Author Leslie Scott never expected that a rumour about wild horses roaming on a mountain near her home would consume months of her life and result in such a deep connection between animal and human.
Set in rural Victoria, Once Were Wild is an easy-to-read book that recounts the moment Leslie finds two brumbies amongst the rugged terrain of Mount Beckworth near the town of Clunes. There had been whispers around town that there were horses on the mountain and Leslie set about to uncover the truth using her natural affinity for animals and her well honed bush tracking skills.
Everyday for several weeks Leslie made the short drive from her home to the mountain to see what she could find and when she finally spotted a pile of steaming horse poo the thrill of discovery set in motion a chain of events that totally consumed her.
In her memoir Leslie tells of the first time she saw the wild mare and young colt, describing it as “love at first sight”. It would also be a love that would capture her every thought for months to come. Finding wild horses roaming in an area traditionally void of brumbies totally perplexed Leslie. How did they get there? How had they survived?
With the heat of summer looming, and logging in the plantation forest due to start in the coming months, Leslie was determined to get the brumbies off the mountain and to a safer location. She felt they could not survive without her so in the months that followed she cared for the horses with the kind of deep dedication that horse loving readers will totally relate to.
While Leslie was keen to keep her brumby discovery secret (for fear of locals scaring them away, or worse, someone coming to kill them) she soon realises she’ll need a whole lot of help and support to achieve the result she wants. She starts a private Facebook group, befriends the local ranger and consults the folks at the Victorian Brumby Association for help in developing a plan for the horses’ safe removal and relocation.
It’s no easy feat taming undomesticated horses that are roaming wild in mountainous terrain and Leslie has to rely on building their trust if she’s going to have any chance of getting them off the mountain. But succeed she does and the moments of connection and non verbal communication with the younger of the two ponies – that she names Milo – are beautifully recorded in this horse lover’s story.
As a highly personal memoir Leslie writes in detail about how she “became one of the herd” and how she cried when Milo trusted her enough to lay down beside her in the forest.
But there is a downside to Leslie’s removal of the horses from the mountain; she’s taking them from their home and putting once wild creatures into confined spaces. The contradiction of feelings this creates for Leslie is palpable. Thankfully the outcome is one that simply could not have been better for both Leslie and brumbies.
Tender, emotional and written in a simple and uncomplicated style, this book is for anyone who possesses a love of animals. Equine lovers will be especially delighted with this horsey tale.
Author: Leslie Scott
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
This book review is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.