At an age when most people are retiring from the saddle, Johnny Murray has big plans for his trick horse ‘Honey’.

Story By Annabelle Brayley

At 78, you’d reckon Johnny Murray would be ready to hang up his saddle and retire. Instead, he’s thinking about getting a new horse to train and is planning to take ‘Honey’, his 19-year-old Arab/Quarter Horse-cross mare on the road to show off their tricks to a wider public. Every day they play together in the horse yard beside Johnny’s house in Mitchell, a small town in the Maranoa region of southern Queensland, refining the repertoire that has made them a centre of attention during tourist season and a regular attraction at local campdraft events. Johnny has worked and played with horses for most of his life. His cousin Fred Beatty recalls Johnny’s first trick horse as a pony called ‘Jimmy’. “He started teaching that horse when he was about 18,” Fred says. “One day, his father borrowed Jimmy to go out and get a cow or something and every place he touched Jimmy the pony would do a different trick. Half an hour later, he still hadn’t got out of the yard.” Initially, Jimmy was a bit of a rogue and Johnny says it was back then that an old teamster told him to “learn to play with your horse”. “He said: ‘Start running and he will run after you. Then turn around and run back and he’ll learn to follow you. Stop him and send him away from you and chase after him and let him chase you back. Eventually, wherever you want him to go, he’ll go.’ That’s how I work it.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009