A spirited high-country brumby has been captured and broken in the name of charity.

Story By Bill Bachman

Victorian cattleman Graham Forge didn’t think it was all that unusual when he saw a handsome little black brumby running with a couple of his stock horses early last year. One of his grazing leases in the Rose River area of Victoria’s high country backs onto a large expanse of unfenced bush known as The Basin, and wild horse sightings are not uncommon there. It wasn’t until he told Merrijig horseman Christian Hayes and his partner Laura Gell about the two-year-old filly that a plan was hatched to capture and break the horse, and auction it for charity in January 2009 at the annual Victorian mountain cattlemen’s get-together in Buttercup Valley, near Merrijig. A farrier by trade, 25-year-old Christian first rode horses during school holidays. “I really got into it later in my teens, and I don’t think I’ve been off a horse for a day since,” he says. He lived in the USA from 2003–2005, studying wild mustangs and working with large wilderness outfitters, and in 2006 settled in Merrijig where he has been running high country trail rides for the Lovick family ever since.Corporate event planner Laura, 24, grew up on the New South Wales south coast near Nowra, and first came to the Mansfield district in late 2007. “My grandparents had a cattle farm in the Hunter Valley,” she says. “We went there a lot as kids and that’s where I learned to ride. Of course I was one of those The Man From Snowy River-obsessed children, so when I got into corporate conferences I made sure I organised a few in the Mansfield area. Once I got there, I knew it was the place for me.” After news of the brumby, Christian, Laura and the entire Forge family – Graham, his wife Anne-Maree and their daughters Ellen, 14, and Kerrie-Anne, 11 – travelled to the bush paddock where the brumby had settled in with her adopted mob – two brown mares used for mustering by the Forges. The plan was to rope the brumby as quickly and as quietly as possible, but after a couple of laps of the 100-hectare paddock and several near-misses, the filly had worked out what was going on. Eventually pushing the horses into a small area, Christian and Graham each managed to get a rope over the wild horse, but she continued to frustrate their best efforts to get close enough. Boxed into a corner with nowhere to go and facing certain capture, she jumped over a closed gate from a standing start, landing heavily on her side and then bolting into the bush trailing two brand new neck ropes. A day or two later the horse returned to the paddock, still trailing the ropes. “Once she came back we walked all three horses into a set of portable yards,” Christian says, “and as soon as we took the ropes off she faced up to us and we were able to jump her up into a crate without any dramas.” Laura decided to name the horse ‘Rose River’, or ‘Rose’ for short, and back at the Forge homestead in Oxley, Vic, the brumby spent a couple of weeks in a paddock with some of their other stockhorses. But it soon became clear that captive was not the same as tame.

This story excerpt is from Issue #64

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2009