Host: Farrcombe Contracting
Written by Raine Pugh – Owner, Farrcombe Contracting.
It is very common now for most stations to use bikes in preference to horses, they say bikes are quicker, less maintenance, cheaper to run etc etc. We prefer to use a combination of horses and bikes. We run four bikes: A quad, 2 x CRF 230’s and 1 XR 400. The 230’s are ideal as they are easy to maintain, lightweight and small for girls to use, have an electric start, and are versatile. The XR 400 is for Potter only, I find it terrifyingly fast and disturbingly loud. However, from a male’s perspective it is comfortable and powerful. The quad serves many purposes: Catching and leading horses, carting working dogs, driving through thick mud, carrying heavier items such as horse feed or baby calves on the tail, and also for educating certain animals whom decide not to fully co-operate.
During mustering the bikes prove useful as they can get to where they need to be quickly and can also cover a large section of the mob. The noise generated by the bikes can be either a hindrance or a help depending on:
- The bike’s location, distance, and position on a mob of cattle
- How the cattle react to the bike
Sometimes if a bike is on the tail, the noise speeds the lead up and the cattle tend to become quite pushy, however if the mob is pushy in general, it is helpful to have a bike in the lead as the noise tends to slow them down. When riding a bike compared to a horse the distance that you position yourself from the mob changes. Obviously you can travel a lot closer to the mob on a horse than a bike.
The environment also plays a factor, horses can go through rivers/creeks, thick scrub, severe potholes, mud, and sand. Bikes tend to avoid these areas as expeditions on a bike through these environments do not end well.
As a general opinion, cattle which are worked with horses appear to be more quiet, often walk mothered up with their calves, and are under less stress then when walked solely by bikes.
Horses however prove not only to be useful by working the cattle quietly but also serve as companions with their forgiving nature and various personalities. No two horses are the same and I would be lying if I said there were no favourites. My personal favourite is Nasdaq, he has many admirers. I bred and broke in this gelding when I was in my teens and have developed my horsemanship skills with him. His personality is cool, calm, and collected, absolutely nothing fazes him . . . my friends and our crew members are fully aware of my affection for him as I often refer to him as my soul mate. He listens to my problems, never talks back, and gives the best cuddles. Often at the campdrafts my friends like to tantalise his tastebuds by feeding him pizza crusts, dim sims, and hot chips. He often curls up in the hay in his yard and attracts many of the drunks staggering home from the bar for snuggles or bareback rides. My devotion to this horse will never fade and I hope that he will be around when I have children as I know he will teach them and care for them as he has done for me.
Potter of course also has a favourite horse. She is a stockhorse mare by the name of Harmony. Potter purchased Harmony at a horse sale at Daly Waters in 2009 for a very good price. She kicks when she gets shod, is difficult to catch, is painful to load onto a horse truck and when fresh, has been known to dismount a rider or two. The partnership here between Potter and Harmony is highly professional and work related. When on the job or at a campdraft, Harmony is an unbelievable horse who watches and tracks her cattle with precision, she has won a Novice Draft and an Open Draft in the space of three campdrafts and places almost every weekend. We decided that we would like to breed Harmony and in November last year, after three years of trying we were finally rewarded with a brown colt, whom Potter has named Scallywag. We have big dreams for Scallywag, yet he possesses a lot of his mother’s traits already and believe that his education may be just as challenging as hers was.