‘Treading water for 10 hours’: Horses survive floods after Gympie’s wet weekend

Horse owners and farmers are counting their losses and celebrating tales of survival after the Gympie region was inundated with up to 650 millimetres of rain over the weekend.

“It’s just come down in such a hurry that no-one was prepared for it,” Tansey resident Julie Cunningham said.

“There’s lots of losses everywhere in the district … it’s devastating.”

Ms Cunningham, who is the secretary of the Tansey Show Society, said it had been a horrific few days with many horses stranded at the showgrounds.

Man in orange top leads a horse down a road affected by floodsMan in orange top leads a horse down a road affected by floods
It was a moment of elation when a polo stallion was found after treading water all night. (Supplied: Julie Cunningham)

Amongst the heartache, there are some good news stories including a stallion that survived against all odds.

“The polo fella, he got three of these mares on his truck Friday evening, and by the time he went to go back to get the others he couldn’t find some of them,” Ms Cunningham said.

“He spent the night over in one of the yards trying to save the stallion. He thought he’d lost him.”

Rescued on Saturday morning, the man thought he had lost everything until the stallion was found in the yard still alive.

“He’d (the stallion) been treading water for probably 10 hours and quite well you know, he was still in good spirits that horse and doing well,” Ms Cunningham said.

Showground yards with flood debris in themShowground yards with flood debris in them
A polo stallion treaded water all night in these yards whilst his owner was up on a stand just next to it, fearing it had drowned. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

But the excitement was bittersweet with many people losing horses in the weather event.

“They’re not only your best mate, they are your family, so when you lose one it is heart-wrenching.”

Orphaned colt finds new home

Community spirit has been a common thread running through many incredible stories of survival in Tansey.

Emma Hafey, of Jaylan Downs Australian Stock Horse Stud, was reunited with a broodmare after people swum with it to the showgrounds.

“We had some friends in the community that actually swum up to chest height [in water] to save her and get her off the verandah and bring it back home,” she said.

Young woman stands in stables with a chestnut horseYoung woman stands in stables with a chestnut horse
Emma Hafey with one of her family’s mares after it was rescued.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Many horses were found on Saturday morning after treading water all night.

One colt was found downstream in the river with no traces of its mother or owner.

Ms Hafey has placed the young horse with her broodmare.

“We’re hoping that she’ll accept him and be his mum now,” she said.

“They’ve gone through a lot and for some of them, they’ve come out very good on the other end.”

Cattle swept 10km away

Despite everything they have been through, the Hafey family have helped return lost cattle to Alex and Robyn Barsby.

The Barsbys, who run a cattle property at Tansey, were shocked to receive 406mm of rain in just a few hours.

Man on horse musters cattle across a bridgeMan on horse musters cattle across a bridge
The Hafey family were happy to help return lost cattle to owners Alex and Robyn Barsby. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

“We had about 120 head, that’s cows and weaner calves missing, but we’ve got quite a few cows back but not a lot of calves,” Ms Barsby said.

It was only with the morning light that the couple realised just how much water had inundated their property.

Woman and Man stand next to each other with green pasture behind themWoman and Man stand next to each other with green pasture behind them
Robyn and Alex Barsby are grateful for the community’s help.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Some of their cattle have been found alive seven to 10 kilometres downstream.

“We’ve got a couple in the yard. One’s got pneumonia and one’s got a cooked shoulder but most of them are pretty good,” Ms Barsby said.

“Cattle are amazing. They get in the floodwater and they just drift you know, so luckily they haven’t been caught up in fences or caught up in trees.”

For Ms Barsby the silver lining has been seeing the community band together in the recovery effort.

She said people travelling from Brisbane meant a lot to her.

“It happens all the time with floods and fires, everybody just gets together, it’s the Aussie spirit.”

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