Lauren Hughes.
Lauren Hughes.

WATCH: She's 17 and taming wild brumbies

JOE Hughes said he wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing hundreds of brumbies were killed and that he could have saved them.

The Cobar horseman has now worked out a plan so his family can help rehome wild horses from the Kosciusko National Park brumby cull.

The NSW Government's Draft Wild Horse Management plan will result in 3000 horses being culled or removed from the Snowy Mountains within five to 10 years.

Joe, armed with a lifetime of experience training horses and four talented children, is now taking on as many brumbies as he can to break in and eventually sell.

Thus, taking the horses off death row whilst creating a new business for himself.

"We have the facility, the land and the know how to do it," he said.

"How could I sleep at night knowing all of that and not pursue it?

"It's better to see a horse being trained and go on to become someone's champion companion then see it get knocked and chucked down the shoot."

Joe's Belarabon Station, situated about 110km outside of Cobar, has run sheep and cattle herds in the past.

The property is in recovery mode after enduring three years of drought.

Because of the adverse conditions, and top prices, the Hughes family chose to sell the last of their cattle, leaving them in prime position to take on new stock.

The family has already started doing ground work with some brumbies which arrived last week.

They are hoping to take on between 75 - 175 wild horses per year.

In Joe's experience, a brumby, when trained correctly, can be just as good as any other horse.

"There is no difference from a wild station horse to a wild brumby," he said.

"One might have had a proper stallion over it, but there is nothing to say the old brumby stallion hadn't joined them up anyway."

Joe will pay the costs to truck the horses from the Snowy Mountains to his property, and for each brumby to be vet checked.

He said the brumbies would suit his training methods.

"It's not like they are a full-on psychopath; it's just that they have been born free," he said.

"I prefer to break in horses that have never been touched before.

"It means that I walk into the yards and the horse walks into the yards and we are both starting out fresh."

Once trained, the brumbies will enter the horse market.

"I think there will be people who buy them, that are sort of doing what we are doing; buying them because they feel it's a way to save a horse," he said.

"We will be able to identify when training them if they will be suited for events."

Joe is now managing the Facebook site, 4BP Horses, which will soon be used as the platform to sell his stock.

"We will keep posting as we train the horses, so people can see what they look like," he said.

"We will aim for a quick two or three-day sale, just to keep everything turning over."

Joe broke in three horses for a stock camp when he was 13-years-old, and has been training them ever since.

About 10 years ago, he was involved in a near-fatal crash which inspired him to teach his four children - Isla, Lauren, Grace and Henry - how to train horses using his method.

"I had a terrible motorbike accident years ago... I broke my back and I broke my chest in 74 different places, both my hands, bruised my brain, broke my lung, broke my hip… I was pretty much written off," he said.

While slowly recovering, Joe became determined to pass on his knowledge to his kids.

Still with a steel frame, Joe went to the yards with his children and told them how to train horses, step by step.

This was when his daughters learnt to break in for the first time.

Isla, the eldest, has now moved away working on another station as a governess in the Northern Territory, but Lauren and Grace still work with horses at home as much as they can.

"Lauren has a light touch… they both have a beautiful infinity with horses."

No fear in young trainer

THERE will be no fear rushing through Lauren Hughes's veins as she steps into a round yard with a wild brumby - just excitement.

"I just love the idea of what we are doing," Lauren (pictured below) said.

"I am super excited.

"I think the horses will be challenging, but I don't think they will be unbreakable.

"I will definitely be more cautious and aware of everything they are doing."

Although Lauren is only 17 years old, she has racked up almost a decade's worth of experience breaking in horses.

In many of the 4BP's videos, she is trotting or cantering a horse using nothing but a piece of bailing twine around its neck to steer.

"I think I broke my first one in when I was about 10," she said.

"When you can interact with a horse… it's almost like talking to a person.

"You are working with them, it's not stressful and it's easy and simple.

"You are always learning when you are breaking in horses."

She said there is no better feeling than teaching a green horse something new.

"It's the best feeling in the world.

"The horse I am working with at the moment, when I lean back and put my legs forward he will back up, he will automatically take four steps. So the horse counts the steps.

"So he full-on stops, then backs up. It's so rewarding.

"(Stopping like that) is not an easy thing to do, it's not super hard either, but when you can teach them… it's just the best feeling."

Lauren is currently doing a Certificate III in agriculture through TAFE.

New training methods

JOE Hughes's training methods set him apart from others in the horse industry.

The only equipment his family used to break in a horse was a six-foot rope, he said.

"We don't have rollers, we don't have mouthing gear, and we don't do anything the conventional way at all," he said.

Generally it took eight hours for him to break in a horse.

Joe uses body language, like clapping, to make the horse face him.

All of Joe's horses can be ridden without a bridle, being steered just by the movement of the rider, he said.

The methods have now been seen around the world, as Joe regularly uploads videos of his horses to YouTube and Facebook.

"We realised we were doing something special when horse trainers in America and from all over the world were posting questions asking how we were doing it," he said.

The family has a knack for making horses quiet, and the girls regularly crawl underneath their horse's bellies, through their legs and dismount by sliding off their rump.

The family are also putting the call out for sponsorship in their horse-saving operation.

Joe said this would allow sponsors to have their names on their Facebook and YouTube videos.
 



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