Head of a horse-shaped children's tricycle

A horse tricycle and SO much more…!

The Museum recently acquired a single family’s impressive collection of nearly 350 toys and we are marking the arrival with the display of one of the most beautiful pieces in its number – a 1920s horse tricycle. The trike, like the rest of the toys in the Susan and Andrew Gibson collection, belonged to a single generation of children in whose memory the collection was donated and named – the enviable sibling duo, Susan and Andrew Gibson. Continue reading

The Golden Crust Bread Company

When Museum Friend John Thwaite read about the Horses in Australia project in our ‘The Museum’ magazine he thought we might be interested in a 1938 photograph of the delivery teams at his family’s bakery, the Goulburn Crust Bread Company. John recently had this treasured photograph restored and digitally copied, and in this guest post shares its story.

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Working horses showcased at Rushworth Heritage Easter Festival

Within the last two decades, the fortunes of Australia’s working draught horses have undergone something of a revival. Once the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s most abundant source of haulage muscle, the use of larger breeds declined during the 1950s as Australians embraced motorised power. However, as our team found out during a recent jaunt to Woo back, held in Yass, NSW, Australian heavy horse owners have been quietly nurturing a growing public interest in these magnificent animals. Every season, many community events featuring draught horses take place across the country.

After hearing about our Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition from a friend, Blake Rosenberg, the official photographer for the Rushworth Heritage Easter Festival got in touch to let us know about one such example, the Moora Working Draught Horse Muster. This event was held during the festival in Rushworth, Vic., on 19th and 20th April this year. In this guest post, Blake shares some of his beautiful photographs, as well as his thoughts on documenting the significant relationships between people, animals and localities despite the accelerated pace of our twenty-first century lives. Continue reading

‘For the relief of horses’: a gift from Annis and George Bills

‘I empower my said Trustees…to construct and erect and pay for Horse-Troughs wherever they may be of opinion that such horse troughs are necessary or desirable for the relief of horses or other dumb animals either in Australasia in the British Islands or in any other part of the World’.

George Bills’ last Will, 1925

If Melbourne wire mattress manufacturer George ‘Joe’ Bills had his posthumous way, no horse would ever again go short of a drink. Continue reading

Ploughing for the record

On a cold and windy day, the National Museum’s ‘Horse team’ were amongst thousands of people gathered to witness history in a paddock at ‘Willow Vale’, just outside of Yass, New South Wales. An initiative of the Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club Inc, ‘Woo back!’ hosted 28 horses and their humans to set a Guiness World Record for the most heavy horses ploughing in one field. It was an enthusiastic celebration of the contribution of equine muscle to Australia’s agricultural history, allowing a new generation to see horse drawn ploughs in action.

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Painting horses

Horses have fascinated Australian artists for just on two centuries. The first locally produced work to feature a horse is thought to be a watercolour by an unknown artist who, in 1804, depicted mounted troopers confronting rebels at the Castle Hill uprising near Sydney. Since then, hundreds of painters, sketchers, illustrators, photographers and sculptors have set out to capture the character and charisma of horses and the meaning and nature of their relationships with people.

After hearing about the Museum’s Horses in Australia project, Hunter Valley artist and equestrian Margrete Erling wrote to me recently to tell me about a series of paintings she is  currently developing exploring horses’ roles in our national history. In this guest post, Margrete shares why she was inspired to take on this subject, and how it’s an integral part of her and her family’s life with horses.

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Colour photograph showing a row of nine small, toy horses on cardboard bases, lined up outside a hotel. A crowd of people has gathered in the background.

The show must go on!

There’s a new horsey face to be seen around our Mitchell repository this week. This champion racehorse is a bright chestnut with polished hooves, silky mane and tail and something of a beady-eyed stare. Though unrivalled on the track, he’s a diminutive fellow at not quite two hands high. ‘Jackson’ arrived recently from Birdsville, a small Queensland town some 1600km west of Brisbane and the scene of his trackside triumph. Continue reading

Road Rage: Bike vs Horse

In December 1889, Dr G. A. Thorne from Melbourne found himself with a spare fortnight at his disposal. A keen bike rider, he decided to take his new ‘taut and trim’ safety bicycle (that he referred to as his ‘trusty little horse’) by train to Sale in Gippsland, Victoria. From there he would cycle to Sydney, following the coast as closely as possible.

On the first day of riding, when he approached Bairnsdale, a horse drawn buggy approached from the opposite direction. The horse appeared to grow restive. The woman driver yelled at Thorne to get off his bicycle. He dismounted and slowly approached the horse, leading it further along the way. As he did so, she blackguarded the good doctor in what he described as an ‘absurd manner’. ‘The Government’, she raged, ‘should not allow “those things” on the road’. Thorne retorted that she should learn to drive before taking charge of a horse. He then left the scene only to be ‘followed by a torrent of abuse’.

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Horse prose: Banjo Paterson’s legacy

Today marks 150 years since the birth of Australian poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. Given that the talented horse rider took his pen name ‘Banjo’ after a racehorse owned by his family, it is not surprising that Paterson’s work was filled with lively descriptions of horses and riders in various settings, in particular the high country of New South Wales and Victoria. Paterson’s passion for his subjects can be found in each word of his poems, with a distinctive rhythm that brings their actions to life for his readers. It is perhaps those qualities that have given Paterson’s work its longevity, so that generations after his words were written, Banjo’s equestrian ballads are still a defining marker for the characters and lifestyles they have come to represent.

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Not all horse play

Nowadays when you talk about a ‘work horse’, you are probably referring to a ute, truck or some other form of mechanised equipment.  In the not too distant past, a work horse was, as the phrase suggests, a heavy horse used for work and most likely for haulage.  In many museums (including the National Museum) you can view displays of machinery that these horses hauled or powered.  Rarely, however, do you see or think about the objects that helped to power the horses. Continue reading