10 Tips for Campdrafting
1. Even if you are one of the lucky ones that get to work cattle regularly, good quality dry work is imperative to help your horse get confidence and understanding to know the manoeuvres to control a cow. Control of your horse not only makes the sport more fun, it keeps you safer too.
2. Make sure you give yourself the right amount of time to get your horse tacked up and warmed up so you don’t feel rushed. Keep an ear out to where they are up to in the draw and how fast they are getting through the program. But don’t be too early, your horse can get sore if you spend hours sitting on it, especially if you don’t ride much at home.
3. You want your horse warmed up so they doesn’t strain muscles or tendons, but not too hot. Think of it as if you were the horse wanting to be physically and mentally ready for the event. If you were stiff and tight, or hot and sweaty and bothered, would you perform at your best?
4. Try to get to the side of the camp about 8 or 10 runs before your run so you can watch the cattle, any longer and your horse might cool down too much if it’s cold, or go to sleep if it’s hot. About 3 or 4 runs before you, if you’ve been standing for a while, go to the nearest space and trot a couple of circles each way and stop and turn a couple of times to get your horse awake and tuned in to you, but make sure you don’t miss the “fresh fill” if you are picking your own cattle.
5. Only go at your cow when it is moving away from you or you will most likely cause it to run around you and back to the mob. When your cow is going across you need to hurry across and cover it, and when it is facing toward you it is time to defend. As you get more experienced you can look to direct and control the cow rather than just react to where it goes.
6. If you can get into position early everything gets easier, if you’re playing catch up you’re usually pushing them in the wrong direction. Practice days and clinics will give you a chance to do just that, practice.
7. Keep your cow flowing in the cut out yard. Failure to do this probably the biggest mistake I see. Next thing you know you are flat footed in the middle of the yard and your horse is stuck and confused and the cow is calling the shots.
8. Always stop before you turn in the yard, otherwise you will end up doing motorbike turns, you’ll be late through the turn and the cow will run around you and back into the mob.
9. Think of directing your cow around the course rather than chasing it, you will have much more control that way. Remember the further up the side of the cow you ride, the more ready you need to be to check back to the hip.
10. Have fun! Don’t beat yourself up if you get cracked off in the yard, even the top combinations get the whip sometimes, it’s a great leveller. After your run try to work out what went right/wrong and learn for next time, and for fast improvement the best learning tool is a video camera.
1. If you’re not sure which cattle are best try and organise an experienced person to help you pick one. Picking the best cow in the yard is one of the most critical elements to a successful run.
2. Spend as much time as you can at a draft at the side of the camp watching cattle, preferably with someone experienced. There is no substitute for hours watching the cattle in the yard learning which beast is best in the yard.
3. As each beast comes into the camp try and memorise each one. Make a mental note of how controllable you think they would be and how you think they would react under pressure. That way when someone picks it you can compare your prediction to how they actually go. If you don’t know what it looked like before it was picked then selection becomes a lottery.
4. Always ride through the mob at a walk and check your cattle available in the yard by riding at their head and getting them to move off you. You need a cow that allows you to get contact with it, but will move off you when you ride at it in the yard.
5. If a cow has its head buried in the middle of the back of a mob, it’s unlikely to be the best cow, plus it’s hard to dig out of the mob if it doesn’t want to separate. Generally cattle that are comfortable to stand at the edge or outside the mob are better, as long as they are not stale and ignorant.
6. As the cattle go up and down the yard with other competitors, watch which ones block up easily off the horse, and which ones run through the horse or backyard men.
7. If the cattle are a little stirry, make sure you work smoothly and quietly through and around them. If they are dull and lifeless, you may need to jump at them and surprise them to create some life in them.
8. If you have a mixed yard some breeds are generally better than others, ie Herefords, so if there is one of those available then check it out. Steers are usually better than heifers too.
9. Try to pick a cow suited to your level of experience and your horse, as well as your objectives. Some great “open” style cattle are too quick for maiden horses.
10. Don’t lose confidence if you pick a bad cow, even the experts pick a bad cow occasionally. Try to work out what the tell tale signs were that it wasn’t so good and learn for next time. Remember, there’s always another run.
1. Its all about getting a horse that’s the right fit for you. Your lifestyle, level of experience and objectives. Purchasing a horse is the cheap bit. Get the right one and it’s worth every cent, and they all cost the same to keep.
2. Certain breeds are more suited to Campdrafting than others; my advice is to stick with those breeds. Within those breeds there is also a range of quality and suitability, don’t assume every horse sired by “such and such” is going to be good.
3. When starting out, it’s best to get an experienced horse that doesn’t have bad habits. Top competitors sometimes move on horses that don’t quite make their grade, but some are perfect for people that are more interested in participating than winning. You need to be careful however, that they haven’t been “cooked” by those riders.
4. The ASH/QH debate. It will go on forever, but it comes down to what the rider likes and what they are best suited to. Grossly generalising, QH are more tolerant to inexperienced riders and are easier to get along with, and can handle pressure earlier too. Of the great horses competing under 8 or 9, I would say most are QH. As later maturers, the ASH comes into their own at 9 or 10 and are more prevalent in their teens. Usually ASH are a little smoother to ride and more athletic outside. Again, a gross generalisation, there is a big range of temperament, ability and inclination within each breed.
5. Find out which breeds cross the best. Sometimes you can have two great individuals, but they don’t cross that well together. I’m a big fan of crossing dull to sensitive, such as Romeo to Abbey. This worked extremely well with Spinifex x Roc O Lena too. Generally speaking if you listed the greatest campdraft horses of all time, most of them are a little quirky, and wouldn’t suit a beginner.
6. Most people ask you who your horse is by. Whilst that is important, I’m more interested finding out the mare line. On average the mare has more influence than the stallion and if you find a mare that is a great producer try and get hold of one of her foals.
7. When you are getting to the point when you are ready to start riding a better horse, do it. I see many frustrated riders trying to win open campdrafts on a horse that belongs in the Maiden and Novice. If you want to win a sheep dog trial, you don’t get a jack Russell.
8. If you are a “hot” rider then apart from improving your horsemanship, get a cool horse. If you have a “dead” seat, you may need a livelier horse to fill in for you to make a good combination.
9. Some horses don’t have the physical or mental capacity to be campdrafters. I see some horses that look like it would feel like you were riding a 4 wheeler with square wheels and the rider wonders why it won’t corner outside. Or they don’t have the desire, or the calmness required to control a cow. Not all horses are suited to campdrafting by any stretch.
10. If you keep buying and selling horses and none of them suit, take a look in the mirror. If you think they have the ability, look to yourself to see how you can improve yourself to get the best out of your horse. Keep learning and have fun!