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By Amanda Ross 

Ever since I was little, we travelled. I learnt to sleep in planes, under the dinner table, and survive on rice. When you’re 5, these are minor concerns, compared to accidentally leaving Snoopy on the plane, or not being allowed to wear a skirt in the middle of winter!

Coaching takes me to a great variety of places, therefor requiring a large wardrobe. The 20kg economy flight limit is only just achievable. My recent trip started from Melton (windy as a hurricane & jumper weather with possible rain), to Alice Springs (37 degrees, dry still heat, t-shirt, sunscreen), then for a holiday in Noosa (bathers, flimsy dress, gym clothes, runners), then to Pakenham for a XC clinic (Melton/Alice!). Mr Qantas Bag Drop, do not judge me! I did take my precious KEP in my hand luggage, not just because it wouldn’t fit in my luggage, but because I also figured it could come in handy if we hit turbulence/bad taxi driver. If the air vest would fit, I could’ve also taken my own life saving floatation device. Preparation is key!

I have always lived on or near the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and was really keen to experience the Alice Springs equestrian scene. From the second I walked outside of the airport with my lovely host Mette, I was smacked with the dry heat and red, barren landscape. The sky is wide & blue (not hills here, just a few ridges), and there isn’t any grass… seriously, it only rains 2-3 times a year, which puts a massive spin on things.

We forget how spoilt for choice we are. Good trainers, plenty of facilities, lots of competitions with well-subscribed classes, ample feed supplies, saddleries, reasonable travelling distances… just so many options in general! Alice is half way between Adelaide & Darwin, around 1500km’s from each. The racing scene is big – they hold around 32 race meets a year due to the ideal weather, with 150 horses in work & 25 or so trainers. The equestrian scene have a central meeting place, Blatherskite Park, which plays host to pretty much every discipline! It’s a green oasis amongst the red dirt, providing a soft, springy carpet and somewhere to ride for all the members & agisters.

It’s amazing how these horses are in such fabulous condition amid the heat and grassless conditions. Every single horse had a shiny, fat and healthy look. They all live in stables, or walk-in-walk-out covered yards, with an endless supply of hay to compensate for the non-existent grass. A continuous source of the same hay is difficult to get hold of, and varies from oaten/wheaten/clover/rye. This obviously requires a little bit of careful diet watch! There is one big (15-20acre) watered, green communal turnout paddock, where horses are all in… together!! Thoroughbreds, ponies, crossbreeds…the lot, without rugs (too hot), they graze, figure out the pecking order, and it generally just works.

There’s no call-on-demand farrier for non-racehorses, so most are barefoot trimmed, because it’s so much easier than dealing with regular shoeing, lost or loose shoes. Nor is there a local saddlery, so it’s online shopping, or a massive spend-up at Adelaide CCI**** or the like! Coaches come sporadically, and it’s too hot between about October and April to ride during the day so it’s not ideal for clinics.

However, the biggest difference I found was the complete lack of princess factor. There was no whingeing, everyone just got on with it. It’s hot, it gets dusty, the attitude is everyone chips in, and you get the work done.

So much of their learning is from online sources and YouTube, so to have a coach teach and ride your horse is something that doesn’t happen every week. Or every month! Such keen and grateful riders, who absorbed every word and had fabulous questions, and were very established in their training. I really enjoyed working with everyone, rode everything from ponies to giants, and did some lungeing, bandaging, feeding and training theory.

The pool at the caravan park provided an awesome lunchtime oasis from the 37 degree heat, and it’s just unfathomable for me to understand a place that hardly rains… the horses up here never have problems with mud fever which plagues our horses in the wet conditions. For example, they are prone to a condition called ‘bighead’, which is caused by eating a high content of Buffel grass, restricting the absorption of calcium and weakening bones. We are so accustomed to grass, mud, abundant feed and regular farriers, however these horses all looked amazing without most of life’s luxuries! Just goes to show…



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