Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
No I'm not quoting M from Skyfall but Tennyson from Ulysses. Being one of my favourite poems from my school days it did strike a chord and I was reminded of it when I visited one of Melbourne's iconic recreation spots.
Brett Prebble and Robert Hickmott may have walked away with a decent cut of the 3.6 million in prize money but I wonder how much went to the vehicle of their victory.?
No prizes for guessing it right. Yes I was referring to the Melbourne Cup and Green Moon's jockey and trainer respectively. But I'm not here to sing the praises of this iconic event but a home created for these silent four-legged icons of the racetrack.
A few weekends ago having time to kill I decided to do something away from the hustle and bustle of city life and drove towards Tullamarine to visit the paddocks for retired champion horses maintained by the Living Legends charitable trust.
Located just a few miles from the Melbourne Airport these paddocks are a haven for those gentle giants whom many of us would have quite forgotten.
The paddocks are located at the fringe of the historic Woodlands Historic Park and our four legged friends must have got quite used to the fact of seeing planes taking off and landing.
The park is home to kangaroos and birdlife and is open to the public. I spotted several troops of kangaroos with joeys among them. Several hectares of bushland beckon to you so be ready with a picnic lunch and water if you plan to hike across the park.
There's a free shuttle service which picks you up from Melbourne airport though I preferred to drive down there myself. On arriving there I went straight down to the Woodlands Homestead which is listed with Heritage Victoria. There I was greeted by friendly Living Legends staff who served me delicious, freshly-baked scones and then invited me to do a self tour of the homestead.
The homestead is a good example of a pre-fabricated house shipped down from Great Britain and has had a string of owners. The homestead has been restored to its former glory and my ears, accustomed to carpeted floors, were delighted to hear the creaking of wooden boards. Framed letters, restored furniture, fireplaces and crockery used by the former inmates are all on display. Of note is a letter written describing the bushfires which almost destroyed the homestead.
Soon it was time for the guided tour of the paddocks which is a short walk away from the homestead.
All of them, quite oblivious to the fact that between them they could buy a sizeable chunk of Melbourne real estate if they had had rights over their winnings, amble up to greet you and be patted and stroked. Both keeper and horses have really learnt to be patient since these tours are conducted a couple of times every day.
I learnt from the tour guide of the day that owners do pay generously to send their horses to the Living Legends paddock and the horses are looked after with the utmost care and consideration. Of this I had no doubt looking at how the horses seemed quite healthy and happily obliged the keeper when asked to show us some interest.
But it still left me wondering how our equine friends would feel when exposed to Mother Nature's fury and if they did miss their glory days of pampering and attention.
Well I guess we've just extrapolated our concept of aged care homes to our equine brethren who have been made weak by time and fate but are still strong in will.
The steely will is evident when you look each horse in the eye. Even the really old ones have a lot of fight left in them and would probably sit down to tell you their tales over scones and Devonshire tea if only you listened to them or were a talented horse whisperer.
Living Legends is open 7 days a week from 10 to 4 except Christmas Day and runs entirely on contributions from donors and visitors like us. Even the entry fee has to be dropped in an honesty box kept at the entrance to the paddocks.
Though much is taken, much abides and if the Melbourne Cup enthuses you or if you are just a lover of animals then a visit to the Living Legends paddocks is a must.
At the end of the tour I didn't know if I had learnt more about horses or humans but it was definitely a worthwhile stop to my overcrowded stressed-out life and a reminder of things to come when my race is run.