Young horse riders herded bisons at Inverell Showground on Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18. Despite their weariness, the large bisons of the Bison Campdraft School wheeled but did not parry. Huge and hairy, the tolerant creatures are less threatening than they seem.
And though the scenes of young drafters gathering the 800-kg bison seemed perilous, instructor Kendal Neilson assures us that these gentle giants are more reliable than cattle and ideal for training because they are less likely to go “sour”.
“Young riders can build their confidence before training with cattle,” says Georgia Neilson, Kendal’s wife. From there, the sky is the limit, with campdrafting competitions gaining in popularity.
Anyone can take part in campdrafting as long as they have a basic knowledge in horse riding.
Cattle are unpredictable, but bison are easier for young riders to train with
Laura Vary, aged 10, met her first bison when she was seven. “It was scary at first,” she says. “Sometimes when the bison look me in the eye I still get scared. Just for a moment, and then I carry on.”
The Neilson couple, based in Wallabadah, take their travelling school to areas around the Northwest region of New South Wales every weekend and come to Inverell Showground around every month depending on interest.
Once considered an elitist sport, the Neilson couple’s weekend workshops are making campdrafting more accessible to the average person in rural areas. They cater to all categories, from beginner to advanced and all ages. Every week, they hit the road to different workshops taking place everywhere from Armidale to Tamworth, and Maitland to Moree. Around once a month, they come to Inverell Showground.
Workshops are announced on the couple’s Facebook page, Bison Campdraft Schools and Training. Call 0428 729 582.