We’ve all done it. Made an impulsive decision without realising it’s a life changer.
Author Gillian Wills says her folly was buying a skinny, ex-racehorse fresh off the track.
“Elvis is a beginner’s dream horse,” she was told and somehow believed it.
“When I headed up the Victorian College of the Arts, School of Music, I took up riding as a stress buster. But, I’d never owned a horse, knew nothing about what to feed, let alone halter, saddle or train,” Gillian said. “I had no inkling that restoring the health of an ex-racer could be a rocky road.”
She said reconditioning Elvis was a madcap adventure, a confusion of triumphs and disasters and a bewildering immersion into an alien world of vets, farriers, dentists, chiropractors, fencers, snake catchers and pasture restorers.
As a healthier Elvis’ energy soared, the experts crowed, ‘He’s a bucker, a cold back, jargon for great at dumping riders.
“And he was perverse, a four-legged narcissist yet such a charmer,” Gillian said.
But equestrians disapproved and said, ‘send him to the knackery’.
Traditional methods failed. Instead, a gifted ‘whisperer,’ a natural horsemanship trainer sorted Elvis. But circling ropes, grappling with western saddles and ‘restarting’ (breaking) a spirited horse under a vast outback sky was a stretch for a 56-year-old pianist and lapsed Londoner.
“As a Brisbane based arts writer I lived parallel lives,” she said.
It was jeans and pitchfork by day, black dress and heels at night.
Annoyed at constantly hearing Elvis was ‘a waste of hay’ Gillian traced his history, interviewed his trainer and the jockeys who’d ridden him to victory and discovered Elvis’ grandsire was Bletchingly a legendary sprinter.
Inspired, she began to write Elvis’ story but soon it was as much about herself, and, the similarities she had found between teaching music performance and training horses.
“I sent a pitch to Finch, a champion of life-changing stories. Next day, I was thrilled to read, ‘We like this. Please send manuscript,’ which was tricky because I hadn’t written one.
“Three years later, tooling along the New England Highway towards Armidale, I heard Finch wanted to publish ‘Elvis and Me’ which is why I’m very keen to share my story here. Make that ‘our’ story,” she said.
Gillian will be in Armidale on Saturday, September 24, to share that story, when she presents a ‘Meet The Author Talk’ on between midday and 1pm at Readers’ Companion in Beardy Street.
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