Posted on May 25, 2017
Sunday March 19th was the start of my trip, leaving the Launceston airport at 6am with three connecting flights through to the Tamworth Regional airport arriving to 32 degree heat at 2pm.
Monday morning comes round with all 12 students being collected from the Tamworth YHA by Dave the mini bus driver, then continuing onto a quick stop at the local second hand store to grab any work clothes we might need during the week.
Finally we are on the road heading to Leconfield, situated a bit over an hour out of Tamworth. A lot of chatting and singing along to Dave’s country and western music mix was achieved on the trip in, along with our last text messages, phone calls and Facebook checks as we would be out of phone service for the next four days. A long dusty, steep and bumpy track lead us to the home of the Leconfield Jillaroo/ Jackaroo School. We were greeted by Tim and Courtney Skerrett who run the school and are the owners of the property the school is run on, along with their son Blake (6) and daughter Margaret (4). We unpacked our bags and tried a cup of bush billy tea on the camp fire before going onto meeting our horse we would be riding for the week. The horses we were given were chosen on the level of experience of riding we had done so we are able to work together and form a bond. We then went onto catching our horses in the paddock and bringing them back down to the saddling area where Tim taught the group about grooming our horses and how to then saddle them up. Having a quick bite to eat we went on to learn about natural horsemanship which is about creating a bond between you and your horse, also to think like the horse and less like a predator as horses are a prey animal, but to be the dominant one in the relationship. Once we got to know our horse we then got to mount up and do some walking in the arena before going out into the paddock where we went on a ride up the paddock (steep terrain) and did a bush survival lesson on local bush tucker where we tried rose hip which is very high in vitamin C and stinging nettle which we crushed the leaf in our hand first then ate it, the leaves are very high in nutrients and is a natural detoxifier. We then went on to learn about some of the local gum trees and finished the afternoon off with a roast cooked on the camp fire.
We were up and out at 7am to catch, groom and saddle our horses, after which we went into the arena to learn more about natural horsemanship. We learnt seven games involved around natural horsemanship.
Game 1- The Friendly game
To form a bond between you and your horse, because we are a predator to horses this helps to make us think more like a prey animal.
Game 2- The Porky Pine
This game teaches our horse to move away from constant pressure like when we squeeze our legs on the horse to move.
Game 3- The Driving
We learnt about the drive line of the horse which is the shoulders down and this regards the reins and the movement of our horse using rhythmic pressure.
Game 4- The Yo-yo
Teaching the horse to back up then we are on the ground and they enter our circle of space.
Game 5- The circling
Teaching the horse to come back to us without pressure.
Game 6- The sideways
Teaching us to be able to move the horse sideways with hardly any pressure and is useful when opening and closing gates on horseback.
Game 7- The Squeeze
Teaching the horses to get used to tight spaces and when following us to trust where we are taking them.
After learning and practising the games on our horses we then learnt about barefoot trimming, Tim's horses don’t have shoes and he explained why, he then showed us how to use the nippers and rasp to trim the hooves.
A quick bite to eat and straight into whip cracking and lassoing practise, which led onto mustering sheep on horseback along with a demonstration of working dogs in action. Once we had mustered them into the yards we had a competition of who could catch and flip a sheep the fastest, doing Tassie proud by coming second. Tim then showed us how to shear and crutch a sheep and then slaughter and later on butcher a sheep up.
We spent the morning practising more of the natural horsemanship games then going onto cutting the sheep up that we had slaughtered the day before. We spent the rest of the afternoon learning about pasture improvement and eradicated some weeds on the hill side, after which we learnt to fence.
Today was the big day, mustering for 6 hours. We set off early as the cattle we were mustering were a bit over 2 hours ride in. Tim's farm is 1300 acres where he runs around 300 head of Angus cattle and 150 head of sheep along with his horses. The terrain is very steep and rocky making the pace slower once we got further out. Once we got to the paddock we split into two groups with half climbing the hill to get the cattle down off of the paddock and the rest following the hill and creek and meeting around at the gate. Once we all met back up with our herd of Angus cattle we drove them up the hill we had come from which was a slow process as it was so hot and the cows had calves on them along with it being so steep and rough they didn't want to walk.
After a long ride up hill we made it back to the yards where we then weaned the cows and calves and put the cows back into a paddock across from their calves which stayed in the yard. We then had a go at wrestling a calf which wasn't as easy as I thought and had a lassoing competition. That night was a very sleepless night with the newly weaned calves calling to their mothers all night.
Last day........ we saddled our horses for the last time and went for a canter on them before playing some fun games on horseback and putting what we learnt into action. We said goodbye to our horses and oiled our saddles and reins before packing our gear and getting ready to go to the local pub for tea. We loaded the bus and off we went, Dave had his music going, we were set!! We made it back into phone reception and all you could hear was all our phones going off, but I have to admit it wouldn't have been the same if we did have service. We had tea and got dropped back into Tamworth where we said our goodbyes.
I would like to thank everyone involved in making this opportunity possible - it was amazing and I learnt so much. I met so many people and made so many new friends from different countries like England, France, Netherlands, Belgium and a couple of Aussies!!! It was so enjoyable and I would recommend this course to anyone, it was very rewarding. Thank you.