Home' The Horse Magazine : December 2016-January 2017 Contents 114 FROM THE ARCHIVES
Not a pretty horse, but his stocky build, strong
legs and well developed (alright, fat then) neck
lent him a certain majestic quality under saddle
or running free. He didn’t need rugging or extra
feeding, being a very good doer by nature. I kept
him on excellent well drained pasture, with plenty
of shelter, but he was still as greedy as a pig about
snacks of grass when we were out riding.
I live in an inner suburb of Melbourne, I’m not
rich and to find pasture like that within my budget
meant a two hour trip each way to see him. That
is one reason I am a weekends only rider. Hard
feeding on less good land closer to home is way
beyond my budget. So is rugging. It’s not the cost
of the rugs or the food that is prohibitive, it’s the
cost of the petrol to get there to check rugs and
feed each day. Even a twenty-five minute trip
each way costs about $35 a week in petrol. Add to
that maybe $20 a week for paddock agistment,
$25 a month for hard feed, the costs of shoeing,
costs of floating him to a place where you can ride
him safely, lessons... I had seen friends of mine
stuck in this dilemma and was thoroughly grateful
that Nug and I had worked out a satisfactory
Particularly as around the place where I kept him
is some very good varied riding country that can
be reached in perfect safety along the bridle paths
beside and a good forty feet away from, the roads.
Sandy 4-wheel drive tracks through thick scrub
wide enough for three horses abreast, creeks,
puddles, hills, turf stretches nearly three kilometres
long where you can let your horse gallop out in
Much of it is impassable to any wheeled traffic
in winter, and in summer you can hear cars and
trail bikes coming from quite a long way away, if
you don’t see their dust and take evasive action.
There’s one spot just as you come out of the
southern end of the scrub where you can see
nearly all of Port Phillip Bay on one side, a lot
of Westernport Bay on the other, and straight in
front is a view of rolling paddocks stretching down
towards Gunnamatta. There’s something there to
Nug and I had covered the lot over the years
I had him. Taken the track to Gunnamatta and
played in the waves, gone larrikinising in the scrub
chasing trail bikes, sometimes just found a pretty
spot and stopped for a think and a bite of grass.
With friends and by ourselves. I still miss him.
Nug died a year ago. He was fifteen years old,
and still an active and vigorous horse in perfect
health. The first really good grass of spring had
come through and Bob, the proprietor of the
property where I kept him, had sentenced Nug and
the Shetlands to the Fat Pony Paddock but they had
not actually been put in it yet.
He went in that yard every year while the spring
grass lasted. It lies adjacent to the front yard of
the small property next door, which has passed
through about four different hobby farmers’ hands
in the last six years. The new lot had just taken up
residence and were fixing up the fences, which had
Very commendable you say, and rightly so. When
I took Nug out of the big paddock that day I saw
the crest on his neck was starting to get hard so I
resolved to put him away in the Fat Pony Paddock
on our return. The Shetlands were getting close
to furry football status too, but catching that crew
was a real chore, and I reckoned Bob could do
that. Before we left I fllled up the water trough and
checked the electric fence. The next door kids were
painting the fence.
I planned to be out most of the day, but Nug
and I stopped to watch the sunset on the way
home, so it was full dark when I turned him into
the paddock. What I didn’t see was that the kids
who had been painting the fence had done so from
and on both sides. They had been distracted by
something and had left the open paint tin balanced
on the edge of the water trough, meaning perhaps
to finish the job the next day. There were after
all no horses in the paddock. I put Nug in, fairly
thirsty because I had fed him before turning him
out and he had not had a drink since around noon.
The paint tin had fallen in the water.
Bob rang me at work the next day to tell me.
Even now I still grieve over the loss of such a good
friend in such a careless and unnecessary way.
There isn’t much blame I can put on, them or me,
they just didn’t know, didn’t think. Neither did I. I
pleaded emergency at work and drove down that
day. He died soon after I got there. The vet did
what he could, but the toxic paint, and a twisted
gut from rolling around in agony half the night
were just too much even for Nug’s gallant nature
and robust constitution.
Well, I gave up riding for a while. During the
summer kind friends offered me the occasional ride
on their horses, but I couldn’t, just couldn’t, accept.
Nug had been one of my closest friends, as well as
the world’s biggest shoulder to cry on in time of
trouble. The time we had spent together was a very
precious memory to me and just a ride on another
horse was still a bit too painful to cope with.
Autumn and the really good riding weather
came. I couldn’t stop myself. I went to Bob and
asked if he had a horse that needed some work on
weekends. He did.
I should explain about Bob and his wife Sue.
They run a sort of riding school. Well, supervised
trail rides through the scrub I mentioned earlier
with instruction attached if a rider is obviously not
up to handling the horse.
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