These familiar faces from our TV screens and the sportsfield lead busy lives, but find peace and relaxation with their horses.
There’s a grainy, slightly washed out photo in Sylvia McLachlan’s Birregurra home of two smiley young lads yet to hit double figures in age sitting atop a pair of ponies, one grey and one near Palomino.
It’s a happy moment in time captured on the McLachlan family farm in Mount Pleasant in South Australia – happier still is that the moment has become a recurring one for the brothers in the picture, Hamish and Gillon McLachlan.
“The best thing about that photo is that both Gillon and I have similar shots of our kids on horses. History and horses seem to repeat in our family,” McLachlan said.
Born into a farming family, the McLachlan children learned to ride as soon as they could hold themselves upright; they had to, a working day consisted of hours in the saddle droving and mustering sheep and cattle. If the kids couldn’t ride, someone had to stay home to look after them.
“Mum spent her life on horses and she was a great rider – she rode for Australia in dressage. Once they get in your blood, they’re in your blood,” McLachlan said.
Soon the McLachlan boys were riding to school, a seven- or eight-kilometre trip each morning, before the horses were tied up in the neighbouring Elders livestock sales yard and saddles were slung over athletics hurdles in the sports shed.
Before he became the face of the Seven Network’s sports coverage, McLachlan took a year after university to travel abroad. But instead of bedsits in Clapham Junction in London, he headed for Lexington, Kentucky and Newmarket, proper thoroughbred country where he could be around the animal he loved.
“They’ve always been a part of life and it was inevitable that Sophie (his wife) and I would eventually get some land so that our kids could have the same experience.”
Now, if Milla, Indi, and Lex aren’t in the saddle riding around the family’s Mornington Peninsula farm alongside their parents, they’re loaded into the Gator driving around to check on their horses before bedtime.
“Milla asked me recently what my favourite animal is, and straight away I said the horse. She said, ‘me too,’ and when I asked why, she said, ‘because when I’m sad they make me feel happy, and when I’m happy they make me happier’,” McLachlan said.
“Soph and I say the one thing we want to teach our kids is respect and kindness, and a lot of that is learned through a relationship with a horse.
“If a horse doesn’t want to be ridden, they will never be ridden. You have to earn their trust and build a relationship over time, but once you’ve earned it, that animal will give you absolutely everything.
“That relationship has been so good for my kids, because they’ve learned that they can have an amazing impact on something so big and capable of such immense power, just by being calm and kind. It’s an extraordinary bond.”