Angela Tiede, 2023. Image: Advertising sign at the Farm entrance.
I have been visiting Collingwood Children’s Farm with Walers for the Horses’ Birthday Family Day on the first Sunday in August since 2006. It is always a great day out for Walers and visitors alike, with hordes descending right on opening time at 9.30am to see the horses and educational display. An early start for us to get there in time to set up as the Farm is in the inner city of Melbourne, approximately an hour down the freeway from home, with my ute packed up with display boards and fixtures, and horses spruced up and gear organised, the day before the big event.
The Farm is an amazing oasis on a bend of the Yarra River, also featuring a bicycle path winding past it for miles along the river from which the Farm Cafe can be accessed without needing to pay entry to the Farm grounds. Well patronized by walkers and bikers galore, and ourselves for a much-needed coffee and muffin once we are all set up, it is a hive of activity that needs to be carefully navigated past as we drive out shortly before closing time.
Waler mares Piperita (bay) and Coolibah (grey) were the stars of the day, patiently accepting attention from a constant stream of visitors young and old, in the beautiful old stables with plenty of fresh air, daylight and room to move. Prams, bikes and dogs all come through, never a dull moment and rarely a quiet period so photos are really difficult to get as the aim is to leave out all the people so the photos can be used.
Twice during the day we hold the crowds back to parade the horses in the arena, about a 50 metre walk from the stables. A bit of a talk about Walers, showing them in action, taking questions from the audience, and then a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday to the Horses accompanies these outings. It used to be that a birthday ‘cake’ for the horses was made by the Young Farmers so that visitors could feed the horses a bit after singing the birthday song, but COVID changed all that and now it is a much simpler affair. Horses are still patted but all that sugar is off the agenda (actually the carrot and molasses concoctions of earlier years had already given way to just pieces of carrot and apple…) It always was a challenge to get those children who volunteered to offer a bit of ‘cake’ to actually be brave enough to see it through, with many a piece ending up on the ground as shaking hands lost bravado at the last minute.
I am lucky enough to be supported by the Corso family, who bring Cooli and Pipi and their two young boys along for the day (and their dog Bingo too), working hard to ensure as many people as possible can talk to them and the horses whilst keeping everyone safe.
An important aspect of the day is educating visitors and staff about our rare breed Walers and horse history. The Farm is a well-known attraction and a broad range of people are a captive audience with the stables being a big feature on the way to and from visiting the other animals and gardens on the Farm, with the best outlook to the landscape panorama along the bend in the river just for good measure.
For some Melbourne families it is a very regular destination, so interesting for the kids and so much room to run around in, with activities throughout the day such as watching the cow being milked, the sheep and goats being fed, patting the guinea pigs, gawking at the ponies as they parade along the many paths and ways filled with people, and much more. And checking out the visiting Walers on special occasions of course!
It is always an enjoyable, productive and heart-warming day, and truly wonderful to have the opportunity to showcase the Walers at such a unique and appropriate venue. QR codes on some of the display boards make for easy access to this website too, a comprehensive resource for anyone interested in our horse history, and Waler breed in particular. See some of you there next year I reckon!