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Global Equine - Blog


Oct 19, 2014

A Change of Scenery

This particular blog has been sitting unfinished for too long! Life at Haras du Ry has been too busy to allow much time on the laptop: first WEG and now Amy and Bella away at the Nations Cup in Barcelona.  So I’m back tracking a few weeks in this blog to share an amazingly different adventure I had while back in Queensland a couple of months ago.  Far from my new found world of the European show jumping circuit, I was offered the chance to go mustering on Hippong Station, about 70 km west of Chinchilla.  Mustering outback style is something that’s been on the bucket list for some time so I left the flurry of my brother’s wedding preparation and headed west with my good friend, Chris O’Keeffe.  Any adventure which combines horses and Chris is guaranteed to be packed with excitement and fun and this trip was no disappointment!

Hippong Station is a cattle run where rodeo pick-up rider of the year, Barry Creevey makes his base.  In saddle bronc and bareback bronc competition, it’s the pickup riders who work in pairs, and take charge of helping the competitor off the bronc at the end of their ride and remove the flank strap from the bucking animal and herd the animal out of the arena. Barry (nicknamed Frizzle) like so many of these pick up riders is a high calibre horseman with skills, knowledge and guts! 

The great Frizzle leading the way. © Jacqui Ridley 

Arriving at this cattle station was an eye-opener.  We were met at the gate then followed close behind the farm truck in our vehicle: the rough track in was difficult enough and it was hard to keep an eye on the vehicle in front through the dust!  This far out there is no phone reception, so no internet or GPS to find your way. The country is rough and the scrub dense and mustering on quad bikes isn’t possible. Even on horseback the work is challenging and when boxed in by saplings the only way out is often backwards.  It’s a place where you often rely on your horse to decide which way you’re going to negotiate trees.  I had imagined wide open plains and endless views so the landscape came as a surprise!

When we arrived at the basic camp, our horses were corralled and caught.  We saddled up the horses then put them on the truck- that was different in itself!  The truck had no dividers and the dogs were all in with the horses. The truck had no ramp so it was simply backed up to an earth ramp and the horses put on. With lunch and water in our saddle bags we drove through a maze of dirt tracks, through dry creeks and even dozed down small trees in our path! Now was a time to be really nice to Barry as we had absolutely no idea where we were going! In reality I get the impression that Barry quite liked the company as he is normally on his own and we enjoyed a lot of jokes and banter as we bumped along the rough tracks. 

During the winter drought some 5000 head of cattle on the station had been out foraging in these huge ‘paddocks’ of 100 000 acres in size. There was little if any grass but the cattle eat the scrubby trees. So the mustering entails firstly finding small groups and bringing them into the smaller home paddock.  When enough cattle for a truck load have been collect they are sent off to the fattening yards in Cooyar.   There are a team of 27 working dogs on the station who work alternate days in smaller groups.  I soon learn that the horse is an extension of Frizzle and the dogs are an extension of horse and rider- they all work as a team seemingly knowing exactly what’s needed to be done.


We reached our destination and unloaded the horses.  I had a 2 way radio strapped to me and told to take a picture of a sign which said ‘Birakula Fire station’ – this is where I had to find my way back to if I got lost... a little unnerving but I got the message! Looking around I saw why I needed long sleeved shirt and jeans and I tried hard not to trip over the huge roller spurs on my boots as I walked around saddling my horse. The stock saddles and roping saddles made for quite a change!

Chris’s first advice was to wait until Frizzle was on his horse before I got in the saddle in case we might need his pick up skills to help us!!! Then came the next bit of ‘Irish’ advice from Chris: “If you get lost just look up at the sky and see which way the clouds are going.”  Gullibly I looked up to see a clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight, much to their amusement!

When we found our first group of cattle Barry told the dogs to ‘lock ‘em up’ and hold them until they calmed down a little.  At this point I had to ask, “Am I chasing the cows... or are the cows chasing me?’ The boys simply smirked and told me ‘You’ll be right!’  The cattle then started following the lead horse and if any tried to turn away the dogs were simply told to ‘giddy up’ and keep them moving in the right direction.

I have nothing but admiration for Barry, a true horseman: he was always so calm with the horses, dogs and cattle.  He used his own and the horse’s energy efficiently and seemed to instinctively pick the best path through the thick scrub. It was the first time mustering for the horse he was riding- a green broken TB which the racing stable had trouble with so the horse had been sent mustering with Frizzle. 

Unfortunately our first day out netted only 15 cattle although the next day our score improved and 50 or so were finally brought into the home paddock.  With the cattle safely in the home paddock the boys had some fun as they got me to demonstrate my show jumping skills over some logs on the way back to the truck- I think they had a good laugh! Then we made a stop at a dam and let the horses and dogs stop for a well earned drink. Finally back at camp the horses were unsaddled and enjoyed a huge pot of boiled barley before being put out in the paddock. 

The evening sitting around the camp fire was a true experience: clear, dark night, cold dry air with only the sound of dingoes breaking the silence.  I saw about 20 shooting stars and decided the moment was one to treasure.

After 2 days of mustering we headed into Cooyar to catch up with Hank, a friend of Barry who runs rodeos all around Queensland. His business is breeding the bucking horses and bulls.  Chris and Barry are intending to go to New Zealand at the end of the year and ride on the rodeo circuit there so they were looking for a little practise and they were keen to check out the quality of the stock. Chris’s advice this time was serious- ‘ Don’t get on anything at Hank’s – even the work horse are broncs that didn’t buck big enough!’ Despite the warning it was good to see that the horses and bulls were extremely well fed and cared for.  It was obvious that Hank was proud and fond of his stock and spoke sadly of the loss of one of his best bulls that had just died from a snake bite. 

Hank’s mother cooked us dinner and we ate the best beef ever.  I was shown to my room for a well needed rest but noticed a shot gun beside the bed.  I wasn’t game to pick it up as it was almost certainly loaded- snakes or dingos only I hoped!  Next morning the boys loaded Barry’s pick up horse, ‘Spongebob’ into the trailer we had on behind ready for Tambo Rodeo.

My adventure done I headed back to a very different world - the experience has left me with a real appreciation of life in remote Queensland and the skills of those who are the backbone of the Queensland beef industry. 

I do believe my love of horses and riding has given me a wealth of adventure and experiences already in my life and I am so glad to have had the chance to tick ‘mustering’ off the bucket list-  what a world away from Haras Du Ry!



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