A Standard Journey

A Standard Journey by Jackie Parry

Noel & Jackie's Journeys

As I galloped down the mountain to find a gun to shoot one of our horses, I realised that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.
My borrowed horse sensed the fear as we plunged down the mountain trail. My mind focussed on the gun, a necessity to terminate excruciating pain. There was a broken horse on the ridge. He had released a knowing groan as his fetlock snapped.
Plunge, jump, ford – I squeezed my aching legs around my brave mount. We both expelled urgent pants from our flared nostrils. I have to find a gun!
Sweat mingled with tears that streamed down my face, stinging my eyes. Intense heart-pumps banged in my chest, my horse’s heart thrummed beneath my calf muscles. Time slowed as we hurtled through treacle.

travelling in style

Living With Horses

I cursed Noel - it was his idea. Not to shoot the horse, but living with horses twenty four-seven while trekking along the Bicentennial National Trail. We had rescued five lost beasts that could have been destined for dog meat. Over many months of struggle, the seven of us would transform into a team.
Noel and I rode out the sorrows and we indulged in the joys. We cried, laughed and quaked with fear in equal measure, as our ordinary animals turned into extraordinary ‘war-horses’.
Along the way we changed. We learned to intuit the invisible, and were shocked at the unpredictable transformation in our personalities.

travelling in style

Horse back riding is painful

There were days of unleashed awe and amusement, many annoyances, and much anxiety. Frustrations and fear became a regular companion. At times there was disgust and displeasure. For our boys there was all-absorbing pride; their unique playfulness smoothed out all disgruntled emotions. There was a bewildering honesty in their happiness. They had permission to ‘be themselves’, warts and all. There was near tragedy, but many triumphs.
The realisation that I hadn’t ridden for twenty years and Noel for forty was quite sobering. The comprehension that we were middle aged became a painful one, literally.
There were days I couldn’t stand. Swatches of purple bruises throbbed below my skin, several surprising falls left me raw, old and pathetic. Sometimes the weighty fatigue and my chaffed, complaining body took second place to the privilege of viewing Australia’s hidden gems.

our travelling companions

Green Beautiful Australia

The expanse of green that identifies Australia took my breath away. Unlike the rolling countryside of England, these plains were flat, yellow, tough – no-nonsense lands. Flexing its muscles, the Murrumbidgee River raced down to our feet, wide, strong and active. So vastly alone, the horizon stretched out before us inducing sensations of freedom, spirit and hope. There was nothing to remotely hint at which decade we were in, just the hissing whisper of the breeze, creaking leather and twenty hoofs padding on the grass. I had been bedevilled by my emotions, guilt, worry, and responsibility. Momentarily they had faded away, allowing me to revel in nature’s show and our combined achievements.

Three horses carried our worldly possessions; the other two were burdened with us. Not only were we modern day cowboys, we were bush cooks, farriers, vets, home-builders, counsellors (to each other and the horses). We became support, grooms, fence-constructors, navigators, seamstress, leather-smith, communication technicians, rope workers, and cleaners.

The joy of changing those lost boys into strong, confident ‘war-horses’ was overwhelming. In the beginning, they wouldn’t dip their hoofs into a puddle. Imagine our emotions when they tackled steep ravines, encountered aggressive kangaroos and ploughed through deep rivers.


Saving More Horses

Together with the heady mix of success and failure, unexpected emotions tore through my fatigue. I indulged in the enormity of my responsibility, of caring for five big horses in the bush. I’d put those strong boys first, generating more work and angst for Noel and I.

Horses love you back. I’ve always known this. But, now I’ve witnessed and been part of a bond that is all engulfing. Living with horses twenty four-seven is different from a day to day relationship. What’s more, it surprised Noel. His comments of, ‘we have to remember they are just horses,’ are long gone – replaced with tears of longing to be back with our family.

I’ve learned that with patience and kindness anything is possible. People doubted our sanity when we gave homes to trotters, some of which had never been ridden. While Noel and I didn’t fare well on the journey, those boys were nothing short of magnificent.
By the end of the trek, Noel and I needed rescuing. But, we’d learned a lot. I know my body doesn’t need meat, and bruises are so much more painful in your forties!

I tasted failure, but threw adversity aside to succeed - it’s made me stronger. I know I’ll rescue more horses. I’ll love them, and my heart will break all over again when I find them their forever home.
I’ve learned you don’t need much to survive. And that until I have travelled someone else’s journey I cannot know how tough or complex it is.
I’ve learned to yell! And I now know how tough working cowboys are.


A Standard Journey

‘A Standard Journey’, the story of our horses, will be published in May 2015. It’s a heart-warming and hysterical story. I’ll donate a percentage of proceeds, from this book, to the SPPHA (The Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association NSW). They work hard re-homing retired trotters that are otherwise in the queue to be put down; beautiful horses that are usually young, burnt out, but have so much to offer.

And, did we shoot the horse? Well the whole a story will be told in May, a story that will help save more horses. Join me on the thrilling ride... and maybe you’ll read about a true-life miracle. In the meantime you can read of our adventures on the high seas on our blog Noel & Jackie's Journeys. I recently published a ‘powerful and inspirational’ story called ‘Of Foreign Build – From Corporate Girl to Sea-Gypsy Woman’.
Of Foreign Build on ReadersGazette
If you search for it on Amazon, you can have a sneak peek at the first few chapters.

Breakout Boxes:
‘The Bicentennial National Trail is Australia’s premier long distance, multi-use recreational trekking route, stretching an extraordinary 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown in tropical far north Queensland to Healesville in Victoria.

Variously known as ‘the BNT’, the National Trail or simply ‘the Trail’, the Bicentennial National Trail follows the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and the Eastern Escarpment offering self reliant distance trekkers a uniquely Australian adventure. As it winds along Australia’s eastern seaboard the BNT reveals some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The Trail provides access through some of Australia’s wildest, most inaccessible country and provides endless fascination for those interested in our unique fauna and flora.’
Visit Bicentennial National Trail

SPPHA: Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of NSW. ‘Our main goal is to promote the Standardbred horse in equestrian activities beyond their lives in Harness Racing, and to find homes for them when they finish their racing careers.’

To see more of Jackie Parry's work, click the link to her website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details Visit Noel & Jackie's Journeys.

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As I galloped down the mountain to find a gun to shoot one of our horses, I realised that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. My borrowed horse sensed the fear as we plunged down the mountain trail. My mind...

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