In May this year an incredible story of community spirit, generosity and survival in drought captivated the equestrian community at the Sunshine Coast, when the Yamba Quarter Horse stud in Narrabri was saved from certain closure, writes Ute Raabe.
Arthur Kirkby’s work of a lifetime, the Yamba Quarter Horse stud in Narrabri, in the heart of drought-stricken New South Wales, was about to succumb to the extreme conditions, and with it the stud’s 41 well-bred broodmares, foals, youngstock and stallions. Arthur had done all he could over the past months to care for his beloved horses, but pasture and water had run out and there was no relief in sight.
The 67-year-old farmer had almost given up hope when a group of Queensland horse lovers and members of the Woombye and Maleny Lighthorse Troop heard about his plight and decided to help. Karen Osborn and her friends conceived the ambitious plan to relocate the entire stud up north to greener pastures. Within days suitable paddocks were found, a Go-Fund-Me page was created and volunteers donated their time to truck in hay, repair fences and organise convoys of horse floats. The charity Drought Angels provided a truck to move the last group of horses on their 11-hour journey to the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
“I had no idea what the depth of the breeding was or how desperate the situation was. There were horses in need and I needed to go and see if I could help. I would have gone if they were $2 horses. It was a life-changing adventure.”
It literally was a life-changer for the Yamba horses, some of the younger ones had never experienced such an abundance of green grass in their lives and didn’t lift their heads from grazing for days once settled in their new temporary homes. Arthur and his supporters, ‘Artie’s Angels’ as they are affectionately known as, could breathe a sigh of relief.
But the story is far from over, as the move has presented the horses and their rescuers with new challenges and their long-term future is still up in the air. Currently the herd is spread over seven different properties all over the Sunshine Coast. Hay is stockpiled and feeds are rationed in the event that the drought creeps up further north. Ten mares are due to foal in the next few months, which means ten additional horses. Youngstock needs to handled and educated in order to prepare them for new owners — something that Arthur has always done himself, taking great pride in his horsemanship experience and skills, but proper training facilities are missing at the moment. Then there are the prized stallions, which are housed on a property that has just been placed under contract.
Karen would like to source a suitable property large enough to bring the herd back together and for Arthur to resume care and training of his horses until such time that he can return to his Narrabri farm. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for the quiet horseman, who has spent so many decades growing and nurturing his world championship winning bloodlines and is suddenly dependant on the help and goodwill of strangers.
Thanks to Karen and her team of helpers the Yamba Stud journey can go on and the horses continue on their road to recovery. Many of the young horses will also be available for sale soon, a great opportunity to acquire a superbly bred Quarter Horse.