U.S. Campdrafting: August 23

Down Under goes west: Australian campdrafters teach American riders the unique sport of campdraft.

By Abigail Boatwright
The American Quarter Horse Journal
August 24, 2013

Cord McCoy

Cord McCoy (Photo by Abigail Boatwright)

More than two dozen horsemen and -women showed up for Day 1 of a campdrafting clinic in Kiowa, Colorado, that kicked off the first-ever official U.S. Campdraft sanctioned by the National Campdraft Council of Australia and Southern Campdrafting Association. Led by campdraft experts Pete Comiskey and Steve Hart, horse people from Colorado, California and Texas – as well as Australia – convened at the Elbert County Fairgrounds for an authentic Aussie experience.

Aboard American Quarter Horses and Australian Stock Horses saddled with a sampling of western saddles and Australian stock saddles, the group spent all day learning the basics of this high-energy event. Sticking to dry work, the clinicians walked attendees through holding the line in the yard – the small pen at one end of the arena where the competitors cut and work a cow for 40 seconds. Each participant practiced guiding their horse to “work” a clinician and horse on the line before learning to ride the cloverleaf pattern around five pegs in the larger arena. Later, the riders added speed and fine-tuned their abilities to control the pace, shape and direction of their pattern while guiding another animal.

Professional bull rider Cord McCoy also attended the clinic and tried his hand at campdrafting. The “Amazing Race” star and six-time Professional Bull Riders World Finals qualifier filmed the day’s events for an upcoming episode of his show “The Ride With Cord McCoy” that airs Monday evenings on RFD-TV. Cord enjoyed the clinic and was intrigued by the Australian sport.

“I really like it because you can definitely tell anyone can do it,” Cord said. “To just go and enjoy it and compete in it, I think you can be at any level and do it. You don’t have to have a professional trainer tuning your horse up to start campdrafting.”

Throughout the day, Pete and Steve kept the group laughing while hammering home key points that include:

Stop before you turn. While working your beast in the yard, wait to see the cow’s opposite eye and stop your horse completely before turning to follow the cow the opposite direction. This will put your horse’s weight on its hindquarters and will prevent the cow from squirting back the original direction.

Give the cow one option. Don’t allow the cow to choose where it will go. Guide it toward your chosen point – especially as you break through to the larger arena.

Use an O-ring snaffle. Campdrafters ride with a very light contact and your hands low on either side of the horse’s neck. You want to be able to take light hold of your horse’s mouth through the quick movements of the event, so a mild bit is your best option.

At the end of the day, participants reported what they learned in the clinic before watching a presentation message from top Australian campdrafters. Cord said he gained more riding skills as well as knowledge of a new sport.

“I started riding horses when I was still in diapers, but I feel like I gathered so much in horsemanship today,” Cord said. “Even just in how to position the cow and how to set your horse up. I learned how to be a better horseman. I took more than just the event home today.”

The Terminology
Aussie Campdraft Definitions
Mob: a herd of animals
Yard: a small pen or paddock
Draft: a single or group of animals separated from a larger group
Stockman: someone who handles cattle and livestock
Cattle station: Australian equivalent to the American ranch
Drover: someone whose occupation is driving livestock to market – similar to cowboy
Beast: Australians often refer to cattle as beasts
Muster: to gather livestock
Peg: in campdrafting, a peg can be anything from a cone or pole or a barrel.
Jackaroo: a young or inexperienced stockman