Training Wild Brumbies in the Australian Outback

By Mark Wiens 22 Comments
Wild Brumby Australia
Australian Wild Brumbies

It was a special and terrifying moment, walking Luna through the gates into the vast, dusty expanse of the Australian outback for her first trek.

Here was a horse (brumby) that 6 weeks ago wouldn’t even let us touch her.

Us being the group of girls that had been hired to come and work on the homestead for food, board, and the chance to train these amazing animals.

Did any of us have a clue about how to train a horse?

No.

But was that a concern of the farmer?

Again, No. He had dollar signs in his eyes.

The law in the outback is; if the horses are on your land they become yours.

The homestead had two packs of brumbies (the Aussie terms for wild horses) that used to roam around, drink water and get the occasional lump of hay from us on a daily basis. In the dry season the homestead was the only place that had any water for miles around so it was an attractive reason for the horses to pay us a visit.

We would watch out for any new arrivals, and try to gain their trust. Initially this would be just sitting near them whilst they drank, or putting down hay for them to eat so they could get used to our scent. The second stage would be to catch the foal. This wasn’t a very good experience because you are effectively taken a baby away from its mum, but we told ourselves that it would get looked after a lot better in captivity than in the wilderness.

Wild Brumby Australia
Australian Wild Brumbies

It wasn’t done in some grand cowboy style way, for a start none of us even knew how to throw a lasso. No, it was a much gentler affair. We opened the gates to the pen really wide so it didn’t look like a pen at all and would slowly guide the foal by walking up behind it. At the same time someone else would feed the mum with lots of hay so she would be distracted.

For the next couple of weeks we would try to gain the foals trust until eventually we could get close enough to put a training rope around its neck.

This stage involved A LOT of standing around in 40 degrees temperature trying to approach an animal that clearly does not want to be approached.

“Inch by inch we would get closer and closer.”

You would see the foals body tense up and then slowly relax as it got used to your presence. So you’d step closer again, and this would repeat until the foal had enough and kicked out or fled. It’s amazing how strong they get so quickly, at just a couple of months the foal is already strong enough to do you some damage, standing your ground becomes more and more scary.

The most valuable lesson I learnt is that the horse doesn’t know it is bigger than you. It can’t tell that you are a titchy girl with legs like twigs; they see you as the dominant being.

Horses are flight animals, that is what they are built for and a horse will never purposefully run into you in order to harm you. But man that is hard to get your head around.

We had three wild brumbies we were training at various levels of engagement, Luna was the oldest. Here is the moment we rode her into the outback.

Brumby in Australia
Riding a Wild Brumby in Australia

The other two foals we captured were too small to ride but over time we gained their trust. I left the homestead earlier than I was planning because I didn’t agree with the way we were training the horses.

We had the amazing opportunity to watch an Australian Aborigine break in one of the horses and what took us 6 weeks took him 3 hours.

Yes, he used more force but I think it’s much better for the animal in the long run. Although we were gentler in our approach the horse is put through weeks of stress and anxiety which just isn’t healthy for it.

Australian Outback - Training Wild Brumbies
Australian Outback – Training Wild Brumbies

If you ever travel to Australia make sure you visit the Outback and if you have the chance do some woofing on a homestead. It was the best experience of my entire trip and it’s free. Don’t just take the tourist trail to Uluru (Aires Rock). Experience something different!

About the Author

Cheryl works for hostelbookers.com a budget accommodation specialist with over 20,000 properties in 3,500 destinations worldwide.

22 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Umesh

    3 years ago

    Wow, you should do more vids of your journeys Down Under matey. I say Melbourne is the Food capital of the world, have you tried the four n twenty meat pies at all? 😀

  • Simi

    3 years ago

    Hi, what area of Australia was this? I’d love to know if it was central Aus and if the horses and foals were sold on and possibly recognised as Walers? The horses bred for War.
    Cheers
    Simi

  • Annie – FootTracker

    10 years ago

    Wow, I stayed in Australia for 6 months before but did not know about this. It looks very interesting and cannot believe its free O.O Thanks for sharing this!!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      No problem Annie! If you ever try it, let me know how it goes!

  • Barbara – The Dropout Diaries

    10 years ago

    It does sound like an interesting experience. I’m not so confident around horses because they’re so damn big. But I love them. I think I’d feel bad taking a foal away from its mother, too.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Me too Barbara. My Father who grew up on a farm is so comfortable approaching horses and cows – but I on the other hand, feel a bit intimidated.

  • Scott – Ordinary Traveler

    10 years ago

    Wow pretty interesting experience. Especially for a city boy like me. Sounds like there is a lot to know about this. I would have been worried too about taking the horse away from it’s mom.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      It does really sound like an interesting experience!

  • Andrea

    10 years ago

    Really enjoyed this! I never knew what brumbies were – the foal is so cute

  • Scott – Quirky Travel Guy

    10 years ago

    I used to be afraid of horses as a kid too but I think this would be a cool opportunity.

  • ayngelina

    10 years ago

    I am not 100% comfortable with horses but this seems like an amazing experience.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      I agree Ayngelina, I’ve never been too confident around horses either, but learning about them and approaching them the right way would be a great experience!

  • jamie – cloud people adventures

    10 years ago

    love the idea of woofing. this experience in particular sounds pretty epic! the connection with the horse must become strong, id imagine it being hard to leave when the time came.

  • The Travel Chica

    10 years ago

    An interesting experience. I am looking to do some Woofing in South America.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Cool Stephanie! I’ve never done any Woofing, but I’ve also thought about it a number of times. I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your experiences with it!

  • Sophie @ Sophie’s World

    10 years ago

    I love horses and might find it difficult seeing – or taking part in – this. Nevertheless, I probably would give it a go. It sounds like such an interesting experience.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Great Sophie! I know this would be a pretty thrilling opportunity!

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic

    10 years ago

    Wow, this sounds like such an intense and unique experience! I don’t know if I’d ever pursue something like this, but mostly because I can’t get over my fear of horses (which developed after I got trampled by a ginormous horse in high school). Seems neat for other people, though! 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Wow Christy, sorry to hear about that. I agree with you, I’m not a big fan of being up close and personal with wild animals, but this does look like a unique opportunity.