Equine

Horsemanship acknowledged

By Country News

Take a brumby, and be allowed 150 days to break it in.

Train every day for multiple hours, preparing for a competition.

Then, when you get there, you find yourself unwell — and the challenge to compete suddenly becomes even greater.

But animals know when their friends need help.

Gunbower’s Shaniah Dye was about to find this out first-hand.

‘‘I’d spent 150 days training Ariat, so to get unwell when I got there was very disappointing,’’ Shaniah said.

It was day two of the four-day Australian Brumby Challenge, where trainers from across the country showed off their skills after taming a brumby.

‘‘I woke up for day two and I felt flat. I was really sick and I knew that was going to be a serious challenge for me, as well as for Ariat.’’

Unfortunately, Ariat didn’t have great past form in such a situation.

‘‘If I wasn’t 100 per cent when I was training, he could be a little difficult. He’d see the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and be the more dominant member of the relationship.’’

But when she went to perform on day two, something was different.

Ariat knew exactly what was going on. But this time, his goal was to protect his ‘mum’ (Shaniah).

‘‘He could sense that on this occasion he needed to lead me through the situation, and for him to do that wasn’t going to be easy,’’ Shaniah said.

They had to deal with a dressage test, something trainer and horse were unfamiliar with.

But Ariat was calm and performed exactly how he needed to, and took Shaniah along for the ride — both figuratively and literally.

‘‘He was so good on the day,’’ she said.

‘‘When the competition was over for the section I burst out crying, I was so proud of what he had done on the day.’’

This was day two of a competition that had involved a number of obstacles, and showing off how calm Ariat was under the pressure of competition.

On the third and final day, Shaniah was not confident; she was still unwell and was heading into a freestyle performance.

‘‘I knew the song, I knew the routine, but we hadn’t practised properly so I decided we would just do what came naturally.’’

From the first movement, Ariat had different ideas about what to do. But they made it work together.

‘‘I was able to do things I didn’t think I could,’’ Shaniah said.

‘‘I stood up on him, which I’d not done before. It was a magical moment for both of us.’’

At the end of the event, the tears were back — for everyone.

‘‘My whole family, my support team, we were all in tears and so proud of what we had all achieved.

‘‘Grown men and women all together crying, I have no doubt it looked pretty weird from the outside,’’ Shaniah said with a laugh.

At the end of the event, Shaniah was awarded the Judges’ Choice Award for horsemanship for the event from judge Vicki Wilson, a former competitor whom Shaniah had idolised.

‘‘I didn’t think I was any chance,’’ Shaniah said.

‘‘I was off in my own world and then I heard my name. I think it took another 30 seconds for it to even register in my head that it was me.’’

Now the only thing left for the pair is to relax and enjoy the spoils of their hard work.

—Andrew Johnston