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Sawing Up the Log

When we were planning the current development of riders lounge and accommodation here at Spring Spur Stables, in accord with our objective to keep the buildings as green as possible, we aimed to use salvaged and renewable materials where possible. We felled a large blue gum that was shading the site and dropping branches on the public garden areas, and left it to season for a year. Now the log has been milled into cladding timber for the riders lounge using an on site Lucas Mill. Local contractor Gary Points set up his saw in the morning and by days end we had replaced a large log with a 3.6 m3 stack of sawn blue gum. We look forward to working with other local salvaged and reclaimed materials.

History of the Bogong Brumbies Jun 2011

The early morning sunshine drives a shaft of light into the misty river flats. The BHA expedition horses have long finished their nosebags and most are saddled up for the day’s ride into the upper reaches of the West Kiewa River Valley, the Red Robin Gold Mine battery, beyond the hidden tracks of Swindlers Creek and up the long climb of Paling Spur. Todays destination is Young’s Hut site at the western end of Young’s Tops, in the Alpine National Park. Brumby country!
The modern brumbies running on Young’s Tops and the Pretty Valley area are direct descendants of a commercial mob that was first established by Osborn Young in the 1880’s. From the mid-1840’s there had been increasing demand for the highly regarded “Waler” horses (horses exported from the Colony of New South Wales) for the British Army as remounts in India and later the Boer War and First World war. This trade would see well over half a million horses leaving this country as remounts for armies around the world. There was also constant demand for coach horses, funeral horses, post horses, carriage horses and hacks.
Osborn Young took out his first High Plains license, the Bundaramunjie run, in 1879. A horse breeder and cattleman who had settled in the Benambra district, Osborn built a horse breeding enterprise based on his numerous High Country grazing licenses. Stewart Hollands of Benambra recalled in Tor Holth’s book, Cattlemen of the High Country, that “Osborn had more horses than anyone ever had on the High Plains, estimated at 1900 head.” “I suppose Young might have had 1500 or 1600 horses – might have had more” reckoned Charlie McNamara. “Bill Chapman and old Jack Mac broke in 300 horses into saddle in one mob without stopping, took Young’s cattle down to Sale and they averaged him £5 a head and the next month he took his horses down and they averaged him £17 a head. They branded over 300 foals.
Osborn’s daughter Bella, recounted in Tor’s book that “Mum’s brother, James Gibson, when I was about 2 or 3 years old, said that he helped with a mob of horses – there were about 1100 head. Horses had to be brought down from the High Plains on account of the snow so some would be brought into the paddocks and some would be just driven off the tops – they’d still be in the mountains.” “The horses were broken in and then taken to the sale. Some went to Gippsland, most went to Wodonga. ”
Charlie recalled the Wodonga horse sales in Tor’s book. “We’d start from Young’s hut and get down to Paddy Duane’s at Tawonga, then on to Kiewa where we camped at Billy Canoy’s. Following morning it was on to the Blazing Stump Hotel at the junction in Wodonga. These Pendergasts from Manero, they’d bring a mob of horses down that night. They used to have bells on. You could hear them coming – dongle, dongle, dongle. This old Pender used to come down – he had a big black beard down to his waist. And he had a son with him – they used to call him “straighty” ‘cause he was shot through his knee and couldn’t bend his leg. The next morning we’d go into the sale yard in Wodonga to sell them. I used to ride them around the ring. With the sale over the Penders and I and other wild buggers, we’d get our horses and gallop up and down Dean Street in Albury with our hats in our hands – we’d get stopped by the police.” Charlie McNamara continued with his grandfather’s horse business right up into the 1930’s.
The High Plains horses were managed, they were branded, moved off the tops for winter, bloodlines kept fresh with new stallions, but mostly they had the run of the summer pastures on the High Plains. Young, along with the Tom and Mick McNamara, and others, built Young’s Hut around the 1880’s, as well as yards, wing fences and horse traps. The McNamaras had horses on the High Plains from early days before Young, and took over the lease after Young retired.

As the horse trade faded with the advent of the motor car and the trade in war horses disappeared, the great mobs of Young’s Tops and the near by High Plains had also diminished, but many survived. The remaining horses went wild and became the brumbies of today, with a peppering of new bloodlines from time to time when domestic horses were turned loose with the “ bucks”. Brumby runners occasionally help themselves to a few horses, a true test of horse and rider, flat out through the scrub on the tail of a horse keen to stay a wild one. I’m sure Kath remembers well riding the great Dodger, Buff Roger’s brumby runner. For a while in the 1990’s we would run into old Ces camped at Charlie Mac’s hut, always had a few mares and foals around the place. Ces built sapling trap yards and used salt to lure the horses in. Kirk’s Bazaar, the grand horse market in Melbourne built in 1840, where the agents would source their army remounts, is today known as Hardware Lane, and few of the lunchtime coffee crowd would know of the link between the cobbled lane and the brumbies still running free on Young’s Tops and Pretty Valley. But they can join our packhorse expeditions into the heart of brumby country, camp at Young’s Hut site and see the descendants of Young’s horses running free. All of the Mount Fainter rides get into brumby country.

Happily Retired Jun 2011

Load your caravan with fishing rods, road maps, beer and BBQ steak – or in this case, a grassy vegetarian hay stack! Claude and Lawson, two of BHA’s over 25s have left Spring Spur for a well earned retirement at a dairy farming property on the fertile flood plains of the King River in Oxley, Victoria. Jackie who has taken the two old boys on, occasionally rides Lawson around the property with Claude following along behind, not letting his mate out of his sight.
The two loyal geldings have been a part of the BHA herd for close to 20 years and during their working life have taken many riders on memorable adventures across the High Plains, with reliable behavior, consistency and calmness that is not easily found in a horse, they both fit into the term coined by horse folk as “bomb proof”.
The BHA retirement plan fosters a relationship between our highly regarded horse team and customers or others with suitable properties. The senior horses are retired to willing homes to continue with light work and good care – Bertha entertains four sisters in the Hunter Valley. Jimmy and Shiner have retired to the coast in Apollo Bay with Kath’s best friend, Nereda.
The two clydie crosses have worked hard for BHA and the morning surf is tonic for their old bones. Shiner was packed for close to 20 years and probably covered 20,000 kilometers over mountains and down valleys, never once knocking or scraping the pack loads. Nereda and Mick ride them regularly and Mick’s knees are always safe from bumps, when he is astride old faithful Shiner. We miss them both, but know they are cared for brilliantly.
One of Lin’s favorites Basalt has already been offered a green paddock overlooking the Tambo river in Gippsland. He is still young and fit at 12 yo, so he has a few miles on the clock yet, but it is testament of how loved our horses are, when five years ago he was ridden by Peter Thomas on an extended pack horse expedition and Peter made us promise he could retire with them when the time was right!

Ride and Lunch at Your Country Home Away from Home Jun 2011

We have a new product on offer this Winter and Spring. A half day ride with a delicious lunch for $130pp, a glass of vino, a beer or cool refreshment thrown in! You can call us to discuss what is on offer from the homestead kitchen. We specialise in vegetarian options and have a selection of tapas style dishes or wood fire pizza’s, but whatever you’re offered, and whatever you choose, you can be sure it will be yummy, wholesome and warming! So join us here for a fabulous ride through the valley of the Kiewa, canter the tracks of the Alpine National Park and on return relax your weary limbs by the Spring Spur Homestead fire or share the meal around our massive table on the sun drenched winter verandah.

Book a group of friends in for a unique birthday ride and lunch with cake supplied, or just get away and venture into the ‘Heart of the High Country’ and ride one of our good natured mountain Australian Stock Horses suited to beginner to advanced riders, all responsive home grown horses, you can enjoy and trust. Quality staff, food and horses guaranteed. Fill your lungs with mountain air and your hearts with mountain dreaming!

Springtime in the Bogongs Jun 2011

In the late spring when the highest peaks of the Victorian High Country shake off their winter snows, life in the valleys below also starts to stir. For thousands of years the aboriginal peoples of the surrounding country embarked on their annual migration to ceremony and the rich feastings of bogong moths, and until recently the annual migration of the mountain cattlemen, who following the time honored ways of their pioneering ancestors pushed their mobs of cattle up to the ‘tops’. Along with gold seekers, horse breeders, bushrangers and early adventurers, they all helped create a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, woven into the rugged fabric of the High Country.
Along the way the the horse was an integral part of the European exploration and enjoyment of this stunning landscape. Much of the High Country remains un-roaded today, and packhorse expeditions offer a traditional and practical means of exploring this vast landscape. The individual horses are a feature of this expedition, each of them an Australian Stock Horse having been bred and trained on the property, then expertly matched to the rider.
Each morning the camp is packed up, loaded onto the packhorses and the journey continues. Riding between 15km to 25km per day, with opportunities for loping canters across open plains. Camps are selected for their beautiful settings, and often associated with traditional stock camps or huts. With swags rolled out where the ‘stars fairly blaze’, dinner is prepared and enjoyed around a warming fire, with a cold beer, a local wine and a meal prepared from local fresh produce on the coals.

Gold Mine Jan 2011

Over the years we have bred many fine young horses here at Bogong Horseback Adventures. The vast majority of the working team today are “locals” having been born, trained and worked here, surrounded by the high plains and peaks of the Bogongs. They have taken their names from the places that make up the rich landscape of the Victorian High Country, names like Feathertop, Fainter, Lankey, Joker, Weston, Faithful, Woollybutt, Dungey, Harriette, Basalt and many others.
Our foundation stallion was an Australian Stock Horse called Inca Gold and his blood lines run through a lot of our stock. More recently we introduced another Stock Horse stallion to strengthen our breeding program when Lin acquired Simply Red from Ashlar Stud.
In keeping with our traditions Lin now calls him Simply Red Robin, with reference to the a local landmark, the heritage listed Red Robin gold mine. All the young horses being bred here at Spring Spur are now named after local gold mines. New additions to the horse family this year include Indigo, out of Feathertop and Stringer, out of Caddie.
The Red Robin mine and battery continues in operation today, owned and operated by Ken Harris. In 1941, after several years of prospecting the country between Mts. Hotham and Feathertop, Bill Spargo opened up the Hotham Heights field, which comprised two reefs: the Red Robin and One Alone. The Red Robin was fabulously rich where it outcropped: a sample crushing yielded an average 112-oz per ton. Small, rich crushings continued through the 1940s. In 1949, a road into the Red Robin mine was completed and a 3-head battery brought in. Three years later the mine was purchased by the owners of the Sambas mine at Harrietville. They cut an improved track down to the mine and reconditioned the battery, also adding a hopper and self-feeder. At that time, the Red Robin was one of the richest in Victoria—in terms of its yield per ton, not total production and was the highest mine in the State. Being well above the snow line, the mine could only be worked seasonally, and its crushings remained small. In 1954, the mine crushed 49 tons for a gold return of 48 oz. From 1956 stone from the Red Robin was sent to the government battery at Bright for crushing. A 10-head battery (formerly the Bairnsdale government battery) was erected at the Red Robin mine in 1966, lower down the valley than the earlier plant had been.
Located as it is in the upper reaches of the West Kiewa River Valley, the Red Robin battery buildings were burnt in the 2003 bushfires. Ken has more recently restored the old battery buildings and the heartbeat of the the upper Kiewa is once again heard echoeing off the ranges when Ken is crushing ore.
References: Kenny, J.P.L., “Red Robin and One Alone Reefs, Hotham Heights”, in Mining and Geological Journal, September 1941, pp. 263-7. Mining and Geological Journal, 1941-57.

Dungey’s Track Jan 2011

Another casualty of the big rains is Dungey’s track. Following the route originally blazed by Sergeant Dungey in his regular travels through the High Country in the 1860’s in pursuit of horse thieves.
The modern “track” was built by bulldozer. After following Little Snowy creek upstream to it’s head at Simmon’s Gap the narrow track continued along a high side cut on the western side of the West Kiewa River for several kilometers until it descended to the first of the big river flats about 15 kms downstream of Blair’s Hut.
The recent big rains have caused a large section of the track to slip down into the river far below, leaving an impassable rock face. Until Parks Vic and DSE consider the options for a new alignment, the track remains closed.
Any tours we have scheduled for the West Kiewa have been re routed over Mount Fainter, via Bogong Jack’s Yards.

Sand in the Yards Jan 2011

Yep, we have had big mobs of rain and at their peak the December storms dumped 170 mm in less than 24 hours. We came close to loosing the new dam as the flood was running about 300 mm over the wall. Creek beds that have been lying dry for a decade, choked with dry vegetation and fallen timber were once again free running streams, running bankers with flood waters spilling into surrounding river flats.
When the stream peaks receded the landscape was endowed with a network of clean, fast running streams, all opened up with sandy beds and long runs of gravel and cool clean water. Some places the washed sand had built up around bends and bridges forming large sand bars and flood outs. On a neighboring property the sand had to be cleared from the crossing and consequently we took delivery of many truckloads of new washed sand for our yards and stables. Sand that probably started up here in the first place!

Barefoot Winter Jan 2011

Talking horses feet, last autumn we took possession of a number of brumbies that had been removed from the Bogong High Plains by Parks Victoria as part of their brumby management program. We were impressed by the general good condition of the wild horses feet and decided to followup on an interest we had in “barefoot trimming” of horses feet, as an alternative to fitting steel shoes to the feet with nails.
The plan was to keep a working team of trail riding horses unshod, but correctly trimmed, through the winter months when the tracks are softer and the mountain work not required. We are delighted to report that the whole team came through the winter with their feet in great shape, many with improved foot health and no cases of ill effect.
We have now shod our team for the summer and the rocky mountain tracks, however come next winter the equine feet will get another recuperative spell from the steel shoe and nail.
Information about barefoot trimming http://ahca.org.au/

Meet the New Farrier Jan 2011

Andy Warhol famously stated in 1975 that “In the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes” In popular culture this has morphed into “15 minutes of fame”.
Some of the regular guests at BHA may remember meeting our hardworking farrier, Bob Brown, probably cheekier than any butcher, Bob always had a cheerful side for anyone walking past his anvil. The farrier’s task, fitting shoes to our horses, is a tough physical endeavor and Bob has decided to reduce his work load and slow down a bit, so we had to find a new farrier.
Kath and I first met our new farrier, Brendon Anton in 1992 at a Wayne Banney clinic in Albury. Since then Brendon has made his mark as a horseman and rodeo competitor, working as a farrier and starting young thoroughbreds for the racetrack with very successful natural horsemanship methods. Ask Brendon about his “15 minutes” and he will undoubtedly refer to the 8 seconds he rode “time” on the infamous bucking bull Chainsaw at the 1991 Cootamundra Rodeo, up to then, only the 5th rider to score on the bull.
Chainsaw was one of Australia’s most famous bucking bulls. Only nine contestants scored on him and he won the Australian national title of Bull of the Year a world record eight times during 1987 to 1994.
We welcome Brendon into the team and thank him for his quiet and professional approach to shoeing our hardworking horses.