Friday, 31 January 2014

Horses, Photography and RM Williams

I always took photos. Loved it. Seeing the beauty through a lens. Years ago I got around to buying some photographic equipment like a camera, camera stands, lenses and so on, and kept them in the boot of my car. They were always in the car along with my saddle, boots and horse gear.

I also loved horses and by the age of 19, I owned one. His name was Khan and he was a stunning palomino.

I have been fortunate to have met many famous people in my travels. I always treated them as a friend. I guess is leading to R.M. Williams and the stolen boots story…

I was in Adelaide. I had moved far away from my ex-boyfriend. I had been with him since I was nearly 16. I had met another lovely fellow and we moved away. Life was looking good. A nice young man (he was 24) and a horse and a new start.

It was so hot in Adelaide that I would spend all day watering the horse. I missed Queensland. The scenery, the palm trees, the water. I got very homesick. So we returned home to Queensland a year after we had left. I gave Khan to one of the girls that used to hang around at the stables. She was so happy and promised to look after him. I was happy with that. We moved to the outskirts of Brisbane.

I found a riding school. The owner used to buy and sell horses. He needed someone to tend the riding school so I was hired. He gave me a beautiful part Arab strawberry mare. I can't remember her name. It may come to me. Deal done. I ran the school for the takings.

While I was at the riding school I also had a little 14 hand ex snowy mountain brumby grey horse called Misty. She was so cool. I used to get there at 5.30 am to round all the horses up from our paddocks. Misty would be waiting at the gate for me. Lord help me if I was late. She would be pacing, snorting and running - wildly bucking. She would whinny at me to say you're late. I was in trouble. I could sleep in the saddle when I rode Misty, she knew the routine. All the horses knew to move and get up to the yard otherwise she would kick them and say "move". She was ugly - scrawny. I just couldn't pretty her up or fatten her. She was too hyper and had done it tough. She was 14 years old. If she could have put her own bridle and saddle on, she would have. I would do this if course. Then off we would go. 

After the round-up I would release Misty and saddle up my Arab for a ride. Well the look I would get from Misty - Traitor!  She would take off bucking and twisting in the air and I would not see her until later in the morning. She was wild born - you cant take that away ever.

One day R.M. Williams popped in to say hi to us. All the rodeo guys used to do that too – just visit when they were in the region. We went for beers and dinner. I left my car at the riding school.

The next morning we realised that the riding school had been broken into. Saddles and bridles were mainly what was taken, but the boot of my car had also been opened. Whoever it was knew that my gear was in there. Why else would you break into a boot? My camera gear, my beautiful western saddle, my boots - gone. R.M. popped back in on his way home. He lived out Toowoomba way. I was crying. He comforted me and said it would be ok. That afternoon he drove home and back to the riding school and presented me with a pair of riding boots and a new saddle. I loved R.M. he was a kind man. Genuine R.M. Williams boots given to me by the man himself. I cried when he passed away. My camera gear was never recovered and I lost interest in photography. Horses were now my life.

When there were droughts the poor farmers were forced to sell their best horses since they could not afford to feed them. It was very sad. We found another young girl like myself to take over the riding school and I started attending the saleyards. We would go to Toowoomba every week and Rockampton, Tamworth and Chinchilla once a month. The Chinchilla and Rocky sales were the saddest. You knew the farmers were letting go of their best friend. The doggers would be there, but we would outbid them. It only took another $10. Most went for under $50. We would always try to raise the bids for the farmers. Horses with pedigree would go for $75.

When the hammer went down the farmers would let go of the reins and hand them over with a tear in their eye, stroke the horse and say "See ya old mate". We would always slip them an extra $50 because we knew we could sell many of them for up to $500. The farmers didn't have the money for transportation costs to get them to the city sales. As the doggers would start to load up their horses, we would count them and make an offer which they would usually accept. Then we transported all the horses back to the riding school.

Unfortunately some of the horses that were bought at sales had to go to a dogger. I would try my best to save them, but some were mongrels. I punched many a horse out straight between the eyes for trying to hurt me when I was trying my best to save them.

We would sort them. I would play horse whisperer.  We would have to call the doggers for a load or two each week. I hated it, but we couldn't keep them all. The government never helped the farmers who were doing it tough. Quite often I would contact them and let them know that their old mate had a good home. Quite often I would spell the horses, fatten them up and return them to them to their original owner when the drought had broken. A lot of the old guys would cry. We are talking tough hard old Aussie family men who would never shed a tear. I felt good. I smiled a lot.

That would be the best feeling for me to return a horse. I knew the feeling to lose something close, to lose a good mate. 

One morning I got to the gate. No Misty. I knew something was up. I saddled up the Arab. My partner came with me on his horse and we bolted up the hill to where the horses were, where the best grass was best. We saw her. Lying on the ground. A few of the horses were nudging her and sniffing her. She was dead. Snake bite. It must have been a quick snake! I was devastated. My partner sent me home and dragged her body down behind the F100. I couldn't watch. He then burnt her. I cried for three days.

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