Bec Williamson is literally invested in the full life cycle of a thoroughbred.
The stud secretary at Musk Creek Farm works with horses every day. There are many high-quality animals at the Flinders property, some of which have enormous athletic potential. So, when asked about her favourite part of the working experience, Williamson chooses foaling. It must be foaling.
‘I foaled through pretty much my entire pregnancy,’ Williamson says. ‘I love seeing them entering the world. Then it becomes so rewarding when they succeed at the sales or on the racetrack. It gives me a great pleasure when I get the chance to rehome them and find their next career.’
Musk Creek Farm are obsessed with the nature and nurture of thoroughbreds. With Bec and husband Scott at the helm, there could be no other option. After all, the couple have 19 horses – all but three are thoroughbred – lodged at a 20-acre farm at Catani, 73 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.
This mindset is reflected in Williamson’s passion for rehoming and retraining.
‘I do not like seeing horses end up at places like the Echuca saleyards,’ she says. ‘I want to make sure each and every horse we have anything to do with is looked after. If they do not make it a broodmare or a stallion, I like to see them be utilised as a performance horse, a leisure horse or a nanny.
‘There is always some purpose for a racehorse and I want to make sure that it is brought out of them.’
All these views are regularly put into practice. Group 1 winner Rock Kingdom has a permanent role at Musk Creek Farm, serving as a gelding nanny to the colt foals. Williamson describes him as ‘an asset’ who ‘is quiet with [the foals] but disciplines them when it is necessary.’
His mother, Happy Empress, is another member of the farm, looking after the fillies as a nanny mare. She is supported by Trick or Treating. Two more retired broodmares – Hemispheres and Miss Diagnosis – will soon join the pair as companions for the next wave of Musk Creek Farm homebred fillies.
Self Diagnosis was offered to a fledgling equine business in Mansfield through a contact of Musk Creek Farm principal David Kobritz. Their goal was to be recognised as Approved Retrainers as part of Racing Victoria’s Off The Track Program. Self Diagnosis founded their journey.
Noneofus has become a popular case study. The gelding was offered to Williamson after a failed racing career. A Facebook call-out led to her being approached by Deb van Iersel in 2017. Noneofus has since soared in his new-found equestrian discipline, receiving the Racing Victoria OTT Award at the Victorian Dressage Festival in 2019.
Declarationofheart was an entirely different case. The gelding was a Group 3 winner and runner-up in the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes at Moonee Valley. But he was suffering from complications due to knee surgery post-career. Subsequent actions speak to Williamson’s thoughtful approach to rehoming.
‘I contacted Deb this time. He needed a specific type of home as he was not able to be showjumped. We wanted to make sure he was matched with the right person who would not do any high-impact riding with him. Deb saw him, fell in love and was more than happy to help find him a home.’
The pair connected Declarationofheart with Janine Boyce, a respected horse rider and member of the Bunyip Equestrian Club.
Williamson is a self-described “notorious breeder” who falls in love with all horses she interacts with. It was evident at the recent Inglis Premier Yearling Sale, as she lovingly caressed a homebred Zoustar colt. For a fleeting moment, the mind forgets that one of these colts can sell for more than your house.
But there is an ethical responsibility to breeding, which includes traceability. Williamson always holds herself accountable. A prime example of her adhering to ethical code exists with one of her own homebreds, the Nick Harnett-trained Seafield Road.
‘Nick approached me for Seafield Road at the yearling sales. He keeps me regularly updated on progress. And I have made it clear to him that when it is time to move on from his racing career, and he needs a new home, I will always take him back and find that new home for him.
‘I feel personally responsible for the horses that I breed and bring into the world. I want to make sure that they are well cared for in their whole existence.’
Williamson believes the racing industry has advanced their interests in animal welfare considerably over the past 10 years. She thinks more can be done to promote the thoroughbred as a versatile animal.
‘They can do anything from pony club to four-star eventing to polocrosse to pleasure riding. Providing the temperament makes them fit for purpose, the sky is the limit. I have several thoroughbreds myself that have been retrained for show hack purposes. They have infinite uses to people.’