Saving the Snowy Brumbies

Vicki, Kelly and Amanda Wilson head to Australia for their latest wild horse adventure.

Each year thousands of Australia’s legendary Brumbies are aerially culled or captured and sold for slaughter to manage the world’s largest population of wild horses. When the Wilson Sisters hear of government plans to cull 90 per cent of the Snowy Mountain Brumbies, they eagerly sign up for the Australian Brumby Challenge to learn more about these iconic horses’ desperate plight.


Assigned ponies so small that even the slaughterhouses have rejected them, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda realise their Brumbies' future lies with much younger riders. Will these Brumbies embrace the many changes ahead of them, and can the sisters find children they trust to ride recently wild ponies?



In Australia, an estimated 400,000 to 1 million Brumbies roam wild and well over 100,000 are culled each year. Almost all of these are either aerially culled (shot from helicopters) or sent to slaughter after mustering or trapping, an unsustainable solution that barely controls their numbers.


The Snowy Brumbies, which this book is based on, are a genetically isolated group in New South Wales that represent only a very small percentage of Australia’s Brumby population. About 800 of the 6000 horses in Kosciuszko being culled each year through the use of passive trapping.


Another 4000 wild horses live in Queensland and Victoria. Most of the rest, estimated at anywhere between 390,000 and 990,000 roam throughout 370 million acres in the sparsely populated and harsh environment of the Northern Territory. (The higher estimate comes from the government, which has the job of managing the wild populations; Brumby activists claim that the lower estimate is more realistic.) Privately owned stations, some hundreds of thousands of acres in size, have become the home of the majority of Australia’s wild horses; vast expanses of desert land, barely able to sustain stock, mean that in severe droughts the Brumbies often die in huge numbers from starvation or lack of water. In an attempt to control numbers, the state and federal governments send out helicopters to do counts; if a particular ranch is overrun then a letter of compliance is sent out demanding that the owners remove a set number of animals, often numbering in the thousands. Refusing to comply means that the helicopters will return for an aerial cull and a hefty bill will be sent to the land-owners. Instead mustering the herds and trucking them to the abattoir which is a more cost-effective solution, but in some regions this isn’t always possible due to a lack of road access and thousands of Brumbies are shot down from the skies.


Unlike the genetically isolated herds in the Snowy Mountains, the Desert Brumbies are a range of completely different types, sizes and colours. Brumbies of every colour, including pinto, are often seen and horses as large as 16.2 hands have been caught. In the early twentieth century, some station owners purposely released pedigree sires into the wild herds to improve the quality and size of the horses, making them more desirable as ridden horses for use as stockhorses and in the cavalry. After World War I the demand for ridden horses decreased, and in the following years machines increasingly replaced horses in farming. Across Australia, unwanted horses were often set free, increasing the feral populations that were first recorded in Eastern Australia in the early 1800s.


Like in America, where the wild horses are descended from animals brought to the New World by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, only the sturdiest horses survived the initial trip by ship to Australia, resulting in a hardy horse that thrived in difficult conditions. In just the 100 years since they first escaped or were released into the wild, their numbers escalated rapidly and they have now become the largest wild horse population in the world. Their situation is not unlike that of Australia’s population of feral camels. Like the Brumbies the camels were also shipped to Australia during the nineteenth century, to provide transport during the construction and colonising of central and western Australia. They were released to turn wild at a similar time as the horses, for similar reasons; and being well adapted to desert conditions their numbers also grew rapidly. At their peak, in 2008, the number of camels was believed to have reached over 1 million (although this figure was later revised downwards); the following year, $A19 million was set aside for a four-year project to reduce the population to 300,000 through a mixture of aerial culling, ground culling and mustering. Unsurprisingly, feral camel numbers are on the rise again.

Reviews from Readers

I have read Saving the Snowy Brumbies twice now and LOVE it! You have honestly done such credit to the whole subject - I am blown away. I cried at the Thor part (I cry every time I think of him, but you wrote so beautifully about it!) and I LOVED the part where you mentioned that you decided that due to the Brumbies size, bridleless etc and fancy were out the window - you were concentrating on preparing kids ponies. That might seem minor to many people, but from my perspective, for you to ditch ego completely and just focus wholly on the welfare and future of your Brumbies... well, that made me cry too! – Colleen, Victorian Brumby Association


Love them reading saving the snowy brumbies now and have trouble putting it down! Well written love the photographing and generally just a fantastic read! - Anna


Kelly I have read all your books and have started The Snowy Brumbies. I have been so inspired by your books. I have ridden for more That 40 years and now know in my heart we’re I know I want and need to focus my energies, and that is with rescue horses and hopefully a chance to follow the Brumbies in Australia. Your book are an inspiration not just to the young equines out there, but also to the oldies. Thank you so much for being down to earth Kiwi girls. – Jenny


I loved the Saving the Snowy Brumbies. Such an amazing insight to their plight and the wonderful work Colleen and others like yourselves are doing to help them. Reading these books makes people like me who’s love for our horses want to do more and open the eyes and hearts of all people. The books are amazingly descriptive and the photos are beautiful. Well done ladies. - Julie


Saving the Snowy Brumbies is my all time favourite book, I loved it so much. The journey you take me on while I am reading makes me feel as if I was there every moment. Your beautiful books make me smile, cry and laugh. The adventure you took me on through both words and photographs was nothing short of incredible. You Vicki and Amanda have inspired and motivated me through every aspect of my life. You have taught me how to work hard, try my best and believe in myself. Thank you for everything you have done, not just for horses but for people. Through your books you have taught me so much about horses, riding, challenge, success and life in general. I honestly treasure that with all my heart. - Pasha


I just wanted to say a huge thanks for writing such wonderful books - I am a huge fan, having read all of your books , I have just started reading Snowy Brumbies after getting it on Friday from Paperplus and can't put it down !! - Emma


I have read all of your books and think the things you have achieved are amazing!!!!! You and your sisters have done the impossible!!! Thanks for reading!!! - Cara Mcleod, 11


Kelly I have read all your books and have started The Snowy Brumbies. I have been so inspired by your books. I have ridden for more than 40 years and now know in my heart where I want and need to focus my energies, and that is with rescue horses and hopefully a chance to follow the Brumbies in Australia. I came back to NZ for a few months thinking of re-settling here, but have come to realise Australian is we’re I belong. I return next week and the goal is to find a rescue centre up near the Sunshine Coast. Then further explore what I can do to help the Brumbies. I also plan to head to the US to see the Mustangs. As I said your book are an inspiration not just to the young equine out there but also to the oldies. Thank you so much for being down to earth Kiwi girls. My path is now set and on course to new adventures. - Jenny


Well written, love the photographing and generally just a fantastic read! - Anna


My Mum bought me Saving the Snowy Brumbies for my birthday and I haven't put it down. It is wonderful to read about all the hard work you put into training these lovely brumbies. I also got the chance to watch Amanda and Ballarat, and Kelly and Shyla perform at Equtiana in the Australian Brumby Challenge! - Willow


My favourite of your books is Saving the Snowy Brumbies! I love this book so much, I’ve probably read it over 100 times!! I love the journey with your horses, the photos, and the way the book is written!! - Lily McLeod 



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