Saturday, April 28, 2007

Movies and Novels Igniting the Passion

There’s nothing quite like a viewing of the Black Stallion or settling in a comfy chair on a rainy afternoon and delving into the likes of the Silver Brumby or the classic Black Beauty. And really, this is where the passion for horses starts for many.

It’s been a very interesting week – working at one of the riding schools and ending up with new instructors and therefore learning even more while in the saddle. This has been topped off by a weekend of teaching today and a gymkhana tomorrow and Monday I’m going to another Thoroughbred Sale. And in less than four weeks time, South Africa! Guess I can’t complain about things being boring ;)

I had some friends over last night and yesterday morning in anticipation of wanting to eat lots of junk, I drove down to the local IGA store to stock up on the essentials – chocolate, icecream and Pringles. Where could you go wrong? My mistake – parking right in front of the Opp Shop next door to the IGA.

Now I keep telling myself that I won’t purchase any more horse books until I’ve read all the ones I’ve got (still got 15 of those to read. Well, now it’s 17). It’s a bit hard not to notice when you look up from parking the car and staring at you out of the shop window is the front cover of a book that definitely has a horse on it. Now horse books are enough to have my attention, but extremely cheap horse books? I’m doomed. So of course I wandered in and go figure, the book I’d seen wasn’t actually about horses, just had one on the front. But this led me to spotting A Horse Called Butterfly by Thurley Fowler. The front cover of a girl sitting in a tree looking completely unimpressed with a Palomino beside her jogged a memory of reading the book around fifteen years ago in primary school – scary!

So, I just had to add it to my collection and another – Pony Jobs for Jill by Ruby Ferguson that was on the same shelf. Addicted? Indeed.

I was telling a client about this at one of the riding schools that I was at earlier in the week and she commented how it was the movie National Velvet that actually convinced her to follow up on a childhood dream. Now with a child of her own who is old enough to be riding, she has finally acted on the desire to ride that was long ago ignited probably due to a similar movie or favourite horse book. It’s the likes of these classics that keep instructors and stable hands in work, I do believe.

Love reading horse related pieces yourself? Take a look at – two pieces: Shivers and Taken Care Of. There’ll be another up there titled In the Midst of Adversity when the next edition comes out; a third horse piece I’ve written.
Got a rather large collection of horse books yourself? See if it compares to mine and tell me what I’m missing!

"There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humour and the other is patience." - John Lyons

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Straight to the Source

And my current source? This week, the force. Mounted Police if you want to get down to specifics.

I've sent out a request to the London, Royal Canadian, New South Wales and Victoria Mounted Police to see if they'd answer a half dozen questions or so for me. I'm waiting on the answers from Canada as they agreed to answer my questions but as yet haven't heard back from London or NSW.

A Victorian Sergeant was kind enough to answer them and promptly returned his replies:

Do you have to be a certain rank as a police officer to become a mounted police officer?
No a constable can apply but only after they have completed their probationary period of 2 years

Do you need horse skills or are these taught?
Yes you do require horse skills as the positions available are highly sought after and for safety reasons you have to be competent on a horse before attempting to become a member of the Mounted Police.

Why did you join the Mounted Police?
I grew up with horses and I wanted to use my experience with horses in a policing role.

How much of the job is horse related?
At the Mounted Branch all of the tasks we attend are horse related.

How long have you been a mounted police person?
I have been a member of the Mounted Branch for 13 years.

Is lots of training involved for the horses?
Yes the horses are constantly undergoing training even when they are a fully qualifed troop horse.

What would a normal day consist of for you?
Stable work in the morning for an hour depending on the current tasks riding my horse at a variety of activities (patrols/ceremonial jobs training or protests).

Victoria Police Website:

"Our hoofbeats were many, but our hearts beat as one."

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Equine Dentistry

I have a mate who’s considered pursuing this career path with horses – in between stud work, polocrosse and farriery. He’s mentioned that to get into training in Australia can be difficult as not many are taken in each year to receive formal training. Still, I’d never really followed up possibilities or thought about this profession. Have found a few courses and listed information below.
Anatomy has always interested me and suddenly a 3 month course in New Zealand seems a perfect way to focus on that interest and visit a country I really want to see.

New Zealand:
3 Month course, limited places.
Based in Pukekohe in the Franklin District, 50kms south of Auckland City Centre, NZ., accommodation provided. Application form on site.
Cost: NZ$20,000 (Aus$17,800 / USD$14,800 - converted at

Idaho, USA:
2 day – 2 week courses. Application form on site.
Cost: USD$400 - $4,400

The American School of Equine Dentistry:
Virginia, USA. 4 week intensive Introduction to Equine Dentistry Course. Application on site.
Cost: USD$5,500 (plus $650 including accommodation)

College of Equine Dentistry, Australia:
Located near Gunnedah, New South Wales. Courses offered in January, June and October annually. Application form on site.

Equine Dentistry Information Site:
International Association of Equine Dentistry:

"The Horse... If God made anything more beautiful he kept it for himself!"

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Educating Self with a First Class Teacher...

...your horse.

It's amazing all the different theories, exercises, recipes and discplines that are covered in horse-related books these days. You can learn a lot from them, granted; but it just doesn't beat the hands on experience of having your own horse.

I had one of the girls at work asking me the other week about the costs of owning a horse and have concluded that in Victoria, Australia, $5000 would be a good amount to save up in order to be equipped for 12 months of horse related expenses.

Farrier - the horse's feet need to be done every 6-8 weeks. Cost around $50; this can be cheaper (around $25) if done with other horses.

Food - 25kg bag of oaten chaff, lucerne chaff and bag of pellets. Cost around $80; if the horse needed to be fed; this would last for 2 months, based on a pony being fed at least four times a week

Agistment - $50 weekly; can be more expensive than this or a lot cheaper, but a reasonable rate to expect - should come with somewhere decent to ride.

Extras to consider - riding lessons - one per fortnight at around $50 for a 45 minute lesson.

One off costs - saddle, bridle, brushes, from around $300-$900. You can usually get a beginners start up kit (fully mounted saddle) for around $200-$300.

Total annual cost for farrier, feeding, agistment, fortnightly lessons and around $500 worth of tack - $5,145. Got all this? Better start saving for the horse!

"When in doubt, ask a horse."

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Consider yourself a good horse person?

...and have a heart for helping others?

It's amazing how you end up in the right place at the right time for the important things. I meet up with some gorgeous friends Thursday mornings as part of a prayer group from 7-9am and this Thursday just passed (when I was more than happy to stay in bed rather than go out!) I dragged myself out of bed to catch up with these friends and spend some quality time.

The partner of one of the girls' mum's was down for a visit from Darwin (Australia) and as he asked about what we each did with ourselves, talk quickly turned to horses as I mentioned what I do.

Turns out the guy - Andy - is on the lookout for 'horsepeople' who also have a heart for helping others from troubled backgrounds. His passion in life is focused on Tiwi College.

I'm still reading up on all this but from what I gather:
- Bathurst and Melville Islands (the Tiwi Islands) were proclaimed an Aboriginal Reserve on the 4th of December 1912
- The total land area is almost 780,000 hectares. Melville Island is the second largest islands off the Australian mainland and spans 570,000 hectares. Bathurst comprises 210,000 hectares.
- Tiwi College is an "exciting development designed to provide quality secondary education for all Tiwi young people. The college will be owned and operated by the Tiwi people through the Tiwi Education Board representing all Tiwi families and communities."
- It is to be located at Pickertaramoor on Melville Island, where students will be accommodated in family group homes. The College features ‘24 hr education’ combining classroom learning with sport, life skills, outdoor education and contributions to the life of the College.

Where do the horses come into it?

Andy mentioned that there are thousands of horses running over one of the Islands and that to put them to use, it'd be amazing to be able to place these gorgeous animals with these gorgeous young adults and establish learning and a relationship between the two. Apparently staff are trained to be able to educate and work with the Tiwi people and some of the training involves the 'Monty Roberts' method - for the horses and the young adults!

I'm part of a young adults group at my Church and one of the girls with us that morning who is also 'horsey' commented on how amazing it would be for our young adults group to be able to invest in something like this - our time, money and any hands willing to work over there. And to think - selfish me was just thinking how much fun I'd find it!

Now I tend to job/holiday hop and can't stay in one place for very long and it seems that this kind of experience would require a decent investment timewise (6, 12 months, I'm not sure but will find out!) But if you love working with horses, have a heart for young people and think a change of scene just might be your thing in the near future, then check out the site... and check back here for updates!

"A Dog looks up to a man,
A cat looks down on a man,
But a patient horse looks a man in the eye and sees him as an equal."

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Unique Opportunity - Level One Instructing

Got some mail from the Equestrian Federation of Australia the other day for those enrolled in their Level 1. Now I've been really slack and not read over it yet but thought I'd post an ad that came with it. This is the sort of situation that I'd take up if I wasn't doing seasonal work! Maybe those interested in competing/teaching should consider possibilities like this:

Provided with shared accommodation and pool on 26 acre Equestrian based property; paddock agistment for 1 horse; 3 lessons a week; attendance at workshops for Introductory/Level One Coach trainees - conducted by resident Coach Educator - all for the price of a normal rental.

Other possibilities include - transport to local competitions; educated horses to learn on; experience in coaching, grooming at shows, etc; help in work placement.

ALL available on flexible part time basis (for those of you in full/part time employment or studying).

Candidates NEED - no previous experience in industry; just keen to learn and a love of horses. Where could you go wrong? Location - Hawkesbury, NSW, Australia.

Contact - Sally-Ann Barbera (not sure if this should be - but copied from Ad I received).

"You Know You're A Horse Person When... trying to calm down a baby, you start crooning 'Whoa, now, easy.'"

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Equine Photography

When I think horse photos, the main name that comes to mind for me is Bob Langrish. Every year for the past decade or more I have been given a horse calendar as part of a Christmas present and every year, the photos have been by this photographer.

Have just stumbled across another who has some brilliant works - Robert Vavra.

*These pictures from the Robert Vavra site and copyright to him.

Horse Photography is another avenue that could be explored as a possible career relating to horses. I'm not aware of a particular course relating to learning how to specifically photograph horses; but am sure there are many animal or live subject courses focusing on photographing moving creatures.

If you're already taking shots, perhaps you haven't considered the possibility of having these published, and why not do so online? There are sites out there that take in people's photos and publish them in catalogs/books that are sold online. They can also be publicised on popular sites and possibly provide a payment for photos that are published.

One site I know of that publishes 'rural' photos and stories is Check it out.

Have you considered horse magazines; sending in pictures where appropriate or taking photos for people that are wanting to sell their horses? Visit horse events to practice and become known as a photographer. Events like competitions, races, rodeos, pony clubs, sale days.

If there is a passion there and you're proving to have some skill, pursue it! Bob Langrish "is a totally self-taught photographer". Who's to say you can't achieve the same?

"Horses leave hoofprints on your heart."

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Time is Short, Use it.

I was chatting with a few of the girls down at horseriding over the past week and realised a few things that could help those pursuing a lifetime of horses.

Taking Advantage of Hemispheres:
One is doing year twelve with the aim to become an Equine Vet. She commented on how the study is long (5 years) and the pay not so appealing initially. Looking at the midterm (say 10 years out of highschool - which moves quicker than you realise!) it is possible to make your input of 5 years at uni and the first few years out turn into a job you love, decent income and still some time to enjoy yourself!

On the studs I frequent there's a vet that works the breeding season here in Australia. In their mid to late twenties they haven't been out of study all that long, but in a short time (because they KNOW where they want to specialise), they have taken advantage of the two hemispheres. Our breeding season (August 1 - December 31st) they spend in Australia before soaring over to Ireland for the stud season there.

Effecitvely, they're getting twice the amount of hands on in the peak of the season in comparison to those who stay home during the quieter time of the year for a reproductive vet. Result - one who has commented on having too much money and too much time! Not that I would ever complain about that!:)

Riding Schools in Your Area:
Another I was chatting with is quite a bit younger and eager to start working in a riding school as this is where she'd spend all her time if permitted. If you discover your passion at a young age, pursue it! It'll put you largely in front of those who are still deciding in their later years of highschool/uni.

It is possible in Australia from the age of 13 to be a 'helper' at riding schools that need the extra pair of hands. They take on the horse crazy (often) girls and over the weekend have them help to tack up ponies, assist others learning about horses, pick up yards, feed horses, etc. Some, mundane tasks indeed, but why not at a young age learn about the good and bad jobs so you can ascertain if that industry is for you?

If considering this field, look into the riding schools in your area and give them a call if old enough to see what you can do to help and most importantly, learn.

"If you look back over mans path to victory, you will see it is lined with the bones of horses."

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