Bargara-based Aliénor le Gouvello tamed three brumbies and teamed up with them to take on the challenge of the Bicentennial National Trail, Australia's longest trek. She has now written a book about her journey. Photo: Cat Vinton
Bargara-based Aliénor le Gouvello tamed three brumbies and teamed up with them to take on the challenge of the Bicentennial National Trail, Australia's longest trek. She has now written a book about her journey. Photo: Cat Vinton

WILD AT HEART: The journey shedding light on brumby plight

From the moment Aliénor le Gouvello encountered wild horses in the Australian outback, she was transfixed.

An animal fiercely loved by some and considered a scourge by others, brumbies have a complicated place in Australian culture and history.

Inspired to celebrate their character, French-born Aliénor tamed three brumbies and teamed up with them to take on the challenge of the Bicentennial National Trail, Australia's longest trek, which she finished in 2017.

The trail spans 5330 kilometres from Cooktown to Healesville and Aliénor is one of only two women to complete the trek on her own and the only person to do so with the same horses from start to finish.

Bargara-based Aliénor le Gouvello tamed three brumbies and teamed up with them to take on the challenge of the Bicentennial National Trail, Australia's longest trek. She has now written a book about her journey. Photo: Cat Vinton
Bargara-based Aliénor le Gouvello tamed three brumbies and teamed up with them to take on the challenge of the Bicentennial National Trail, Australia's longest trek. She has now written a book about her journey. Photo: Cat Vinton

 

Now, Aliénor has written a book titled Wild at Heart detailing her journey.

She enlisted the help of the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association after researching associations who worked with brumbies.

"I went to an open day of theirs and met with the founders who are wonderful people who set up a trapping program in the Guy Fawkes River National Park to trap the horses and rehome a majority of them," she said.

"I was in discussion with them for quite a while to find the right horses for my trek who were the right age and had the right temperament and they were extremely supportive from day dot.

"I went and lived in Dorrigo at their place for eight months while I trained the horses."

Aliénor used gentle methods to train her trio and she said working with them was a "huge learning curve".

Aliénor and her horses River, Cooper and Roxanne took 13 months to complete the trek starting in Victoria and finishing in Queensland. Photo: Cat Vinton
Aliénor and her horses River, Cooper and Roxanne took 13 months to complete the trek starting in Victoria and finishing in Queensland. Photo: Cat Vinton

 

She initially started out with three colts, but only one of them was the perfect fit.

"One was very a dominant older stallion and the other one was very wild," she said.

"I had a fine line and requirements for temperament giving the trek I was doing.

"Out of the three I initially had only one worked out and the was Cooper, who was very gentle and was training well.

"Then I ended up getting River, the little palomino, who was only young and when they're younger they're easier to train.

"At the last minute I got my mare Roxanne, she was trained but had been left in the paddock so I had to retrain her before I left."

The journey took her and her three horses 13 months all together, starting in Victoria and finishing in Queensland.

Aliénor did the first stretch of the trail in 10 months before taking a break in Nebo, southwest of Mackay, during the wet season.

Aliénor said one of the most rewarding thing was being able to showcase her horses and “raise a light” on the brumby plight. Photo: Cat Vinton
Aliénor said one of the most rewarding thing was being able to showcase her horses and “raise a light” on the brumby plight. Photo: Cat Vinton

 

But while the trek had its rewards, it also came with its challenges.

Aliénor battled difficult terrain, and had to find food and water to keep her horses in good physical condition.

"It really put their training to the test, the first few months the two younger horses weren't really up for it, and it was really hard to get them working together and moving in harmony with each other," she said.

"My mare Roxanne really proved why I brought her, she was amazing she showed those boys how it was going to be and pulled their butts up and down those mountains for the first few weeks until they realised they weren't going to get out of it."

But the elements weren't all Aliénor had to battle, falling ill towards the end of the journey.

"When you're doing such a physically demanding trek when your health is challenged, it just throws everything out the window," she said.

"The last three months were just excruciatingly difficult and painful, I had ross river fever and then I sustained a really nasty staph infection and ended up in hospital, but each time I just got back on the horse and kept going because I just wasn't going to quit."

Aliénor and her horses battled tough terrain during the trek. Photo: Cat Vinton
Aliénor and her horses battled tough terrain during the trek. Photo: Cat Vinton

 

But while the trail had its challenges, it also had its rewards.

"One of the most rewarding things was being able to showcase my horses, and raise a light on the brumby plight," she said.

"But also just completing it and not just saying I'm going to do this but actually doing this, but actually doing it and my horses doing it in fantastic condition and never sustaining any injury.

"And proving to the world that these horses are worth looking after, that they're fantastic horses, extremely resilient, versatile and adaptable.

"The other really rewarding thing my connection with my horses, it was something I've never experienced in my lifetime around horses.

"The bond you create with a brumby in the first place is really unique, but spending 13 months on the road and deepening that to a level I never could have comprehended."

Aliénor now calls the Bundaberg region home and so do her three horses who completed the trek with her.

"They're my family and will always be with me," she said.

Aliénor's book Wild at Heart is available for purchase now.

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