by Linda Chamberlain
Jackie Parry and her husband, Noel, sold their home and their possessions and went on a long, treacherous journey in the Australian outback with five rescued ex-race horses, a few provisions and one tent.
Yes, it was both of those and so it was good to have a taste of the experience through Jackie’s book – A Standard Journey – without leaving the comfort of my fireside.
The book opens with drama – Jackie galloping to fetch a gun when one horse is hideously injured, silently confessing that she has bitten off more than she can chew. And this is before they have set out upon Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail; this is while they are still safely at home in a place called Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales!
I won’t tell you the outcome of that scene but they continue with their plan for adventure with horses who might have become dog food. They gain the trust of these Standardbred trotters – Charlie, Stevie, Dom, Spirit and Ned – they retrain them, get them fit and well. The horses are barefoot and manage the rocky terrain at home brilliantly. Three of them will be pack horses and need to get accustomed to the load they carry. Eventually, they are ready to go…
The trail follows old drovers’ routes and is one of the longest in the world, winding through stunning national parks, private land, over rivers and alongside a surprising number of dual carriageways. There are places to stop and camp but the sites are varied, might be unfenced or have little grass – none have the facilities of a campsite. Jackie and Noel took electric fencing with them. In fact, their horses had to carry everything they needed. Many people who tackle the National Trail do so with back-up vehicles delivering equipment or food to the next stop.
Jackie’s book has some well-deserved and excellent reviews on Amazon. Some readers warmed to the writing, many loved the antics of the horses and their ‘naughty’ moments and there was a universal feeling of closeness to this extraordinary couple.
For myself, I was struck by the people they encountered. Apart from one conflict with a local pony club, they were met with help and support; people who took them in when they were reaching exhaustion, a woman who fed them and took them shopping…and delivered some hay to their stopping ground.
Then there was a policeman who stopped 16 lanes of traffic so they could cross. I had been expecting snakes and kangaroos, of which there were plenty, but not traffic!
The weather seemed harsh – either cold and wet or blisteringly hot and threatening bush fires. In time, the horses needed face nets for the flies, the riders became sore, sometimes injured and eventually the equines needed hoof boots if they were to continue. They got some Cavallos for Stevie; the others had Easy Hoof Old Macs.
After I read the book, I asked Jackie to send me some photos. How well those horses looked! Their riders might have been struggling with tiredness and doubts but the equines were thriving on the hard work. Their coats were gleaming, they were lean and muscled. On the right is a ‘before’ picture of Charlie so you can see what I mean…
Now see the difference in these wonderful animals who might have become pet food.
Here they are at one of the stopping grounds having a look at Canberra.
If anyone tells you that barefoot horses lead dull and slippery lives (see my earlier blog about the showing row), just give them a copy of Jackie Parry’s wonderful book. Here’s the Amazon UK link and Amazon US. Jackie is donating part of the proceeds from A Standard Journey to a horse charity.
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A Barefoot Journey, is my honest and light-hearted account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares! A small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. The First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 30 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society.