The relationship between Australians and their horses at work and play is explored in the latest documentary to be released by West Wyalong farmer and movie producer Ross Harmer.
“Aussies in the Saddle’’ will be publicly launched at Forum 6 Cinemas in Wagga on March 25.
Aussies in the Saddle was written by Albury journalist Kim Woods and is presented by equestrian coach and writer Rebecca Ashton.
It features rare and historical footage sourced from numerous private collections and the National Film and Sound Archives.
The 2 hour 47 minute documentary was produced by West Wyalong Movies principal Ross Harmer, who is devoted to saving and preserving the nation’s rich agricultural history on film.
Aussies in the Saddle is the 21st documentary produced by Mr Harmer since 2008 on topics ranging from working horses, farm machinery and steam trains to scrub pulling, picnic racing and rural villages.
“This latest documentary has been a couple of years in the planning, with the past year spent filming and editing,’’ Mr Harmer said.
“I had always wanted to do a documentary on horses but it is such a huge story, and the problem was how to tell it and make it interesting.’’
Mr Harmer was inspired throughout the project by his favourite poem, The Wind’s Message, by A.B Banjo Paterson.
“I sourced a lot of footage from old 16mm and Beta cam tapes from the mid 1970s to 2000 from RVN-2 Wagga (now Prime),’’ he said.
“We explore Australians connection with horses and go on a journey from Corryong to Bogan Gate talking to lots of people involved in different aspects of the equine industry.
“It is about tracing people’s lives, how they connect back through their roots and tell of their love of horses today.’’
Presenter Rebecca Ashton said horses have and would continue to play a major role in Australian life.
“In work and pleasure, horses have been by our side,’’ she said.
“From supporting early explorers to unknown corners of the continent, to following us into war with the famous Light Horse, their charge at Beersheeba being called the last great charge in military history.
“Horses have helped us work the land and make Australia one of the greatest global food bowls in terms of quality and quantity.
“Still they remain our mates in leisure time whether it be polo, pony club or horse racing.
“Where else in the world can you find a horse race that stops a nation?
“Australians have always loved their horses and it was an important relationship to document.’’
Aussies in the Saddle features a cast of legendary living horse trainers, educators, jockeys, riders, saddlers and equine artists.
Retired Wagga based saddler Garry Hiscock draws on a family involvement in the trade stretching for well over a century, while Tony Brewer, of Tumbarumba, is working hard to keep the memory of the Light Horse alive.
Sculptor Carl Valerius, of Harden, is the artist behind the bronze sculpture of Bill the Bastard, one of Australia’s greatest warhorses.
Champion rodeo riders Jim Pierce and son Brad outline what it takes to win at the top level, and campdrafter Paul Spiers takes the viewer on a journey of starting a young horse in the camp.
Two of the last living wagonette drovers, Fred Harmer and Doug Hope, recall their days in the long paddock without modern comforts.
Legendary jockey Johnny Letts tells of his love for Banjo, a stockhorse which became a household name among racing fans throughout the nation.
Great horsemen and women, including Mark Barton, Michelle Harpley, Tim O’Brien, Wendy Barlow, Matthew Murphy, Angus Bray and Pam Schiller all lend their expertise to the documentary.
Ms Ashton said as life’s pace quickened, there was less time for horses, their stories and grand partnerships.
“It’s important to not only record the fading history but to also keep the spirit alive so stories of Aussies and their four legged companions continue to be shared and to inspire others,’’ she said.
“We need to inspire youngsters to take up the reins and throw their leg over the horse for another generation of Aussies in the saddle.’’