15. Final final chapter

imag3889So much seems to have happened in the final few days, not least the ladies from the clinic getting their breakers saddled and ridden in the arena and then out on a short trail ride. It was a massive achievement in 2 weeks and all credit to them, Genine and Robert. Others had the added complications of trickier horses and/or their own physical and emotional constraints to overcome as well as the learning curve to scale, but still accomplished significant milestones. We didn’t go on this ride as it was a special  moment for the students but had taken Myrte with us on a beautiful ride the previous day into an unvisited part of the station including an excellent canter along the creek bed where I finally started to get my rhythm sorted out.

imag3904We were able to take a slightly slower pace than the first 3-4 weeks, work with Frankie, absorb the sessions the ladies were undertaking and even have some downtime after lunch when the temperatures started to rise and rise. We were still responsible for the horse feeding which gave me the excuse to visit the kindergarten twice a day at least. Emy-Lou is growing rapidly and all her charging around, bucking and rearing on top of mounds, has taught her how to kick! This is going to be sorted out very soon. The little fella has the paddock name of Zen but is still to receive his full title. Historically the names have to begin with RE so we had an ever-increasing list of ideas and wait patiently to see what he will be called. He has been a super little chap, very friendly and inquisitive, possibly assisted by Mum’s initial indifference, unlike Jaz’s protectionism, but also from my initial contact perhaps ‘imprinting’ on him.

imag3862When I went to say goodbye to him and Lily (my soul sister/daughter) he was even more curious than usual and I got covered in mud rubbing and scratching him. We had had a short burst of torrential rain and he must have rolled in a puddle or slipped up because his coat, fortunately quite muddy coloured naturally, was caked in it. It didn’t stop me though because it was such a precious moment when Lily was in labour and came to me for reassurance, of which he was the product. I will never forget that experience and look forward to seeing him (via facebook) grow up into a very handsome lad.

imag3902This was his and Emy Lou’s first rain and when I say rain I don’t mean British miserable cold incessant drizzle. I mean a deluge, sufficient to block internet access via the satellite which can’t penetrate, even moderate, cloud. Whilst we, in the UK, often despair of rain, here in this and many other parts of Australia (although not all as there is bad flooding in South Australia) it is welcomed with open arms, sometimes literally as they can be so pleased to see it. Its not really cold and you dry off again very quickly, unless you get absolutely soaked going to look at the crystal caves!

img_476011431927085The rain had stopped, although the sky still looked very threatening. We had not managed the visit to the caves earlier in the programme as the ladies had been too keen to keep working the horses but the morning trail ride had been the finale so the afternoon was free. 2 trucks were loaded up with most of us in the back as there were only 3 seats available in each cab and 15 people. We used the noodles, most people would recognise these as the long foam cylinders from swimming pools, as seats and back rests. imag3907As we approached the area the heavens opened again, this time with a distinct temperature drop and no-one had any waterproofs. We ran across the country and clambered down quite a steep rocky, sandstone so very uneven, hillside and under the bluff. We wedged ourselves into the crevice just as the rain filled torrents started to pour into our shelter. Depending on where you stood or sat, there were some eroded ledges, you could either stay dry (although all clothes were soaked by now) or have a shower. No-one opted for the latter, intentionally. The ground was littered with lumps of pure white quartz both inside and out but we were more interested in the rain tipping in to the caves over the edges of the ground above illustrating exactly how they are formed.

After running back to the vehicles we had a bit of a white knuckle ride back along the dirt tracks at some speed, taking off over bumps, with those of us in the back leaving the bed of the truck by several inches. We had a loose tarpaulin to cover ourselves but this required holding up so that we didn’t suffocate. We were able to put the noodles to yet another use, albeit a bit feeble, when they were ‘erected’ as tent poles. Their lack of rigidity made this fairly unsuccessful so Krystal and Simone had to hold up the tarp most of the way back. I managed to get clobbered on the shin by the only one which could have been used as an offensive weapon as it had a carabina attached to one end. Back at the house I emerged from the tarpaulin soaking wet and somewhat battered and bruised. People pay good money for that kind of ride at an adventure park!

imag3931imag3927The following day we departed beautiful Bodalla at 6.30am for a stop off at the Texas Longhorn Ranch on the way in to Charters Towers, the first of its kind in Australia. It boasted the longest set of horns, tip to tip, until recently on JR (Johnny Red) as well as the oldest and heaviest beasts of this type along with water buffalo and bison. The highland cattle didn’t even get a mention but I felt very sorry for them in their thick coat in these 30+ degree temperatures and its not even summer yet.

imag3721We said our farewells in Townsville from where the ladies were flying back home. We were, very kindly, put up in a hotel room and enjoyed the room facilities but unfortunately didn’t have time to make use of the pool outside our door. The humidity had hit us when we got out of the car at this coastal city and even at night the temperature only dropped to 22 but still so sticky. It had been very difficult saying goodbye to the animals, particularly Frankie and little Jack Russell, Odi, but when it came to Genine and Robert words were totally inadequate. They have given us an amazing and totally unforgettable experience with so many highs we couldn’t really explain but we hope they know. Love you guys xx

14. Final Chapters from Bodalla

14440936_10154107268093650_9022994238188682556_nimag3873Our time here has come to an end and we have had some amazing experiences, some of which have already been regaled but others have not yet made their way into this tale of our adventures. The falls at the waterhole have featured but on this last occasion we merely went down in the truck with lunch to join the ladies who had gone out on a trail ride. When we arrived there were unsaddled horses and some disrobed riders heading straight for the water. I had seen pictures of people swimming with horses but didn’t expect to be involved. The family and Krystal were already in. Some of the other ladies seemed a little reticent but had unsaddled their horses to allow them to cool down. 14370347_10154107267783650_8408072443064269798_nimag3872The next moment, a riderless Soxy came trotting purposefully down to the waters edge and started pawing vigorously in the shallows, hooves and splashes flying everywhere. Genine shouted that someone needed to ride her in as she loved swimming. Simone didn’t appear to want to and the next minute the call went up for me to take her in. I had no expectation of this but decided to be game for it, stripped down to my cozzy and T-shirt and took her in to where I could mount (with some help as a wet horse is very slippery). She headed out into the deeper area with me clinging on to her mane. It was a fantastic ‘ride’, not on my bucket list, but can be now! She has been a star for me, even if she is responsible for Genine’s fractured elbow!

img_342417591012121We did have one onerous task on one of our latter days. The baby goats were allowed out into the yard to become accustomed to their surroundings (and to help tire them out as they are awake and bleating far too early). imag3890Unfortunately though there were few places they couldn’t reach including in to the round pen where some very delicate work was being undertaken. This comprised initially the mounting followed by the moving off with rider in situ, for the first time for these young breakers and inexperienced (in training terms) students. These were also the trickier horses as the ‘easier’ ones had already reached this milestone. In one instance it was the student who was battling her own demons with a slightly sensitive horse but I think he taught and carried her through. However, the last thing they needed was 2 kids running around the hooves so we were tasked with keeping them under control! A tough job but someone had to do it and we took our responsibility very seriously.

imag3884imag3887One of the jobs when getting a horse used to being handled is to be able to pick up their feet easily so that their hooves can be checked. We couldn’t prepare Frankie for riding as she is so small and young, possibly less than a year but she could learn this. Robert was a huge help and showed Roger how to do it using a rope for guidance initially. She was quite compliant with her front feet but but much more wary with the hind 2 and tending to kick out in apprehension. A method of desensitisation is to use a water hose which she actually ended up enjoying once she realised it didn’t hurt. Perhaps she’ll be another water baby like Soxy.

imag3868imag3864It has been very difficult to say goodbye to her even though we know she is in such good hands. She seems so vulnerable, from the moment when she was first separated from her mum on the initial muster as I witnessed the desperate calling out across the fences between both her and a distraught mother. She has had her buddy Legs, since he arrived, belatedly, in the yard and they have shared everything apart from when Sadeek, one of the big geldings, defiled her!! and she seemed to change her allegiance to the older horse who was in a position to protect her unlike Legs who doesn’t seem to have an aggressive bone in his body. Sadeek however, is a big Arab kid and his playing can become too vigorous and he does require a lot of space so he was put out again.imag3894 Due to Legs’ lovely temperament and beautiful potential configuration he is being allowed to keep his bits. So, before he knows how to use it, (he may only be 2) he has been separated from the fillies, including Frankie, his half-sister. She will probably be put out into the big paddock until she is a bit older and will hopefully be adopted by Remix, one of the older mares to whom she seems to relate, once she goes out there as well. Remix turns out to be the top breeding mare on the 2 stations so the recovery from the surgery to remove a tumour from her lady parts has been quite crucial, unbeknown to us until recently. It has been our job, every 2 days, to catch her, bring her in, wash her down and apply healing salve initially and subsequently turmeric paste to the wound. This has been going well and she will be put to the visiting stallion shortly and then turned out, hopefully with Frankie, for her 11 month gestation.

imag3893Storm, one of the older geldings, had not been put back in the paddock (by a certain young man!) after being ridden on our final day. We were distressed to observe him charging around the yard after her, with another gelding, Jack, in close pursuit, who probably just thought it was a game, but having seen Storm mount Frankie already, we knew his intentions. Our poor little girl was running round almost in circles around the feeding trough when all her legs slid from under her and she landed heavily in the mud. This did seem to surprise her and them alike, so we were relieved to see that they backed off but Robert was out the house the next minute with the halter to take Storm to where he should have been in the first place. It is very difficult to know that this is what will be happening in our absence but we can’t wrap her up in cotton wool and Legs didn’t seem to have the demeanour to challenge any ‘aggressor’ anyway. Its a tough life for a little girl.

13. Another new life

Lily has been getting more and more fed-up as her body has become more cumbersome, for what must be an unknown reason to her. I’ve been taking her feed to her twice a day, giving her a bit of a fuss and then inspecting her undercarriage for any signs of progression or even imminent delivery. Her exact due date was unknown so these signs are more important but can be unpredictable in a first time mum.

imag3836This morning was no different so when Roger shouted over to me mid-morning that something was happening to her I didn’t rush to finish off cleaning Remix’s eye until he called again. Lily was pacing around her paddock, very awkwardly, trying to lie down bit not quite making it and setting off again. Genine was sure something was happening and wanted me to stay with her as she knew me and would feel comfortable with my presence. She had wandered to the far end of the 200yd long paddock and as I approached I could see something sticking out behind her tail. My limited experience with lambing did allow me to recognise a down-turned hoof in a birthing sack, fortunately the normal presentation!

imag3838I stayed a respectful distance but was absolutely delighted and very emotional when she turned and came up to me. Not really knowing what else to do I gave her plenty of strokes and rubs whilst whispering nonsensical reassurances in her ear. She moved away and lay down, starting to push more earnestly and regularly; a second hoof appeared. This was still exactly as I’d been told, the head should be next and I thought (without my proper glasses and quite dark sunglasses in the blazing sun) I could make out the squashed contours of the same. At this point I became aware of the shouts from the human gallery at the bottom of the paddock and mimed the presentation position with a thumbs up. The other gallery, of equine composition, were closer to hand, watching intently from the other side of the fence.

imag3853A few moments later, in a wet slippery gush, the rest of this little bundle spilled out onto the ground. The sack was still intact but there was a lot of movement and activity going on and in no time a mouth and one nostril emerged through a tear as Genine, who has never been present at the birth of any of her foals, joined me. The rest of the sack was discarded with the help of the little hooves which, miraculously, are covered in soft fingery-like protrusions which help to protect mum from any sharp kicks whilst still inside. The whole process probably only took about 15 minutes, I’ll have to check that with someone watching as I think I probably lost track of time. The speed though, did mean that the foal had not really had time to adjust so really struggled to organise its legs to get up.

imag3851imag3844The first contact is very important as the foal will relate to that smell and is called imprinting. Whilst I wanted to help I knew to keep back and was finding it even harder to resist helping when Genine, with her damaged elbow, set to trying to help it on to its feet. She needs to imprint on it. During this process she was able to confirm that it was a little colt, yeah! Finally it sorted out its overly long legs and staggered around bumping in to mum, Genine, me and trees. We had difficulty trying to get it to feed as Lily seemed to be very sore so in the end left them to sort themselves out for a while.

imag3859After a bit of a celebration in the house I decided to take my cup of coffee outside and watch them from the pen-side seating area. I was horrified, as I made my way across the yard, to see Lily bucking at him as he approached her, knocking him off his already unsteady feet. Shouting for Genine, we went out to try to at least ensure that he didn’t get hurt. We were fortunate enough to be able to call on Sue’s maternity/wet-nurse with camels experience to help and after a bit of gentle persuasion, including me holding an armful of feed in front of mum, success was achieved. Lily now, a couple of hours later, looks like she has been feeding him all her life. Apparently, if they hadn’t been able to ‘bond’ he may have been tried on Jaz, the experienced mum of a week, or Remix, one of the other mares who had been very attentive and may have lost a foal in the drought a few months ago, would probably start producing milk. Nature is an amazing thing and I have been very lucky and privileged to have had this wonderful experience. Genine is amazingly generous.

12. Station Life

imag3820imag3819The clinic is proving very popular, to the extent that the ladies aren’t particularly keen to leave their protogees and participate in the other activities Genine has lined up for them. They are making great progress with some difficult or complex young horses. One of the more mature mares, Remmy, has managed to have a saddle in place. imag3815This was pre-empted by putting a couple of straps on her to emulate girths; that was the easy bit. Once she was made to move she went slightly berserk. In anticipation of this LJ had allowed Robert to take over at this point and we were all very relieved he did so. I’m not sure that these photos really illustrate the speed, power and energy which was being delivered as she bucked and reared around the pen for what seemed like ages but was actually only a few minutes before she became completely calm.

Our ‘Legs’, full name now Legend, was as chilled and docile as we had come to expect from him when he first tried a saddle. More importantly, now that he can be handled he has been inspected and found to be intact! so will probably be allowed to remain so and will make a marvellous stallion with his wonderful disposition and marvellous configuration (once he fills out a bit). He has been ridden in the round pen and has a beautiful trot with his lovely rider/trainer Sue who, coincidently works with camels in their dairy.

imag3828imag3830All the ladies went out for a ride the other morning but we had to dip out due to lack of ridable horses (at the moment). The following day Genine insisted that we went for a ride so we took some smoko (snack and drink) on Soxy and Freckles and set off to the super dam to which we had taken the cattle the previous week. It was quite amazing to think that we were riding alone in the Australian Outback (with a 2-way radio) on beautifully trained horses, watching kangaroos and wallabies watching us and being dive-bombed by bright green parrots. We are so lucky to be doing this and that we are trusted and allowed to take these lovely animals.

imag3825We stopped at the dam for our smoko and revelled in the peace and tranquillity. The only sounds were those of cattle munching, birds calling and fish jumping and plopping back into the water. Despite the amazing array of tall lilac water lilies there was no sign of any frogs. Perhaps it was too hot. We returned via the waterfall where we had a brief rest in the dappled shade before asking our trusty steeds to carry us up the steep slope out of the ravine.

imag3835When we returned all was quiet as everyone else was either working or had gone on a little trip for their smoko to see some more of this extensive station of which we have only seen a small fraction. We were welcomed back by the plaintive cry of 2 starving baby goats so once Soxy and Frecks were washed and fed we turned our attention to these 2 rather cute but noisy little beasts. They have been disturbing the ladies early in the mornings, along with the rooster, so the former are now in the old pig-pen just on the other side of this shed and the latter is locked up in the feed shed, about 10yds from the caravan! Fortunately the feed shed, an old container, is quite well sealed so the alarm couldn’t see when it was morning until Roger opened the doors. He didn’t see it so thought that perhaps he hadn’t been put in there so was somewhat surprised when it cock-a-doodle-dooed right behind him. The only problem now is that the other 2 roosters and the goose seem to have found their voices once the big fella was out of the way!

11. The Clinic

imag3802The ladies (and gent) have arrived for Genine’s Colt Breaking Clinic for Ladies. One has brought her husband along for the trip and he is proving a good ‘playmate’ for Rob. There is also Abbey, who it transpires, is like an assistant teacher and is excellent at it, particularly at doing horse impressions! She has her children with her, aged 4 and 8, who are suitably entertained by the 2 baby goats Genine bought for the purpose, who promptly ate the the flowers in our carefully nurtured flowerbed! Another woman has also brought her 5 year old son, 3 horses and a rather lovely, but not very well behaved, border collie. So its fairly busy. Into the middle of all this arrived an English couple and their friend (who had left his wife behind in the UK as she is 7.5 months pregnant) for a couple of nights. They had come to collect Ludo, the Kelpie pup, so we are missing her.

We are kind of on the periphery of all this. We have Frankie to work on but also all the surrounding work to do. Myrte has taken over the household and childcare role and we have been joined by a more mature Kiwi woman, LJ, who will be staying on after we all leave. We and Myrte plan to leave with the ladies on the last day. We have extended our stay at Genine’s request but it has meant a complete change to our continuing plans and we are no longer going up to Cooktown near Cairns. Judging by the current temperatures here that comes as a bit of a relief because at times it is almost unbearably hot and muggy and its not even summer!

imag3803imag3735We have been doing a bit of work in the clinic and have been watching the others start to handle our charges of the past 3 weeks. Roger found himself a suitable perch in the tree, from which he could get down which is more than can be said for Charlie who has flown up into one of the yard trees and now can’t get down! Has anyone ever heard of a bird getting stuck up a tree? Robert is rather reluctant to concede and get the cherry picker out to retrieve him when he can fly and is an adept climber but has taken fright about 30 feet up. It hasn’t prevented him from showing off his plumage to all the little birds fluttering around him, demonstrating how easy it is to fly away!

imag3807imag3808Frankie is progressing really well and we think that she should be top of the class considering how much younger she is, probably only 12-18 months, whereas the others start at around 3 years old. We have been working on getting her haltered, then disengaging (for the horsey people among you), following on the lead rope and then desensitising to all sorts of worrying noises and sensations including this tarpaulin which we had already draped all over her.

imag3814We have also enjoyed watching little Emmy-Lou getting stronger every day. She has been discovering what her legs can do so charges around a really quite rocky paddock with the sure-footedness of a mountain goat, bucking, rearing and both at the same time on top of mounds, but still looks quite unsteady when walking, standing or turning round. Lily, our other mum-to-be looks to be getting really fed up with the inactivity of her body. With it being her first pregnancy it is apparently much more difficult to predict when she will foal, could be any time soon or may not be for a while despite the signs. She is a beautiful pale brown/blonde colouring so hopefully will have an equally pretty babe. I just hope we get to see it and even better if it is from our grandstand view from our abode in the ‘shed’! There have got to be some perks for being out here.

10. It all happens!

imag3741We don’t get much ‘free’ time here, hence the lack of blogs, coupled with limited internet; but we are enjoying ourselves. Genine had to deal with a petulant Soxy, who has never been particularly helpful at giving her hind hooves for cleaning, so she decided to sort her out and got an avulsion fracture of her left proximal ulna (elbow) for her efforts! This has been extremely inopportune but perhaps a salient lesson for us all as she (Soxy, but Genine is also lovely, even if she does have barriers) seemed so lovely. The clinic starts in 2 days so we have been full-on preparing the place for the ‘invasion’ whilst also maintaining the upkeep of the existing residents. I have spent a bit of time with Frankie but would be a hopeless trainer because once I reached the stage of being able to touch her I would have been quite content to stop there and just keep stroking, rubbing and petting her as she is so lovely. Having witnessed her being separated from her mother at the mustering I just want to let her feel that nuzzling again as she is so young and still bottom of the pecking order of the group. Fortunately ‘Legs’ remains her constant companion, at second to bottom of the hierarchy, despite his potential.

Due to the number of upcoming occupants, we have moved out into a caravan. We were going to have been relocated down to the falls and even got as far as looking for flat areas yesterday when we spent a marvellous few hours down there.imag3791 We enjoyed a super swim in the cool, but by no means cold, water along with the dogs where it transpired that Murphy is a a total water-dog, not just a food machine. Odi (wan-kenobi), the son, is also a good swimmer but is content to ‘rest’ on you and if you don’t hold him securely, you find yourself mauled to smithereens by puppy claws! It was combined with work whereby the fence was erected for the coral the horses would stay in for the camp night out and we also took the correct picnic bench, after failing in our previous attempt with the wrong set. The confusion arose from both sets having blue seats. If I had known that the set I thought we were to transport had been solid concrete, as opposed to the wooden one, it may have been easier to distinguish. It was only when I had to concede to Roger that there was no way I could lift it onto the back of the flat bed, even  between us, that we had the conversation which clarified the situation.

imag3781Our new abode, far right under the shed roof, is a remarkable little place with an extended bed area and pull-out (to outside) kitchen and shower. You can tell that it is designed for this warm climate and not the chilly British summer. We could have relocated down to the falls but as we will be up at 5.30 most mornings to give the feed before the clinic starts and probably back after dark it seemed a bit of a waste of time to move, albeit a beautiful spot.

studio_20160916_122429Our first night was pretty eventful as we knew Jaz was due to foal fairly soon; the milk dripping down her legs was a bit of a give-away. Our new location is fairly close to her paddock and with the top vents open we could hear quite a lot. I was woken to a variety of whinnying and tried to peer out of these high gaps. I thought I could see Jaz lying down but more obviously were the 2 concerned ‘aunties’, Remix and Remmy, standing at the adjacent fence. I couldn’t resist getting up to have a look, something was obviously happening. I took a wide berth around her, assisted by the full moon, and could tell she was in some stage of labour so called Roger. I couldn’t see the business end very clearly due to the shadows but became aware of a bit of movement, in the next moment the silhouette of a tiny foal’s head appeared over the top of Jaz’s back. Roger was on his way across when I told him that it was all over and another little equine life had popped onto the planet. As he joined me it struggled to its feet, closely followed by the ever-vigilant mummy, it was a magical moment, the likes to which I hope I never become complacent.

imag3775imag3779There were lights and movement in the house and Genine, followed by Robert, joined us as Mum and babe came across to the feeding area. It was ascertained to be a bay filly, not exactly what Genine wanted (blue-roan colt) but still wonderful and despite Roger naming her ‘Wobbly’ for obvious reasons and me calling her Florence as she staggered round and round her mum looking for the milk supply, like something off The Magic Roundabout, she is now Emmy-Lou.imag3794imag3786 Genine has a friend staying whose cute little, horse-mad daughter is Emma, known as Emmy so very appropriate. We were left with them, as Rob and Genine went back to bed, and were transfixed by this little miracle of creation, being studied by the whole horse population of the area. The 2 aunties were still in attendance, Bunny was cantering up and down her fence adjoining the end of the paddock, the youngsters we’d been looking after since the mustering were all gathered in their water pen to have a close look, the other ‘wild’ horses on the other side of the drive, 2-300 metres away but picked up by the torch shinning on their eyes, were studying intently as were the two guys, stallion Storm and patriach Freckles. A new life in their extended family is obviously a big event and we finally had to tear ourselves away to go back to bed when it became apparent that not much more would happen, it all had.

9. Not all training

14142046_10154043047938650_7011004059781071795_n

Genine’s pic of Crystal

We haven’t just been training the ‘littleies’ we have been riding too. We went for another early morning ride a few days ago with Crystal who hangs out here at weekends and helps out. Obviously the horses knew more about what happens when she is here than we do as when we had taken the few cattle for their drive to the new pasture we headed back to the creek for a gallop! I thought we were just going to cover the same ground across the creek that we had previously and was somewhat surprised to find us traversing it at a walk.

Courtesey of Genine

Courtesey of Genine

Before we reached the other side we turned left and the barbed wire gate was opened to reveal the full stretch! This was a little daunting as I have never actually galloped before. Roger had to set off first because Freckles would wait for no-one. The others all followed after with me bringing up the rear. My inexperience confession to Genine merely elicited a ‘shorten your reins’ response and we set off along the sandy bed. I needn’t have worried. It was quite heavy going under foot and Soxy doesn’t really like to gallop if she can help it so we achieved a fast canter, which was fine! I had also noticed that the sand would make a reasonably soft landing if need be but fortunately, testing it wasn’t required. We had a great escapade along the creek bed, coming to a natural stop when the horses were tired, but unfortunately no photos feasible in transit! only afterwards.

imag3753

Dudley

Dudley

We had a good session in the arena yesterday when Genine got us working on our posture and core stability, much to the body’s objection. We volunteered to help Rob in the yard at 6.30 this morning, which is where we met Dudley before helping with the weighing, dipping, injecting and sorting of another 300 odd youngsters. A couple of hours later, just when we thought we could go and get some breakfast and finish the cup of tea from which we had managed just a few sips earlier, he suggested we saddle up to take the heifers to a new paddock. imag3757imag3761Not wanting to miss the opportunity, we quickly caught Soxy and Freckles and had them ready to set off in quick time., even if the posteriors were a little delicate from the previous day’s workout! We had a fantastic time driving about 200 head a few kilometres through the outback with both 19th and 21st century technology, the latter provided by Josh and Ned on motorbike and quad and the former (us and our steeds) augmented by Red Dog, our excellent working canine.

imag3764Once delivered, the others left us to return at our pace and it was nearly idyllic walking through the deserted outback on horseback on a lovely warm (but not too hot) day, particularly now that we had lost the aroma of diesel! A pair of wallabies interrupted their feed to watch us pass by at about 20 yds but with minimal concern and a midnight blue and rusty red breasted kingfisher eyed us from its perch mid stream. When we got back to the yard Josh and Ned told us to keep the saddles on and have a break but they wanted us back out with them to take the steers to another paddock. I think we may have earnt our stripes in this testosterone fuelled environment. 2 cattle drives in one day, what more could a pair of cow-pokes want!

8. More Horses!

IMG_20160907_163541

Courtesey of Myrte

IMAG3707Roger has been busy ‘breaking’ and training our little princess now formally known as Frankie (hope you’re not offended, namesake). She is beautiful, despite the scars, brave, curious and intelligent, of course! In three sessions the novice trainer and young (1-2 years old) unhandled filly have gone from a stand off to being haltered and stroked and patted all over, that’s Frankie not Roger! It has been rather wonderful to watch this progress, from the discomfort of the top rail, on the sidelines each evening.

IMAG3705IMAG3710IMAG3713IMAG3719

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAG3724There are 4 other ‘littleies’ to get to this stage before the start of Genine’s 10 day ladies colt breaking course due to start on 17th Sept. Preparation of the horses, equipment and homestead is the primary focus of our work at present but we will hopefully have a super interruption in the not too distant future, if not two! Last weekend we took the horse box to a different part of the station and brought in 2 very pregnant ladies, much to the consternation of their stallion. Leaving him with merely one other mare and her beautiful year old colt. Jas could deliver any time in the next 2-3 weeks, or possibly sooner and Lily shortly after. As they had been sired in the outside paddocks there is no real knowledge of their due dates so we are checking their bags regularly (we have all the jargon now!) Anyway, be prepared for lots of beautiful little foal pictures, fingers crossed.

This is Genine’s delivery of her first clinic on this scale so she is a little anxious. We may have allayed some of that anxiety a little bit by agreeing to stay on until it finishes at the end of the month. Leaving in the middle would have been somewhat impractical anyway as town is over 1.5 hours away and there is no other means of transport beyond a lift. A hitch hiker could die of dehydration waiting for a ride.

IMAG3732We have been busy renovating an old accommodation room for three of the ladies to sleep in. It had been cleared out before we arrived but we have done all the cosmetic work, repaired the door and applied insect netting to the windows and doors. We now just have to work out the optimum configuration for the 3 single beds in a rather narrow room plus a chest of drawers and 2 of the three bedside cabinets we have assembled, leaving the third just because there will barely be any space to open the door soon.

IMAG3731Genine is very artistic, I’ll go in to further details about those talents later, so we should have had more confidence in her choice of white for all things painted. She has bought bold colours for the lamps, curtains, bedding etc. and it is beginning to look marvellous. The garden/house yard also needs more tidying, as does the courtyard which now boasts the gazebo we managed to erect, both of which I had made a start on but needs to be improved further. Roger is doing the more structural work, replacing fly doors, putting up shelves, adding lighting etc. We have now been joined by Myrte, a Dutch girl, for 3 weeks so she will be able to take over all the poop scooping we have been doing which takes ages but did give us lots of opportunity to be around the youngsters whilst they got used to humans.

Anyway, its all go! Up at 6.10 to be ready to start at 6.30 (even though it isn’t too hot yet). In theory we stop around 11am and start again about 3pm but we haven’t managed to finish the morning jobs until about 1pm yet. Genine is in school with Mack from around 9.30 until 3pm, with smokos – Aussie for a break originating from lighting a fire to boil your billy can for tea. The School of the Air is a big commitment for parents. Unlike European schools, when your child is away from home for several hours, enabling parents to get on with other things, this school system ties up the parent for as much time as the child, whilst they monitor and support the school work. Mack is pretty good but now and again he behaves like a 10 year old, which is a bit of a contrast in this, otherwise, adult environment, into which he often fits seamlessly and it is easy to forget that he actually is only 10!

IMG_20160907_172353

Musket (by Myrte)

Our days tend to finish quite early which is just as well, we are often gratefully in bed by 9pm! The round pens and arena are all floodlit so work with the horses can and does go on into the evening, only stopping for something to eat and then resuming ‘work’. Now that the weather is warming up we have been able to stop one of the time consuming jobs of taking off all the horses day rugs and replacing them with their big padded warm rugs! We are sweating whilst doing so but these animals are used to the the 40 degree plus temperatures we are relieved to not have to experience. Today, Roger has started training a new colt so has transferred his affections to Musket!

7. Working with cattle

Outcome of previous mustering,

Outcome of previous mustering,

This morning, much to Roger’s disappointment, we weren’t included in the cattle mustering team. So we stayed behind to sort out the horses, feed, water, change rugs/blankets and muck out! The latter is actually one of the better jobs! It can’t be all bad if you are shovelling sh*t in the sunshine but also being kept entertained by the producers of said substance. We also reached a breakthrough today when both our little princess and ‘legs’ took some hay out of Roger’s hand.IMAG3683 I was too slow and excited to get the photo of the former and just a little slow for the latter, as the picture shows Remmey pinching the hay out of his mouth, despite her having full access to the trough! We can’t be annoyed with her as we are using her previous handling experience to try to show the wild ones that we humans are quite nice and not dangerous, so are giving her much more fuss and attention than she should probably receive.
IMAG3697After our animal husbandry was complete we continued with the handyman jobs. Roger is replacing a load of door handles and I’m painting the outside wall of the new/old accommodation unit. Whilst these tasks were under way we somehow managed to miss the ‘whirlywind’ which came through the yard distributing feed buckets into all the corners and, unnoticed until the evening, depositing a spare horse rug, which had been neatly draped over the railings, rather high up in a tree! Not sure how that’s going to be retrieved.
IMAG3684During the early afternoon the dogs and horses started to become unsettled and soon we could see a huge dust cloud emerging out of the creek at the back. 350-400 head of cattle trotted into the pen along the driveway followed by the motorbikes, quads and ‘dune-buggies’, which were probably the real cause of the horses’ disquiet as they hadn’t heard these engines since their own mustering.

Brahmin bull

Brahman bull

Josh suggested we come on down to the yards to see what was going on so without hesitation we downed tools and jumped on to the spare quad. The yard was a mass of dust hanging about 8-10 foot in the air above this throng. We were soon in the thick of it, literally, struggling to see and breathe. The sorted cattle were being sent down a crush to be inoculated against botulism, others were being sent to market and some needed branding (the following day’s job).IMAG3688 I ended up with a syringe and needle linked to a pouch of botulinum to administer to the poor souls in my race, who were having their tails cut at the same time to indicate their status. This was easier said than done to rather large animals, including bulls, who were trapped against their will and then having their tails pulled and cut (just the hair, supposedly!) Anyway I did improve my technique but think that most of the the serum found its mark. That which didn’t squirted back on me and we will see in the morning if botox can be absorbed through the skin, if I wake up looking like a teenager again!
IMAG3696This is dusty dirty work here in the outback, despite using water to dampen down the ground. This is the photo of a station worker! Its dirt, my suntan hasn’t improved to such an extent!

6. Furry Friends

IMAG3647Just a quick profile on all our little furry friends here with whom we spend quite a lot of time, playing, feeding and cleaning up!

Tommy

Tommy

Tommy, aka COG, cantankerous old g*t! He’s quite cute really but seems to think that, at barely 6 inches high, he has to protect the property, all of us and keep the pup (who is already bigger than him) in her place. Roger has a soft spot for him so he has to let him sit on his lap at the end of meals, for some reason. I’m quite surprised to find myself liking little dogs, Hoolio from Wintinna converted me.

 

Murphy

Murphy

If Tommy is the patriarch of the house then Murphy is the matriarch. She is a pretty good dog until there is any prospect of food! She has begging down to a fine art and has also worked out which little corner in the kitchen to sit and receive the most dropped scraps (particularly if she manages to trip you up whilst you’re carrying it)

 

Odi, in his usual pose

Odi, in his usual pose

IMAG3680The final house dog is Murphy’s son, Odin, a really cute little thing with a lovely temperament and no begging, in fact he forgets about food altogether at times. His one and only obsession is his ball, part ball, piece of ball or even some other scrap of unidentifiable toy which he will deposit at your feet and wait and wait for you to throw/kick it. If you don’t respond he will ask rather nicely, its neither a bark nor a whine nor growl, it really is like he’s talking to you.

 

Ranger

Ranger

Annie with Ludo

Annie with Ludo

Red

Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outside dogs are headed by Annie, a blue cattle dog and mum to Ranger and 3 month old Ludo, and Red, dad to the same. Red and Ranger are the working dogs and of the Australian kelpie breed which we hadn’t come across until here.

Ludo

Ludo

Red and Ranger

Red and Ranger

They have lovely natures and Red is not at all demonic despite his appearance in this photo! Annie and Red cannot be out of their cages together anymore as they don’t want any further puppy litters! Annie is a very strange combination of markings which almost make her look like she had the head and body of 2 different dogs but apparently she is quite normal for this breed.

 

IMAG3648IMAG3653There are 4 cats but they are not particularly friendly, 2 of them live outside in the tack room/container. Also out in the yard are the poddy calves, hand fed orphans. There were 5 but one seems to have decided that he has grown up now and started running with the herd. The remaining four seem to have decided that it is easier to stay and be fed even if 3 of them are rather timid, but not Austin, the brown one with a definite Jersey look about his colouring, but not his ears. They do seem to be a little confused about their feeding regime though!

IMAG3668In the evenings as the light fades, we were still out at the tack room finishing off feeding and rugging up. I turned to leave and thought that one of the cats was sat outside, a quick check revealed not a cat but a little jumpy thing, about 10 inches high, like a tiny kangaroo with a possum’s head! This was probably a roo rat (or paddy melon, but I thought these were inedible wild melon plants) It was pretty brave and Rob told us that they can become quite mesmerised by light, to the extent of being able to pick them up, but we didn’t try that! They seem to do a good job of clearing up all the spilt and discarded feed and grain so are good at helping us to clear up!

 

And finally there is Charlie, our resident chatterbox and show off!IMAG3672