“Heavy horses have such an extraordinary, placid temperament. They have this incredibly intelligent, beautiful nature – that’s why I love them.” We speak with Robyn Chapman about her journey with horses – from riding ponies as a child to breeding Shire horses at her own Belleview Shire Horse Stud.
“I was lucky to get my first pony when I was four, a little black ‘do everything’ pony,” Robyn begins, “and I’ve remained around or owned horses ever since that day. However, in the last six years, I have focused my attention on a specific breed and began setting up my stud.”
Situated in Tarampa in the south-east Queensland region of Somerset is Belleview Shire Horse Stud, which is dedicated to breeding the rare Shire horse.
“About seven years ago, I decided to start looking for a harness horse, as I loved driving as a kid. I discovered the Shire horse – an absolutely beautiful breed that’s quite rare in Australia. The Shire is the traditional English cart horse, known for its strength, power and presence. There are only about 300 in Australia.
“Building the stud has been a slow process due to the small number of Shires in the country. I began in 2011 with a four-year-old gelding that I started in harness. He was my introduction to the breed – a marvellous big horse named Kenny who did everything I ever asked of him.
“I fell in love with Shires and decided I wanted to be involved in preserving and promoting the breed. We now have seven Shires, including our stud stallion, Darkmoor Armani, and many more to come I’m sure!”
As a way of promoting the Shire, Robyn shows as much as she can, competing in harness, led and ridden classes with her horses.
With regard to the coming show season, Robyn says, “One of the key shows coming up that I’m really excited about is the 40th Gatton Heavy Horse Field Days, which is the longest running heavy horse show in Australia. We also work towards competing at the EKKA each year.”
In 2016, Robyn’s prized mare Ingleside Melinda was awarded Supreme Champion Shire at the Gatton Heavy Horse Field Days and Champion Shire at the Brisbane Royal Show (EKKA).
As she continues describing her horses, the warmth in Robyn’s voice is testament to her immense pride in them.
“We’ve got a two-year-old gelding who’s a character – certainly a favourite of our vets at Exclusively Equine. When he’s down in the paddock and hears you coming, he gallops up to greet you. At 17.3 hands and growing, he’s a little imposing, but he loves to be near people and truly is a gentle giant.”
Robyn says she was first attracted to the Shire breed because of their versatility and history. She adds, “They’re docile, inquisitive creatures who are incredibly willing and a delight to work with. Shire horses are thoughtful – they think about their surroundings and respond, rather than simply react.”
Robyn’s stud, Belleview Shires, has a promising year ahead. The horses will be out at plenty of shows and several mares are in foal for the first time. “We’re expecting our first foals on the ground this year with more to come the following year. It’s a nervous wait and a very exciting time at our stud.”
It’s no wonder that with horses as rare and precious as her Shires, Robyn believes in preventative healthcare. She says she’s extremely diligent with their worming, teeth, vaccinations and general health.
“I use Exclusively Equine for all of my day-to-day needs for our horses. The biggest concern with the health of any horses is that, without preventative care and attention, when something goes wrong, it’s almost always at the wrong time and not usually a quick fix, and horse owners all need to be prepared for that.”
Giving the team at Exclusively Equine a quick call and having a conversation on the phone can help eliminate an issue straightaway before it becomes an emergency. As Robyn says, “A midnight call on the weekend isn’t good for anyone!”