Learning Courage From The Greatest Teacher

[3-Minute Read + Activities] For a child's lifetime, my horse Peppy tried to teach me how to stand my ground and not be afraid. One day in a cinema, the lesson finally sunk in.

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I Learned Courage From The Greatest Teacher

For a child’s lifetime, my horse Peppy tried to teach me how to stand my ground and not be afraid. One day in a cinema, the lesson finally sunk in.

PHOTO: Peppy and me circa 1980. For a child’s lifetime, Peppy tried to teach me how to stand my ground and not be afraid.

My Childhood Hero

They say you should never meet your heroes lest they fall short of your expectations. That wasn’t the case this week.

Last Saturday, Sean and I packed up the horse truck and travelled to the Snowy Mountains. We had our awesome foursome onboard – Snippet, Starfire, Cambeigi and Pegasus. We planned to ride for five days on the high plains of the Snowy Mountains and live a childhood dream. It was there I encountered my childhood heroes.

My life with horses follows the same story curve as many little girls. At four, I begged my father for a pony, who unwisely said I could have one when I turned eight. I think he hoped the fad would pass or his commitment forgotten.

Ha! He got that wrong.

Near my 8th birthday, we unloaded a chestnut stallion called Peppy from a horse float. Gypsy, a bay mare, joined him a couple of years later, leading to the arrival of Dusty, Mindy, Coco and Rocket.

The horses lived at our family farm in the remote Mount Royal ranges in NSW. The landscape there is steep and obscured by thick stands of timber. A dozen families lived around us in modest shacks, scattered along rutted dirt roads.

Learning to Stand My Ground

While other kids spent their out-of-school hours mastering Frogger and Donkey Kong, I learned how to stay stuck on a horse. Peppy had a habit of bolting when we turned toward home. He always preferred to take the direct route, snaking his way through the trees at high speed. My skinny little legs gripped hard as the momentum flung me from left to right. Some days I failed, and Peppy arrived home before me.

A small mob of brumbies roamed the mountains near our farm. I hated crossing their path when riding, especially on Peppy. The mob’s stallion snorted and thumped his hooves to display his superiority. The boss mare then circled, adding her aggression to the mix, and the rest of the mob stepped into the fray.

Peppy was no lightweight and refused to yield to the intimidation. Whereas, all I wanted was to run for the safety of a fenced paddock. Peppy snorted and kicked. I flailed my arms and screamed while yanking on the reins to get Peppy to leave the fight.

For a child’s lifetime, Peppy tried to teach me how to stand my ground and not be afraid. He showed me the ways of nature and the source of power, but I refused to see them. That is, until one afternoon in a cinema when the high plains of Kosciusko swept across the screen.

Tom Burlinson cracked his whip and chased a mob of brumbies down that terrible descent. Horses, steep mountains, brumbies, canny stockman; it told the story of my life with a big wack of courage in the mix. The images burned into my mind the true measure of a horseman.

During the months and years that followed, I set about becoming a horseman the calibre of Jim Craig. I taught myself to train horses and chase brumbies and dreamed of finding a winner. That never happened, but the understanding and courage I gained will stay with me forever.

PHOTO: The joy of sharing the high plains. Snippet loved the adventure as much as me.

A Forgotten Spirit of Wildness and Freedom

We saw maybe 500 horses as we rode the trails. If you didn’t look for the distinctive characteristics of each mob, you could claim to spot 1200 or more. They traversed the plains at high speed, watching us and then running to escape our presence.

Every day in the Snowy Mountains, we had car-bound folks ask if we had seen brumbies. They hung from car windows, videoing us and waving. They hankered for even the slightest interaction with horses. Until I rode around those plains, I didn’t realise how much other people worshipped the brumbies too.

I suspect the brumbies call a forgotten spirit of wildness and freedom from deep within our souls. They are our living history, remnants from a braver life. As they run free on the plains, they call up the ghosts of the people we used to be.

The eradication of the Kosciusko brumbies is underway, and soon we will lose that soul connection to our past. As we packed up the truck and drove down the mountain, I felt deep sorrow. Today’s decisions leave footprints into the future, and I doubt our grandchildren will thank us for the destruction occurring under the guise of conservation.

The Mount Royal brumbies now only exist in faded photos. They were victims of a spinless campaign of aerial shooting and baiting. Without the fame of the Kosciusko brumbies, they had no chance of survival.

Let’s hope it’s not too late for the Kosciusko mobs. Perhaps, one day, those beloved brumbies will inspire the decision-makers to find their courage too.

PHOTO: This courageous 3 year old girl from western Queensland shared our campground. When she is grown, will she thank us for eradicating the brumbies?

Activities to Build Your Courage

Use the following journaling activities from The Route to Unstoppable to strengthen the foundations of your courage.

9 – Scary Stories

When you attach scary stories to risks they are immediately transformed into debilitating fears. That spells GAME OVER for your ideas and dreams. Here’s what to do about it.

10 – Seeing The Fear

First, see fear then you can manage it. One of the powerful disciplines you can develop in spotting fear is to…SLOW DOWN! Create some time and space when you feel derailed into procrastination, overwhelm, distraction etc.

11 – Fear Thrives In Dark Corners

Fear is like poisonous fungi in our minds. It thrives in dark corners where we never bother to look. It feeds on vagueness, generalisations and myth.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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