Thursday, August 20, 2009

More human than horse pair shares a bond

The Gympie Times
Matthew Lee | 20th August 2009

IT'S a sight most people would not ordinarily expect to see in a kitchen - a fully grown horse standing by the window making itself at home.

But for Widgee horse lover and endurance racing competitor Gayle Holmes, it's as normal as having man's best friend curled up at the foot of the bed.

The horse's name is Faraway Verdict, a 29-year-old long retired champion from the adventure of endurance racing.

Gayle says Faraway Verdict is more human than horse.

“He has the most gentle nature I've ever seen in a horse,” she said. “It amazes people how calm he is and he has this ability to read my mood.

“If I'm feeling cranky he knows and keeps his distance. It's a close bond.”

In the kitchen, the line between outside and inside is greatly blurred, inviting disbelief.

After all, kitchens are not designed with horses in mind.

Gayle invites Faraway Verdict through the frontdoor, like any well-mannered host, and the horse takes a direct line to the kitchen.

Once settled behind the sink, he pauses and looks out the window, perhaps wondering if the horses grazing lazily in the nearby paddock could ever dream of having the privilege of being able to go inside.

Gayle offers Faraway Verdict a carrot, which he quickly devours, although with some difficultly.

“He has a few back teeth missing, which makes it hard to chew at times,” she said.

Once full of carrot, Faraway Verdict nudges the nearby packet of bread on the counter.

Gayle obliges, offering a slice or two while the horse stuffs as much in his mouth as possible, perhaps worried his visit may come to an end before he has had enough to eat. With a final slice of bread for the road, Gayle gestures for Faraway Verdict to leave the kitchen.

THE horse backs out with surprising grace and exists onto the front lawn to rejoin his stablemates.

“One time during summer it was so hot we had the air conditioning going inside and he was standing at the front door with his head sticking inside to enjoy the cool air,” Gayle said.

Gayle and Faraway Verdict first crossed paths when she purchased him to compete in a horse and camel race.

It was during this time a fellow competitor suggested Gayle give horse endurance racing a try.

“It was suggested to me that he would be well suited to endurance racing,” she said.

“I had no idea back then what that really was so I found out some information and thought why not give it a go.”

After commencing the initial training, Gayle first climbed on Faraway Verdict in an 80 kilometre event and won. It was a victory that would pave the road for much future success.

“The first year we had 12 rides and it was quite successful,” she said.

In the time that has passed, Faraway Verdict has undertaken no less than 130 rides, rarely skipping a beat to be among the top finishes in each event.

Included on his resume is a trip to America in 1996 (finishing 14th) and Dubai (winning bronze in the team event).

In America, Gayle was the only Australian competitor to get through.

“It was a shame the other Australians didn't make it but the competition was very tough,” she said.

A staggering statistic involves the total number of kilometres covered in official racing - 11,300 kilometres. And that's not including the distance covered during training.

It's success like this that has attracted the attention of many media outlets, including television that produced a 10 minute segment on the Totally Wild program.

“Kylie from the show came out to see us and it was a great experience to be a part of,” Gayle said.

In recent years, Faraway Verdict had had a few troubles with his health, including a period of time last year when he was “all skin and bone” after dropping a lot of mass.

But Gayle, who said he was fearful of losing her mate, is happy to say the horse has drastically improved this year and has bulked up significantly.

“He has recovered so well and I'm very thankful about that,” she said.

Although his days traversing the landscape with his companion Gayle have ended, a well earned retirement and the odd adventure into the kitchen of Gayle's Widgee property ensures this horse has enjoyed the best of both worlds.

And it can be certain Faraway Verdict wouldn't have it any other way.

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