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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Horse from remote community lands in safe hands with Harry

ABOVE: Harry Branson and Arrow at the recent Top End Jumping Gala. Picture: DAVID BRADLEY

AT just 13 years of age, Darwin rider Harrison Branson is developing a reputation as a bit of a horse whisperer.

“Any horse he encounters just loves him,” his coach Nicole Mutimer says, “even the not-so-nice ones”.

This is possibly a good-humoured dig at Harrison’s current mount, Arrow, but watching the pair in action now you would never guess that the striking Pinto once fell into the trouble-maker category.

Harrison (Harry) was born in Alice Springs, lived in Katherine for 10 years and moved with his family in December 2021 to Darwin, where he attends a small rural school on the outskirts called Sattler Christian College.

He has only been riding for a bit over four years, starting in 2018 after his parents, Julie and Garry, made a five-hour trek to Pigeon Hole Station south-west of Katherine to collect an old grey stock horse called Native. Native was a “pensioner” who was no longer used and due to be put down.

ABOVE: Harry and Native at Katherine Show.

The pair began pony club and in his first year Harry entered the Katherine show in dressage and placed first and second in the junior events.

Harry soon became a very competent rider and was showing his wide-ranging talents off by constantly placing in dressage, jumping and mounted games.

Then along came Arrow.

Julie got a job as the business manager of the school at Ngukurr, a remote Indigenous community about seven hours south-east of Darwin.

She said the Pinto was one of 17 horses that had been part of a school incentive program that was cancelled due to issues over care.

“Myself and the principal at the time had to euthanise a horse and one was already deceased when I arrived at the community for work,” Julie said.

“The other horses were transported to Mataranka to be sold.”

Originally members of the community requested that Arrow stay behind as he was a favourite.

He was looked after by a woman there until she moved to Katherine for work and he was left in a paddock.

Another family tried him as a horse for their granddaughter, but Arrow was too much for them and they though he was dangerous.

“Arrow finally found his forever home with us in July 2019,” Julie said.

“Garry did 18 months of groundwork with him then passed him on to Harry.”

It was definitely not a match made in heaven for the first six months.

Arrow knew all the tricks to get his young rider to give up, but that was not Harry’s style and the patience of the young boy began to show results.

In 2021, Harry and Arrow joined the Northern Territory Institute of Equestrian Sport jumping team.

ABOVE: From Ngukurr to Darwin in the Northern Territory, Arrow has come a long way.

It was a learn-as-you go effort as Arrow had never seen a jump and spooked at everything.

Now in 2022, with Arrow now boasting the registered name of “Roper Bar Brumby” as a nod to the remote area from which he came, they are a total combination gaining recognition of interstate judges and trainers.

They are now jumping 95cm, have been winning in the show rings and received the judges’ award at the Darwin pre-royal competition.

Harry topped off his year by being presented with the prestigious Lyn Hadden Memorial Award for the competitor who was the most courteous to officials, kind to their horse and supportive of other competitors over the three days of competition at the Royal Darwin Show.

“This is the rider I would most like to see on my own horses,” Megan Howe, who was among the judges who selected Harry for the award, said.

“He has good hands and seat, is a kind rider and a genuinely nice competitor. He was a pleasure to have in my ring.”

Harry has expanded his interests this year to show hunter classes and in April was asked to join the NT Walers group to ride in the Adelaide River Anzac Day parade and form the guard of honour, showing just how versatile Arrow has become under his quiet care and guidance.

If the work Harry has put into this horse is any indication, his dreams of becoming a national representative and riding for his country one day are definitely possible.

“I know there is huge interest in off-the-track Thoroughbreds and their second chance, but Harry’s Arrow has gone through hell and back to get where he is today,” Julie said.

“Both of Harry’s horses have come from extremely remote areas of the Northern Territory and it just proves that you don’t need the $10,000 horse to make a great rider.”

ABOVE: Harry Branson and Arrow show their style. Picture: DAVID BRADLEY

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