Brumbies are not native to Australia, and they are considered by some to be a destructive feral species. However, the Brumby’s place in Australian folklore and social history is indisputable. Immortalised in artwork, poems, songs, and Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, the Brumby also has ancestral ties to horses that served in the Boer War and both World Wars.
Brumbies descend from escaped, imported horses dating back to early European settlement. The Brumby’s ancestors, a range of breeds including Arabians, Thoroughbreds and Draught horses, were resilient animals, tough enough to survive the long and treacherous sea voyage to Australia. They quickly adapted to the harsh Australian climate and conditions and the wild horse population grew. Today, wild brumbies can be found in every Australian state and territory except Tasmania.
The management of Brumbies, and their place in the Australian environment, is a controversial topic that polarises public and political opinion. As discussions focus on whether Brumby populations should be reduced through culling, sterilisation or removal and rehoming, the question arises: If removed from the environment they have adapted to, what kind of future would a Brumby best suit?
The process of trapping and retraining Brumbies is not new – it’s a practice some savvy Australian horsemen and women have undertaken for generations. Many Brumbies have successfully adapted to domesticated lives as ridden horses, working horses and even pets, however, one avenue in particular where Brumbies have excelled is as trustworthy Pony Club mounts!
It’s a topic that Sue-Ann “Suzzie” Bramich, from Tumbarumba, a small town on the western edge of the NSW Snowy Mountains, is passionate about. Suzzie acquired her first Brumby when she was about 12 years old, and whilst by her own admission she’s “a long way from 12” now, her involvement with Brumbies has never ceased. As the Senior Instructor at Tumbarumba Pony Club, and proud grandmother of two young Brumby enthusiasts, Deon and Tanisha, her belief in their value as safe and versatile Pony Club mounts only strengthens.
“They’ve just got a certain nature about them, they look after the kids and they’re not flighty. Once they’re broken in, they’re there for the child. And they’re not worried about what’s running around them or what’s going on, they’re just concentrating on what they are doing. You can send the kids down the paddock and you don’t have to have any worries out in the bush. They’re good companions for kids,” Suzzie testifies.
As Brumbies are generally in the 13hh to 14.2hh size range, they’re a great height for most children and seem to settle in to Pony Club very quickly once broken in. “They’re broken in, you get them back, and then you just take them to Pony Club!” Suzzie explains. “And they’re low maintenance, particularly with their feet.”
For as long as Suzzie can remember, there have always been at least two or three Brumbies at every Tumbarumba Pony Club rally. She recalls with particular fondness her friend Geraldine’s first encounter with a Brumby. “Geraldine’s grandmother came across a bloke walking along with a mare, and she was heavy in foal. Of course, Geraldine needed a horse and in those days no one had a lot of money around here. So she walked out with a dozen eggs and give him a dozen eggs, and he gave her the mare! That mare ended up having Trigger, the horse Geraldine brought to the Pony Club. It cost her grandmother a dozen eggs for a horse for her!”