Tag Archives: The Silver Brumby

My Top 5 Favourite Horse Stories

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I’ve just begun writing my next rural romance which features a heroine determined to resurrect the long-defunct local hunt club’s point to point race, albeit with a twist that not everyone approves of.

To help put me in the mood, I’m reading a history of the Mount Gambier Hunt Club, of which I was a once a member. All the adventurous tales and amusing anecdotes, including those of my great-grandfather Lou Hein, grandfather Lloyd aka “Torchy”, and uncle Clarrie, who were also members, got me thinking about my favourite horse books.

So here they are!

1/. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter FarleyI cannot express how passionately I felt as a child about this story of a boy called Alec Ramsay and a stallion simply called the Black, who find themselves washed up on a barren island after a storm wrecks the ship on which they were travelling. Slowly the pair form an unbreakable bond. When they finally make it home, it’s discovered that the Black is one super-fast horse. Soon, he’s pitted against the best in the land in a race that will have you turning those pages at a gallop. Gawd, I get teary just thinking about it.

Seriously, if it was in any way possible, I would have married this book. I loved it and the entire Black Stallion series that much. I also wonder if this was the book that made me want to be a writer. The daydreams I had over it! Certainly it has a very special place in my reading heart.

2/. Riders by Jilly Cooper

Riders by Jilly Cooper. Ah, how can one go past the absolute naughty deliciousness that is Rupert Campbell-Black, Cooper’s much-adored equestrian star and complete bounder? While the story is actually more about Jake Lovell, and his rise in the professional showjumping world, it’s his arch-rival Rupert who looms large. Rupert is truly awful sometimes, but he’s brave, smart, funny, unapologetic, deeply loyal to his friend Billy, and fabulous in bed, and we can’t help but forgive him.

What’s great about this story is that there are more like it, including Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. Given Cooper writes lovely big fat books, that means hours and hours of reading delight. Wheee!

I always imagined myself writing bonkbusters like this and it was a huge shock to discover my stories turned out nothing like Cooper’s. Ah, well…

3/. French Relations by Fiona Walker

French Relations by Fiona WalkerFrench Relations and its follow-up Well Groomed are very much in the vein of Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles. There’s lots of posh carrying-on and plenty of laughs, plus lashings of lovely romance. French Relations begins with Tash French heading to her eccentric mother’s Loire chateau for a summer break. On arrival she finds Alexandra has bought her a wholly unsuitable, half-mad stallion to ride. When sexy eventer and Tash’s devastating teenage crush Hugo Beauchamp turns up, he’s conned into giving Tash lessons. But there is more than one eligible male in the chateau, taking Tash’s love life on a rather twisted journey.

Ignore the horrid cover (the original was far better), this is great, addictive fun!

4/. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'HaraLike The Black Stallion, O’Hara’s trilogy had me enchanted as a child. Wyoming sounded like a kind of horse heaven and I wanted to visit so badly.

Once more, this is about love and trust between a boy and his horse. Both of whom kind of end up saving one another.

It’s a beautiful tale and a guaranteed heart-warmer. But if I recall correctly, I think it was the second book in the series, Thunderhead, that I liked most.

 

 

5/. The Man From Snowy River by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson

The Man From Snowy River by AB Banjo Paterson. There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Reading or hearing that never fails to send a shiver down my spine, and when discussing horse stories it would be impossible not to include this classic Australian poem. It’s exciting and romantic, set in an iconic location, and features a brave hero and his “small and weedy beast” of a mountain-bred horse, both of whom prove their merits in spectacular fashion. Nothing like an underdog to stir an Aussie heart!

The language is wonderful. The rhythm of Paterson’s poem draws us in and sweeps us along, and it’s hard not to get teary over the drama of it all. A must read.

 

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Black Beauty, it’s because I never really warmed to that book. I also haven’t included The Silver Brumby because, somehow, I never discovered it. How that tragedy occurred is one of the great mysteries of my life. Equine-obsessed me miss a horse book? Impossible! Yet somehow it happened.

Do you have a favourite horse story or movie? I’d love to hear about it. A horsey girl can never have too many equine tales!

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Spirited – Australia’s Horse Story

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While I was visiting Canberra the other week for the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I was fortunate enough to catch the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia before it closed.

Being horse-mad from birth, I can’t resist the call of anything equine and the museum was only a pleasant stroll around the edge of Lake Burley Griffin from the QT Hotel where the convention was being held. A sunny autumn day, some horsey goodness… perfect.

The museum released a great video of the exhibition which is well worth a look. It certainly got me excited!

It was rather thrilling to be confronted with more video on entrance to the exhibition, this time showing wild brumbies in action. An elderly man, who said he used to help his dad break brumbies, and I stood mesmerised by the footage in warm, horse-loving companionship. We were so entranced we watched the video loop through twice. Even when I left to take in the main exhibits, he stayed on. I don’t think he wanted to leave.

Video still of brumbies at the Spirited exhibition

As expected, the exhibition was a trove of interesting artefacts and information. Look at this: A first edition of The Silver Brumby alongside Elyne Mitchell’s typewriter.

Typewriter used by Elyne Mitchell and a first edition copy of The SIlver Brumby

The first displays were interesting, focusing on colonial life and the important role horses played in the development of the colony and agriculture. Horses were uncommon in the early years of settlement. A few arrived with the first fleet, but according to the museum guide book by 1791 only one stallion, one mare and two colts survived, and horses remained scarce for several decades.

There were some wonderful artefacts on display from Springfield station, near Goulburn, including this magnificent dress harness fitted with the Faithfull family crest.

Carriage harness with Faithfull family crest decoration from Springfield station.

From Burrungurroolong station, also near Goulburn, came this wonderful rocking horse. I would have killed for something like this as a kid. That’s a go-fast rocking horse if ever there was one!

Wooden rocking horse from Burrungurroolong station.

I thought this carved-out log trough was amazing too. Imagine the hard work involved in its creation.

Carved log feed trough.

I also really liked this forging anvil, which was used by blacksmith Samuel Sinclair, who arrived in Bermagui in 1904 to set up shop after having served as a farrier in the Boer War. I know it’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was HUGE and weighed 348 kilograms.

Forging anvil.

My favourite display was probably the trophy cabinet. This contained, among other things, the 1866 Melbourne Cup won by The Barb, and is our earliest known intact cup. Initially, the Melbourne Cup was a prize – a gold watch or cash – and the first actual cup was awarded only in 1865, which makes this version particularly precious. The other two trophies are the 1867 Melbourne Cup and Queen’s Plate won by Tim Whiffler. Apparently two horses called Tim Whiffler competed in the Cup that year, with ‘Sydney Tim’ taking the prize, along with the Queen’s Plate two days later.

Ornate Melbourne Cups and Queens Plate

The exhibition had its quirky items too. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Jackson, a toy horse used in the 2007 alternate Birdsville races when an outbreak of equine influenza caused a ban on the movement of horses and shut down the normal event. In typical outback fashion, the show went on, with mock races fielded with stuffed toys.

Jackson, the stuffed toy Birdsville races competitor

And more quirky exhibits. An inkwell made from a horse’s hoof. This makes me think of the snuffbox the British made from Marengo’s hoof, Napoleon’s favourite warhorse, and was presented to the Household Brigade.

Hoof inkwell.

There was even an old horse-drawn dairy carriage, circa 1947, complete with poo (out of shot, unfortunately). One of the plaques told a great story of a bakery horse who was so habitualised that it simply set off on his route when flu kept its driver from turning up to work.

Lincoln Park Dairy delivery cart

This sculpture had so much life, and was (ironically?) surrounded by anatomical specimens, including bits of Phar Lap.

Wire man and horse sculpture

There was much, much more in the exhibition, including information on breeds in Australia, a fascinating video on the use of the whip in horse racing, medals from Olympics and other major events, pony club tales and photos (rah!), and pieces on all the various equestrian sports Australians compete in, from dressage to campdrafting and everything in between.

Definitely worth the visit but for those who missed it, never fear! The National Museum of Australia has pages and pages on its website about the exhibition. There are photos, videos, and deeper stories about horses in Australia. You can spend ages on there. A fantastic resource for those who love horses or are simply interested in our history.

And here’s my souvenir from the exhibition: Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse. What a steed!

HotChoc3.0

Not quite the real thing but at least he’s house trained, doesn’t eat much, and packs away flat. Sadly, he will never, ever compete with this darling. Not in my eyes.

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

My first horse, the romantically named Mysty. Best horse evah. Sigh.

Yep, once a horse-girl, always a horse-girl!