The Wild Colt who Loved Humans: Australian Snowy Mountains, Wild Horses of the World
8th August 2018, Herd 1
After 14 hours of travel we arrived in the Snowy Mountains just on dawn, at the tail end of a blizzard. The wind roared and a light rain fell, so cold it felt like it could turn to snow again. Even at a lower altitude, near the Yarrangobilly river where snow rarely falls, a thick blanket of white covered the ground and the roads were icy. Driving slowly, so we could see through the swirling mist, we rounded a bend in the road and there before us stood two brumbies.
Having not expected to come across horses so soon, especially in such gloomy weather, we hurried to dress into snow clothes. As we pulled on waterproof outer layers and winter hiking boots we kept a wary eye on the horses, hoping that our fumbling wouldn't spook them before we had time to get our cameras out. But we needn't have worried; the bay held it's ground, while the chestnut advanced towards us with his ears pricked.
By the time we were dressed, this curious youngster stood just a few meters away. Bolding watching us, he inched closer as we settled in the snow and raised our cameras. But he didn't stop there; unlike most wild horses he stretched out and sniffed the lens of our cameras, then even further to lick our hands.
For over an hour he blessed us with his company, while the old bay mare grazed nearby, with one ear cocked. When Amanda ran down the hillside, she took flight, snow flying as she cantered around to join her young companion. Her unease didn't worry the colt though, who trotted after Amanda, unhappy to lose his newfound friend.
As we made our way back to the car we worried about this three-year-old colt, who lacked the flight and fight instincts which would keep him safe from harm. Later that day, while talking with park rangers we learnt he'd lived, mostly alone, in this region since he was a weanling; often stealing food from campers and even poking his head into tents. Locals had named him Yarrango and his companion Billy, after the river where they roamed.
If he was ever to come to harm, whether it be at the hands of humans, or being hit by a car, it would be humans at fault - by feeding him they had made him too curious of people and cars. Even more worrying, we'd heard they were considering specifically targeting him in future trappings to ensure he was removed from the wild because he'd become a hindrance; if so, it was likely he would end up at slaughter, like thousands of other Snowy Mountains brumbies that had been removed from the mountains.
This beautiful colt, who had undoubtedly tamed himself over the years, was a timely reminder of the importance of observing, rather than interacting with wild horses. By feeding him, humans have dimmed his wild instincts and because of it, his life and freedom are now at risk.
This is the first in a series of 12 blogs about the Snowy Brumbies; to read more visit www.kellywilson.nz/blog (keyword: Wild Horses of the World)