It began with Stock Horses. Developed in the early 1800s, the Australian Stock Horse is this country’s own creation. Possibly the world’s most versatile horse … it evolved in response to the needs of Australia’s explorers, troopers and early settlers for strong, agile horses able to travel long distances day after day.
The breed’s basic foundations were in Cape Horses imported from South Africa, themselves a combination of Dutch, Spanish, Barb and Arabian blood. These were bred with strong Thoroughbred “stayers” … frequently Melbourne Cup runners, even winners. A dash of Welsh Cob was added – a horse referred to as the “gentleman’s gentleman”. As time passed, this produced an exceptional riding animal, standing around 15hh, close-coupled with a well laid-back shoulder, deep chest, unbeatable stamina and faultless stock instincts.
During World War I, more than 120,000 of these tough, game bush-bred horses were sent to join the Allied armies in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. And in modern times, 120 Stock Horses captured the attention of a live audience of 110,000 and 3.8 billion viewers worldwide, with their enthralling performance during the Welcome Segment of Opening Ceremony at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Their steady temperaments are renowned throughout the horse world: not much can make a stock horse lose his nerve, and anything taught him stays with him for life. The first Stock Horse set foot on Kingbilli in 1981, and Georgina was riding them by the ripe old age of 3. Many of these pioneers stayed with us into their 30s, with their handsome kids and grandkids roaming the hills beside them.
After a quarter of a century working only Stock Horses and their crosses, Georgina wanted a challenge. So as our broodmares aged – and there were no goats to be rounded up – she decided to put replacing the Stock Horses on hold to give her the opportunity to try out another breed. German Warmbloods. Now, they’re a different story.
Warmbloods are the catwalk supermodels of the horse world. These are the creatures you see competing on the world stage in dressage, showjumping and cross-country competitions. As tall as a Clydesdale but as lithe as a Thoroughbred, these elite sporthorses are not for the faint-hearted.
By 2006 Georgina decided she simply HAD to have one. And so came Graffiti.
When 17.3 hands of rippling black muscle stepped off the truck, she took everyone’s breath away. A pedigree Westphalian and Head Studbook mare, Graffiti is nothing short of magnificent. Weighing in at nearly 600 kilograms, she is not something to be trifled with… and of course, being one of Georgina’s pets, she just has to be a little bit “different”.
Graffiti is emotional. That’s putting it mildly. She’s also clumsy – and that is too. Certainly, she can collect herself into a showstopping trot and float across the paddock with the grace of a ballerina… when she’s concentrating. When she’s not, and, as Georgina calls it, “that enormous a***” of hers swings around, heaven help anyone or anything in its path. Not a day goes by when there isn’t another rail off the fence, a gate hanging off its hinges, a shed wall hitting the ground or a hapless driver ground to a halt in the middle of the driveway because yes, by the way, Graffiti likes to lick cars. It’s just her thing.
But in between stopping traffic, destroying structures and putting Georgina almost in hospital on more than one occasion… Graffiti’s actual job was supposed to be producing beautiful black babies. Well, she has other ideas about children, and after some years of heated (and not inexpensive) discussions of the matter, she and Georgina have reached an uneasy truce whereby Graffiti has been told if she refuses to behave like a star she’ll have to live like a Stock Horse, and join the mob. Neither she nor the mob seem overly impressed by this arrangement.
Meanwhile, in 2009, Graffiti acquired a baby “sister”. Born Princessca – but Nessie for short – and transported all the way from Brisbane, she too is a big black warmblood, although this time of the Hanoverian variety: a more modern type, in contrast to Graffiti’s old-school frame. Rising 6, she’s over 16hh but lighter of build, more aware of her dimensions and less prone to fits of pique. Her role in life is yet to be determined, but her sweet countenance conceals all manner of mischief, as she thrusts her soft nose into everything she encounters, from car windows to pockets to boxes of tools.
So, whilst our Stock Horse mares roll their eyes and keep to grazing … and Georgina’s ever faithful Stock Horse gelding, Razzle Dazzle, gazes adoringly after Graffiti’s mighty shadow … the horsewoman herself mutters and returns to mending fences. Word on the wind is Kingbilli will be returning to breeding Stock Horses in the not too distant future … watch this space!