Why Horses Thrive in the Hunter Valley
(Acknowledgment: Dr Stuart McKay ‘How to Breed an Australian Horse’)
This is one of the most frequent questions put to me for over 50 years. I offer the following explanation from an industry leader, author and expert scientist of a century ago.
Chestnut Horse, 1905, by Wallace-Grand Canary; Winner of £22,111 and a high class stayer.;Now at the stud in NSW. Sire of Visibility, Heart of Oak, Annexit, etc.; Owned by the Executors of the late Walter Mitchell, NSW; from a painting of the horse, at the age of 7 years, in the possession of Dr Stewart McKay.
Australia contains magnificent country, and portions of it are blessed with a climate which is ideal for the purpose of breeding and rearing horseflesh. This is especially true of the Upper Hunter Valley. There is abundant procurable land at not too extravagant a price. It can be obtained in comparatively large areas. The soil is suitable in many localities for the purpose. The climate is excellent.
There are three major components essential to achieve the greatest amount of success in rearing horses:
- Sufficient area of suitable land. There is an abundance of feed in favourable seasons and plenty of limestone in the soil. The contour of the land varies and the soil is not too rich. The feet of young horses are fashioned by the country they run on. Horses require frequent change. As far as possible on comparatively large areas everything can be left to Nature which is the reverse of Cato’s maxim: “Laudito ingentia rura. Exiguum colito” (“Praise up big areas. Use small ones”).
- Every paddock must have efficient shelters. ‘The cold winds of winter blow mournfully here’. Plantations of suitable trees and artificial sheds make effective wind breaks. Shade in summer is equally necessary. Control of the bush fly menace has been largely alleviated by the introduction of South African Dung Beetles by the CSIRO.
- Artificial Supplementary Feeding. In the average season mares carrying their foals require nothing in the way of artificial food once the winter has passed away. The grass supplies them with an abundance of good milk and their offspring are better for the natural sustenance unaffected by over-stimulation of oats or chaff. Some mares have a tendency to wax over gross and produce little milk. Supplementation with good quality sweet oaten chaff, well crushed oats and some course bran are all that is required until late autumn. Appetite stimulants such as brown sugar or equivalent may be added. These amounts can be increased with encroaching winter with the addition of boiled barley as an extra ‘caloric’. Many alternative quality supplementary feeds are readily available in the Upper Hunter Valley. Observation vigilance is required at all times to monitor minute changes in the general condition of maternal and growing horses.
The Upper Hunter Valley NSW Australia meets all the criteria for successful horse production and has emerged as one of the three greatest global centres for this enterprise along with Newmarket UK and Kentucky USA.