The Saddle Club, AKA the Victorian Coalition, said it will end brumby culling if it wins the state election in November, and it’s causing friction between the horse stans and the neigh-sayers.  

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh told The Age the Liberals and Nationals “will rule out the aerial and ground shooting of brumbies,” and instead work towards sustainably controlling their populations through veterinary interventions and rehoming strategies. 

Sounds good, right? The cute horsies won’t be sniped and can frolic freely with their friends, eating hay and sugar cubes and apples? 

Not quite. Look, don’t get us wrong: we all wuv a widdle howsie and no one wants to think about them meeting the business end of a rifle. But the impact brumbies have on the environment, especially in wetland ecosystems, national parks and alpine environments, is fucked. 

According to a report submitted to the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, brumbies have been grazing, stomping, and shitting in the Australian Alps across New South Wales and Victoria for more than 100 years.

Experts have known about the environmental damage caused by brumbies since the 1950s but Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said the problem is getting worse. 

“We’re seeing increases in damage by hard-hooved animals, particularly in alpine sphagnum bogs,” he said. 

“They’re fairly fragile, sensitive wetlands with a whole raft of species that are dependent on them.

“Horses turn up, reduce water quality and directly damage the bogs, either through trampling and rolling on them, or even eating them.”

If I’m being honest, I don’t blame them. If I were a feral horse, nothing would bring me more joy than clomping around the swamps and mountains, munching on flora and random piles of goo, before lifting my tail to shid and fart. 

But Ruchel said the problem with brumbies going sicko mode is they’re doing it in protected national parks and reserves

“National parks are our key, prime ecological asset that are set aside for ensuring the survival of not only threatened, but all species,” he said. 

“Legislation and international agreements oblige park managers to manage feral species, including horses.” 

Therein lies the problem with brumby culling: how TF do you manage feral animals which, as the name suggests, literally cannot help but go hog wild? 

Australian Brumby Alliance president Jill Pickering said it’s not by shooting them. 

“They are healthy, sentient and valuable animals; if they have to be removed, we’ve asked Parks Victoria to trap them,” she said.

“We’ve also been pushing for fertility control, where darts deliver drugs to mares, which stops them from producing foals for two to three years.” 

But because it only lasts a few years, the Australian Veterinary Association doesn’t recommend fertility control. You’ve heard it here first: a Mirena for brumbies that lasts up to seven years could have been the pitch that saved Shark Tank from getting the axe in 2018. 

According to Ruchel, experts have been discussing culling options for yonks but none of them are perfect. 

“Trapping is most often pointed to but once the horses are contained, there are lots of logistics; they need to travel for extremely long distances in trucks along bumpy roads,” he said. 

“Then they’re either rehomed or sent to the knackery but there is no demand for rehoming, and they’re competing with thousands of retired racehorses.

FYI: the knackery is the glue factory.

Ruchel said brumby running — the Auscore version of the running of the bulls — endangers the horses as they trip over and break their legs, which means they need to be euthanised. And speaking of assisted dying, he said aerial shooting, as long as it’s done correctly, is the most humane form of brumby culling. 

Brumby stans’ parasocial relationship with the mystical horse stems from the fact they are Australian icons with old timey roots. 

Pickering said the brumbies of yore were verse kings, which were bred to be ridden, carry furniture when you moved house and plough the fields. These exceptional equines even galloped in Gallipoli, when they were shipped off to fight in the First and Second World Wars. 

“They are part of Australia’s history,” Ruchel said.

“But just because something has historical significance doesn’t mean it needs to be part of modern practices or a biodiversity crisis.”

To cull or not cull, that is the question. But seeing as brumbies arrived in Australia with the first fleet in 1788, they technically are colonisers. And we all know how we feel about colonisers.