Horses and the High Country

Fletch-leap

This picture is just a reminder of what Bogong Horseback Adventures is all about – Great horses and the Beautiful High Country. Mind you we don’t ask everyone to take on the the challenges that Fletch and Bundara are revelling in here. 

As grandpa said, you never stop learning

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Lin with Stringer

The staff and Baird family recently had the great good fortune to spend a weekend at the beautiful heritage homestead “Mona” in Braidwood NSW attending a training clinic conducted by Bianca Gillanders.

With a real mixed bag of horses including Rose’s Friesian stallion “Isador”, ASH stallion “Moroka”, a couple of kids ponies, a rescued race horse and a prima donna QH mare, the yard was packed with action.

Presented as an all levels clinic, everyone’s skills were tested and advanced over a couple on intense days. By sunday night the horses were all a little more balanced and tuned, the riders more confident and looking forward to more.

Bianca has now just completed her campaign in the 2014 Equitana “Way of the Horse” and we congratulate her on a fantastic achievement at gaining equal second place.

Check out a range of clinics offered by Bogong Horseback Adventures at Spring Spur, including a fantastic 5 day High Country travelling clinic departing December 5th 2014.

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Pioneering the High Plains

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Riders Lounge and Spring Spur Stay

Our new riders lounge, along with the beautiful rooms at Spring Spur Stay have been hosting lots of groups lately, with a great wedding in October (congratulations again to Eve and Matt), lots of friends and couples relaxing, riding and just enjoying the country life here at Spring Spur Stay.

Remember the rooms are part of your package if you book a pack horse expedition with us, staying the night before and after your time away in the mountains.

Our daily trail riders have been keen to book in for our ride and lunch package, staying back for a long lunch at the long table.

The homestead kitchen features home grown and locally sourced produce with a menu that has an Italian, Mediterranean Australian homestead influence – Freshly baked breads, pizza, pastas, risottos, spanish tapas, fresh salads, with home made mustards, relishes, preserves, baked cakes and pastries, all prepared in the Spring Spur Kitchen. Lin and Clay have traveled the world and though their experiences have fused together campfire menu’s with ingredients inspired by their travels. Meals prepared at the Spring Spur kitchen can be also transported, miraculously, into the Bogong Horseback Adventures pack horse load and be prepared on the campfire in our remote area camps.

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Lounging about at Spring Spur Stay

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Riders Lounge and Spring Spur Stay

Our new riders lounge, along with the beautiful rooms at Spring Spur Stay have been hosting lots of groups lately, with a great wedding in October (congratulations again to Eve and Matt), lots of friends and couples relaxing, riding and just enjoying the country life here at Spring Spur Stay.

Remember the rooms are part of your package if you book a pack horse expedition with us, staying the night before and after your time away in the mountains.

Our daily trail riders have been keen to book in for our ride and lunch package, staying back for a long lunch at the long table.

The homestead kitchen features home grown and locally sourced produce with a menu that has an Italian, Mediterranean Australian homestead influence – Freshly baked breads, pizza, pastas, risottos, spanish tapas, fresh salads, with home made mustards, relishes, preserves, baked cakes and pastries, all prepared in the Spring Spur Kitchen. Lin and Clay have traveled the world and though their experiences have fused together campfire menu’s with ingredients inspired by their travels. Meals prepared at the Spring Spur kitchen can be also transported, miraculously, into the Bogong Horseback Adventures pack horse load and be prepared on the campfire in our remote area camps.

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The Tonimbuk long table

Latest news from the High Plains

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Boots to the fire

Just received an update from the horse camp, out in the wilds to the south of Pretty Valley. The expedition is travelling well, camped at Young’s Hut site on the southern edge of the Bogong High Plains. They left the delightful Swindlers Creek camp yesterday and followed the old Dungey’s Track alignment through the upper reaches of the Cobungra River valley then making the big climb up Paling Spur and on to the tops.

The country is emerging from the winter snows with wildflowers amassed across the plains and the brumby mobs full of spring health and vigour. To the rhythm of the harness jangle and the happy chatter of people the Bogong Horseback Adventures pack team arrived in camp 3, on a cool and clear evening.

Camp set up, swags tossed upon the springy snow grass, the happy group settled by the fire for another memorable meal carefully prepared on the coals. With time to reflect on another great day and enjoy a local wine, they stoked the campfire and shared stories under the southern skies.

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In search of the 8 hour day

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Eight hours of adventure – horses, rivers, mountains and bush.
Eight hours in a high mountain camp, amongst the snowgums, wildflowers and ghostly legends of Bogong Jack’s Yards on Mount Fainter
Eight hours in your warm and comfortable swag, beneath the Milky-way and Southern Cross.

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The history of Labour Day in Australia spans over a century. It is an important annual event that remembers those who struggled and succeeded to ensure decent and fair working conditions in Australia. During the mid to late 1800s the working day was long and arduous, where some employees would work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Many Australians saw the need for better working conditions and in the 1850s there was a strong push for this. On April 21, 1856, stonemasons at the University of Melbourne marched to Parliament House to push for an eight-hour working day. An agreement with employers for a 48-hour week was eventually reached and Australian workers welcomed the new eight-hour day. A victory march was held on May 12 that year and each year after that.

Many people use the Labour Day holiday as part of a long weekend where they can relax, spend time with friends or family members, play or watch sport, have barbecues. Some people plan a getaway trip to a coastal region, the mountains or the countryside where they can engage in various activities such as picnics, wine-tasting at a winery, bush-walking, or camping.

Hollands-Knob.192249Bogong Horseback Adventures has offered a 3 day Labour Day weekend ride for 28 years, and 2014 is no exception. This year we have added the extra value of “bookend” accommodation before and after the ride. The accommodation is in our newly completed Spring Spur Stay double en suite rooms and is added value at no extra cost. The cost of $1250, has remained unchanged for 4 years and now includes two nights luxury, 2 nights in our renowned bush camps and 3 days of spectacular mountain riding.

This weekend package from Friday March 7th 2014 to Tuesday 11th March 2014 is your last opportunity to purchase a BHA 3 day expedition at current prices.

On the ride we match you to one of our own mountain bred and trained Australian Stock Horses, and climb to Bogong Jack’s hideout for our first camp, just below the tops of Mount Fainter. On the second day we ascend the mountain to 6000’ , take in some truly awesome views as we ride across the top of Victoria. Returning to Jack’s for yet another great meal prepared on the coals, you can take in the starry night sky from you comfortable swag, before returning to the valley next day.

Spring Spur -the home of Bogong Horseback Adventures

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We are in the final stages of our transition to a more diverse stable (excuse the pun) of High Country horse experiences. For those that have travelled with us before you may recall our property is called Spring Spur, and the Spring Spur Stables will remain the base for the renowned packhorse expeditions offered by Bogong Horseback Adventures. Our commitment to experiences that continue the long traditions of horses in the High Country is as strong as ever, enhanced by the generational change that has reinvigorated this family business.

Complimenting the horse riding experience we have also created Spring Spur Stay, our purpose built on farm accommodation, your “country home away from home”. Nestled in the homestead gardens the new riders lounge and rooms offer comfort and a chance to immerse yourself in the life of a working horse property.

Guests booked on our packhorse tours this season will be offered accommodation before and after the ride, at no extra cost, just great value.

Over the next few months we will introduce opportunities to join one of our weekend riding package, perhaps a clinic in aspects of horsemanship or a group getaway weekend filled with horses, fun and lounging about the lounge, the wood fired oven, the coach builder’s bar and the stunning landscape of the Kiewa Valley and surrounding mountains.
We haven’t forgotten our foundations and the lounge will be a keeping place for artifacts and stories from the High Country, while we continue to breed our future working stock based on our long established Australian Stockhorse bloodlines.

As a reflection on our origins, Kath recalls a time, below, when we had just started out, and the Condamine Bell rang true.

The Condamine Bell

Packing the mails in flood time 1889

Steve and I left Tonimbuk in November 1986, after purchasing the ‘goodwill and license of a High Country riding business. It was the beginning of our big adventure to North East Victoria, into a new community, to settle and operate our tourism business in the Bogong National Park, now known as the Alpine National Park. It was a huge decision for us and our little boys Lin 4 yo and Clay 2 yo, leaving our own families and the communities we had started our early family life in. As a young mum of two adventurous active little boys I was so busy and possibly very naive, but we had plenty of passion and lots of love between us and a big sense of adventure.

In the earlier months of 1986 we began to prepare for our big mountain ‘tree change’, purchasing our plant and equipment, and collecting a mixture of good horses tried and new. When Steve arrived back from a road trip to Queensland with a Toyota full of saddles, bridles and pack saddles, the excitement and anticipation of our future was palpable. As we sifted through the tack I inquired as to why we needed bells and collars? We thought our horsemanship skills were ok, but our education in horsemanship and pack saddling was basically self taught other than the early training by Clive Hodge whom we rode with in the early 1980’s teaching us the ways of the mountains, navigating, finding good camps and the first practice in the art of pack-saddling. The Toyota’s loads were the first time I had ever seen a stockman’s bridal, a traditional extended head bridal that were regarded as a safer alternative to the single ring bridal, or hobbles to allow the stock to feed out at night and keep the horses from traveling too far on their own! Well, in principle anyway.

Steve also picked up three bells with neck straps, one large, one medium and one small, all with different tones and levels of volume, all rang very loudly, especially when the boys discovered them and started running riot around the house. “They are used to keep track of your stock when camping” Steve said. “Won’t the bells scare the horses?” I asked, secretly hoping we could return them with a full refund.”They’ll get used to them” he said “They are called Condamine bells, used traditionally for the bell mare, in the old days to keep track of your horses when you camped” he added. I worried about our decision and how we would manage to camp with 20 horses. We had camped with six before and that was hard enough, but twenty?

Captain was a strong horse, heavy boned, quarter horse type, big chest and a solid rump, a kind eye and a wide head, Grandpa (Frank Viney) used to say a good width between the eyes makes for a smart horse. He was all business, a very fast walker and was our first gift from my dad (Bill Viney) to our riding team. Captain had been a staff horse at Tonimbuk trails but my dad had decided he would be best in the mountains as he had ‘no mouth’ meaning he was hard to stop, probably a lifetime hangover from negligent riders in his youth. Dad had already saved Captain from the sale yards and the doggers, I suspect, but because we were not sure of his reliability as a riding horse we felt he would be well suited as the lead packhorse, calm, strong and reliable with stamina by the bucket load. So after a short introduction to a pack load, his future career path was born. Captain became Bogong Horseback Adventures’ star lead pack horse. He was a dream to lead, tie up and load, he never spooked, bucked or bolted, although he never free travelled either as he was such an independent horse he would go straight home alone or lead the others if the opportunity arose.

One summer, maybe early 1990’s we arrived at the old stock yards opposite Cleve Cole hut on Mount Bogong, we unpacked all five pack loads (we now have seven) and set up our camp under a canopy of twisted snow gums, surrounded by the horses hobbled out, grazing peacefully with the rattle of the chains around their fetlocks. It was a warm and unusually balmy night. After a yummy dinner and some campfire banter we all retired to our welcome beds of either swags or tents.

Some of the feedback in the early days was that the bells on the night horses would keep guests awake, but Steve said he always slept better when he knew the horses were near and not off at a hobbled tramp – homeward bound. Our horse camps previously on that trip, had been further away so the bells were a distant gentle jingle through the trees. My goodness as I lay looking skyward the moon had risen and a glow and radiance had filled the air, I felt like I was the luckiest woman alive, tucked into the swag next to Steve, anticipating some well deserved sleep, and wondering what adventures lay ahead tomorrow.

Around 3 am I was still awake with my mountain man snoring gentle beside me and the BLOODY BELL ding~a~ling~ing it’s ding~a~ling song all night long. I knew exactly what was happening in the yard, Captain was grazing gently until a mare took a lunge at him and the bell clattered as he fled her bared teeth. I could hear the groans of our patient guests every time the alarm rang out! Finally after a long night of grumbling from me, drifting deeply only to be woken again to the noise of the bloody bell, it was time to become pro-active. Camp was finally quiet, so I chose my moment. All the horses were resting peacefully with only the occasional gentle jingle of Captains bell. Desperately needing a couple of hours sleep before light, I squeezed out of my swag and was surprised at the temperature. Seeing Captain close by in the snow gums, I crept over to him ducking under the slip rails. I put my hand on his strong neck, “whoa, boy” I soothed as I slid my hand up to the leather collar to undo the buckle and silence the bell for good. “Whoa, Captain”. BANG with a sudden pull back he was off, the bell on full volume at a hobbled gallop across to the other side of the moonlit yard!

There I was, as the tent zippers unzipped and the grumbling guests poked out their sleepy heads….. a stark naked tour guide, looking rather silly. I had no where to run, nowhere to hide, so I stretched out my tired arms and called out “good morning!”

Mount Bogong

Cold wet day yesterday camped at Cleve Cole hut. Back on my horse and the sun is out, still cold and windy. Beautiful weather of the high country! Currently holding my hat on as we cross Mount Bogong. Lin

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True to our origins

Bambi-posterWhen we printed our first colour brochure in the early 90’s, our designer Bambi came up with this concept of our horses traversing the map of the High Plains. The montage suggested a sense of adventure, and our expeditions today continue that tradition of adventure and respecting the heritage and culture of the High Country horse.