“I just get on better with horses than with humans,” Marilyn laughs. We speak with Marilyn Borg about her journey with horses – from early mornings spent with her grandparents’ Clydesdale to breeding and showing the last of the Wallamba Clydesdale bloodline.
“You’re going to love this title I’ve given myself,” she begins. “Stud master. But, it all started a long time ago. My Mum and Dad separated when I was seven and I went to live with my grandparents. They always taught me ‘nothing comes for nothing’, you have to work – and I did.
“My grandparents had a big Silky Oak. In the afternoons, I had to rake in all those leaves. In the mornings, my grandad would get up to milk the cow. It was very cold near Scone. If I did my chores, I was able to ride their Clydesdale there and back – that was the incentive.
“My grandad would throw me up onto this old horse. I’d spend the whole ride home talking to Old Blue – and I was absolutely freezing. Then I went to live with my father. He was a city person. The only thing he liked about horses was racing. We spent many hours at the racetrack.”
After moving to Queensland during her first marriage, Marilyn later met her now husband, Ken. Since purchasing their first horse 32 years ago – a Clydesdale colt – they’ve owned and bred Brumbies, Welsh B ponies and Clydesdales on their two properties in south-east Queensland.
“After my husband and I split up, I met the most wonderful man and we’ve been together for 35 years. Our first outing was to the Gatton Heavy Horse Field Day. I’ll never forget it. I thought ‘if that horse opens its mouth, it could swallow me whole’. I was quite over-awed by their size.”
In the years that Marilyn has operated her studs, Malken and Embeegrove Stud, it’s her patience and persistence that has enabled her to breed, train and show many award-winning Clydesdales of the Wallamba bloodline.
“When you put a halter on my stallions, they know you’re in charge. A bit and roller – they’ve got to prance around; put blinkers on and it’s work time. On my 43rd birthday, Ken took me to pick up a Clydesdale colt, named Ben.
“The last stallion from Roughlands Telstar, Ben is now 22 years old and still serving. I’m trying to find a colt to replace him for when that day comes. He produces fillies and every outside mare gets colts. What I was feeding him must have been wrong hey,” Marilyn laughs.
“The breed line we’ve got is dying. A lot of people with Clydesdales are importing lines with Shires in them. We breed the real Clydesdales – the working type Clydesdale. Ben’s had the same legs as when he was born. A judge at a show thought he was 10 years younger than he was.
“We taught another of our Clydesdales, Bridget, to plough. When she was just four years old, she came first out of all the horses that had been ploughing for years. She was born to do it – a working horse. She lost three foals to hairy caterpillar disease before producing a colt, named Bundy.
“At the time, I was also competing my show Clydesdale Veronica. We did 27 shows in one year. Sydney, Beaudesert, Clifton, Allora – Ronny and I went everywhere. Her first foal was Brandy and I was so over the moon when she was born. She looked like her Mum and had Ben in her too.
After Veronica sadly passed away 12 years ago, there were just two fillies remaining from the breed line. When their new Clydesdale arrived, it took some time for Marilyn to create a true bond with Anna, but several years later the pair took home the title.
“In 2008, I walked Anna into the ring at the Queensland Royal Show and everyone commented on how she’d grown. She won Champion Mare that day and I retired her straight away. You can’t do any better than that,” Marilyn smiles.
At their properties in Forest Hill and Glenore Grove, Queensland, Marilyn and Ken have a mixture of breeds, including several crossbreds. But, continuing the Wallamba Clydesdale bloodline remains high on their agenda.
“Ben’s getting older and Anna’s getting on too. Louise has been absolutely marvellous. I can’t fault the team at EEVS. I first met Louise when she was operating her mobile clinic. Her rapport with horses is just unconditional.
“At the moment, we’re cutting back, as there’s no one to take over after us. We’ll keep the bloodline line alive as long as we’re alive. We have three foals right now. They should be sold, but we’ll wait. Though if Anna has a colt, then I’ll have to do something.”