Wild horse steals couple’s hearts in Brumby Challenge – By RACHEL AFFLICK

A WILD brumby has stolen the hearts of Durham Lead couple Jillian and Brendan Maher. Gus, as he is affectionately known by the Mahers, might have wound up in the knackery after being removed from the wild as part of the Victorian government’s park management program.

Instead Ms Maher, a participant in the first Australian Brumby Challenge, has had 100 days to transform him into a docile riding horse using patient and gentle methods.  “He gives kisses and he’s just awesome,” Ms Maher said.

Jillian Maher with Gus, the wild brumby she tamed as part of the Australian Brumby Challenge.

But gaining the trust of the terrified yearling took nine weeks, and bucketloads of patience from the amateur horse trainer.  She would stand in the centre of his enclosure hour after hour, day after day, hoping he would approach.

“Apart from being wild, he was terrified of everything,” she said. “I wanted to cry when I took that first pat of his nose. It just felt like silk and velvet.”

Since October 26 for 100 days, trainers from around Australia have worked with their allocated brumbies caught from the wild in the Kosciuszko and Alpine national parks.  Beaufort resident and Victorian Brumby Association president Colleen O’Brien started the program to provide an opportunity to promote the brumbies’ Australian heritage while finding homes for horses that might otherwise have been destroyed.

Ms Maher said being able to save just one made her happy. She had not seen or touched a brumby before reading about the competition in The Courier.  “I thought it would be an amazing challenge,” she said.

It culminates this weekend when the brumbies showcase their skills at the Victorian Equestrian Centre in Upper Beaconsfield.  Then, at 1pm on Sunday, all the brumbies that have taken part in the Australian Brumby Challenge will be auctioned to pre-approved bidders.



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