Horses and I

Just between you and me…..I don’t get on with horses and they don’t like me either. It must be something in my psyche. It is a mutual understanding between two species.

I was only a toddler when there was an auction at Melton Wold, Victoria West District, in the middle 1940’s. My Dad was the auctioneer and took me along for company or to show me off to his friends. I recall now that my Dad took me along to many places and events

Anyhow, on this day I was hoisted up on to a Great Big Bay Mare, or it so it seemed to my little eyes. This horse was being auctioned. Dad was hanging on to the reigns whilst wending along his special talent for auctioneering when this horse reared up, bucked, and sent me flying. Luckily there were a lot of men standing in close proximity to the horse and someone caught me in full flight, saving me from a certain crash and a hard landing onto to the cobble stones of this horse enclosure.

Of course I let fly with an almighty wail, much to the amusement of the blokes at the auction and Dad put me back in the Jeep to whimper my fears away while he finished conducting the auction.

As stated elsewhere in this website, I was a sickly child and especially allergic to the fine dust that gets trapped in the hairs of animals. I just had to touch a horse and my nose would close, my eyes would water and breathing would become difficult with my asthmatic prone lungs. I slowly grew out of some of that in my late 60’s

The next Horse encounter was at Melton Wold again in the mid 1960’s. My cousin Garth was on holiday from Grootfontein, Middleburg’s Agricultural College, and he had to do some farm work as a holiday assignment. The Torrs of Melton Wold and adjoining farms agreed to him coming to help them during shearing time and he was allowed to bring a friend along, and so I was invited.

We were staying with John and Nell Torr on the adjoining farm, the name escapes me for the moment. We had to present ourselves at the Shearing Shed in the early morning. John and Nell had gone into town for some shopping and we were entrusted with the farm hack, a 1948 Ford Anglia. The one with suicide doors. And the battery was flat and no end of pushing could get it started. There was no phone connection to the farm in those days and we were stuck between a rock and a hard place. So we saddled two farm horses, despite my misgivings, Garth giving me the ‘quiet’ one and off we went to trot the 8 kilometres to the shearing shed. I managed the horse under guidance from Garth, and we made it to the shed albeit one and a half hours late! The farm management were understanding and we got to work.

I was throwing wool fleeces on to the sorting table partings the locks of matted wool to the locks bin and discovered by the end of the shift that I was now wheezing properly and was short of breath. It was after dark when we returned home and there was only one solution for me after we had unsaddled the horses. In those days there we no fancy gadgets to carry in your pocket to control your wheeze. I had a bottle full of foul smelling dry leaves (marijuana), put some in a tin lid, lit it with a burning match, put a towel over my head and inhaled the fumes. In no time I was ‘high’ and breathing easily again. Not long after that the ‘authorities’ banned the use of this life saving elixir. But that is another story.

It was then that I discovered two raw patches on my bottom where the saddle had rubbed the skin through to the flesh as I could not get into the rhythm of the horse. Every time it went up, I went down and so my bum collided with the saddle over 16 kilometres.  It was tender and Garth had to put some salve on, laughing so much that he could hardly stand. Man, my bum hurt for two weeks after that and I stayed away from the horses. I did my own salving after that.

Time went by and we fast forward twenty years to the outskirts of Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia. Judith and I had bought a 20 acre property at Bees Creek, built a house and soon after Jude expressed the desire to own a horse.

Not long after, a horse by the name of Thomas Fischer, so named after a Manager at Victoria River Downs Station and a gelding, came to live with us with the strict agreement that Jude would care for it. I fenced of an area of our block using existing trees as posts, fixed a drum of water in to a trough and then we had to buy certain feeds. A small time went by and somehow we had taken in two young girls to rent a room who were going on a horse riding journey across Australia. So we now had four horses. I used to go down and check the water and see how much feed there was and top up if necessary as people get slack after a while and make all excuses to get out of looking after their charges. The horses always eyed me with one eye.

One day our friend George was visiting and it was decided that he and Judith should go for a ride on the horses. Then a bright idea sparked that I should come along. In trepidation and mistrust I agreed and it was decided that I could ride Thomas Fischer the most docile horse of the four horses. Put my foot in the stirrup and was swinging myself on to Thomas Fischer when he disappeared from under me and I landed with a thud on the ground below. I was winded temporarily. Judith and George were laughing so much that they took scant notice of my discomfort.

I quit horses at that defined moment and decided that motorbikes were far more friendly. This also turned out to be a furphy as one day on a wet road, a bus pulled out in front of me, I braked hard and then put then bike down and slid, ending up half under the bus, which had stopped, thankfully.

So I quit motorbikes too………….



Posted in Life Stories.