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The Brumby Project puts on show just for brumbies to display wild horses’ big potential

On a bush property in south-east Queensland, dozens of brumbies have gathered, but these are no longer wild horses.

These brumbies have been tamed and trained, some as recently as two months ago.

Now they have returned to the place where they first learned to trust humans, to take part in a horse show just for brumbies.

No reins, no problem. Even flying arrows don’t worry this former Toolara brumby.(Supplied: Tina Sinclair)

“We wanted to really showcase not only our local Toolara brumbies, but brumbies from all over [Australia], to show how versatile and amazing they are,” show organiser and founder of The Brumby Project, Anna Uhrig, says.

“Whatever you put them to, they’ll nail it.”

Limitless potential

At the show, held last month, that means anything from being led or ridden through show-ring patterns, to performing liberty work, the ultimate display of the horse-human connection.

A horse and rider go over a jump.

With the right training and the right partner, brumbies can do just about anything.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

They navigate obstacle courses, try tricks with bareback riders and even carry archers shooting arrows into hay bales.

They are bold, brave and beautiful, and demonstrate what Ms Uhrig has known all along: brumbies can do anything when given the chance.

A woman and horse in the showring.

Working at liberty requires trust, communication and a strong desire for a horse and human to be together.(Supplied: Tina Sinclair)

“We’ve had horses go on to be camp drafters, pony club ponies, trail riding horses, pretty much anything,” she says.

“We’re seeing all over Australia that brumbies are needing homes, and they’re needing homes with people that can give them that training to make domestic life suitable for them.

Horses and their people line up for the judges in an arena.

These brumbies have come from far and wide to show what they can do.(Supplied: Tina Sinclair)

“So that’s what we’re really aiming to do, is to get them from wild and unhandled to somewhere where we can enjoy them and have a partnership.

“And you can clearly tell that they enjoy it too.”

Wild at heart

There are brumbies here from central Queensland and the New South Wales Mid North Coast, but most are locals, born in Toolara and Tuan state forests, between Rainbow Beach and K’gari (Fraser Island).

A drone shot of a herd of wild brumbies in a forest clearing.

Up to 3,000 brumbies are thought to live in Toolara and Tuan state forests.(Supplied: David Berman)

Booming herd numbers and the increasing danger of road collisions has led to a program to reduce the brumby population.

But unlike in some other parts of Australia, here there is no cull.

These brumbies are caught and rehomed with the help of The Brumby Project.

A woman and horse move around a round yard in the dust.

After they are trapped, the horses come to The Brumby Project where ordinary people learn to tame and train them.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

David Berman, an ecologist, has been tracking and trapping brumbies in the area for nearly 15 years.

“Without catching and rehoming, the alternative is shooting,” he says.

A man stands in front of a horse show ring.

Ecologist David Berman is thrilled to be able to help give brumbies a second chance.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

“Now possibly nothing would be done at all for a while until there are far too many and someone got killed on the roads.”

But he is grateful the cull does not have to happen, because people are willing to take the wild horses on.

A bay horse nibbling the hat of a woman sitting on the ground.

It was here that many of these brumbies first learned to trust humans. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

“Brumbies can be very special horses and they can do really special things,” he says.

“It’s wonderful to see horses that I’ve brought in from the wild being led around by these wonderful people who have trained them.

“And the partnership between the people and the horses is just wonderful. They’ve got a new family.”

A woman and horse in the showring.

These partners showed how well they work together. (Supplied: Tina Sinclair)

‘I’ll never buy another horse’

Russell had never been handled by humans when Ellie Sales bought him for $500 straight out of Guy Fawkes National Park, on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, four years ago.

A woman poses with a horse next to a horse float.

Ellie Sales and her partner took on Guy Fawkes Rusty as a COVID project.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

She and her partner picked him up as a COVID project.

“He was feral and flighty and terrified of people, so it did take a long time to gain his trust,” she says.

“Now he’s lovely, he’s quiet, he’s a pleasure to take anywhere pretty much all the time.

A woman carries an Australian flag while riding a horse.

Ellie says Rusty is always the first horse in the paddock to come and greet her. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

“We often get compliments about how well behaved he is at show, and we’ve started competing in challenges this year and putting him on cattle, and he’s showing some promise there too.

“He’s got the biggest personality out of any horse that I’ve had. He’s very cheeky, he’s very inquisitive, but he’s also very loving.

“He’s the first horse that comes up to you in the paddock, doesn’t matter if I’ve just ridden him for four hours the day before.

“As soon as I walk into that paddock the next day he comes right up to me like, ‘Hey, what are we doing today?'”

A woman and horse in the showring.

Ellie and Rusty have a strong bond. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

The pair drove six hours from Kyogle, in northern New South Wales, to be part of the show.

“I think that’s fantastic to showcase their versatility and what they can do,” she says.

“They’re awesome little horses; I will never buy another [kind of] horse.”

A woman and horse in the showring.

Under saddle, in hand, or at liberty, brumbies can do it all. (Supplied: Tina Sinclair)

From wild horse to show horse

Each of the Toolara and Tuan brumbies started their journey alongside humans here at The Brumby Project, under the guidance of Ms Uhrig.

A woman touches a wild horse in a round pen.

Anna Uhrig demonstrates working with a newly captured brumby at the show. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

She and the team teach people – some who have never broken in a horse before – how to train horses fresh out of the wild.

“We’re aiming to bridge the gap between a wild horse that doesn’t want anything to do with you, to a partner that can then enter a show like this,” she says.

“[It’s] really special to have that bond with a horse that’s from the wild. When they’re broken in, when they’re started, they’ll do anything for you.”

That’s a bond she would like to see more people develop, by giving brumbies a chance.

A woman stands in a show ring with a horse in a halter.

Ms Uhrig put on the show for brumbies to show the world what they are capable of.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

“Being able to see them in their new homes with their people, and just being so amazing … it’s a great feeling,” she says.

“And watching it all come to fruition on a day like today, it’s really special.”

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https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-13/horse-show-just-for-brumbies-displays-potential/102996090 The Brumby Project puts on show just for brumbies to display wild horses’ big potential

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