Featured on our cover this month is a beautiful photograph by Olya Tutova of Marlene Holohan and her Appaloosa mare, Moonshine Jinxy Minx. A mare who is better known as ‘The Dragon’ for her larger-than-life personality and for having “an opinion about everything”, according to her owner.
It has been nearly ten years since Kari Fulmek and Carolyn Charles first set up their equine assisted learning business, Equine Connection. “It was three years at least of crying and overspending, and really bashing our heads against brick walls,” Carolyn says. “But, you don’t really bash your head against walls unless you know: this is a goer,” interjects Jane. Both women are speaking to me from Willowwood Stables, the home of Jane Hemingway-Mohr and the base of her equestrian business in the northern suburbs of Sydney.
Honestly, I didn’t mean to. I had no intention of buying a young horse. Having come to horse ownership in middle age, I was happy with my 18 year old mare, Floss. But, when my riding buddy Helen asked me to go with her on a six hour return journey to look at a yearling she was vaguely thinking of buying, I didn’t hesitate. Helen and I had spent many hours out riding our mares, both in their late teens (unlike us) and both with some issues (possibly like us), talking about what sort of horse would appeal to us when our mares really were too old.
Dante has grown up around dogs – he’s always lived on properties with dogs and has never had any issues with them. My Labrador stands under his feet licking the trimmings off the ground as I rasp his feet. But, a little while back, as we were going down a road - me on my old girl, Floss, and Dante ponying along beside us - three dogs ran down a driveway and barked ferociously at us. They were behind a gate and no real danger, but Dante jumped out of his skin.
I recently took an opportunity to participate in a liberty training session with my young horse, Dante. We’ve done a bit of liberty work and some things we’re doing well together; he walks with me, stops and starts when I do, turns, yields and follows. But, this training session took things to a new level.
As I loaded my mare, Floss, and my young boy, Dante, into the float, I realised they had never travelled together before. Generally, I’ve chosen to float Dante with our little Welsh pony Timmy, who is a floating star. Floss has never been great in the float, although she has slowly improved over recent years, with a lot of work. Even so, I’ve always thought it better for Dante to travel in company with a better float coach, so have generally worked it so he goes with someone other than Floss.
Young Dante was in the back paddock, alert and focused. He knew something was going on in the front paddock, something that involved his big brother, but there’s no line of sight from the back to the font; the house, sheds and trees block it. Dante ran along the fence, stopped, looked, head high, ears pricked. The other horses weren’t bothered. Dante gave up worrying and went back to standing nearer the rest of the herd, but maintained some attention towards the noises - and no doubt smells - coming from the front.
Dante has a bit of a habit of wanting to jump into my arms when he gets a fright. This would be okay if he was a cat or a tiny dog, but he’s an increasingly large young horse, just tipping 15hh now. While I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring he likes being with me and wants to follow me, he needs to know that being with me doesn’t mean being on top of me.
They say some horses will test you, some will teach you and some will bring out the best in you. Ol’ Jay is of the last type... That once-in-a-lifetime, worth-her-weight-in-gold horse every little girl dreams of. A 29-year-old veteran, Rey Jays Trouble Q.22585 (a.k.a. Ol’ Jay) now finds herself in the good care of the Kimber family; saddler and professional rodeo rider dad Lenny, stud master, club secretary and mum Tarni, and their three horse-mad children, Maddison, Keene-Riley and Ebony who seem determined to continue the long family tradition.
There was an incident in the paddock. Like many incidents involving horses, it happened quickly. Fortunately, this one had a happy ending. It started innocently enough – don’t they all? I went into the paddock with a couple of feed buckets. Generally, the small herd of six where my three horses live is very polite around feed time. I walked past Cruiser, who had already been given his bucket near the fence, with two buckets – one for my old girl Floss and another for my young boy Dante.