Brodie is sitting in the shade at the Prestige Equestrian in Helensburgh, just north of Wollongong on the tranquil South Coast of New South Wales. It is here, and a property in Kangaroo Valley, that Brodie has facilitated programs, using racehorses, that have helped returned service people recover lives that were at risk of being lost.
“We have seen amazing results, most people who have come through our program will tell you that horses have saved their lives,” he says.
Word of the Horse Aid program, through the Thoroughbred and Veteran Welfare Alliance, has spread. Brodie was interviewed for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, speaking about the transformation he has witnessed among the veterans – many of them young veterans just returned from duty in Afghanistan.
“The people from the Royal Commission approached me because they had heard how effective it has been,” he says of a free-of-charge program that has helped more than 190 veterans to date, and has been expanded to help first responders.
A documentary called ’The Healing’ – created by Melbourne-based movie-maker Nick Barkla – has further connected people to the project.
The hour-long documentary follows a group of returned service people as they undertake the five-day program with Brodie in the Kangaroo Valley.
The film recently won the Beyond Blue Award for Best Film about Hope and Resilience at the Veterans Film Festival in Sydney and before that was honoured with three awards at the world’s largest and most prestigious horse festival, the Equus International Film festival in Montana.
The documentary, which will be streamed on a major platform in Australia next year, also conveys the challenges around racehorse rehoming, something Brodie has extensive experience in, having played a prominent role within the Racing NSW retraining system before it was developed to its current format.
Brodie is a highly accomplished equestrian who works with high level eventing riders and horses. He says however noble the aim of finding a home for every retired racehorse is, it is a far more challenging undertaking in practice.
“You have to build a strong foundation if the horse is going to be good for anything,” he said. “My concern is that there a lot of people that are taking horses on are not good enough, or do not have the expertise, to do it.
“When I retrain a horse, I will not let it leave me until it is safe, but I feel like horses are being pumped out and ending up with 15 year-old girls that can’t handle them. It’s keeping me in business because they end up coming to me, trying to fix problems.”