THINK you have what it takes to be the best stockperson in WA?
Well strap a saddle on your horse and register to compete in the Best of the West Stockman’s Challenge at the Dardanup Equestrian centre from February 15-17, 2019.
Leading riders from across WA and interstate will compete in a series of challenges that will showcase traditional horse handling skills that were vital in a bygone era and in many cases were the difference between life and death in isolated locations.
Riders will be further challenged by having to use the same horse and saddle for the entire competition that features stock handling, shoeing, saddling and working with a packhorse, cross country riding, bareback obstacle skills and whip cracking.
This means the horses need to be exceptionally fit to go the distance over three days.
The finalists will then compete in two additional events, the stock saddle buck jump and a loose horse catch, to claim the title of Champion Stockman, Champion Stockwoman and Champion Junior Rider.
The Best of the West Challenge has been a dream of Collie man Jim Laverty who grew up in the Snowy Mountains and competed in The Man from Snowy River event at Corryong, Victoria as a junior, made the final in the adult event three times, and remains a keen competitor in national events.
The Corryong festival started in 1995 and was named after the popular Aussie bush poem by Banjo Patterson because the events personify the old-style skills of pioneers and stockmen working with their horses in remote locations.
The Man from Snowy River event is now a major date on the equestrian calendar and has sparked the establishment of other similar events in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
As vice president of the Boyup Brook Working Horse Club, Mr Laverty encouraged his club to take on the WA event as organisers.
Corryong local, keen horseman and Jim’s father Trevor Laverty was one of the inaugural committee members for The Man from Snowy River competition.
When the family moved to Collie Jim continued to compete in the Eastern States and now teaches horsemanship skills at the Boyup Brook Working Horse Club.
When at Corryong in 2017, Jim and Trevor spoke to competitors about a similar event in WA with support from the Boyup Brook club.
Fellow club members Lee Holland, Gemma Lee-Steere and Scott Keilar developed the idea further which saw the inaugural event held at the Dardanup Equestrian Centre on April 20-22 this year.
“That’s how the idea sort of got rolling, the whole thing behind it is to showcase a lot of good horseman and women here in WA and we just want to put them on show for everybody and show a bit of the heritage,” Jim said.
“It showcased a lot about what horsemen and women could do and it bought back a bit of our heritage back when we were using pack saddles.
“In the pioneering days stockmen often worked alone or in small groups in some of WA’s most isolated areas.”
After the success of the 2018 event, a formal Best of the West Stockman’s Challenge committee was formed with Jim as president and Lee Holland as secretary.
Lee and Gemma are both events co-ordinators and are supported by Scott Keilar, Kate Fysh, Brian Edwards, Max Fry and Syd and Rebecca Eats.
“The major highlights from 2018 were sportsmanship, camaraderie and the preservation of heritage pack saddle skills,” Lee said.
“Prior to the event only a handful of competitors had seen a pack saddle and we now have some 30 people who are skilled in techniques like this which were so important to pioneers, explorers and stockmen in years gone by.
“There was great interest from WA riders, local sponsors and spectators despite torrential rain throughout the competition.”
Jim said they wanted to see the competition expand and now that it was part of the national calendar, more leading competitors from across the country are expected to head west.
Lee said there had already been strong local and interstate interest.
Now that WA has its own event interstate riders can travel the country to compete nationally with the event now part of the national equestrian calendar.
Spectators can expect to see plenty of action as competitors show their mastery of horsemanship and stock handling.
Entertainment will include an auction, nightly music with a local DJ and a special show with Australian Nathan ‘Whippy’ Griggs who is a three-time Guinness Record Holder in whip-cracking techniques.
Camping will be available onsite for competitors.