Brodie was my young Anglo-arab endurance prospect. I bought him at 4 years old, backed but not fully broken in. A beautiful bay, he stood 15.2hh and was fat from rich pasture. I took his education slowly, teaching him as I increased his fitness. With no facilities like a round yard at home, all our riding was done out on the trail. Northeast Tasmania was a great place to leg up a horse – kilometres of forestry, back roads and hills. All I lacked was anywhere flat.
I only had the one horse at that time which meant Brodie was paddocked alone. He developed a range of entertainments for himself when not working – ripping off windscreen wipers when our vehicle was being used to collect manure, tooting the horn, and stealing beer. He loved a game of chase, racing off with whatever he had stolen in his mouth and cantering around his five acres looking pleased with himself. He wasn’t difficult to catch and loved to go out, and was easy to care for in every way.
But he had a big buck. The first time he unseated me was our first canter. In his excitement he grabbed a hold of the bit and charged up the hill, suddenly bursting into a rodeo horse. Only later did I realise he still had his wolf teeth and must have been in great pain. The second time, I inadvertently applied my leg where he had been stung by a bee; I can’t blame him for that either.
After successfully completing two 40km training rides, I decided to take him to NSW (mainland Australia) where we have 500 acres. In those days we camped on our property, not even having a shed for protection against the weather. There was an easy 80km endurance ride planned nearby which I thought would be excellent for Brodie’s first outing. He travelled well for the two day journey including 16 hours on the ferry across Bass Strait. To be nearer the ride base, we stayed with a friend before going to our own property.
For the first time since I’d bought him, Brodie was paddocked near other horses. Three mares greeted him over the fence. After the usual sniffing and squealing he settled down to graze, always keeping one eye and an ear on where the other horses were. All seemed fine. It was only the next morning when I went to feed him, at a time when I was alone on the property, that I started to worry. He usually came to the call. This time my summons was unanswered by either his whinny or pounding hooves.
Brodie was nowhere to be found. The paddock was level and surrounded by trees, yet I couldn’t see him anywhere. Concerned that he might have escaped I walked the fenceline looking for a break. In one far corner the ground dipped away with the fence running through the bottom of a gully. A dark shape lay amid a mass of wire. With his legs tangled in the top two strands and his head jammed beneath the stay, Brodie looked dead.
After checking he was still alive, I raced to get pliers and call the vet. On my way back I phoned a mate who was a fencer. I freed Brodie’s hind legs from the wire but was unable to get him to rise. His head was swollen and his eyes puffed shut. On advice from the vet, I poured a slug of whisky into Brodie’s mouth. He struggled to drink more. It certainly brought him round. Shuddering violently he twitched and shook, kicked and spasmed. Still he couldn’t get up.
My fencing friend arrived. Releasing Brodie didn’t prove an easy task. He must have tried to jump the fence when the mares wandered away, twizzling his legs mid-air and becoming suspended before trapping himself under the stay in his struggles. In the end we had to dig the corner post out completely to enable him to stand. What a sorry sight he was, caked in mud, swollen, bleeding and forlorn. Left alone with him for half an hour, I wondered if he would survive.
The vet arrived and inspected Brodie’s injuries. Even I could see they were serious, with a long length of bare bone on the inside of his near hind. After cleaning him up, numerous other injuries came into view – his other hind fetlock slashed, skin ripped off from under his elbows, great sores on his inner thighs, his head and neck scraped raw. The vet said Brodie was too traumatised to treat other than emergency first aid at that time. He gave him penicillin and said he’d return to sedate him so we could inspect the damage more thoroughly.
Brodie was the perfect patient and greeted the vet like a buddy when he returned three days later. Brodie needed serious treatment and would take a long time to recover, if ever. There was no way to know at that stage whether nerves or tendons had been affected. He had lost a lot of blood. The vet recommended Brodie go to a horse hospital for an extended stay, or was put down. I couldn’t afford the former and didn’t want to do the latter. It was time decision time. I decided to take on his care myself.
The journey back to Tasmania must have been gruelling for Brodie. I arranged to have him transported on a truck to make the journey easier. Still he arrived home a very sick horse. Every three days for six months I scraped away the proud flesh and changed the bandage on his leg. He never once raised a leg or flicked his tail at me. He never laid back his ears or expressed any discomfort. He was never even lame.
After a year of recuperation Brodie was ready to go back into work. With enormous relief I came back from our first ride with hope that all would be well. By this time we had another horse so my husband came out with me. The two horses revelled in their outings. After completing another two 40km training rides we were once again ready to step up to a full 80km endurance ride.
But Brodie still had that buck. After dumping me twice more, I knew I couldn’t risk another fall with my own failing health. With much regret I offered Brodie for sale. I was delighted when Kim Noble agreed to take him on, regardless of his scarred leg and tendency to buck. Moving to Victoria under her care was the best thing that could have happened for Brodie. With great facilities including a horse pool and walker, and years of experience training race and endurance horses, Kim made Brodie bloom. All her family loved him and he was soon out competing.
In 2010 Brodie became points and distance Victorian champion in the lightweight division, successfully completing 1,052kms of competition that year.
Brodie’s story provided the inspiration for Brandy’s accident in Brumbies in the Mist.