A YOUNG trainer from Sydney’s northern beaches is celebrating another success in horse training, but this time it’s not with a pony born on her family stud Cagra Park.
Sam McCallum has just completed the Victorian Brumby Association’s annual Australian Brumby Challenge, and took out the yearling competition with her brumby gelding HVBA Thor.
The 25-year-old had 150 days to train Thor, who was conceived in the wild but foaled at the Hunter Valley Brumby Association sanctuary at Stroud. She had been following the Victorian Brumby Association’s Facebook page for a few years, but it’s the first time she’s taken on a brumby.
The challenge uses brumbies caught in the high country of Victoria and southern NSW, pairing them with 27 professional and non professional trainers. Each trainer had 150 days with their horse, with the finale held at Equitana in November.
Miss McCallum started from scratch with her eight-month-old brumby.
“Thor had never been touched,” she said.
“He’d been running with the herd of new horses at the sanctuary which keeps them as natural as possible. When I first worked with him I couldn’t even shift my body weight without him flying to the other side of the paddock.”
It took four weeks for Thor to let Miss McCallum touch him.
“He’d look at me and I’d back off pressure, and he slowly started to follow me around in the yard. Everything is done very slowly. I backed pressure off as soon as he showed he wasn’t coping.”
The yearlings only competed as led horses, but they had to be ready for obstacle, pattern and freestyle events.
“We also have handling and conditioning, so we’ve got to show the judges how to catch them, pick up the legs, brush them all over, then load them on the float.
“Even at Equitana, a few of them were a bit iffy about the float, but Thor was good – he walked straight on.”
Thor’s freestyle showing was what clinched the title.
“I was pretty far behind coming into that and thought I’d never catch up but he blew the judges away standing on a box, laying down and with his Spanish walk – apparently the judges liked that,” she said.
Thor will be sticking around Cagra Park, after being bought by Miss McCallum in the auction following the challenge.
“He’ll be a farm horse, but I’ll take him to shows that have brumby classes and do some pony dressage with him.”
The ridden competition was won by Victorian professional trainer Rachel Clarkson with nine-year-old bay gelding VBA Maximus.