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Published: March 6th 2009
Jay with a 12 hour old foal. Pretty wobbly still!
Alex and I were super excited to stop traveling for a bit and settle into one place. We e-mailed a bunch of horse farms while in Europe looking for work and a fellow named Ulrich Klatte e-mailed us and told us he could employ us both. We took the overgound train from Brisbane to Beenleigh and called Uli from the station. We had never actually talked to him on the phone before. He had a strange German accent punctuated by Australian sayings like, "How ya goin' mate". We expected a burly fellow in a pick-up truck to pick us up. Instead, we got a fellow who looked more like an accountant who drove a Mazda car.
The drive out to the farm was beautiful. The countryside reminded me of Montana, with rolling hills speckled with scraggly horses and a few cows. The major difference being the strange colourful birds and the multitude of broad leafed evergreen trees. The trees reminded me of Alders but much bigger.
We got to the 500 acre farm with over 90 horses and were a little blown away. There was a full length indoor dressage arena, attached to a 40 horse barn. There was
The new babe
a horse walker, so riders didn't have to warm up (or cool down) their own horses and four indoor washing bays that you could have fit a car into. I had never seen such a well organized yard. Well I thought it was well organized! Ohhh foreshadowing.
Uli plopped us into our flat that we shared with two Swedish and one Dutch girl. It was a newly renovated flat, about what we were expecting, just a wee bit full. We introduced ourselves to our new colleagues/roomies and walked around the barnyard. We were a bit jet lagged so we went to bed fairly early because we knew we would have to work the next day.
We wern't sure when work started (the first hint of poor organization) so we just laid awake early listening for clues that the rest of the girls were going to work. We ended up feeding the horses at about 7 am. There were a lot of horses, so the actual feeding took about 1 1/2 hours. Then we went for breakfast and did some odd jobs like cleaning stalls and water troughs for a few hours during the day. The afternoon of our
Looking over the massive indoor arena.
first day was outright lazy. We even had a nap and watched some of the Australian Open (the tennis tournamnet constantly on the TV). Then we fed again in the afternoon and were totally done by about 4:30. Alex and I thought we had died and gone to heaven!
The next day we had a meeting with Uli after feeding time. He said, "The easy times are over" and Alex and I were immediately disappointed as we had only had one day of 'easy times'. The next two weeks were filled with back breaking labour at an unusually fast pace for our meager wage of $250/week. It was hard work, but we felt good and healthy while we were doing it. Being out on the farm working with horses was good for my soul. I don't think getting constantly shocked by electric fences was good for Alex's soul, but he didn't winge about it.
In addition to my daily duties of cleaning the barn and feeding, I had two horses to deal with on a daily basis. One was a five year old stallion named Henry. I was a bit wary of him at first as I hadn't
The main stable
dealt with stallions much. He nipped me a bit, but once he got to know me he was a sweetheart. I didn't have to ride him as he was in need of surgery to remove a bone fragment from his stifle. At first I was relieved because everyone said he was hard to handle. But once I got to deal with Henry on a daily basis I wished I could ride him. Alice was the other horse in my care. She was a jumper that the owners were trying to convert to a dressage horse. No one told me she was a jumper... just that she was a dressage horse, so I was expecting more of her the first day I got on her. I was dissapointed at first, but once I lowered my expectations of what I was going to be getting out of my rides it was more enjoyable.
Alex's job consisted of general labour/handiman duties. He worked with resident caretaker Walt (more on him later) and the two german boys doing the man stuff while the girls did the horse stuff. In the time that we were there Alex sorted out all the electric fences, cleared
This is Alice, one of the horses in Jay's care. She was so nice that they didn't even use her for birthing ... just taking the stud's ... well I won't go into detail.
some fallen trees and branches, did some gardening and hedge work, carried/pushed/pulled heavy things, played with tools, etc. It was tough at first but by the end of it, he was having a great time. He enjoyed just ripping around in the old Tojo with the boys while I dealt with all the female drama.
For the most part the horses at Belcam were all very green. This is expected of a breeding stable. They really didn't have enough staff there, before Alex and I, arrived to be able to handle more than a handful of them daily. Some of the horses hadn't seen a halter since their last worming. I found this out the hard way when we attempted to worm all of the horses on the farm in about three days. Talk about hard work! Horses are MUCH faster than people. Chasing them around the paddok was fun at first, but once someone mentioned snakes it became a nerve racking job that mysteriously the boss never did. Uli just ripped around in his ute (the aussi version of a Chevy S10). On the last day of worming we had to catch the most difficult horses. Two grey
Jay and Alice
mares with foals were the trickiest. Uli actually got on to one dressage gelding and herded them into his front yard. Once cornered they were easy. I learned how to get halters onto horses in stalls by chasing them when they turned their bum to you. It was a good trick that I'm sure saved my bones from the bottom of a hoof. One Swedish girl named Victoria got double barrel kicked in the back of her ribs and hit her head on a feeding bucket on the way to the ground. Suffice to say she was out for nearly the rest of the time we were there.
There were several people who worked at the farm whose characters are worth writing about. Really the memory of the place isn't complete without mentioning them. First there was the caretaker Walt and his wife Wendy. Walt was a bull of a man who could chat your ear off all day. If you wanted a break the best bet was to go find Walt. He was super funny, and he really liked Alex and I. I think he might have just been sick of dealing with Germans all the time. The
This is Jay's other horse, Henry. He wasn't really rideable yet but it was funny watching him try to master the pommel horse in the breeding shed (he was young and inexperienced with the ladies)
last day we were there he invited Alex and I to his home and cooked us an Indian curry dinner. His wife was a really sweet lady. We enjoyed their typically Australian sense of humour. Then there was this strange little Dutch woman. She really kept to herself unless there was a job she didn't feel like doing. Then she would find you no matter where you were hiding and boss you about. She also had this strange way of calling the horses for meals that kind of sounded like a donkey braying. Honestly I think the horses just came to the sound of the truck. Then there were the Swedish girls. There was the dominant one named Victoria who was the queen of the stable. Her friend Ida was quiet. It was hard to get to know them really because they were always speeking in Swedish to each other. All in all, the three European girls combined into pretty lousy roomates, and not very fun to work with. They really were a big part of the reason we left the farm early. Then there was a young girl named Linsay. Her parents owned a resort in Fiji and she
This is Cooperit, the best of the 4 studs at the farm and Belcam's prized possession.
was keeping her horse Chaplain at Belcam. She was a good little eventer with hopes of one day going to the Olympics. Alex and I really enjoyed her company and ended up hanging out with her and the German boys a lot. Alex and I had only been there for a couple of days when the Germans came. They were pimped out in Billabong from head to toe and didn't really look like they belonged on a farm. Their names were Ferdy and Chris, and they were from Munich. They were fun to work with and super easy going. Many a case of beers were split between the four of us as we reminisced about Oktoberfest. We often cooked together on the BBQ whinging about having to deal with 'The Swedes' and Uli's antics.
In the end we couldn't justify working upwards of 55 hours a week for $250 each. We liked the farm and I loved working and learning with the horses. But the wage made us feel more like slaves than hired hands. We asked Uli for a raise, and when he refused we told him that we would move on. We have e-mailed several hostels along
The mountain paddock. The back fence runs along the tree line way back there. This one paddock was probably 200 acres and it was where they kept all the 2 years olds.
the coast and have a couple of job offers already. So we will head to the ocean (like we always seem to do) and see if we can't find something that's fun and pays.
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