Spirited: Australia's Horse StoryShare Event on Facebook Share Event on Twitter Share Event on LinkedIn
Spirited : Australia’s Horse Story at the National Museum of Australia is a step back in time to an era of horse drawn carts for milk and bread delivered to your front door and the clip clopping sounds of a horse drawn sulky taking M’Lady to town. Yes that’s the romantic side of it but a small pile of manure beside one of the displays is a reminder of the drawbacks of the horse.
There were just seven horses that arrived with the first colonists, apparently purchased in Cape Town where as bad luck would have it the first rabbits came on board too. A few survived- the horses that is, the rabbits went ballistic as we know - but it was in the 1830’s that settlers began importing many varieties and they certainly earned their keep. The displays and paraphernalia tell a multitude of stories and the donors of many of those artefacts were on hand to enjoy the opening and tell tales of the connections.
The Tighe family arrived en masse to remember delivering milk in Essendon, Odette Yen was proudly showing her great uncle’s silks and tiny notebook from his horse racing days in Adaminaby and the Wykes family form Yeoval between Orange and Dubbo whose “white, grey or yellow box” water trough was a topic of discussion because no one is too sure just what kind of ‘box’ it is. Neale Lavis was a gold and silver medal winner with the equestrian team at the 1960 Rome Olympics and that is a tale of endurance riding at the highest level, and another aspect of our love affair with horses.
And for all those stories Aunty Agnes Shea who brought her Ngunnawal elder welcome to the proceedings had a few horse tales to tell too, with an image of her climbing the fence to mount her horse to ride bareback one to treasure. Then Zelie Bullen as the official opener won us all over with her story of the little girl who loved animals, particularly horses and grew up to spend her life working with them. Her story of training Abraham who was Joey of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse movie is both joyful and heartbreaking and the subject of a documentary that had me blubbering like most animal lovers, but there’s more, and Zelie’s memoir, Love Sweat and Tears, is available at the Spirited shop. After a weekend of reading it at a fast trot I’m entranced by a story of this ‘spirited’ woman who “learned how they think”, and put that knowledge into practice.
Spirited at the National Museum of Australia continues until 9 March 2015