BERYL MURRAY couldn’t imagine a life without horses.
The woman affectionately known as “Fez” in her home town of Westbury, has been riding horses on a daily basis since she was 16.
With the exception of when she went into hospital to give birth to her two daughters, Karen and Bernadette and when she recently embarked on an overseas holiday, Murray has spent at least a couple of hours a day riding and interacting with horses.
“Horses have been in my life since I was 16 and not a day goes by that I don’t have something to do with a horse and riding is my greatest pleasure of all,” Murray said.
“I bought my first horse at a local sale when I was 16 and when I jumped on to ride him home I discovered he was a harness horse because he paced all the way home and at full speed.”
In her younger days she was an amateur jockey riding at picnic race meetings and hunt events and was considered by astute judges to be a talented rider.
Show horses have played a dominant role in her life and she also enjoyed success with thoroughbred racehorses with Sandua, a horse she bred, a recent induction into the Tasmanian Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Sandau was a marvel on the track, winning multiple feature races in Tasmania and in Victoria he notched one of his best wins at Flemington with the great Roy Higgins aboard.
When Sandau’s mother, Ebony’s Best, was booked in to Armidale Stud at Carrick to be mated with the stallion Sandastre back in the late 1970s, Murray had to ride the mare to the stud owing to Ebony’s Best having an aversion to horse floats.
“Ebony’s Best wouldn’t have a bar of a horse float so I had to ride her to Armidale and after she was mated with Sandastre, I rode her home.”
Sandau was raced on lease to Longford trainer Ken Hanson but at the end of the gelding’s racing career he was returned to Murray.
The talented gelding lived out his life on the Westbury farm where he is buried, along with every other horse that has had the fortune to be associated with the Murray family over the past five decades.
Sandau was 32 when he died and his mother, Ebony’s Best, was 33 when she passed away and is buried close to her famous son.
“I can’t see a life without horses and I refuse to spend time wondering what it would be like if I couldn’t ride every day,” Murray said.
“My knees are shot and my back gives me a bit of grief but thankfully it doesn’t affect me riding.
Murray, 71, still has horses on her property with two of them daily companions of the former pony club instructor of 30 years.
Hombre is her 12-year-old riding horse and Mia’s Little Ripper her 27-year-old former champion show horse that has so many cups and ribbons Murray had to build special shelves in the sitting room to display them.
Murray has taught Mia’s Little Ripper a few unique tricks. He bows his head when asked and upon instruction he will shake hands much the same way a dog responds to that command.
Hombre and Mia’s Little Ripper occupy a paddock adjacent to the house that also is home to two dogs and a cat with chooks and some Merino sheep hanging about in a close-by grazing paddock to give the place a very country flavour.
Murray is a born and bred country girl who has forged a life around horses and her daughters are both talented riders with Bernadette still actively involved in pony club while Karen spends much of her spare time being her mother’s able assistant with the horses on the property.
The horse that kick-started Murray’s involvement in horse racing was Moresby that won many feature races in Tasmania but he also starred on the mainland winning the time-honoured Brierly Steeple at Warrnambool.
“Moresby was a marvel and when he won the Brierly Steeple I think we partied for two days.”
“Moresby was an unbelievable horse because he could win a race on a Saturday and I’d be showing him the following weekend or have him entered for a Hunt Club event.”
Other good horses bred by the Murrays were Running Moonshine and Sandau Lad, both trained by Tasmanian Hall of Fame inductee Graeme McCulloch.
Her late husband, Bruce, had no real interest in horses but Beryl says he allowed her the freedom to enjoy her passion.
“Bruce was a farmer who worked on the railroad for over 30 years and while he never had my passion for horses he would help out whenever he could and enjoyed me enjoying a life with horses.”
Bruce was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago and Beryl cared for him until he died at home four years later.
“Losing Bruce was terrible, so after he died I guess I just sunk all my attention into the horses and they pretty much keep me going.”
Murray likes nothing better than to jump on a horse and ride through the hills around Westbury but these days, finding someone to join her, prevents that happening more often than not.
“At my age it would be silly to go riding off into the bush on my own so I need a companion, but there aren’t many about who are as enthusiastic as me.”
Murray is content to saddle up Hombre every morning for a canter around her property and she then spends a couple of hours grooming the horses and preparing their feed.
“I’m fairly sure that when Hombre passes on he won’t be replaced and I won’t ride again, but I don’t spend much time thinking about life without that (riding) in my life.”