Host: Katherine Outback Experience
Written by Tom Curtain – Owner, Katherine Outback Experience.
Katherine Outback Experience was officially launched in July 2013. The 90 minute show comprises authentic horse-breaking and working dog demonstrations, animal tricks, country music, and bush tales. I don’t want the show to be about me, I want it to celebrate and showcase the Territory, provide a snapshot of station life through the animals, stories and music. I am passionate about showing the world what the territory is all about together with the importance of animal welfare and land care.
The show starts with a live demonstration of horse training, using one of the horses I’m currently breaking-in (with my business Riverboyne Horsebreaking & Training). I explain what we look for to identify a particular personality trait in a young horse, and the psychology between horse and man. I attempt to ride the horse in front of the audience, however it doesn’t always go to plan as I will only push a horse as far as it’s ready to be pushed.
Riding a breaker with a tarpaulin during a Katherine Outback Experience demonstration.
We have built up and trained the Riverboyne Working Dog Team that currently consists of two dogs and seven bitches (female dogs). These guys are unreal; they all have a different personality and are constantly making us laugh. During the show the team simultaneously work a small mob of cattle, ducks or goats. They are also super friendly which is great for getting kids involved in the show.
Working some goats with the Riverboyne Working Dog Team.
Legend the Horse laying down for our guests.
We also use our campdraft horses as trick horses. We have trained one horse to lie down so I can sit on him whilst playing a song. Last year a tourist bet a carton of beer that I couldn’t get my horse cutting out a beast whilst playing guitar and singing Paul Kelly’s ‘To Her Door.’ Unbeknown to him, our stallion Acres of Ra is very ‘cowy’ (meaning he loves to work cattle), so I accepted the challenge and sure enough won the team a carton of beer! The stunt was filmed and uploaded to our Facebook Page where it went crazy, clocking up 180,000 views and gaining international attention. The power of social media is mind-blowing!
Playing guitar and singing whilst our stallion ‘Acres of Ra’ cuts out a beast (aka steer).
We round out the show with a few songs – we have worked out the best way to get rid of guests is to start singing! Just joking, it’s a nice way to finish off the show. Guests are given the opportunity to interact with all the animals including Bernie the Buffalo and Tin Shaker the Brahman Steer.
School students patting Tin Shaker the Brahman Steer.
Who doesn’t love puppies? Some of our Border Collie Riverboyne Working pups.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. When we first opened, we would operate shows three afternoons a week and some days no one turned up. Some people laughed at me and told me it was a waste of time.
I recall chatting to Ted Egan, whom I met at the Tamworth Country Music festival and who owned and operated a tourism business in Alice Springs. I asked him about starting-up Katherine Outback Experience. He simply said “it’s hard work but if you own your place, are good at what you do and people can see it’s real – it will work.” That was some the best advice I have been given in this whole experience.
As we approach our fourth tourist season, we can confidently say Ted was right. The show has grown in leaps and bounds. In addition to tourists, we host a number of school excursions from Kindy through to Year 12. This has allowed us to expand our service offering to educate students about animal handling techniques, animal husbandry, the history and importance of the Northern Territory beef industry and best land sustainability practices.
Standing a top of a different kind of stage – our stallion Acres of Ra.
More recently we accepted an invitation to work with Great Southern Rail, offering two exclusive shows a week from May to October for guests travelling on The Ghan. This is pretty special as back in 2003, Janet Holmes a Court (part of the Holmes a Court dynasty that owns Heytesbury Cattle Co), whom I met whilst working at Mount Sanford Station, flew me halfway to Alice Springs to spend a few days in the workers’ camp, see the sites and learn the lingo whilst they were building the Darwin to Alice Spring Railway Line with the intent to write a song. This led to the song ‘A Long Straight Line’ which features on the Smack Bang! album. I’m looking forward to using this in the show for guests travelling on The Ghan.
The kids from Katherine School of the Air at Katherine Outback Experience.
Later this year we are hoping to take the show to Dunsborough, in the southwest of WA from November to April. This is still a work in progress and may not eventuate; nonetheless we are excited by what the future holds.
We still have a lot to learn, the tourism world is new territory for us but we love what we do. Over the years, life has taken a few unexpected turns and thrown in a few challenges. However, as iterated in our previous blogs, we are confident that with a positive attitude and strong work ethic, we will make it.
We leave you with this great quote Conor McGregor:
“Never ever shy away from challenges. Never run from adversity. Face yourself head on.”
Country music stars Joe Ahern, Harry Hookey, and Bill Chambers playing a surprise gig in the dog pen at a Katherine Outback Experience Show.