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A Broken and Neglected Horse to Police Hero

Mar 17, 2024

“Suddenly, Toby saw a person shouting and spluttering, fighting to stay afloat. Without any guidance from Sid, he fought against the current and swam over to them, waiting as Sid grabbed the person by the arm. A wave broke nearby, and the man was wrenched from Sid’s grip, disappearing from view for a few moments before reappearing a few meters away. Toby saw the man before Sid did and changed direction instantly. Even in the panic and chaos, Sid was acutely aware of what Toby was doing. By this stage, he was simply a passenger. Toby was actively chasing the man in the surf. Time was running out.”

“Second Chance” is a compelling story of Toby, a neglected Clydesdale-cross, finding a second lease on life. It is also a tale of two lives rescued from despair – one, Toby, horribly let down, and the other, Tiff, struggling with demons and the aftermath of a serious head injury. Above all, it is a story of kindness and courage, a narrative of two souls on an extraordinary journey through life after being granted a second chance.

The story unfolds in the drought-stricken fields of Northern New South Wales, where Mounted Police officer Tiffany Williams discovers an advertisement for a Clydesdale-cross horse at an unbelievably affordable price. Arriving at a drought-stricken farm, Tiff purchases the bargain-priced horse but also uncovers his brother, Toby – a badly neglected, ungainly horse destined for the knackery.

“In 2001, they arrived at a property terribly affected by the drought. They bought this horse, a Clydesdale-cross. But Tiff went around the back of the property, and there was this other horse close to death,” Thurgood said. “She found out he was the half-brother of the one she was buying, but the owner had decided not to feed him and send him to the knackery because he wasn’t very good-looking,” she added.

The connection between Toby and Tiff was instant, and he turned out to be the most remarkable horse she’d ever encountered. A split-second decision sparked an astonishing journey from a brutal life in a desolate paddock to a flourishing career within the stables of the NSW Mounted Police.

Toby’s unconventional appearance, with a large Roman nose and mottled colouring was not a typical recruit for the Mounted Police. However, he proved to be one of their most trusted and valued members, handling situations too difficult for many other horses, including violent demonstrations such as the Cronulla riots.

“He didn’t look good enough to be a mounted police horse, but Tiff knew he’d be perfect for the job. So Tiff, being very persuasive, managed to get the Commander of the mounted police to let her bring him in on a trial,” Thurgood said.

“Toby’s had a remarkable life. He saved a tourist from drowning. He was also sent to the Cronulla Riots, one of only four horses sent down there that day. So, it’s about not just Tiff saving Toby and Toby saving Tiff but also Toby’s contribution to society,” she added.

For Diana, the book – only her second – has been an unexpected success, and now, thanks to actors Arron Jeffery and Zoe Naylor, both passionate about horses, securing the film rights, it looks to be made into a film. Thurgood revealed that Eagle Rose Productions is responsible for bringing Toby’s story to life on film. With preparations for the screenplay already underway, the cinematic adaptation promises to capture the essence of Toby’s heroism and the transformative power of second chances.

As for Thurgood, she’s now revisiting some of her earlier short stories about animals with a view to turning them into books. “I just finished reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, and he was saying that you’ve got to have passion in life. And if you don’t have a passion, think back to when you were three and what excited you. And I’m like, wow, when I was three, I was mad about animals. I just haven’t changed. And that’s the thing with writing, you’ve got to find what it is that really drives you and that will give you the power,” she said.

Today, Toby, now 25, enjoys a peaceful retirement near Mudgee alongside his longtime paddock mate and half brother, Bundy.

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