Kev Wallen: A fair dinkum horseman

Kev Wallen had a lifelong passion for coloured horses.
Kev Wallen had a lifelong passion for coloured horses.

ANY of you who have been connected in any way with horses may well have known, or at least heard of, the famous horseman featured in today's article for he was known far and wide in every aspect of the horse industry throughout Australia.

Kev Wallen was born on May 2, 1928, and spent his early childhood on his family property at Moore, in the Brisbane Valley. The family moved to Wynnum West and started a poultry farm on Radford Rd.

As a boy Kev had a passion for horses and saw them as his future.

Somehow he managed to save the price of a milking cow. He beat the sun up every morning, milked her and delivered this precious nectar to customers on his pushbike until he amassed the princely sum of 80 pounds.

In his early teens by now, Kev bought a ticket on the rattler bound for Toowoomba, invested his entire fortune in half a dozen of the best horses at the sale, loaded them into a KB rail wagon at Harristown and rode home in the drovers compartment, confident his father would lend him the price of the freight. His father taught Kev a lesson he would never forget - refused his request and Kev was left with no option but to to sell one horse immediately at a discount to cover the cost.

A lifetime in every aspect of the horse business lay ahead for Kev Wallen, who was apprenticed to Darkie Jones as a jockey for a time until he became too heavy. It was the closest thing to a regular job he held in his life. Kev raced speed ponies at Hawthorne Park and raced trotting horses at Rocklea and the Brisbane show, having success with Silver Sheik. Later he concentrated on thoroughbred racing.

My first sighting of this man was on the Wynnum foreshore where he ran a lucrative pony ride business for years. I had my first ride there. It was my seventh birthday and all I wanted was to ride a horse. Four years later I found my way to The Camp on Randall Rd, stables, yards , a quarter-mile track, horse-drawn vehicles, a hive of activity, kids everywhere, horses everywhere and for only six bob you could hire one for an hour, absolute heaven to me, only problem was, more often than not I didn't have six bob. There was always work for willing hands and it wasn't long before I was in the team spending weekends at The Camp through my teenage years.

By now Kev was at the height of his training career, enjoying success with several horses - Rita Roy, Clabby, Franceson, Conrad and Champere were a few that paid their way.

Kev had several jockeys apprenticed to him over the years. Les Graveson, who went on to have a training career, Ron Plumb and Doug Messingham, who had rewarding careers through the 1960s and early 1970s.

Kev Wallen had great patience with horses and kids with promise but no tolerance for "half broke-in badly mouthed colts". He had a phraseology all his own - boys were colts and girls were fillies. He and his wife had one filly, Cheryl, and two colts Geoffrey and Alan.

Presentation was paramount to Kev and few could dress a horse like him. He was pedantic in many ways: If you fell short of the mark, he would remind you that "you were not out on Tickle Belly Flat or Hard Faced Gully and while you're in my camp you will do it right".

Should you be good enough to be recommended by Kev as a good colt, you could get a start anywhere. Paul Knight, of Magic Millions fame, would certainly attest to this with eternal gratitude.

Kev, was grateful to another good colt, Wayne Dyer, who unselfishly gave him assistance when needed as Kev's mobility waned.

On May 28, 2010, after 82 years of doing exactly what he was born to do and doing it with style and grace, Kev Wallen passed away. Hundreds attended his funeral.

Ron Roman, who travelled home with me, said: "I wonder just how many young fellas got their start with old Kev". I replied: "I've been thinking about that very thing and the influence he had on my life. I went there for a ride on a pony. What I got was a fabulous initiation into horsemanship, a work ethic, public relation skills, priceless pearls of wisdom and a lifelong friend. I reckon I owe Kev Wallen an immeasurable debt of gratitude."

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