Brumbies in the Outback

Brumbies in the Outback

by Paula Boer
Brumbies in the Outback

Brumbies in the Outback

by Paula Boer

Paperback(Second edition)

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Ben and Louise discover that life on a remote cattle station is very different to their Snowy Mountains home. Missing her horse, Honey, Louise struggles to adapt to the outback. Ben has a graver concern: he is desperate to prove that Brandy, his stallion, is fit after a serious leg injury, otherwise he may be destroyed. From mustering and working cattle, to tracking and taming desert brumbies, both friends are challenged by their experiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781925759372
Publisher: IFWG Publishing International
Publication date: 08/15/2018
Series: Brumbies
Edition description: Second edition
Pages: 146
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Paula Boer has been a horse-lover since she learned how to ride at age nine. She has competed in many equestrian disciplines and successfully mustered and broken in brumbies. She is a regular contributor to horse magazines and anthologies of animal stories. She lives in Wales.

Read an Excerpt


A dust haze hovered above the metal yards, disturbed by thousands of cloven hooves churning up the dry ground.

As Louise opened the door of the horse truck, the heat greeted her like a solid wall. Flies swarmed in her face. Men waved their arms and dogs scurried around the outside of the railings, chivvying the cattle up the ramp onto the decks of the road train with a clatter. Two other trucks with three trailers each parked in line waiting to be loaded.

Louise had to shout above the noise of two thousand cattle lowing and what seemed to be twice as many corellas squawking in a nearby dead tree. The birds looked like white leaves on the silver branches, stark against the dusk sky. "What's happening?"

"The store cattle are going to market. They should make good prices too. Look at the condition they're in." Ben had lived on a farm all his life and happily shared his knowledge with Louise. His family ran livestock at Mirraburra in the high country of southern Australia, but nothing on the scale of Warringul, his Uncle Graeme's million acre cattle station out west.

Slamming the door of the old truck, Louise nodded in agreement, though the tall Brahman didn't look fat to her compared to the Herefords of the mountains. "Isn't it late to be loading them now?"

Ben shook his head. "The stockmen will have spent the day drafting out the ones they want. Travelling by night is cooler for the animals."

Louise followed Ben round to the tailgate of the horse truck and admired Brandy. The brumby stallion held his head high with ears pricked as he surveyed his new surroundings. His liver chestnut coat gleamed with health. Spying a mob of stock horses in a set of yards on the other side of the cattle, he gave a shrill whinny. The working horses didn't answer, though some looked across with interest at the new arrival. Nearly all chestnuts and bays, with only one grey, the working horses appeared sleek and fit.

Clipping a rope onto Brandy's head collar, Ben calmed him down with a stroke on his neck and a gentle voice. "Come on, let's find you somewhere safe to go."

Louise hurried up the ramp to close the gate behind the horse. A two-year-old bull snorted and pawed at the floor, keen to descend from the transport that had carried them all for the last nine hours. Brandy had been able to get off and stretch his legs when John, Ben's brother, had stopped for a break, but the bull couldn't be walked around like the stallion.

Snifter, Ben's three-legged blue heeler, bounded at Louise's legs. She stooped to scratch him behind the ears. "How did you get out? Did you jump out of the window?"

"Yeh, he always does that. I guess he wants to have a run too." Ben whistled and pointed for Snifter to sit away from the truck. The dog did as told, pink tongue lolling out to the side of his mouth as if he wore a huge grin. Ben had explained to Louise that the crippled dog wouldn't go mustering with them, but he hadn't wanted to leave his mate behind.

Brandy pranced down the ramp, his tail held up and coat glistening with a light sheen of sweat. He looked magnificent until Louise focused on the scar on his hind leg. The five-year-old brumby had become tangled in a fence six months ago; it had been a close call whether or not he would survive. Ben had started to ride him again, but the vet didn't know if the injured leg would stand up to serious work.

Louise thought of her own brumby, Honey, left at home. The young mare had made enormous progress with her education since Louise had started working and having lessons at Patti McGrath's. Louise had planned to spend the whole two weeks of the winter holiday working to earn money to buy Honey a new rug, but Ben had pleaded with her to come to his uncle's place with him instead. Now she didn't know how she'd be able to afford another winter of feed for her horse — her parents had told her she must earn Honey's keep or the mare would have to be sold.

She knew Ben needed a break from Tumbleford Farm, and next week would be his sixteenth birthday, so she had relented and agreed to come along. Since his father had damaged his spine when a bulldozer rolled on him during the summer floods, Ben had worked hard with the stock as well as going to school. She couldn't let her friend down and he seemed desperate for her to join him. Besides, she'd never been to the outback, and they hoped to see desert brumbies when they went to Simon's, a friend of his uncle's, later in the holidays. She wondered how different they'd be to the wild mountain horses she had come to love.

Sweat trickled down Louise's cheek from under her hat. She wiped it away with her sleeve, unable to fathom how the weather could be so different only a day's drive away from the snow of home. Not much had fallen so far this year, unlike last year when she had almost been caught in an avalanche. She shook her head at the memory; so much had happened since she met Ben two years ago when her family moved to the country.

"Louise! Are you coming or what?"

Louise realised Ben had taken Brandy over to the horse yards while she had been daydreaming. She hastened to raise and fasten the ramp. Signalling Snifter to follow her, she hurried along with the dog at her heels. She joined Ben as his Uncle Graeme greeted him and started looking over Brandy.

"He's turned into a fine horse. How's his leg?" Graeme ran his hands across the stallion's back, over his rump and down towards his stifle.

Ben grunted. "I haven't done much with him yet. The trav el might have made it sore again."

Louise had met Ben's uncle a few times and really liked him. She knew he bred his own stock horses and competed in many of the campdrafts around the area.

"Run him out then and we'll have a look." Graeme straightened up and pushed his hat back on his head.

Turning the brumby away from the yards, Ben encouraged the horse into a trot.

Louise watched for any tell-tale nodding of the horse's head as he trotted back towards them. There was no sign of lameness; Brandy strode out in fine form.

Graeme gave the stallion a slap on the neck. "He looks great. I can certainly use him over a couple of my mares while he's here. Give him a drink at that trough over there by the round yard. Come into the house once you've put him away."

* * *

As Ben chained up Snifter outside, Louise kicked off her boots and padded into the kitchen in her socks. The sight of a young woman cooking at a modern stainless steel stove took her by surprise, compounded by Ben rushing over and giving the girl a huge hug.

"Jacie! I'd hoped you'd be here." Ben grinned at the cook who responded by kissing him full on the lips.

The two swapped news of their journeys to Warringul, before Ben became aware of Louise still standing by the door. "Sorry, Louise. This is my cousin Jacinta. She normally lives with her mum up north."

Louise followed Ben's example by perching on a stool at t he long breakfast bar. "Hi, Jacie."

"It's Jacinta to you. Only my family and very best friends call me Jacie."

Taken aback, Louise apologised. It hadn't occurred to her that Graeme's daughter would be like this. The large-busted girl with short black hair wearing a lot of make-up didn't match her idea of a relative of Ben's. Nordid the modern brick house match what she'd imagined a station homestead to be like. She'd thought she'd be visiting a rambling old house with drooping verandahs and trailing trellises. Although a small garden did surround the house, most of the attention seemed to have gone into building the vast yards and outbuildings. Everything had a place, neat and tidy, with four-wheel-drives and other machinery lined up undercover.

Jacinta continued stirring the sauce she had bubbling on the cook top. "Ben and I grew up together. We're almost twins, but I'm five weeks older."

Ben laughed as he twirled a knife on its point on the mat in front of him. "Yeh, and she's a great rider. And a great cook. What's for dinner, Jacie? I'm starving."

Jacinta waved a sticky spoon at Ben. "Corned beef, of course. What else would I feed you on your first night here?"

Still being fourteen, Louise felt like a baby in comparison to this sophisticated girl. A pang of jealousy fluttered in her stomach at the cousins' close relationship. Then again, maybe it would be fun having another girl around; at least she rode. "Do you have your own horse?"

"Of course. I have three show horses at home with Mum; they're all really cool. And my old pony is still here. You get to ride him, because you probably can't cope with the young green stock Dad has." She turned to Ben and the hard look on her face softened. "I can't wait to see your stallion, but why did you keep a brumby? Most station owners shoot them out he re. They're a pest and eat all the feed we need for the cattle."

Louise listened while Ben told his cousin the story of how he and Louise had tried to save the mountain brumbies from being made into pet food, and how they ended up catching and breaking in Brandy and Honey. "Louise has ridden her mare without a saddle or bridle. She's going really well."

Glad that her friend had stood up for her, Louise felt better despite hearing that out here the brumbies weren't welcome. She thought Jacinta's comment about her inability to cope with green horses a bit ungenerous as she had broken in her own wild horse, but she knew she didn't have a lot of experience with young horses. Then she remembered that the last time she had seen Graeme, she had been having trouble with Honey. 'What's your pony like?'

Jacinta continued with her cooking, not bothering to look at Louise. 'Splash? He's great. I used to win all the pony club events on him. He loves to jump. He's really clever and sensitive, so don't kick him in the ribs or jab his mouth.' Her large bum wiggled as she stirred the sauce at speed.

Ben seemed oblivious to his cousin's tone and went on to share his dreams of building up a stud with Brandy. He and Jacinta discussed the merits of short backs and strong hocks, muscle types and heart rates, as the girl strained vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Louise felt left out but listened with interest. She could ask Ben later about some of the terms. Meanwhile, her stomach growled as the smells of the food reminded her she hadn't eaten since a sandwich in the truck hours ago.

Graeme strode into the kitchen and lifted the lid off a large pot. 'Looks good. What time will it be ready?'

'Now, Dad. We've been waiting for you. I'll dish up while you wash your hands.' Jacinta had already started carving the meat as she replied.

'John's over with the stockmen so save him a plate.' Wiping his hands, Graeme pulled another stool up to the counter.

Louise shuffled up against the wall to make room. She wanted to offer tohelp but didn't know what to do and sensed she'd only be in Jacinta's way.

Graeme tucked into his meal as soon as his daughter placed the plates in front of them. "We've all got an early start tomorrow. John'll take my ute back to Mirraburra and we're mustering Dune Paddock. Get a good night's sleep as it'll be a long day."


At five o'clock the next morning, Ben woke to a banging on his door. "Get up, lazy bones. Breakfast in fifteen minutes."

Remembering where he was, Ben threw back the covers and pulled on his old jeans. Jacie's footfalls echoed down the wooden boards of the hallway, reminding him of years before when they used to slide in their socks down the polished floor. Grinning at the memory, he buttoned up his shirt and ran his fingers through his hair.

The smells of sizzling bacon and a huge pot of coffee percolating on the stove made his stomach rumble. He could see Louise had already poured herself a steaming mug. "Did you sleep okay?"

Louise nodded as she buttered a piece of toast. "I only woke up when Iheard Graeme and Jacinta get up. How about you?"

"Yeh, like a lizard drinking, flat out." He chuckled as he perched on a stool and accepted a plate of hot food from his cousin.

"Dad's already eaten. He and John are rounding up the horses." Jacinta joined the other two at the bench and tucked into a huge plate of bacon, sausage, eggs and tomatoes.

Ben mumbled through a mouthful of his own meal. He swallowed and tried again. "I was hoping to go with him. I love riding the bikes in the dark through the paddock."

"You're mad. My horses at Mum's come to a whistle. That's much easier."

The pair bantered on about the start of the day. Having washed up his plate, Ben headed for the back door. "I want to check on Brandy. I'll meet you over at the cattle yards."

Snifter greeted his owner with huge bounds and a hot wet tongue as Ben pulled on his boots. Unlatching the gate, Ben let the dog bounce alongside him as he went to look over his stallion. Brandy had spent the night in the round yard to minimise the chance of him hurting himself with the excitement of a new place. The young brumby greeted him with a whicker as Ben approached. "What's up, fella? Can you smell the horses coming in?"

Ben could hear the motorbikes idling in the dark. He knew the horsepaddock covered almost a thousand acres, far too big to look for horses on foot. The stock horses knew the morning routine; as soon as the bikes went around them, they cantered towards the yards.

Snifter started to bark.

"Quiet! It's not your job here."

Brandy swung around to face the sound of pounding hooves as a dozen horses streaked for the yards. Ben's eyes had adjusted enough to see the moving shapes in the dawn, legs blurring and tails flying. A chain clanged on a gate as one of the men secured the horses. Ben strode past the cattle race to greet them.

A yelp followed by the snarls and growls of a dog fight made him stop. Ben looked down to check that Snifter followed at his side, but the blue heeler had disappeared. Ben realised with a sinking sensation in his stomach that his dog hadn't been barking at the horses, but at Graeme's station dogs that had run in behind the herd.

Breaking into a run, Ben raced across to the dog fight. He could see that a large cross-bred mastiff had Snifter by the neck as he struggled on the ground. Saliva sprayed as the dogs wrestled for a hold on each other.

Graeme reached the pair a moment before Ben. He grabbed his dog bythe collar but neither animal released their bite." Get the hose. Next to thetrough!"

Twisting the nozzle open as he turned on the tap, Ben shot a spray towards the fighting dogs. The sudden shock of cold water broke them apart. Snifter remained laying on the ground as Graeme dragged the larger dog away.

As Ben reached Snifter, the blue heeler sat up and started licking his wounds. Ben could see numerous places where the hair had been scraped off and blood seeped from a number of scratches. "You stupid dog. You should know better. Isn't only having three legs bad enough?"

Graeme returned from chaining up the mastiff. "How is he? Anything broken?"

Ben ran his hands over each of Snifter's legs, along his bac k and under his belly. "No, I don't think so. I expect he'll be very sore for a few days though. I'd better lock him in the garden again."

Clipping a horse lead rope onto the dog's collar, Graeme straightened up. "I'll take him. I need to change into dry clothes. You go and pick out a horse for yourself."

Ben hadn't noticed until then that Graeme's clothes clung to his skin. "Sorry, Uncle! I hadn't meant to get you."

"No problem. Go on, I'll look after Snifter. There's some wound cream in the kitchen. Where's Louise? She can start tacking up Splash."

The dog fight had taken all other thoughts from Ben's mind. "I expect she's helping Jacie clean up after breakfast."

"Alright, I'll send them both out. Don't worry about your dog. That one of mine always dominates visitors, but it's more show than aggression." Graeme turned away and encouraged Snifter to follow with a tug on the rope. The dog had trouble walking with only one front leg and one hind leg injured.

Ben couldn't bear to watch Snifter as he struggled along without a whimper. "I'll take him, Uncle Graeme."

The roar of a helicopter starting its engine drowned out Graeme's answer. When his uncle waved him away and pointed to the yards, Ben could see the young horses spook at the strange noise. Understanding that he needed to help the stockmen, he gave Snifter a final glance and hurried across to the yards.

* * *

Dust from the horses' hooves clouded the scene in the early morning light. Ben felt his pulse race in time to the throb of the quickening helicopter's propeller. The excitement of a muster overrode his concern for his dog, his horse and his father. Grabbing a halter, he entered the round yard to catch the chestnut mare that he had been assigned. She threw up her head and tried to duck away from him as he approached.


Excerpted from "Brumbies in the Outback"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Paula Boer.
Excerpted by permission of IFWG Publishing International.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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