From the heart of a young girl to the heart of Australia’s rugged outback, author Jesse Blackadder takes readers young and old on the journey of tracking the legendary wild brumby.
Based in Western Australia, on the real life pursuit of Middle Eastern sheiks to export the brumby for their capability as endurance racing horses, the story follows 12-year old Rachel and her father in their attempts to capture only the most suitable, beautiful stallions. Even brumby advocate, Libby Lovegrove, of Wild Horses Kimberley, makes an appearance.
As expected, Rachel wants one of her own and falls in love with the magnificent “Paruku”. Father and daughter tensions arise in the struggle for independence and freedom. Part coming of age, part questioning the future of the brumby in a world where desire for possession and the need to make a living come head to head, this book brings myriad issues to the fore, raising questions about the fine line between fiction and existing cultural practices and attitudes that render the brumby vulnerable to politics, economics and human whim.
What passes for natural horsemanship in the story is a bit limited with a brumby being chased in a round pen given their sensitive natures. Horsemen Nev Barrass and Carlos Tabernaberri would have provided better points of reference. Yet that was minor in comparison to what I see as a missed opportunity to really go at the heart of the matter, which is the inherent value of the horse in and of the wild, as is befitting any species that exists alongside rather than opposition to human needs and desire. Many people in Australia whose heritage over many generations involves a close relationship with the horse as partner and friend understand this symbiosis and continue to live it whether in the outback or high country.
Is that asking too much of a book meant for young people? Or is the question to be asked of any book that tells a tale inspired by real events – are you sending young people the right message as opposed to the wrong one?
Perhaps I’m waiting for the teller of tales to come along who will give real life accounts of those who don’t give up on the horse. Who take the bigger risk to break out of formulaic prose and paradigms and give humanity the courage as big a horse in order to defend it and maybe not always leave it up to young girls to do the heavy lifting.
Kudos to Blackadder however for giving it a go, making it ever clear that no matter who you are, wild horses still have a grip on our collective conscience, hearts and souls.