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"If Wishes were Horses"

by Suz Bendotti of Broome, Australia

"If wishes were horses , beggars would ride"… goes the old saying. I grew up in the inner city of Perth , Western Australia as one of those poor beggars who couldn't afford the luxury of owning a horse .Now that I have horses in my life I know what true poverty, not in a monetary sense, my former life held.

Picture of Horses Buzz and Matty

It took effort and wheedling and 35 years ( and that took denial but that's another story) for horses to come into my life. But now I will never be far from them. If humans were as honest as horses, we could all be more trusting, less suspicious, paranoid, defensive or insecure. Horses just are.

The story of horses and me isn't as straight forward as you might expect. After all, in most places if you desire to ride there are fairly accessible opportunities for horse hire or lessons. I live in Broome a town of then only 15,000. Remote in the extreme sense of the word, the nearest

town to the east being Derby (population 3000 or so) 200 kilometres away and Port Hedland to the south 600 kms. At the time 5 years ago that I could no longer ignore the driving urge to be around horses, there were no riding schools and no horse hire business . I had no knowledge of horse, didn't know how to ride despite a handful of lessons as a child and a few rather hairy hire experiences. I felt frustrated but the urge was so strong that I grit my teeth and determined that I would make this lifelong dream a reality.

As luck or serendipity would have it, that week I saw an ad in the local paper for a new business "Kimberley Horse Treks" to be operated by a local horsewoman Betty Rupe. I had hired Betty's horses a couple of times to join rides on Cable Beach. She was also an artist who sold original paintings at our weekend Courthouse markets. So begin a gradual process of begging Betty for help to achieve my horse owning hope.

Unfortunately for Betty, her horse trek business was never realized due to a hay shed fire which burned all of her tack which was uninsured. She was coping with this when I first approached and her initial reaction was "oh you'll just have to buy your own horse, there's no other way in Broome." Well problem being there just weren't any spare horses to be had. A few weeks and pleading conversations later, Betty offered that I could free-lease her 14 year old Standardbred "Matthew"….I was there the next day, proceeded to a crash course expertly delivered in bridling and saddling and went out on a bush bash with Betty and her TB gelding "Sonny".

All went well and I took myself and Matty out the next day and as often as I could over the next several months. Good ol' dependable Matthew could have so easily taken advantage of my lack of expertise as I gradually developed balance. To start with I'm sure I bounced all over his poor back. He did try to convince me often that we really had gone far enough and it was time to return to the paddock THIS WAY. He gave that up though after the time that when we reached a point that he insisted was turn around I just got off and we waited and waited and then rode forward. Riding through the bush just a girl and her horse I felt alive and free, blowing the cobwebs away. On a horse I feel that cares and concerns melt away, I am deeply content and satisfied.

Well, four years have passed since then and Matthew is firmly retired on the 5 acre mango farm that was purchased after his paddock was closed. And yes horses do love mangoes and he peels them adroitly by nodding vigorously and spits out the stripped pip. Buzz is his faithful companion , purchased 2 years ago from Perth some 2000 kms to the south, a big truck trip for a horse that one, but as Australians will know, not an uncommon distance to truck the "right" horse. And Buzz is that, not a particularly extraordinary equine, being a 13 yr old Quarter horse/ TB X but he has been perfect for me. He is well schooled enough to tolerate the arena laps and has managed the fine art of doing just enough….some would call it lazy but actually I think its smart.

He's nervous and learnt to mistrust humans but he has taught me so much and gradually we make improvements on communication. I am learning to listen to him and to become more aware of how subtle a horse is and how little and light the aids can be. He has a very expressive face and head and makes me laugh out loud at times. When he is cranky he lifts his nostrils in what can only be described as his piggy face; I find that if I acknowledge his grumpiness with a "Yeah, yeah I know" or suchlike he lets it go quite quickly. And they reckon women are prone to mood swings.

I have made some great friends through horses, the best of them display horsey traits of kindness, honesty, simplicity, generosity, dependability and cooperation. The bond of our shared passion for this magnificent animal runs deeply.

I have worked as a physiotherapist since 1989. For the past 21 years I have lived and breathed the musculoskeletal system, biomechanics, posture, exercises, mobilization and massage. Yet, my own posture and strength were poor after 3 children when I started riding. I observed the horses natural beauty and grace when it moves freely, unimpeded by a rider and it came to me that I owed it to the horse to only add to his beauty when being ridden. I started getting stronger and I feel that the use of a fitball to improve core stability was fundamental to my improved balance and mobility when riding. Horses led me to a better personal understanding than all those years at university and working with humans.

I have recently gone a step further professionally by following my next stage of the dream which is to bring my physiotherapy and admiration for the horse together. Over the next 2 months I am studying madly and will then start taking my first equine and canine clients, under veterinary referral. I hope these 2 fine professions increasingly work together in Australia. This is the start of something profoundly exciting for me and I hope I never stop learning from our great friend the horse.

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