The hand that feeds
Kelly Wilson and her sisters, Vicki and Amanda, are New Zealand show jumpers and wild horse advocates, starring together in Keeping up with the Kaimanawas. Kelly, who is a best-selling author, is pictured with Gundara, a wild brumby saved from slaughter i
“We were taming wild horses just out of Melbourne; we headed up to the mountains to see where the horses we were working with had roamed wild in Kosciuszko National Park. Our very first exposure to wild horses – long before we worked with the Kaimanawas – was the Australian brumbies. As children we read The Silver Brumby series of books and watched The Man from Snowy River. For us, the Australian brumbies are really iconic for igniting our love of wild horses. Seeing them that day, it was like living out of the pages of a book.
We were over there taming horses and showcasing what was possible, taking them from the wild and into domestication. It was really interesting to see how they differed from the wild horses in New Zealand that we’d worked with, and also the mustangs in America.
The Kosciuszko brumbies were going through a controversial time, with the Australian government proposing to cull 90 per cent of the wild horses in the Snowy Mountains.
Unlike in New Zealand, where they round up the wild horses with helicopters, the horses in the Snowy Mountains were trapped with bait – hollow logs filled with molasses and minerals – to encourage the wild horses to gather and eat in these areas, and they build up fences around them over a few weeks. They’re trapped and trucked to holding yards.
There’s currently between 400,000 and 1 million brumbies in Australia. More than 100,000 are culled each year. In this particular region, there’s only about 6000 wild brumbies. About 11 per cent of them are saved; the rest go to the meat works.
There were 11 saved from the cull that day. The stallion that I’m pictured with was one of these. This is his first day arriving at the Victoria Brumby Association sanctuary, he was totally wild, had never been touched. We called that horse Gundara and the horse hiding behind him was named Molasses. His whole face was covered in molasses – it basically symbolised how he’d lost his freedom.
Gundara was being saved for a competition. The Victoria Brumby Association saves horses as part of training initiatives. It’s training horses for the Australian Brumby Challenge. That’s a 150-day competition where trainers get a wild horse – totally untouched – and they have to befriend it, work with it and tame it over the course of several months. And then compete in one of the biggest equestrian events in Australia: Equitana. Britt Mann
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