•  Conway and Patrick Tighe

    Conway and Patrick Tighe

  • The Tighe family at the exhibition opening.

    The Tighe family at the exhibition opening.

  • Charmaine New and Odette Yen with infront Tom New.

    Charmaine New and Odette Yen with infront Tom New.

  • John Palmer

    John Palmer

  • A scarlet hunt jacket, called a "Pink"

    A scarlet hunt jacket, called a "Pink"

  • Stephen Quinn, Kate Hatzis and Joan Mayhew

    Stephen Quinn, Kate Hatzis and Joan Mayhew

  • Hilde Hooper and Mikhala Kaekins

    Hilde Hooper and Mikhala Kaekins

  • Andrew Townsend with his children Harry and Rose Townsend

    Andrew Townsend with his children Harry and Rose Townsend

  • Gerard Ninnes, Katherine Morrell and Tim Dawson

    Gerard Ninnes, Katherine Morrell and Tim Dawson

  • Colleen Reeks, Tania Ward, Shaaron and Bill Ellis and Anna and David Williams

    Colleen Reeks, Tania Ward, Shaaron and Bill Ellis and Anna and David Williams

  • Zelie Bullen, Aunty Agnes Shea and NMA Director Matt Trinca++++++++

    Zelie Bullen, Aunty Agnes Shea and NMA Director Matt Trinca++++++++

  • +++Des and Laurel Wykes with Beth and Bev Wykes

    +++Des and Laurel Wykes with Beth and Bev Wykes

  • Neale Lavis with Ruth and Alan Chittick

    Neale Lavis with Ruth and Alan Chittick

  • 'Spirited' curator Marina Sear and her boys Oliver and Callum

    'Spirited' curator Marina Sear and her boys Oliver and Callum

  • A horse sculpture by Andrew Townsend and Susie Bleach.

    A horse sculpture by Andrew Townsend and Susie Bleach.

  • A horse drawn milk cart in the 'Spirited' EXhibition

    A horse drawn milk cart in the 'Spirited' EXhibition

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

12 September 2014

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