At a remote location hidden near Guyra, the New England Brumby Sanctuary was the venue for an Open Day. Photos and story Brett Dolsen.
The sanctuary was established in 0ctober 2008 to care for Brumbies removed from Guy Fawkes River National Park and to conduct a breeding and adoption program to preserve blood lines of horses under the management of STB, or Save the Brumbies. A second sanctuary managed by STB is near Bellingen and cares for horses not suited to adoption.
On arrival, visitors were greeted by Jan Carter, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Brumbies Inc. tax deductible charity (STB) and a small team of volunteers dedicated to the saving and protection of wild Australian horses known as Brumbies. The word Brumby may have originated from James Brumby, who in the early 1800s released horses into the wild; however, the Aboriginal word ‘baroomby’ also means wild horse.
Jan, a professional musician, who plays both classical guitar and harp, was outraged when confronted with the news in the year 2000 that aerial shooting had slaughtered 600 wild horses in the Guy Fawkes River National Park near Armidale. Some horses were wounded, only to die some time later from their wounds. Jan had previously ridden trails in the area and seen the wild horses in their natural environment. As a result, Save the Brumbies Inc. was established and following negotiations, a Steering Committee was set up leading to horses being removed from the parks and placed in the care of interested horse groups. It should be noted that wild horses are still regarded as feral animals in Australia – unlike the USA, where Mustangs are protected and heritage valued.
Jan has personally produced a music CD titled Run with the Wind, with moving arrangements of classical guitar and harp dedicated to the Australian Brumby. Proceeds from sales of the CD are just one of the fundraising methods used for the charity. She will not own a mobile phone, as her precious time is taken up with caring for the horses and maintaining the property; however, each day includes responding to enquiries by email, as well as keeping sponsors updated on their horses.
The Bellingen Sanctuary homes on average around 15 horses cared for by Jan. These horses are in need of high care due to being orphaned, injured, down in condition or aged. The care for these horses is provided by sponsorships, where sponsors can visit and be kept updated on the progress of their chosen animal. It is a highly rewarding and personal way to help the wild horses. During the recent floods at Bellingen over $20,000 of damage occurred to the Bellingen property, but it failed to meet criteria for flood relief.
Jan and STB have also been involved with organisations and governments in other states, including Queensland, where aerial slaughter is still permitted.
Horses are still being shot, or trapped in National Parks and consigned to abattoirs for slaughter. Driving into the New England sanctuary to the right were four mares with their young foals on a large field of healthy grasses, benefiting from good rain falls throughout 2011. To the left were two Apsley Gorge Brumbies (Tictoc and Safina), transported to the Open Day by the Oxley Heritage Horse Association. A little further along could be seen Brigitte Bardot, a Palomino sponsored by the actress of the same name. Parking in the undefined space near the homestead, one could see four young yearlings in another field – three ready for adoption and one still undergoing training. The horses at the sanctuary are Guy Fawkes Brumbies, whose bloodlines can be traced back to a stallion named Saladin from the early 1900s. These same bloodline horses were used by the Australian infantry in both world wars and made famous by the Lighthorsemen. In another larger area of some 200 acres were three stallions not seen on the day due to the rugged country. The sanctuary was chosen due to terrain that best replicated the environment the horses came from when captured. The generosity of several people led to the availability of the 1,375 acre Guyra property, and all funding comes from private sources and fundraising by STB.
So far there have been over 200 horses adopted from the STB program and many others sponsored. There are many people on the waiting list for horses; however, due to the higher than usual rainfalls of 2011, few horses are currently being removed from the Guy Fawkes National Park, where it is estimated that around 500 horses roam. Of concern is that with strong growth within the park, breeding may be higher than usual. It is National Parks policy that all horses will be removed within 5 years – a concern to STB, as government policy may revert to earlier unacceptable management and controls.
Jan Carter and the STB would like to see two full-time experienced horsemen employed by National Parks rather than the Park Rangers, already fully occupied with other duties, being used. This, she feels, will be the best management, ensuring the government achieves its goals and that all horses are saved and humanely relocated to appropriate groups.
The NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner is Patron of the New England Brumby Sanctuary.
During the Open Day, visitors were given a display on the handling and training of young horses who are part of the breeding and adoption program held at the sanctuary. In a heartwarming display, Megan Hyde, working with the young colts and fillies, showed her skills in preparing the young horses. The colt STB Basil was touched for the very first time by human hands.
As new horses arrive in the sanctuary, both Megan and Jan are excited to name the new residents based on themes that have included music, historical figures and characters.
The small and very select breeding program ensures the conservation of the blood lines of the Guy Hawkes Brumbies.
As a result, the Australian Brumby Horse Register has been established and horses are now seen at selected shows. It costs around $1,200 for a horse to be prepared for adoption, and each horse is carefully matched to his new owners.
The horses are always in good condition, disease free, and Brumby owners will swear by their loyalty, trust and trainability.
Maybe one day we will even see these Heritage Horses play their role in Anzac Day Marches, working with children and people with disabilities and as an attraction for local and overseas tourists.
The future for the Guy Hawkes Brumbies is unclear and with organisations such as Save the Brumbies Inc. the founders are also getting on in years. As a charity and volunteer based program, not only is financial support needed, but also suitably dedicated individuals to carry on this work into the future and to preserve this wonderful Australian icon. Of course, this may all become a lot easier if both Federal and State Governments recognise the Brumby as an integral and important icon in Australian History and provide funding and protection to our beautiful wild horses.