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Wind howled down the gully bringing down sheets of cold rain with it. A girl sat astride a black horse between two boulders that provided them with some shelter from the weather. From where she was positioned she was able to see into a small glade that seemed to be protected from the worst of the wind. Not a word passed her lips just the sound of the bush and the cry of a distant cockatoo. She was waiting.

Soon enough the wind died down and the sheets of rain became a drizzle and now her long wait was worth it. There was movement from the glade that she had been focused on. Movement that wouldn’t be noticed by the untrained eye but movement that she picked up immediately. Not only because she had grown up in the bush and learned to see through the dense scrub but also because her mount’s ears began to flicker towards the direction she was focused on and the tremble that went through his body was felt through the saddle. Without a sound her hand stroked his damp neck to reassure him and keep him quiet so as to not give them away.

Within a matter of seconds a stocky bay horse stepped out through the low hanging snow gums and into the glade. The girl knew this to be the wild brumby stallion that roamed this area. His head drew up high and he stood stiller than a fallen dead tree. For a brief moment he looked in her direction, she could feel his eyes looking for them she held her breath glad that the wind was in her favor and blowing their scent away from him. Once the stallion was satisfied that the glade was safe he walked into full view and began to graze, soon he was joined by a small herd of bays, blacks, chestnuts and greys. The girl scanned the rest of the glade for one in particular, a palomino or the golden mare as she was famously known as. Her heart fell when the mare wasn’t to be found with the herd. It had been a week since she had left the herd heavily in foal. Not that it was unusual for her to disappear to foal but she had never been gone for so long. Worry crept through the girl and through the saddle to her horse. The black gelding stiffened and flicked his back towards her looking for reassurance, automatically she stroked his neck and made soft kissing noises that she knew wouldn’t be heard by the brumby stallion and his herd.

There had been talk around the stock camps that there was to be a brumby drive. A brumby drive wasn’t a bad thing, it provided many stations and camps with good horses; it also kept the number of brumbies in check, which meant that they weren’t at risk of being shot by government hunters for causing damage to bushland and grazier country. The black gelding that the girl rode was once a brumby that roamed the range she was in this very minute. No it wasn’t the brumby drive that worried her. They had spoken of the golden mare being the prize and had made bets of who would catch her. She was the one mare that didn’t belong in captivity… she was a mare behind long tales, folk songs and poems… to be captured would take her fame away from her and the freedom she had earned time and time again. There were stories about her appearing to stockman lost in a blizzard or storm and would lead them on a chase until they realised she had lead them to their huts or a stockcamp then she’d vanish but she’d saved risked her freedom and saved their necks from freezing or starving to death. The mare had been gone for a week and the first brumby drive this season had started two days ago. Maybe they had caught the mare. Maybe she had died while foaling… there were a great many maybes that the girl could think of and none of them gave her any comfort.

Knowing the light would soon fade the girl knew she couldn’t wait for the mare any longer today and quietly she turned her horse for home. He knew to move quietly and they were able to slip away unnoticed by the herd. Without so much as a the occasional twig snapping under the weight of his hooves they crept out of the dense bush and into cleared grazing country where the pair no longer needed to worry about moving as quiet as a ghost in the wind. She clicked her tongue and gathered a handful of mane in her hand as he sprang into a gallop. The sun was sinking and she knew she had to be within view of the homestead before the last rays slipped below the horizon. Wind stung her cheeks as they gallop and the wind loosened her long hair from it’s knot, billowing it out behind her as they tore up the ground towards home. Home where her mother would be anxiously watching the top paddock for her silhouette against the sunset.
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