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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Story of the stock saddle a ride worth strapping in for

ABOVE: Wild Ride: The Story of the Australian Stock Saddle by Fiona Carruthers is out next month.

I HAVEN’T enjoyed a book more for ages.

I am deep into Wild Ride, The story of the Australian Stock Saddle by Fiona Carruthers and have no hesitation in recommending that horse lovers or anyone interested in Australian history should go out and buy a copy today.

Calling it magnificent doesn’t even come close.

While the many illustrations are perfect – and in the case of the little kids Poley, so nostalgic to me as my boys first rode in one then it was used by my grandchildren – it’s the many historic stories that are great reading.

There is the early report conveying the distress felt by an Englishman seeing “prisoners mounted on horseback” in Van Diemen’s Land, the story of how Ned Kelly’s much-admired grey mare was found after the siege of Glenrowan still wearing her Bullivant saddle and tales of the rivalry between saddlers, with the question of which saddle was best much debated around the camps.

Carruthers quotes Revered Henry William Haygarth, who travelled widely in eastern Australia in the first half of the 19th century, in explaining why the stock saddle became a necessity.

He wrote in 1848: “Australian horses have a vicious habit known as buckjumping ... this trick, in its aggravated form, is peculiar to the colts bred in the colony and in Van Diemen’s Land, and is decidedly the most expeditious way that could be devised for emptying a saddle”.

Wild Ride tells how and why the stock saddle developed, a story that is inextricably linked to Australian history and the opening up of the big stations.

It details the history of the earliest saddlers like Brush and Quail, the more familiar names like Wienike, Kinnear and RM Williams, and ones from modern times.

Those of us who haunted Morrison’s Saddlery in Bourke St, Melbourne, will love reading about it. Morrisons made Phar Lap’s saddles and when the horse won in the US, Morrison and Harry Telford shared a celebratory drink.

While Wild Ride is brought alive by the penmanship of Carruthers, a journalist and author of The Horse in Australia, credit must also go to principal reseracher Janice Gifford and writer of the foreword Michael Drapac, whose extensive collection of stock saddles is featured.

The much-loved “arm chair” that could look after your bum all day in a hard days’ stock work, then used as a pillow round the campfire at night, has been paid its proper tribute in this beautifully produced book.

I could tell you so much more, but just go and buy it. You won’t be sorry, it’s worth every cent.


Wild Ride: The Story of the Australian Stock Saddle

By Fiona Carruthers

Hardback: $59

Release date: May 2023

Stories on The Regional’s website are free to read and always will be.

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