WILLINGA PARK’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GOLD BUCKLE CAMPDRAFT
These competitions that started out selecting cattle from a rustic round pen and driven around three roughly-placed bush pegs have now become major events, with facilities that are far from rough and ready. A relatively new event to the campdraft scene, the Willinga Park World Championship Gold Buckle competition is beyond equestrian imagination and blows the Warwick Gold Cup out of the water in terms of prize money, with $286,000 on offer. And it is rapidly gaining in prestige as well.
There are 439 horses entered for the 2021 Volkswagen World Championship Gold Buckle Campdraft, with the competition staged over three days from 13-15 May. The age limit for riders is from 13 upwards! Classes start at 6am and go through until 9 or 10pm at night for the first two days, with all horses getting a run in the first two rounds. The final day sees 80 horses in the semi-final then 30 horses in the final — and what a final it will be. The winner is awarded the Gold Buckle valued at $8,000, plus $100,000 cash, as well as rugs and garlands. This makes the Willinga Park Gold Buckle Campdraft the richest in the world!
To run a campdraft is quite a feat and, given it is currently the fastest-growing equestrian sport in Australia, bigger and more modern facilities are really needed. With such huge money in this exciting, all-Australian sport, interest and sponsorship and horses needed for the sport are at a premium. And, of course, big prize money attracts great interest.
Terry and Ginette Snow, owners of the prestigious Willinga Park, have long been passionate about Stock Horses. Their passion started when Terry switched sports from sailing to horses and, loving the Stock Horse breed, riding, competing and breeding them followed as a consequence. Breeding Stock Horses leads to campdrafting competition, as that is where their prowess and niche lays.
Along with that comes the need for better and bigger facilities, and where better than at the fabulous Willinga Park. The work involved to run a competition like this is enormous. One of the most important elements for a good competition is the cattle. In the beginning at the country drafts, the cattle were brought in by locals to the camp. With a draft the size of the Gold Buckle, there are 1000 head required, all brought in from Terry and Ginette’s cattle properties.
On talking to past Gold Buckle champion Pete Comiskey about the cattle brought in for campdrafting competitions, it is enlightening to hear his views. “I don’t mind any breed of cattle. In the camp, when I look to pick a beast to cut out from the mob, the breed is irrelevant,” he says. “I rarely take any notice of that. It is one of those things that is hard to explain as to what I look for. It comes from years of experience.” He did start campdrafting when he was eight! “It’s a look in the eye and the face, it’s about attitude, it’s a feeling of confirmation that you get from experiencing so many runs.
“The problem with some cattle nowadays is that they are not as well handled in most cases. It’s not about having cattle that are fiery and want to run, it’s about having cattle that are confident and not worried by human and horse intervention. It’s about having cattle that are used to moving around the yards, that don’t run through gateways, that stay calm and are used to things going on around them. We don’t like seeing cattle in any way distressed by their surroundings, and of course their wellbeing is of the utmost for the sport and for us.