Meet the woman who has helped rescue 1,000 wild horses

Aerial culling goes from “cruel” to “kind”
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Australia's wild horses capture imagination
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Ebor 2453
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Back Roads

By

Damien Peck

Updated

June 11, 2018 10:47:55

Video: Erica Jessup is part of the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses Association

(ABC News)

(Back Roads: Heather Ewart)
Using that backyard for her working life, Ms Jessup would not have it any other way.In the volunteer-led Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association, one-by-one she has been able to use passive trapping in the Northern Tablelands to full effect.”They are a good-structured, good-tempered, hard-working little horse,” she said.”There would be just over a thousand horses have come off-park through this program now.”I reckon I’d amount to about 80 per cent of that.”Dedicated to saving horsesLifting the profile of the wild brumbies has always remained important for Ms Jessup, since the aerial culling of 600 horses caused a public outcry in 2000.”My husband [Graeme Baldwin] was the guy that took the RSPCA down there — it’s very remote, rugged country. (Supplied: Cat V Photography)
Quality hay as good as a rump steakIt has not always been an easy task to get hold of the horses.Using passive trapping, the feral horses are guided out of the national park using hay and a series of fences, panels and tripwire to keep them close.While the Guy Fawkes horses have kept running wild in the bush, Ms Jessup has continued to rehome them with enticing measures.”We had to set up a plan … once you get them hooked on hay, they’re hooked,” Ms Jessup said.On most occasions, that process will only take a few days to a week.”It doesn’t take very long at all. She can roll out her own swag and lay down on it. She meets communities whose good humour and inventiveness will inspire and uplift. External Link:

The Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses are direct descendants of horses from World War I
“I got them recognised as a breed so you can register them as a Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse and you can show them accordingly,” she said.”They need recognition off-park [in a domesticated environment] … on park, they’re just a feral horse.”My horse does tricks and does demonstrations at the local shows. Photo:
Ms Jessup (L) has been rescuing wild horses for decades to give them a purpose. They had to shoot a few horses that were half-dead,” she said.Ms Jessup and Mr Baldwin spent two years along the Guy Fawkes River formulating the passive trapping program that is now used Australia-wide.”We don’t save every single animal — that’s not feasible,” Ms Jessup said.”We’ve dedicated our lives to it since then and we knew there had to be a better way to do this.”Finding the value of the horses not only came from locals, but from worldwide attention putting pressure on the Australian Government to react and look for the historical, military and cultural significance of the horses.The lineage of the horse was deemed to be of local heritage value due to the legacy of the original horses being used during World War I.”These particular horses are direct descendants of horses that they used in the First World War,” Ms Jessup said.”They’re the only mob of wild horses in Australia that have proven bloodlines of being related to the Army horses.”The horses were trained for the Lighthorse Brigade based in Armidale, and after the war they were released onto what was then crown land. She can walk over a seesaw … people just think it’s wonderful.”They need a future … nobody or no government agency is ever going to support leaving them in the national park because they don’t belong there anyway.”Ms Jessup noted the association may never be able to get all the horses out of the national park, but their purpose needed to be more than just a feral animal.Guy Fawkes horses the heroes in trekHorsewoman Alienor Le Gouvello use the breed along the 5,330km Bicentennial National Trail over a 13-month journey.The breed proved its worth, as Ms Le Gouvello is one of the few riders to complete the trek from start to finish with the same horses, riding solo from Healesville in Victoria to Cooktown in far north Queensland.”I don’t think without the Guy Fawkes brumbies I would have made it the whole way actually,” Ms Le Gouvello said.”They were key in us being successful in completing the entire trail … in fact, they were the real heroes of my trek I reckon.”

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Alienor Le Gouvello covered the Bicentennial National Trail over 13 months with her Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses. You put salt out, put the hay out … you get them coming back three or four times,” she said.”They’re looking for protein and that’s why you have to use quality hay.”It’s got to be like racehorse hay … and people go ‘Why do you use such good hay for?'”I tell them ‘You know I’m not gonna trap you with a Vegemite sandwich, but if I offer you a rump steak it might be a different story.”Watch Back Roads on ABC TV 8pm MondayPast episodes or extras are on iView or at www.abc.net.au/backroads

#BackRoadsHeather Ewart returns to the Back Roads of Australia, to discover more resilient country towns and the inspiring people who live in them. Photo:
The Guy Fawkes River in the national park has been a way for Erica Jessup to find wild horses. Rescuing and training wild horses is second nature to Erica Jessup, who says she has been a horseperson all her life.Hundreds of horses run wild in Guy Fawkes National Park, near Ebor in New South Wales, about a 1.5-hour drive west from Coffs Harbour.Many find a form of respite and sanctuary through Ms Jessup.”When I was a four-year-old my parents moved here with a caravan and six children,” Ms Jessup told ABC TV’s Back Roads program.Young Erica’s passion for horses began a year after she arrived in Ebor, as did a love of the country she grew up in.”I’ve lived a fair bit of my life here … there’s all this beautiful scenery and we’ve got this great big backyard,” she said. (Back Roads: Ron Ekkel)
Horses with a historyThrough that legacy, the history of Australia’s war horses is being kept alive by Ms Jessup and the association through passive trapping, after a lot of trial and error over two years.
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