THE chance to nurture two brumbies from the wild was also a bonding experience for a Timboon-based mother-daughter duo.
Carly and Asha Loughnan spent 120 days preparing eight-year-old brown gelding Pirate and two-year-old chestnut gelding Dawn for the Australian Brumby Challenge at Yarra Junction.
The passionate horsewomen were among 19 trainers who took part in the challenge.
Pirate, under Carly's guidance, placed ninth while Asha, 12, helped Dawn to second place despite being the only junior trainer in the field.
Carly, 40, said it was the first time they'd trained brumbies - mustered from the Kosciuszko National Park and Bago State Forest - and it was an experience they relished.
They intend to help more brumbies in coming years.
Pirate and Dawn arrived in the south-west wild and avoided human contact at first.
"We wanted to help the brumby situation. The government don't have much of a clue that brumbies can be trained and re-homed," Carly told The Standard.
"The Andrews government stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the values that wild brumbies offer.
"Dawn and Pirate have been transformed over 120 days from wild to wonderful. They are safe."
Carly and Asha spent countless hours training Pirate and Dawn with astounding results using "kindness, patience and empathy" as they built "connections between horse and trainer".
"Things weren't that smooth at the start because they were pretty wild," Carly said.
"They were very standoffish and nervous at the start so anything we did, we just went slowly about it.
"We tried to work at their level so we didn't rush them into anything they weren't ready for.
"We tried to bond with them before we put too much pressure on them."
Asha - a Timboon P-12 student who is also part of the Lochard Pony Club, Timboon Swimming Club, Port Campbell nippers and Timboon Demons' netball - said she'd been around horses "since a very young age".
"It's been a very good experience and it's been really good with Dawn because we're much the same and we made a good connection," she said.
"She is very willing and she's a bit stubborn."
The Australian Brumby Challenge, which was run on November 26-27, consisted of three sections "all based on the relationship between the horse and the handler".
"There was an obstacle competition, float loading and a freestyle at the end where you could just show what your horse did best," Carly said.
"Freestyle was Pirate's best section. He was just very willing and did whatever I asked him too.
"He stepped up onto a drum and at the end I hopped on him and rode him off."
The family, which includes husband Kris and younger children Jeddah, 10, and Milla, 8, is invested in the brumby re-homing initiative.
"We'd like to do the challenge next year, especially Asha, she wants to have another go at it," Carly said.
"It's been excellent. Initially I thought it would be great for Asha and for her to see what starting a horse from the very beginning would be like.
"It was just as beneficial for me - you're always learning with horses.
"We have had an absolute ball along the way, improving our horsemanship skills and have loved every minute."
Asha, who is in year seven, said she enjoyed working with her mum on a significant outdoor project and seeing the results of their hard work.
"If we needed a hand we'd help each other out," she said.
"We'd usually try and do something with them (the brumbies) everyday."
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