Farrier David Bettington loved shoeing horses until an accident forced him to reconsider his working life.
The brown mare looks inquisitively over the gate as the feed shed door swings on its hinges. Her nostrils flare and she nickers excitedly to the sound of the chaff being scooped into a bucket. A colt foal emerges out of the early morning mist, floating in pale grey drifts above the grass, and softly butts her flank. A rich dark chocolate colour, just like his mother, he jumps skittishly into the air before the pair move out of the hillside paddock and into a stable for their breakfast.
Mornings like this are typical for David Bettington, a man whose quiet considered manner reflects a lifetime spent with horses. “She’s a very good horse,” he says fondly, pointing at the mare quietly eating her feed. Skye, now 21, was David’s favourite polo pony for many years and the first horse he ever bred. “Our first daughter was born at the same time and I think a lot of people were wondering who David was the most excited about, the baby or the foal,” teases his wife Jennifer as she stands beside him in the stables at the back of their Murrurundi home.
David’s passion for horses and rural life goes back to the earliest days of his childhood. “I grew up in Sydney, but I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and my aunty and uncle Jane and Paul who lived on a property called Kuloo at Cassilis near Mudgee. I was only about seven but I was out on the horse to check the sheep before anyone else in the house was awake,” he says. “Actually, it was my grandmother who said to me, ‘Why don’t you become a farrier?’”
He took his grandmother’s advice and did a course at Hawkesbury Agricultural College before starting an apprenticeship with Quirindi blacksmith Allan Frewin. After a short stint on the coast at Foster, David was soon back at Murrurundi and eventually started shoeing polo ponies at nearby Ellerston.
But, after earning his living as a farrier for nearly three decades, the keen polo player made the decision to change careers when he had an accident in 2011. “At the time I was riding a horse to assess its gait for shoeing while I was working in Queensland. It bucked and I had a bad fall. I knew it wasn’t good because I couldn’t walk, I could only shuffle along,” David recalls in his understated way.
Unable to continue working, David managed the long drive home and was diagnosed with a split pelvis. Weekly treatments in Sydney proved successful, but the father of three realised a life spent shoeing horses was no longer going to be viable. “I had started my apprenticeship when I was 17 and now my body was beginning to fall apart. My wrist was worn out, my elbows… everything was beginning to hurt. I had four guys working for me at the time but even so, I felt I needed to be able to shoe horses myself to make the business work,” he explains. “And I couldn’t keep doing it forever. I had to think of the future.”
A new career in real estate proved to be a natural move. “I’d always had a passion for property, so I thought I’d give it a go,” he says simply. “And I do enjoy it. I have loved seeing some of the older houses getting done up.”
Today, the deputy captain of the Murrurundi Fire and Rescue NSW finds the biggest challenge in his working life is sitting still behind a desk. “I can’t help it, I just love been out and about — preferably on a horse,” he says with a smile.
Bettington Rural is at 79 Mayne Street, Murrurundi NSW; telephone (02) 65466696.
For more information, visit bettingtonrural.com.au
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A morning spent talking horses was just what our editorial director needed. “I grew up riding with horses so it was great to meet David and his family,” she says.
“I loved learning about how David cares for his horses and I had a great insight into Murrurundi real estate,” says this Sydney-based photographer.