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‘The biggest adrenalin rush’: Call to save brumby-catching heritage

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It is second nature to Mr Orchard and to the elite brumby-catching group he rides with, the Benambra Buck Runners.

But it is also “the biggest adrenalin rush you’ll ever get in your life”.

Mr Orchard said catching a brumby on Sunday in the bush near Benambra, 400 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, “feels like when I caught my first one. A big thrill”.

Last week, Mr Orchard, 50, watched with pride as his daughter, Bonnie, 13, caught her first, a colt, which she will keep.

But he’s afraid her heritage will be taken away, with Parks Victoria planning to cull the wild horses that it says are destroying native flora and fauna in the High Country.

Last month, the Federal Court gave Parks Victoria the green light to shoot 1200 horses over three years.

Buck Runner Chris Connley clears an obstacle.

Buck Runner Chris Connley clears an obstacle.Credit:Jason South

Mr Maguire had argued that Parks Victoria was required to consult the community.

Omeo cattleman Phil Maguire – who is not connected with the Benambra Buck Runners – is preparing an appeal after he lost a Supreme Court bid to halt the shooting.

Parks Victoria chief executive Matthew Jackson said his organisation will await the appeal outcome before starting the cull.

Benambra Buck Runners members spent the Queen’s Birthday long weekend filming a documentary, Saving the Brumbies, that they hope will show city people that traditional catching can humanely control and manage the wild horses.

“The people who live in the high country would like a seat at the table and a stronger presence in the management from the ground up, instead of a top-down, bureaucratic approach,” said Sonia Buckley, film director and mother of Buck Runners member Tom Buckley, 24.

Ms Buckley described the current Andrews government plan as “a disaster in the making”.

She said the horse carcasses would be eaten by wild pigs and dogs, which would breed and “decimate native wildlife”.

Ms Buckley said deer were “doing a lot more damage than the horses” and deer hunting would benefit locals.

Warming up by the fire after the chase

Warming up by the fire after the chaseCredit:Jason South

Benambra Buck Runners members regularly catch, train and rehome brumbies.

Brumbies are “sure footed and they’re very smart and they can be trained beautifully for children’s ponies or beginner’s horses”, Ms Buckley said.

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“That’s a preferred method than shooting them.”

Ms Buckley believes there are about 1700, and not the 5000 brumbies the government says are in the Victorian alps.

She said there hadn’t been a re-count after the summer bushfires.

Craig Orchard, who manages a 1000-head cattle farm near Benambra, wants government to work with locals, who could target horses doing the most damage and put trap yards in the right places for maximum effect.

“If you’ve got people with local knowledge that know what they’re doing, it could be done far more efficiently and just done a lot better and there wouldn’t be such a problem.” he said.

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