Host: Dr Jillian Kelly
A few months ago, we held the Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft, of which I’m secretary. That’s the thing about living and working in a rural area – everyone has to pitch in to help to get community events happening and you often find yourself on multiple committees! We’re a small committee who get along really well, so our committee meetings are as much a social event as anything else.
The Coonamble Challenge & Campdraft Committee.
Plenty of people reading this will be familiar with the sport of campdraft, which is very popular in our area, but our event is different as it incorporates a Stockman’s Challenge as well.
The Stockman’s Challenge concept was first developed in Cloncurry, Queensland. A Stockman’s Challenge consists of a dry section and a cattle work section. The aim of the competition is to develop soft, confident horses who will go on to be strong competitors in other disciplines including campdrafting.
The dry section is similar to a reining pattern; consisting of circles, sliding stops, turns, and flying changes performed at speed. The cattle work section is similar in style to a campdraft but with more emphasis on the way the horse works than merely getting around the pegs and gate.
Craig Cowley competing at the 2017 Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft (Photo Credit: Kirra Bogan Photography).
Organising the Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft starts twelve months out from the event. We have to arrange a date, get sponsorship, book the venue, ambulance, judges, and then closer to the event, advertise and take the nominations, prepare the ground surface for the competitors, organise the order of events, prize money and ribbons, and arrange cattle.
Getting cattle is often the trickiest part of organising a Challenge or Campdraft and relies on the generous support of local cattle producers who donate their animals to the event. The committee pays for getting the animals to the event and back to the property, but often we rely on the producer to muster, yard, and draft the animals. Each animal is fed and watered, used for only one run at the event and returned home. It’s obviously good for the welfare of the animal to only use it once, but it’s also because cattle are so smart! After the first run the animal learns where the gate or fence is and how to outsmart the competitor!
Campdraft action with Terry Hall competing (Photo Credit: Emma Boland Photography).
The Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft is the only Stockman’s Challenge in NSW that is affiliated with the Australian Stockman’s Challenge Association. It’s only been running for three years but is incredibly popular already with competitors coming from all over NSW, QLD, and Victoria. In 2016 we ran the biggest ever Rookie event in Australia which was a massive ten hours of work for the poor judge!
The best thing about the event is getting to sit and watch some great horsemen and women compete using the skills, manoeuvres, and stockmanship that are unique to the Australian cattle industry and that were developed on stations alongside our beef industry over many years. It’s also a very friendly environment, with camaraderie and mateship evident all weekend.
If you’ve never been to a Stockman’s Challenge (or campdraft!), follow us on Facebook and look out for the Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft running in March 2018. Coonamble Challenge and Campdraft is awesome!