They gallop across our screens and fill our homes with images of bygone days – an Australia of gold miners, bushrangers and stage coaches. We marvel at the athleticism and just plain good acting of the horses and animals who play leading roles in many movies and television programs. Their performances are seemingly natural and realistic, but these actors didn’t go to NIDA or hone their skills on the stage. These are creatures with the basic instincts of their breeds. To perform for the camera, they need careful and thoughtful training. This is where movie livestock contractors Bruce Gleeson and partner Evanne Chesson come in. They can turn an unruly, often un-cooperative animal into a star performer. Bruce is an experienced horseman, coach driver and riding double, with a string of Australian movies on his professional resume. Partner Evanne is an acclaimed Horse Master famous for the movie The Silver Brumby along with a string of other films and television programs. Including the Legend of Ben Hall.
Evanne has been in the film industry since she was twenty, receiving the AFI Byron Kennedy Award in 1993 – she is still the only horse master to be awarded an industry accolade. The pair crossed paths through their work on films such as The Man from Snowy River, Australia, and more recently Tomorrow When the War Began. Though primarily a horse trainer, she has also trained numerous dogs, dingoes, kangaroos and birds. Evanne trained the echidna in the “sic em Rex” campaign and horses for the Marlboro commercials.
Their home in Lauriston in the Wombat Forest gives the impression of a movie set from a historical drama. The property has a collection of animals including horses, dogs and kangaroos. The pair still have the horse who played Thowra in The Silver Brumby who is going strong at the ripe old age of thirty. Now seventy, Evanne recounts an experience the previous year, when she almost lost her life after being pinned under a farm bike. She says “I thought for sure I was a goner.” Luckily Bruce found her and she was airlifted to Melbourne and has since recovered. Neither Bruce nor Evanne have plans for retiring anytime soon. Bruce is still making harnesses and riding out each day, whilst Evanne breeds Friesian horses and plans to commence trick training again.
Silver Brumby Trails is located between Kyneton and Daylesford and caters to mature riders of any level, individuals or small groups. The highlight are the rides to Thowra’s Hut as featured on our cover. Bookings are essential. Contact 0429 589 611. https://www.silverbrumbytrails.com