environment, and myself.
By day three, after just a handful of 5-10 minute sessions, I had Kai happy to move in both directions, face up, approach me, and sniff the flag. The hard decision then came on how to begin to actually handle this lovely gelding. The options were endless, do I rope him and gentle him this way, certainly the fastest option. I could use a method of join up or hooking on, however with Kai’s very strong flight instinct I wondered how long this might take. I could use the old feed and water trick, however I didn’t want to deprive him of that important constant access to hay and water. Having played with a lot of different methods handling wild horses over the years and knowing the pros and cons for each method, my gut said go for the pole method. I felt this was going to be the best way to begin getting Kai used to touch, whilst still building both his respect and trust. Using a long bamboo pole allows me to get a touch on the horse from a distance, and still gives the horse the ability to keep moving if he feels he needs to. At no time do I want to take away the options for the horse or hinder his ability to move. He always has choices, it’s just my job to help make the correct choices easier. Each time Kai stopped moving, I would take the pressure (the bamboo pole) away and give him some time to think and let it all sink in. By the end of day 5 we are using the pole to give Kai a really good scratch all over (he quite enjoys this and readily stands still now) and he is starting to come up to me and check me out. Sniffing and allowing a small scratch from my hand. I think it much more important at this point to allow him to choose to come to me, and as such am in no hurry to get a halter or rope on him. He will let me know when he is ready.
The best thing about Brumby’s, or any wild horse for that matter, is that they are a totally blank slate. They have very little human experience, they haven’t been spoilt, abused or taught any bad behaviours. They also have a very strong ability to read and understand energy, intent and body language. Because of this, they will always give you immediate and honest feedback. This way building trust and working at the individual horses pace is so important. Brumby’s, like any horse, are capable of great loyalty once they have learned to trust you, but until then, that sense of self-preservation can be challenging.
What a pleasure it has been this first week getting to know this wonderful animal and seeing the amount of curiosity and try grow within him. I couldn't be happier with VBA Kai and I can’t wait to share with you our journey over the next 150 days as together we work out his strengths and talents.