When NSW horseman Joe Hughes gallops into the Gingin Campdraft arena on 25 March to compete in the charity barrel race – the 2018 Hopes n Dreams Pink Lady Classic, he’ll probably be riding the greenest horse in the competition – an Australian brumby which was running wild until just a few weeks ago.
His arrival at Gingin will be the culmination of a West Australian journey which began on Mundrabilla Station in January, and which will have seen him travel, partly on horseback, via Esperance, through the South West, to Gidgegannup and finally to Gingin. Along the way he will have given clinics in his unique horse-training method, known as 4BP, as well as sharing his passion for saving wild brumbies.
Joe and his daughters Lauren and Grace and son Henry have been on a mission to retrain and re-home wild brumbies from all over Australia after learning that the NSW Government’s Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan proposed the culling of around 3000 of the wild horses over the next five to 10 years.
There are up to 6000 brumbies in the Snowy river region as well as mobs around stations like Mundrabilla – where abandoned or escaped horses have multiplied in the wild. The mobs compete with stock for limited food and water resources and have become a major nuisance to station owners.
Using Joe’s method, the horses can be saved from the culling methods of being shot on the spot or shipped off for pet meat, as well as the potential cruelty of being sold untrained where they can be dangerous and end up mistreated. He believes that in just 24 hours he can transform a wild horse into trustworthy mount fit for a child – and the recent stint in WA has put his belief to the test.
As Joe explains, it started quite innocently: “Andy, a student of our annual ‘4BP Cooee Legends’ clinics was returning to WA and had called into Mundrabilla Station transit yards for livestock spelling his horses.
“While there he met the owners, and got talking about his brumbies, and the training clinic that he had just performed at 4BP NSW.”
Station owners Brie and Colin Campbell leapt at the chance to re-home some of the wild horses from Mundrabilla, and Joe offered to train 10, and take 6 on his journey to WA to be auctioned to raise money for Breast Cancer Network and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Colin flippantly suggested it was a shame he couldn’t train all 70 – which proved to be an irresistible challenge to Joe, who said he would – but he’d have to do it in just 7 days. After realising there wasn’t a world record for such a thing – that’s what they set out to do.
They ended up training 56 horses in the yards that week, with a team of 13 dedicated trainers – all of whom volunteered their time to help save the horses. Selected horses are now available for sale to approved homes with proceeds going to Isolated Children’s School of The Air thanks to the owners of Mundrabilla Station. Whether or not they made a world record is hardly relevant – what matters to Joe is doing good, and whilst he baulks at the expression – he just wants to pay it forward.
While Joe and his team have saved hundreds of horses, it’s not just the horses that benefit. “We started out saving the brumbies, but after a few months we realised we were saving humans too,” says Joe. Helping train the horses are ex-military personnel, many of whom are suffering PTSD – and the clinics are way of helping them find a new confidence and strength in themselves. “Working with horses is a journey of self-exploration — you have to find your own inner good,” explains Joe.
Joe’s enthusiasm for his mission is infectious, and many people and businesses have contributed along the way — such as Loyd Niven of SweetPro Australia, who as a sponsor of the Hopes n Dreams Pink Lady Classic for a number of years, stepped forward to help Joe when Carina Stephens called him to explain 4BP’s huge contribution to this years Classic.
“I offered Joe to supply enough SweetPro, of his choice to get his brumbies’ nutrition and gut health up to speed so they could endure the long trek ahead of them,” says Loyd, who has also donated a suite of prizes for the Hopes n Dreams Pink Lady Classic 2018.
You can support Joe, his 4BP team, the brumbies, Breast Cancer Network and RFDS by coming along to the watch the Hopes n Dreams Pink Lady Classic on 25 March at Gingin Campdraft arena showcasing over 40’s Barrel Racers and Cutters.
If you can, donate to the riders now at https://hopesndreamsgingin2018.gofundraise.com.au. They have targets to qualify for the race.
The auction of the 6 trained brumbies will also take place at the Pink Lady Classic, with all the funds donated to the cause. Bring your horse-float – you never know, you may come home with a new addition!