Four years ago the Karja family imported the first native Estonian Tori horse into Australia – they are now the proud owners of a unique stud.

Story By Jessica Owers

The mountains roll away at the end of the paddock, and a colt the colour of gunmetal grazes towards them. He is a curious horse, a two-year-old stallion with space between his shoulders and the hindquarters of a sport horse. His tail is high set, his legs thick and robust. He is a curious cocktail of something, perhaps a medley of local farm horse and thoroughbred. Or, he is of blood never seen in these parts before. Gazing at him from the paddock fence, Lorna Karja knows well that he is the latter.
The horse is called ‘Carrero’ and is purebred Tori. An endangered breed, the Tori is the native horse of Estonia and, until recently, it had never set foot in Australia. In fact, the breed had never before appeared in the Southern Hemisphere. A massive, imposing but genteel horse, it has grace that defies its size and surprising agility, and the Tori has climbed the equestrian ladders in northern Europe, from showjumping in Sweden to dressage in Finland. It was with this in mind, early in 2008, that Lorna and her husband Victor brought the first Tori horse to Australia.
The Karjas’ property “Dundee” is perched over Cutmore Creek high in the Snowy Mountains, 53 kilometres north-east of Cooma in south-east New South Wales, nearly 1100 metres above sea level on terrain that dips and rises as far as the eye can see. The air is cool here, thinned by space and height and distance, and it suits these Baltic horses. “We’d gone to Estonia to find out about Vic’s heritage,” Lorna says, recounting her first visit there in 2004. “It was just an accident that we found these horses. Vic was looking for information about his mother and I was getting a bit sick of going to cemeteries, so I was looking through the travel guide and I saw that on our way back to Pärnu one day, which was the little seaside town we were staying at, we could go a back way and visit the Tori Stud. We must have been the first Australians to visit the stud because they were really excited to have us.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #80

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2012