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Bush horse and rider tales

I am hoping to spin a few interesting tales as part of my continuing investigations. Please sign up to explore these pages and blog posts as they develop, and do send us your own bush tales, as we would love to hear and share them on this site.

 

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Veronica Webster nee McGee
23 Jan 2016 4:02pm

I have only just found this website, I wish I had found it sooner. My father was Jack McGee and his photo was on the back cover of the book written by Mr Alan Chittick. He also wrote a book called "The Horsemen from the Valley" Which also tells the stories of the early showjumpers and high jumpers. In both of these books there is a strong mention of my father who was very good friends with Mr. Bob Chittick. Who was Jack McGee? Jack was born near Berry N.S.W. and from an early age, showed great promise over the jumps when at the age of 12 won every hunting and jumping contest he entered into competing against much more senior and experienced competitors at the "Royal" Sydney. Jack went on to ride for Mr. Chittick for some years. He also started to have an association with Mr. Englebert of Bowral, and that was where his association with Mark Radium started. Mark was just a pony, being 14.2 hands high and a little hard to handle. But this combination clicked, and with the other two horses in the team (namely Victory and Don) had just started to thrill crowds all over N.S.W before the 2nd Word War started and the postponement of agricultural shows during the duration of the war. At the resumption of the shows in 1946-47 This team and rider were the major attraction in shows until Jacks retirement in 1955, This mainly happened because Jack realized that Mark was going blind, and because of a promise he had made to Mr. Englebert, He had the horse put down straight after the "Royal" that year. Why was he so popular? Well, although he was only a pony, he jumped against all comers For example, he won the Vice Regal High Jump 10 times (Jack won another 8 on various other horses as well),the Mark Foy's Piazza High Jump 11 times (other horses 9 times). There are not many people who can say that when they were competing, even sideshow alley closed down during these events. He travelled all over N.S.W., and in the very early days, it was by train. In the spring of 1938 Jack and Mark broke the record of 7ft 6 ins in Adelaide, 7ft 3ins in Melbourne and 7ft 8ins in Albury, He also competed in Brisbane. After Jack's retirement from the show ring, he continued with his association with hoses by becoming involved with harness racing. His main horse at that time was a red roan called Muidarkram ( Mark Radium spelt backwards)Dad passed away at a very early age of 56 in 1967. 


Carol Cooper
27 Jan 2015 3:28pm

Dear Sally, thanks so much for telling us about your family and their love of horses and the Australian bush. I don't know a lot about the miniature horse breeds, and must investigate their history in Australia.
I know just what you mean about 'communing' with horses, just sitting in the paddock with them one feels that there is a very satisfying interchange of thoughts and feelings.
You have raised another interesting point about domestication of horses. There is so much written about the origins of the domestic dog and their differences from wild wolves, but little about this process with horses. We often forget how long this took, and the qualities that humans wanted from horses and still love about them. I hope that you enjoyed 'Spirited', and that you and your family have many more memorable adventures with horses! 


Sally
22 Jan 2015 9:48pm

Dear Carol,
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my horse stories.
Any experience with horses will leave a lasting impression on your psyche. Once you have connected with a horse and begin to understand them, you are a changed person. You realise that horses have great intelligence, emotions and a relationship with humans that cannot be underestimated.

After owning some miniature ponies a few years ago, our family formed a bond with these quirky characters and learnt a great deal not only about horses, but about ourselves as well. We lived on a property outside of Canberra, and had a mare, gelding and filly miniatures. These ponies had not being trained, and so we endeavored to train them to accept a halter; be lead; be brushed and get onto a trailer (amongst other things). As a ‘green’ horse owner, you quickly realise how much is taken for granted that a domesticated horse can ‘do’. These behaviours do not occur naturally in horses: all of these things need to be taught to a horse. These actions reflect hours of patience, repetition and an amazing relationship of trust and perseverance between a human and a horse.

After some training these miniature ponies, I learnt about my own emotions. If I was in a rush to move them to another paddock – sure enough, Trixie would pick up on my impatience and refuse to come near me. I had to show and tell the ponies that they could trust me. There were also the times when we would sit by them and just ‘be’ with them because we enjoyed their company.

I will never forget those delightful whinnies early on a mid-winter’s morning as I crunched through the frosty grass in my boots over to the horse enclosure to give them breakfast. As I approached their gate, the voracious Trixie would give a bothered shake of her head and mane to tell me to ‘hurry up’ with the breakfast, whilst pushing to the front of the line to be fed first.

It is hard to imagine the Australian bush without the presence of horses. They have adapted since their arrival in the late 1700s to the unique climate and vegetation of our landscape. I devoured the ballads and stories of horses in the Australian bush when I was a child. A. B. Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River (1890) and Mary Grant Bruce’s A Little Bush Maid (1910) were particular favourites, and I imagined myself as some of those characters who had these amazing adventures in the wilderness – always on horseback! I grew up in a number of different urban places, and longed to live on a bush property that I had so often read about in these books. Our family now loves reading the contemporary authors of horse stories such as Alison Lester and Jackie French.

Our family is still working towards getting our own bush property in which to have some horses again. My eldest daughter is very keen to have a larger horse of her own and is enjoying lessons until she is able to achieve this dream. When asked if she would like to move back into Canberra to be closer to school, friends and the city, she replied, “No way! How am I supposed to get up and ride around in the beautiful bush with my own horse and dog?!” It is comforting to know that the love of the Australian bush and horses will be inherent amongst our future generations to come.

We are going to Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story tomorrow at the NMA and are very excited to see the exhibition!

Regards,
Sally 


Sally
22 Jan 2015 9:46pm

Dear Carol,
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my horse stories.
Any experience with horses will leave a lasting impression on your psyche. Once you have connected with a horse and begin to understand them, you are a changed person. You realise that horses have great intelligence, emotions and a relationship with humans that cannot be underestimated.
After owning some miniature ponies a few years ago, our family formed a bond with these quirky characters and learnt a great deal not only about horses, but about ourselves as well. We lived on a property outside of Canberra, and had a mare, gelding and filly miniatures. These ponies had not being trained, and so we endeavored to train them to accept a halter; be lead; be brushed and get onto a trailer (amongst other things). As a ‘green’ horse owner, you quickly realise how much is taken for granted that a domesticated horse can ‘do’. These behaviours do not occur naturally in horses: all of these things need to be taught to a horse. These actions reflect hours of patience, repetition and an amazing relationship of trust and perseverance between a human and a horse.
After some training these miniature ponies, I learnt about my own emotions. If I was in a rush to move them to another paddock – sure enough, Trixie would pick up on my impatience and refuse to come near me. I had to show and tell the ponies that they could trust me. There were also the times when we would sit by them and just ‘be’ with them because we enjoyed their company.
I will never forget those delightful whinnies early on a mid-winter’s morning as I crunched through the frosty grass in my boots over to the horse enclosure to give them breakfast. As I approached their gate, the voracious Trixie would give a bothered shake of her head and mane to tell me to ‘hurry up’ with the breakfast, whilst pushing to the front of the line to be fed first.
It is hard to imagine the Australian bush without the presence of horses. They have adapted since their arrival in the late 1700s to the unique climate and vegetation of our landscape. I devoured the ballads and stories of horses in the Australian bush when I was a child. A. B. Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River (1890) and Mary Grant Bruce’s A Little Bush Maid (1910) were particular favourites, and I imagined myself as some of those characters who had these amazing adventures in the wilderness – always on horseback! I grew up in a number of different urban places, and longed to live on a bush property that I had so often read about in these books. Our family now loves reading the contemporary authors of horse stories such as Alison Lester and Jackie French.
Our family is still working towards getting our own bush property in which to have some horses again. My eldest daughter is very keen to have a larger horse of her own and is enjoying lessons until she is able to achieve this dream. When asked if she would like to move back into Canberra to be closer to school, friends and the city, she replied, “No way! How am I supposed to get up and ride around in the beautiful bush with my own horse and dog?!” It is comforting to know that the love of the Australian bush and horses will be inherent amongst our future generations to come.
We are going to Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story tomorrow at the NMA and are very excited to see the exhibition!

Regards,
Sally 


Carol Cooper
21 Dec 2014 7:35pm

Hi Patrick, Thanks so much for making contact, and I'm really interested in hearing more details about your Hurley ancestors and their contributions to bush riding in Australia. I'll definitely email you, and my address is
Carol.cooper@nma.gov.au
I look forward to making contact and perhaps we can include details of John Hurley's riding on this site for others to share!
Best, Carol 


Patrick Hurley
20 Dec 2014 12:51pm

Hi Carol,

I am the great grand son of John Hurley (Gold Escort, Constable, Senior Constable and Sergeant with the NSW Mounted Police, based in Braidwood between 1861 and 1888; he did his last 5 years until 1893 in Crookwell.

My grandfather Thomas Hurley, came to Chile 100 years ago in 1914 where he settled. I am 2nd generation.

Please be kind and contact me patrick@hurley.cl - it is a LONG story! An amazing one! My grandfather had a Stud in Valparaíso, called "Haras Kangaroo". Let me have an e-mail address of yours, where to write and send photos. He was an incredible rider (NSW Citizens Bushman in the Boer War). I could go on and on and you may enjoy! Cheers

I am planning on visiting you all in Braidwood in February 2016

Thanks and kind regards

Patrick Hurley 


Carol Cooper
21 Oct 2014 10:31am

Dear Liz,
Thank you so much for making contact and I would love to meet up with you and perhaps speak with your mother as well.
Oh, and sorry about the word infamous, it must be a typo for famous, as indeed Rowley Doctor was across the Show-ring highjumpoing circuit. The other possibility is that I was thinking of the wonder high jump pony 'Thumbs Up', who was quite a character, and also famous (or infamous in a way) for his antics and the fact that very few could mount him, let alone jump him! Please contact me via my email address so that we can meet up. I would be happy to take you through 'Spirited' as well. Carol, at carol.cooper@nma.gov.au 


Liz Hunt
17 Oct 2014 8:28pm

My Grandfather is Rowley Doctor and his daughter, my mother, is still alive and well. She has some amazing stories of his wonderful riding and I have some spectacular photos of him in the high jump. Also have his ribbons but sadly I don't know much else about his early days... I didn't realise there was an exhibition at the National museum... Hop its still on as I will have a look tomorrow since I live in Canberra...hope to find out more about him...particularly as you say he was infamous...do you know why? 


Carol Cooper
17 Sep 2014 11:57am

Thanks so much for your comment Jenny, and you have everything to be proud about the amazing Chittick Dynasty of bush riders. Keep an eye on this site as I have a whole 'chapter' to come in my 'Bush horse and riders tales', to devote to the research that your Uncle Alan did for his wonderful book, 'High Wide and Handsome', a landmark publication for the incredible story of the Showring highjumpers of the twentieth century, both equine and human! 


Jenny Chittick
15 Sep 2014 9:07pm

Was so excited to see the spirited exhibition at national museum on opening weekend. You can't imagine my delight to see my family name mentioned & quotes from my uncles book. And now viewing the website to see my grandfather, Nelson (Sonny) Chittick mentioned and the names of horses such as Azara I came to hear stories of as a child. Horses have brought so many wonderful memories to my life and the history of our family. Thank you for this wonderful exhibition. 


Carol Cooper
13 Jun 2014 3:11pm

Thanks for sharing this story Libby, I had quite a chuckle over Murphy and his love for mangoes. What wonderful memories of the Royal Easter Show! I was impressed that Jim Maple-Brown was one of your polo playing idols. Jim and his family are certainly heroes for the National Museum, having donated the 'Springfield Collection',the largest and most significant cultural gift we have received.
Check out our new website on this collection. For horse enthusiasts take a look at the Faithfull Family Landau, which will feature in 'Spirited'.

The Faithfull and Maple-Brown families have always owned fine horses,and have contributed to many aspects of Australian horse history, from trotting and racing to Polo and showring riding.

Later on this site I will be featuring Jim's sister, Diana Boyd,who won the Garryowen Trophy at Melbourne Show in 1952. I'll also be paying tribute to the striking black gelding 'Alinga', owned by Jim and Diana's father, Irwin Maple Brown,and ridden to many racing victories by the great Aboriginal jockey Mervyn Maynard. 


Libby
12 Jun 2014 6:25pm

Hi Carol,

Just came across your site about the upcoming exhibition. What a great idea. It reminded me of my early teen years when as a horse mad city girl I managed to become a Shetland pony carer for a friend of my mother's at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney. It was heaven, especially the grand parade. I had my photo in Country Life leading a Shetland foal, and standing next to an enormous Clydesdale. I loved watching the show jumping and most of all the polo when the names of Sinclair Hill and Jim Maple-Brown and others were idols. Fifty odd years later I discovered that I was very distantly related to Jim!
My youngest son also became horse mad and when we acquired a wonderful old and experienced show horse for him we discovered that Murphy had been reared on a station out of Darwin in a paddock with a mango tree...Murphy's idea of bliss. We ultimately brought Murphy down to live in Canberra and when I enquired at the Fyshwick Markets about a tray of mangoes under the bench, I was told that they weren't suitable for sale. I somewhat flummoxed the guy when I said they were for our horse! He gave them to me for nothing. Watching Murphy eat a mangoe was a sight to behold.

Good luck with the project. I will look forward to seeing it.

Cheers
Libby