Spirit horses

The next minutes are completely mesmerising. The two stallions fight, fifty metres from me. Dust hangs in the air around them, their screams echo off the hills, the impact of their hoof strikes reverberates in my belly. They rear, scream, snake heads out to bite, whirl and kick.

Stallion, Kosciuszko. Image: Dr Andrea Harvey

This week The Conversation published my ‘Friday Essay’ on wild horses in Australia, and the excerpt above describes one of my many wild horse encounters. Horses are the most recent of the main species humans domesticated, and the least different (with cats) from their wild counterparts.

Australia has the largest wild horse herd in the world, 400,000 or more, spread across nearly every landscape in the country, and their presence is deeply controversial. Six thousand of them are in Kosciuszko National Park. The polarised reactions and accusations in the comments thread to my essay demonstrate entrenched views on both sides. Unfortunately, the comments often also demonstrate fairly unthinking responses, with little attention to the substance of the essay. Continue reading