Doza the horse shadower

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Three-year-old Doza may live outside Numurkah but he keeps a bit of High Country in him. Born on a Myrtleford farm and kept as a prospect until he was six months old, Doza regularly tags along with ex-dairy farmer Jodie Brewer when she trail rides in the mountains.

How is he as a camp dog?

It's amazing, by the end of the week everyone at the campsite knows him. He's a character. He is my wingman and goes everywhere with me . . . He is so intelligent, when we go riding we sometimes stop to have lunch and tie the horses up. He'll just keep going around them, checking them, seeing if they are okay the whole time. Not a lot of other people bring dogs and that's because it's pretty hard to find a good one.

Whereabouts do you guys ride?

We are going up to the Bogong plains in December and Happy Valley. We also go out to Barmah Island even though you have to be careful where you camp. We go up through Merrijig and Sheepyard Flats — they've got heaps of trails around there, little goat tracks mostly and river crossings. One day we did 32 river crossings and it's just awesome. When we go there could be eight other riders and we have a weekend away together. We even have an annual Eldorado trip.

Any close calls?

He's been kicked once by a friend's horse. I thought ‘God, it;s going to kill him’ because he copped it right in the chest — but what happened was the horse's tail was hooked on a fence and I think that's why she kicked out. Doza usually sits right behind the horses, right close, and you can trust my ones but horses aren't used to him being there. Gosh he was sore for a few weeks.

Does he get up in the saddle?

He can get up on Zac with me but he won't without me up there.

Are Doza and Zac close?

Doza and Zac get along really well. Zac has been a mountain horse, used as a pack horse and done a lot of things. I've had him two-and-a-half years and he's the best. He's just turned 16, I wish I had about five of him.

My other two horses (Eclipse and Doc) would be more skittish about Doza jumping up on them. Doc is only a young one, but he is getting used to him.

How did you go training the dog and horses to accept each other?

When I first got Doc he was real skittish so I would tie him to a tree and kick the ball around for Doza. It was the best desensitising for them ever — all the throwing toys and barking. He doesn't care less about it now. Doza never had issues, even as a puppy. He was always really good around horses.

Is he your first Kelpie?

Yes. A long time ago I used to breed Blue Heelers, then I had a Great Dane who used to go in the truck with us to all the horse shows. He was bigger than my miniature horse Eclipse. We travelled all around with our riding ponies and thoroughbreds to the royals. My daughter used to represent Victoria.

Do you find the Kelpie more suited to horses than the Blue Heelers?

I had a Red Heeler years ago and I had to get rid of him because he was jumping the front fence and getting in with the minis and chasing them. He was trying to grab their noses. Even if I had the horses tied up here he'd try to grab them on the nose and I went ‘nope, that's it'. The way he used to come and grab at the nose it was like ‘yeah, he should be up in the north'. If he was on big bulls he would have been great. He went to a nice home, just not with animals.

Do you have any other dogs?

We've got Poppy who is a Chihuahua x Papillon. She is 11 years old and I've just picked her up from the vets after she ate some mouse bait. If Doza had ate the bait I would have understood, but I don't get why she ate it because she is really fussy. My husband Peter put the bait out in those containers with the holes in the end so something must have dragged the bait out.

I've never seen her eat a mouse, but maybe she got involved with a poisoned mouse somehow. She is a real hunter.

We used to have a big tiger snake come out every year and twice she'd grabbed and shook it. I told her ‘if you get bitten you'll be dead before I can get into town’ but we haven't seen it since.

Words and pictures: Daneka Hill