Charged with gold, the early morning light poured over his coat of blazing satin. Muscles, primed and expectant, cast deep shadows, defining powerful limbs of ebony, not a breath of wind disturbed the fall of perfect mane, nor the mist, forming at his alert nostrils in the crisp mountain air. He stood watching us, an unchallenged outlaw, a black Pegasus with no want of wings – the legendary Snowy Mountain Brumby.
For long seconds the stallion gazed down at us from his rocky battlement, as if looking into our minds, gauging our intention. Then decided, in one fluid movement, he turned to follow his mares, already fleeting forms of chestnut and buckskin, away in the snow-gums. The last, slowed by its foal, he encouraged, purposefully lowering and shaking his head while impatiently stamping the frost-covered slope. Then, tail erect, he effortlessly followed them into the maze of bush, giving us a final, cursory glance.
As we climbed we had often seen the territorial markings of stallions – tell-tail mounds of manure – and once or twice a ghostly movement far off in the tall timbers had suggested their presence. This though, was our first encounter with brumbys since leaving Tom Groggin Station, the home of Kancoban Trail Rides, three days before.
We had ridden out, seven city slickers, the original urbane wild bunch, ready to tame the mountain wilderness. Under the expert care of our guides John & Jackie Williams, we had been matched with our mountain horses, many with Brumby blood. I had long been told that the key to successfully riding a new horse was to immediately establish who was in charge. I had been confident, I’d looked the part – black hat, faded levis outfit and Texan winkle-picker riding boots. ‘The Malborough Man’ all I required was a TV commercial. I looked him the eye, then in a single movement, grabbed the reins and a hand full of mane and majestically swung up over the saddle, and into a heap on the other side. Having established who was boss and discovering that horses do indeed laugh, I had dusted myself off and watched the rest of our desperate bunch get organized.