On this month’s cover we feature Louise Sedgeman’s portrait of Keren Robertson and her bay roan Quarter Horse gelding Wicked Mind, better known as Barry - the horse with a personality so large he has a Facebook following!
Keren’s ‘horse journey’ took an unexpected turn when, after thirteen years working with racehorses, she made the switch to the western performance arena.
Keren didn’t grow up in a horsy family but her earliest childhood memory is running out the front door to give the milk delivery horse a carrot which shows that, just like so many of us, she has been horse-mad for life.
“I just love horses” she says. “We lived in an area that was a bit rural and there were horses all around. I learned to ride going out to my cousins who had horses and ponies, and my neighbours had horses so I was always patting them over the fences and trying to get rides off them. Eventually, my parents took me to a local riding school and we finally leased a horse there when I was 15 or 16.
“After school, I did a two-year horse husbandry and management course, taking a year in between to work on a Thoroughbred stud farm and racing stables in Sydney. After finishing the course, I went into working with racehorses full time. I was very fortunate and worked in some really good stables with wonderful trainers and rode very successful horses, which was amazing.”
“I think I just became really exhausted and could see it wasn’t going to be much of a lifestyle as I got older. I got really tired of the early mornings and working seven days a week, never having a Sunday off.
“I came down to Melbourne after that, found work and I didn’t have contact with horses for a while until a couple of years later my auntie rang about friends of hers who needed help doing foal watch at their Quarter Horse stud.
“I started meeting people in the Western Performance world and they were really nice. My initial attraction was really the people, but then I found I also really enjoyed the riding. There are so many facets. You have in-hand classes like halter and showmanship, and riding classes which are also varied. There’s now even new ones, like ranch riding and others coming through."
The time Keren spent with Charissa and Ray Evans from Charary Quarter Horse Stud was her first introduction to Quarter Horses and where she first leased then bought, a mare called Sammi, which she later bred to produce our cover star Barry.
“I took Sammi with me, got some lessons and progressed from there. I did showmanship and western pleasure, hunter under saddle and the pattern classes. I had a very successful year in 2009 and then I decided to breed her. I put her to a really gorgeous stallion called RQH Doing it in Style, and the next year, Barry popped out!
“And, you know when people talk about their ‘heart horses’?” she continues. “Barry is definitely my heart horse. I definitely can’t imagine not having him around. I was there just after he was born and have all the photos of him just out and wet. We’re quite bonded.
“I was sure he was going to be a boy – there was so much activity in there all the time! So, I had picked both his names before he was born. I think I heard Wicked Mind mentioned in a song but I knew it was right as soon as he stood up and started to balance himself. His nickname came about because I was always seeing his feet banging his mum’s insides, and that reminded me of a big tough player from the Sydney Swans.
“Barry is super cheeky and very spoilt but he’s a very gentle, kind horse. He loves kids and he has this huge personality that attracts people. His Facebook page started because I took him to shows as a weanling and he was so cute. People fell in love with him and suggested he should have a page, so he does, and he updates it every now and then.
“We’ve had a few challenges along the way, just teenage tantrums because we were both getting confused and I needed to get help. At one of the shows Trish Wettenhall offered to help and she’s been wonderful.
“One thing I have learned is you should never be too proud to ask for help. There’s always people willing to help and for me, Trish and her clients were not just being successful, but they give each other a lot of support. And that’s an environment I really like to be involved in.
Having that backup and knowledge and being with a group of people who celebrate everybody’s successes. It’s really important to me.”
Check out Barry’s Facebook page