The Quambi Stud 125 years on
Words by Natalie Tindall
Today we had the privilege of discovering the origins of the Arab horse in Australia. We drove to Mount Barker Springs along the roads that Sir James Penn Boucaut would have driven to his place of sanctuary from his busy work day world of law enforcement and politics.
We turned off up a drive that we thought was nearest to the location we had found on the map and surprised the owner who was deeply engrossed in gardening. We were excited to find that we had found the right location and happy that she was willing to invite us back later in the day when there would be time to talk and show us around.
We arrived in the early evening and were warmly greeted by Quambi’s present day owners, Saul and Tamar. We swapped information on what we knew of Sir James Penn Boucaut and we gave them a short history of the Crabbet Arabian. Although they have no horses at Quambi today they have 2 cows , 5 goats and chickens and came to live there for very much the same reasons that James Boucaut did; for sanctuary and to live in harmony with their surroundings.
View from the house across paddocks to one of the sheds
We walked over to all that is left of Boucaut’s house, sadly largely destroyed by fire over 60 years ago. It was obviously once a home of some stature, having 12 rooms and a fireplace in each of them. The stone wall extended around the garden which would have had a magnificent view over the rolling hills. The only original plant to remain from those days is a magnificent cream coloured fragrant shrub rose which is significant itself in its own right to have once had a visit from the English Rose Society.
Despite the lack of horses it was easy to imagine them there in the lush paddocks that yield plentiful amounts of hay every year and to ponder on where exactly the well -known picture of Rafyk begging sugar from James Boucaut was taken.
Much of the surroundings have changed little –the stately pines that litter the ground with cones, but no pine nuts as the sulphur crested cockatoos harvest those before they ripen as well as the orchard of olive trees that Saul and Tamar have just restored to their former fruitful state. The non -native avenue of snow gums where pictures of the Quambi horses were taken also still stands although branches drop frequently, providing firewood for winter evenings when the cold south wind blows.
Sir James Penn Boucaut and Rafyk begging for sugar.
From his book, The Arab, the Horse of the Future
There is also a magnificent cork tree from where you can look up towards the house and imagine the Boucaut family bottling their own wine and corking the bottles from their own tree.
It seems therefore that Quambi was a place of a place of self sufficiency then as it is now, as well as being a sanctuary for Sir James Penn Boucaut as it remains for its owners today.
As it was for the Aborigines from the beginning of time, Quambi at Mount Barker springs was a sacred haven (its Aboriginal meaning) and for the Crabbet Arabian it was a tranquil place from where their unique bloodlines could begin to flourish in Australia. To this day the blood of Rafyk runs in the veins of Crabbet horses in both Australia and England, a considerable achievement and legacy for Sir James Penn Boucaut’s pioneering Quambi stud.
© Natalie Tindall 2016
The original Olive Grove that has been brought back into production by the present owners