A fiery passion for reining horses found Robert Lawson on its own, but this Australian was born with a love for his country and all things native to it.
“My very first mentor worked in the outback of Australia at cattle stations. He is what we would call a bushy,” said the NRHA Professional. “He took me under his wing and taught me how to start colts.”
That was over 40 years ago. Rob started Lawson Performance Horses in Australia but found his way to both the states and Europe before setting up shop back home in New South Wales. He specializes in training non pro horses and coaching their riders.
It was a couple years ago that Rob and his wife, Lisa, started raising marsupials by happenstance.
“My wife was driving to work one day when she came across a red-necked wallaby that had been hit by a car. There was a joey [baby kangaroo] in her pouch. She brought it home and asked if we could keep it.”
Learning to care for a macropod was no easy task, especially when the little joey didn’t even have hair yet. Rob compares raising a kangaroo to an infant: lots of feeding, changing, and holding are involved. Unlike horses, it is possible to have too many joeys.
“I’m in a position where I can do a soft release for the joeys once they are strong and healthy. There are a couple of mobs [kangaroo herds] around my place that the joeys have joined up with, but they come back and visit every now and again.”
Seven joey rescues later and Rob is now left with one: Millie.
“Millie was my fourth joey and she was found in someone’s front yard with two broken legs. It was probably her first time out of the pouch, and with two broken legs she couldn’t get back in. She was just waiting for something bad to happen to her.”
The nearest wildlife vet, Harold Ralph, fixed Millie’s legs so that one works almost perfectly while the other is as close as it can be. These injuries prevent Millie from joining one of the local mobs, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
“The horses are absolutely desensitized to kangaroos. When my horses are babies and the joeys are little, they are around each other all the time. I take the joeys to the barn and hang them up there.”
Some of the horses have even given kangaroo cutting a try just for fun. It’s not uncommon to see Rob out for a trail ride accompanied by one of his kangaroos.
Much like horses, Rob has found that kangaroos have their own unique personalities. His time raising orphan and injured kangaroos has led Rob to become a wildlife advocate for the species in his area.
“Raising these animals has been eye opening for me. To witness their interactions with humans is a bit sad. As more people move out of the cities there is more pressure placed on the wildlife. Very little consideration has been put into designing infrastructure to accommodate wildlife until very recently.
“Wildlife doesn’t have a voice and we, as the wiser species, should be able to do better for them.”