An offer too good to refuse

Host: Eva Downs Station

I guess when I think back on last year, a few of the big highlights are things learnt. I really value learning, and lets face it, it’s a massive part of our lives! When you venture north or partake in any new thing, there are obviously many of things to learn, and in the north you must learn a great deal. Not only do we as staff of AACo get to learn off of our leaders – whether it be our headstockman or our managers – but we also get to attended a number of schools. Although as many fresh faced employees venture out to stockcamps at truly the lowest end of the food chain so to say, I think that working within this particular company is a privilege as they spend a great deal of time and money on training staff, and to learn from the best is a great way to start.

5.1 copyLuke laying down his mare a new skill taught to us from our manager last year.

One of the first training days I got to attend last year that I use and forever will use was the Bill Hutton shoeing school. A cold morning while waiting for the horses to come in was met with a “Morning Dig” and with that the three-day course began.

Bill is a one of a kind and I tell ya what, every time he spoke the people were silent and listening. Bill is a master farrier with years upon years of experience, and who better to learn from I say. Here was me,  never even having thought about putting a shoe on in my life when I first meet Bill, and by the end of it I was picking up a hoof almost excited to work on it and produce something I could be proud of. Bill – also known as “Dig”, but also who calls everyone else “Dig” – is a character of all characters. His knowledge is pure power, yet his cunning and cheeky sense of humour is never far away.

5.2 copyAlways keen, Bill showing one of his techniques.

What Bill offers anyone is a sense that ‘yes you may be at the bottom, but if you can take pride and own it and produce, then being at the bottom means nothing really’ . To spend those three days shoeing horses with Bill is just so valuable. He teaches you a lot more than just shoeing a horse, that’s for sure, and I think every single person that attends one of his schools will say the same thing. Let’s not forget Bill’s right hand woman, Robyn, also known as “mum”. She truly is a mum for the weekend but a bloody hard mum at that!

You start from the basics, –a  horses hoof from the anatomy standpoint – and then work your way through learning how to read a hoof (to see how to shape it), to trimming and preparing it, shaping a shoe, and then finally nailing it on and finishing the job. If you are a bit more advanced in your shoeing then hot shoeing and forging are also taught.

I’ll never forget struggling with a shoe, I just couldn’t work out where to hit it to make it the shape I wanted! Then Bill came over and said  “What’s wrong little Dig?”, to which I replied “I can’t do it Bill, I just can’t”, and he shook his head and said “Never, never, say can’t”. Then without even looking at the hoof, just a small glance the horses way, he hit that shoe about 10 times then handed it back and said “Try that”. So I went back over to my horse, lifted his hoof, positioned the shoe, and guess what… perfect! Bill just smiled and gave me a wink and said “Come on,hurry up, you’ve got three more hooves to go yet”.

5.3 copyFor the more experienced, hot shoeing a horse.

I guess AACo gets us to start from the ground up with shoeing, and then a few months later we get to attend the Ron Wall Horsemanship weekend. I was looking forward to this for so long and like the Bill Hutton school I walked away from Ron’s school just as fulfilled.

5.4 copyKeen and willing at Ron Wall’s school

Ron teaches horsemanship skills in a way I’ve never been taught before. He teaches his method which is so simple to understand, and he makes so much make sense. Everyone – and I mean everyone – came away from the Ron Wall school with such a understanding and a hell of a lot more patience and respect for our noble steeds that carry us everyday up here. The most inexperienced rider of the camp ended the weekend feeling so good and confident in himself and his abilities, and it’s so awesome to see so many people gaining and learning and completely relishing in these schools. Ron was like Bill – when Ron spoke, everyone listened and then everyone was more that keen to go off and try out this new technique.

5.5 copyRon Wall

Ron’s schools involve a lot of riding and flat work and then this all leads up to then finally working on stock and campdrafting techniques. Everyone’s improvements were so obvious and I know my technique completely changed but only for the better. Ron’s main idea that has stuck in my mind was that you must gain control of your horse’s feet then the rest will follow. From that, horsemanship for me has changed for the better.

5.6 copyListening for tips on campdraft

There are many of these schools held within other companies and properties as well, but these are just two examples of the efforts AACo make to support and train staff. These skills learnt throughout the year pay off with the end of year AACo Challenge – a weekend spent competing and proving your skills. Held annually, the AACo Challenge is a weekend of all sorts of competitions, with horsemanship, ground work, dry work, and wet work (working cattle on horseback).

Challenges including walking through pens of cattle and guessing weights and which supply chain they are destined to. We also answered questions on water and grasses, as well as our branded beef area of the company. A highlight for everyone was the very first AACo “My Kitchen Rules” which included lots and lots of yummy treats from the best cooks on the stations, as well as innovations and metal work competitions. It was an event to include everyone from all levels of AACo and it proved popular and successful.

5.7 copyThe lessons learnt and the bonds made

The power of learning is great, but the power to teach is even better, and I think that if you find yourself in a situation where these are offered to you and you’re encouraged to do so, then what an awesome place to be. This is one reason I am so happy to work where I work.

5.8 copySunrise for another year

Thanks and I hope you enjoyed your week with Eva Downs. From me and all the crew here on Eva we wish you a happy and safe season with plenty of fat cattle!

Kathy Gabriel

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