Brigadier’s Story

Ros Sexton, WHOBAA Newsletter August 2010. Image: Brigadier and Ros.

In February this year I lost my much-loved stallion Brigadier. Some members will have met him and know his history. For those that don’t and might enjoy a good story, I’d like to tell you about my wonderful horse.

Brig was from Mt Riddock Station north of Alice Springs. Reg Wilson obtained him for me in 1987 shortly after I left the Northern Territory to move back to Canberra. Brig had a pretty hard time with mustering and arrived down south in a severe snow storm with a severe head injury and a dislocated jaw. He was only 15 months old and unfortunately I didn’t have my own property and agisted him at Bungendore on a 40 acre property a considerable drive from Canberra. He was ‘wild’ and traumatised and even if I could have caught him easily, the injury to his neck prevented me from keeping a halter on him. I persisted for about 4 weeks, pushing moistened balls of lucerne chaff into his mouth but I finally decided he was in such a bad way he needed to be euthanized. I called a vet I knew – it was still mid winter, and with no small paddocks and Brig just wouldn’t be caught. The vet said to call her when I caught him. It was a few days by the time I could catch him and he was slowly starving to death, but the vet friend had gone to work in Queensland for a couple of weeks. I was travelling horrendous klms to visit him and spend my days with him and he was slowly coming around and then one day there was a dreadful crack and he’d taken fright and hit his head on a cattle ramp. All of a sudden his jaw was sort of where it should be so then started his rehabilitation with me massaging his face and neck daily for hours on end and feeding him up.

We eventually moved to our own property in January 1989 and in the April we hosted the WHSA AGM. By then I’d done lots of ground work on Brig, but he’d not been ‘backed’. Peter Fischer offered to get on board – he loved Peter and I still have a lovely photo of Peter walking him around. Thereafter our daughter Romaney hopped on, followed by our daughter Rebecca who is physically disabled and that was it – Brig was broken in!

Over the years I took him to many horse activities and we did quite a bit of dressage but age wasn’t on my side and I felt he wasn’t being pushed to his full potential. He was great at mustering cattle and certainly demonstrated Waler versatility and my daughter took him to a number of one day events. Then we discovered endurance. I was fortunate to befriend Megan Woodrow who was more than happy to take Brig on and there followed many years of Megan and I travelling huge distances to most states in Australia. Brig just loved endurance and we regularly went to events most weekends for several years. We’d sometimes leave on a Thursday, camp out overnight and end up in northern NSW or southern Victoria especially for the State Championship events which were always 160km events.

Brig even did the Tom Quilty in Western Australia but by far our proudest moments were the two Shahzada Marathons that he completed. The event is over a distance of 400kms and horrendous terrain (and very often dreadful weather including floods one year). At these events we were always so grateful for the support we received from Waler friends and I still feel if we hadn’t had Lucy Weir to run him out at vetting, then possibly we wouldn’t have succeeded. Vetting is so strict at these events with the horses being weighed every day. Dear Brig loved it – as much food as he could eat, but such tremendous demands on him physically. I think at the end of the event Brig was the only horse to weigh more than when he started! In 2002 and 2003 Brig was in the top 10 distance and points horses in endurance in Australia.

Over the years I think Brig logged something like around 12,000 kms in training and competition. He was no speedster and rarely won events as the Australian bred endurance Arabs are just too good and too fast – he had a tremendous self-preservation streak and being a stallion he always liked to have a ‘bit left in the tank’, but he rarely vetted out either and on a number of occasions was awarded the fittest horse award. Another very proud moment where he really attracted attention was an international FEI 160km in the National Capital where he came 10th out of a field of around 90 of the best endurance horses that were competing to represent Australia overseas in Saudi Arabia.

Brig had a huge fan club even amongst the die-hard Arab endurance people and especially the endurance vets. Their kindness following Brig’s death in February has been so comforting and I like to think that Brig was responsible for promoting the Waler breed in endurance competition.

Brig was only 24 which is comparatively young for a Waler. He went in the best possible way, about to serve a rather stunning Waler mare ‘Mabel’ from Mabel Creek Station. Sadly, she didn’t get served as Brig suffered a ruptured aorta, I gather it’s not uncommon in stallions that have done excessive amounts of extreme endurance. He didn’t have a clue what had happened and it was all very quick for which I’m very thankful. Brig never ran with other horses as I couldn’t afford for him to have an accident when we were so busy travelling. So I only ever hand-served with him. He didn’t mind at all as he was so indulged and spoilt. But he never took advantage of all the spoiling and throughout his lifetime he was the most loving and well-behaved stallion. The perfect Waler.

This sort of event is always hugely distressing for any horse owner, but I’ve been overwhelmed at all the kindness shown to me by Waler friends and it hadn’t occurred to me that Brig had such a huge fan-club. I’m now getting my life and thoughts back on the straight and level and will be in touch with everyone who has taken the time to contact me. I’m now able to acknowledge the many positives, the chief one being how lucky I was to meet Reg Wilson when I was living in the Territory, getting to know and see so many beautiful Walers in the NT and subsequently owning the most beautiful horse in the world.

(Read another story about Brigadier here).

Posted by The Walers

Waler horse interested people joining us in our quest to document what is known about Walers by sending us stories,