Sometimes, we have no idea where a road will lead us. We follow it because opportunities present themselves and it’s easier to move with the doors that open rather than fight with the doors that close.
After a nasty horse accident, I was getting my confidence back by riding a beautifully educated Australian Stock Horse that my friends from Bindi, Don and Michelle Shaw, kindly loaned me. We were attending an adult riders club with intentions to compete in dressage and stock horse events – a previous passion of mine.
The big chestnut ‘Red’ as he is affectionately called, wasn’t coping with the workload, and it was decided that he would return to his high country home to retire. Little did I know that soon after that, I would be hanging up my riding boots for a while!
During the search for my next riding companion, my husband and I were blessed to discover I was pregnant with our daughter. We had been hoping for this moment for some time, so I stopped riding for safety.
It is not a natural state, for me, to be apart from horses for too long and, although I reduced my riding time, I became very passionate about training and decided to purchase a mare in foal to a gypsy cob. It was a chance to extend my knowledge of gypsy cobs and for my mare and I to share the journey to ‘parenthood’ together.
She foaled down to a cute filly and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to stud duties, with handling and training of young horses. After my daughter was born, I longed to ride again. I purchased a lightly backed part-bred gypsy cob gelding for riding.
I also decided to re-breed my mare and picked a lovely gypsy cob stallion who would complement her and secretly hoping she would gift me with another filly. In time, I watched her foal down to a gorgeous palomino filly who was everything and more that I had hoped for.
I fell in love with the temperament and attributes of the cobs and when an opportunity presented to purchase some purebred mares, I didn’t hesitate. Visiting studs across Australia I secured more mares and studied stallions to plan suitable pairings. By showing our horses, of all ages, my knowledge has increased dramatically, as did the opportunities to extend our training.
For a number of years now, gyspy cobs have been wonderful members of our family. They are smart and a joy to train. They love company and most will choose to hang with their human family when they can. There is no point putting up portable fencing with a cob around because they will make the job longer than it needs to be! Properly trained, they make reliable mounts for the riders who have lost their confidence or require a horse that doesn’t need working all the time to be safe.
Gypsy cobs are incredibly strong and capable of carrying or pulling substantially more weight than a horse of similar height. They are hardy animals who can survive in even the coldest conditions on little feed. So, while they never will miss a fed at our house, they are perfectly suited for the Victorian chilly seasons. This breed has proven versatile in many disciplines including: competitive driving; dressage; liberty; performance; jumping; pony club; obstacle challenges; western sports, and as a reliable family horse.
For hours I would watch how they behave in a herd environment and how they communicate with one another. This precious time observing them has taught me how to communicate during training using their own ‘language’ – I’ve become a better listener and now communicate in a more effective way.
That little palomino filly – who is now my riding mare – is currently training with me for competition in the Australian Extreme Cowgirl obstacle challenges.
Life on our stud – training, breeding, running my photography business and raising a young family (we now have 3 girls 6 years and under), is anything but slow paced. So, I always ensure that I take time to pursue my personal photography as well.
Alone with my camera – at all times of the day – when the light varies as much as the horses’ behaviour – is when I get to be most still and present with my horses. Observing their angles and movement through a lens gives me that perfect time to take-in and capture their details, the uniqueness of their breed, the connections they share with this beautiful environment, my family and each other.
I had no idea where a road was leading me when I discovered I was pregnant and made a decision to purchase that mare. The opportunities presented themselves and the doors continue opening into beautiful places.
This article about the Gypsy Cob, titled “My Journey to a Unique Breed” was published in Horses and People September-October 2019 magazine.