Elly McDonald

Writer


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Horses of the Australian bushfires, January 2020

My sister’s closest friend from our Adelaide childhood has a sister who lives in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, with her horses, surrounded by wildlife.

The local race-track opened up for anyone with horses to bring them in for the duration of the fire threat, to be stabled, fed and cared for on race club premises.

Becky (Cathy’s friend) was at a pet supplies centre and asked the owner if they had horse feed in stock for horses at that race club.

The owner told her if she coordinated with other horse owners his business would provide whatever feed was needed, at cost price, with free delivery and drop-off at Oakbank Racecourse.

Becky texted me “Our practice [she’s a GP] bought 22 bales of lucerne which the fodder store delivered free to the drop-off point for aid in Oakbank. This was the message from the truck driver who delivered the bales – ‘Your bales are in that stack. Thanks for the help. Tony@magillgrain’.

Here (pic) are the bales Tony delivered.

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I don’t write this to publicise Magill Grain or the unnamed local race-track that opened up as a shelter.

I’m writing because my sister teared up telling me this story. She was at Flemington Races last Saturday and the race guide had a beautiful watercolour on the cover, by artist Laura Crane, of what appeared to be a bunch of tanned holiday-makers sunning on a beach, with a thoroughbred race horse incongruously in their midst. It’s only when you open the cover that you see Laura painted from a photo by Herald-Sun photographer Alex Coppel, of people seeking refuge on Malua Bay beach on New Year’s Eve, the entire scene tinted a hell-ish orange, and yes, a race horse in the crowd.

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Watercolour painting by Laura Crane – inspired by Alex Coppel’s photograph

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Photograph by Alex Coppel, Malua Bay, New Year’s Eve 2020 – people seeking refuge from bushfires, with horse

Turn the next page and there’s an article by Michael Sharkie that first appeared in Carnival magazine, 2015, about horses’ instincts faced with bushfires – see link attached for the extraordinary story of Fabish and his seven yearling charges. What a hero 🐎

https://www.flemington.com.au/social-news/2020-01-20/horse-sense

Turn another page, and there’s a list from the Victorian Racing Club of ways “the Victorian Thoroughbred Racing Industry, including RV, the metropolitan racing clubs and Country Racing Victoria, will continue to work on a number of initiatives [itemised], equine welfare support, fundraising activities and practical support for people affected by the bushfires”.

On the facing page: The program for the January Twilight Race Day 18 January 2020 – Race 2 Donate to Foodbank Victoria; Race 3 Donate to Salvation Army Disaster Appeal; Race 4 Donate to Equine Bushfire Relief; Race 6 Thank You Emergency Services; Race 8 Thank You Firefighters; Race 9 Thank You Volunteers.

Entrance proceeds from the day, and from the previous weekend’s meet, went to the VIC Bushfire Disaster Appeal. Firefighters and their families had free entry both meets. Stands were in place for donations to the Salvation Army, along with pop-up stores where racegoers could purchase equine supplies on behalf of horse owners in fire affected areas.

Some of my friends oppose the racing industry, and some may think all this was and is a PR exercise. Personally, I’m glad to see racing bodies support the broader equine community.