When it comes to horses, Bill Willoughby has a gift and he’s more than happy to share it.
Story John Dunn Photo Meridee Groves
On a little-travelled back road in South Australia’s southern Flinders Ranges, between the tiny rural communities of Pekina and Wepowie, there’s a sign that says Willoughby Way. It points down an even lesser road, which leads to a cluster of typical farm buildings, a collection of stockyards and a surprisingly spacious arena. Often, near that sign, there will be another that reads simply ‘Clinic’, and when that appears these roads are much travelled.
Vehicles towing horse floats and carrying eager men, women and children then make their way enthusiastically along Willoughby Way to the home of the man responsible for the sign – Bill Willoughby, nationwide expert on all matters equestrian: buying, selling, riding, teaching and competing. They come to learn, to tap into the seemingly unlimited knowledge of an unassuming character who has earned the reputation as one of Australia’s great authorities on horses. This is a man who knows how horses think, who knows how and why they act and react, a man who can impart that knowledge to those who want to learn to ride, to those who can ride but want to do so even more competently, and to those who are already professionals but want to be able to hone their competitive skills.
“I just love helping people and their horses, forming their partnerships, making sure they get to know each other and that they can get the best from each other,” Bill says. His establishment, Glen Orrock, is not plush nor flash, but it reflects his bushman’s upbringing and provides a working facility for those who want to learn.
“The secret is developing trust and the way to do that is to show both horse and rider the way quietly and calmly, and absolutely without force,” he says. “This gets the rider to understand the horse’s mind and gets the horse to know you – and the result will be a most enjoyable association.
“Horses have short attention spans, so I like to do long, relaxing riding filled with many, short training periods. It’s a system of repetition, repeating the desired actions and behaviour until it becomes a habit for the horse. It can be tiring, but it works”.
This story excerpt is from Issue #114
Outback Magazine: August/September 2017