BACK IN THE SADDLE
By TONY WHITE
THREE years back South Grafton cattleman David Gillett reached the pinnacle of campdrafting ? victory in the prestigious Warwick Gold Cup.
The Warwick Gold Cup is the campdrafting equivalent to winning a Melbourne Cup.
Gillett, 24, will be back in the saddle aboard his Warwick Gold Cup-winning mare Glitter when campdrafting returns to the Hawthorn Equestrian Park, South Grafton, after a two-year hiatus this weekend.
Nearly 800 competitors, ranging from Australia's top male and female campdrafters to novice competitors, will take part in the two-day event.
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," Gillett said.
"I've only done two campdrafts since winning the Warwick Gold Cup. I've had other commitments.
"It will be good to get back and ride at home again, but boy is there going to be some competition."
Gillett has just returned from Central Queensland on a contract cattle mustering job.
The Gillett family have a large cattle property at Waterview, just outside Grafton.
Apart from his Warwick Gold Cup win, Gillett, who began campdrafting 12 years ago, has won in excess of 50 campdrafts, mostly on family owned horses.
Special skills are required to become a top campdrafter but according to Gillett 'you need the right horse.'
After a maiden class win, horses are allowed to win four novice races before becoming open class horses.
Gillett's current steed, Glitter, a kind-natured mare, was purchased by Gillett's father Geoff as foal.
"Dad rode her for a while, but I took over. She's a lovely mare, any kid could ride her," he said.
"She's been a very good horse to me, special."
Campdrafters are required to cut out cattle in a ring then chase on an outer course with riders judged on a 100-point basis.
Travelling the countryside and 'catching up with your mates' is one of the great joys of campdrafting Gillett said.
"But competing is what I really love," he said.
The North Coast boats eight Warwick Gold Cup winners and one champion horse, locally-owned Blue Moon Mystic, has the distinction of being the only stallion to win the Cup and sire a winner of Australia's most recognised draft.
Blue Moon Mystic will be in action over the weekend.
The Big River Campdraft Club held its first meeting at Hawthorn Equestrian Park in 1958.
Logistics of conducting a major campdrafting event are awesome. Apart from the large number of competitors more than 800 head of cattle, involving 28 individual cattle donors, will be trucked in and out of Hawthorn Park over the weekend. In excess of $3500 in prizemoney will be up for grabs.
Competition gets under way from 6am daily with finals from 2pm on Sunday.
Bar facilities and music will be available on Saturday evening.