Moved by the Walers’ service and history, and with a lifelong passion for horses, Liston has spent the past few years determined to help the breed endure and gain the recognition it deserves.
She grew up in the southern Mallee. Her father was a cereal farmer while her mother raised four children and trained thoroughbreds. When Liston was 12 the family bought a horse stud outside Adelaide with 400 horses.
Liston was torn between following in her mum’s footsteps and breeding horses, or teaching. Today she combines both in her business, Inner Rhythm, and runs leadership and team-building programs using her horses to help people learn more about their behavior, emotions and communication skills. Digby, a Waler and a relatively new arrival at Jessica’s property has become an important part of the team. Corporate managers to school kids work with each other and the horses to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and how they can work better and more empathetically in a team.
“Horses are very intuitive and sensitive, and they pick up on their environment. They have different personalities, too – an over-confident horse will need someone with quite dominating body language, while a nervous horse needs a gentler approach,” explained Liston.
Liston has been working with Digby since he arrived at her property after completing a 2000km journey from the Northern Territory. With the help of friends, family and colleagues in the thoroughbred industry, Liston organised a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for 20 wild Walers to find new homes.
“These are the original war horse bloodline,” she said.
“The herd we found haven’t been interbred so they are the bloodline dating from WWI. I knew we had this rare pool of genes that could be lost if we didn’t do anything about it.”
The project was fully supported by local councils and traditional landowners who were keen to see the Walers placed in new homes where their bloodline could be continued. Three foals have arrived since last July.
"Mum and I travelled to a place about four hours out of Alice Springs and we worked with Aboriginal stockmen who helped us catch the horses. We spent about a week getting them into cattle yards and keeping the ones that were the right ages and could make the trip to Victoria," said Jessica.