A powerful and beautifully illustrated picture book based on the true story of a brave horse called Fabish, who saved a group of young horses during the Black Saturday bushfires.
Neridah McMullin is an Australian author who writes stories and poetry for children. She aspires to write stories that matter; some are long forgotten, some are little known. Her grandfather was a stockman who bred racehorses, so she learned to ride at a young age. When she read about Fabish, she went to meet the trainer at the farm in north-east Victoria. He told her about that terrible time, and how he had to set Fabish and the yearlings free to make their own way through the firestorm. He didn't think he think he would ever see them again.
Andrew McLean is an artist who has taught painting, drawing and art, but is now a full-time painter and illustrator of children's books. Andrew also visited the farm where Fabish and the yearlings lived, and saw the old stone stables where the racehorses were saved from the fire.
When we read of the most calamitous events in history it is the displays of courage and heroism that lift us up from despair and provide us with hopefulness for the future. In many cases it is the bravery of humans that so inspire us but at times it is an exceptional animal.
Fabish was not a very successful racehorse during his days on the racetracks but he had a big heart and smart sense which he put to the very best of use during the horrific Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.
Following his retirement from racing, Fabish became a ‘mentor’ for yearlings at Tampirr Farm not far from Healesville. He proved perfect for the job as he kept them steady and showed them what was expected of potential champion racehorses.
When the raging bushfires began their deadly encroachment across the district trainer Alan knew he would be hard-pressed to keep the stabled horses safe and decided to risk saving Fabish and the yearlings by releasing them from their paddock. He had no idea just how ferocious those fires would be and when at last the danger passed and he surveyed the wreckage of the property he despaired of ever seeing Fabish or the yearlings again. Yet miraculously as the smoke cleared and the ash drifted down from the hills came Fabish leading his seven young charges, all of them without even a singed hair.
An amazing true story which has a powerful impact and is so beautifully illustrated by Andrew McLean, whose talent for portraying the Australian landscapes is unsurpassed.
Highly recommended for readers from around seven and up and would certainly earn its place in any learning situation focused on natural disasters or Australian history.
Below is an extract from the Let’s Go Horse Racing website in 2010 when Fabish was honoured before the start of the Healesville Picnic Races.
A year ago this Sunday fire roared through the township of Narbethong, approximately 21 kilometres from Healesville, and across Tarnpirr Farm, a 500 acre horse property owned by trainer Cliff Brown and his father Don.
Amazingly, none of the valuable racing stock on the property was lost, nor injured, thanks to the bravery of trainer and farm manager Alan Evett and the instincts of Fabish.
The 14-year-old grey gelding, who was prepared by premier trainer Mick Price during his racing career, sprung into action to save seven yearlings he was ‘mentoring’ in an outer farm paddock.
Sue Warren, QLD