Published: May 6th 2007May 6th 2007
Glassford Creek is a 4000 acre property about a 1 hours drive inland from a small town called Miriam Vale on the East coast. The terminology 'farm' or 'ranch' could be used for identification purposes but technically it is a cattle station. They do cater for guests but only in small numbers at any one time as it is a working cattle station and as a guest you are helping with the day to day running of things. I had decided to go and spend some time there to experience a different way of life for a while and I can honestly say it is probably one of the best things I have ever done.
I had been in contact with the owner Bill for good few weeks prior to my stay, his business there is horses and cattle, they don't believe in trail riding so they would teach my how to ride a horse properly and therefore as well as being a lifestyle experience it would also be an opportunity to learn something new and expand my skill base which has always been one of my key objectives on this trip.
I met Bill at a gas
My first view of the horses
This is as they were mustered into the yard by Bill
station in Miriam Vale 7:00am on a Monday morning chucked my stuff in the back of his Land cruiser and we set off. One slight concern that I had considered was who the other guests would be I wasn't sure for example if perhaps it would be more of a family orientated place. I was therefore quite pleased when while on the journey Bill explained to me that he had a young Dutch girl working with him at the moment and that two other Dutch girls (unconnected to her) were coming to stay as guests. Things were looking up already!
We arrived at the homestead just before 8:00am, the other guests there were just finishing breakfast, there were six others and this turned out to be as many as there would be during my stay as they were all in a group together and would leave the next morning.
The first job of the day was to milk a cow, we each took turns and although it took me a little while to get started I managed to get it going in the end. By 9:00am we were ready to go riding, Bill mounted a horse and rode
Bill cracking the whip
...quite literally as he chases the horses into the yard.
of out of sight. When he appeared again on the horizon he had rounded up a group of horses and in next to no time at all he was chasing them back across the field towards us cracking a whip behind him. A large group of horses flowed into the enclosure in front of us followed by Bill.
Bill got off of his horse and as I stood watching him trying to select and separate the horses that he wanted, they did not seem to want to make it easy for him. A lot of them looked pretty feisty and bearing in mind I have never even sat on a horse before I was carefully scanning the pack really hoping that there was at least one placid looking one in thre.
I was handed the reigns to a 10 year old Bay Gelding called Magic. We saddled up and prepared the horses then went off into the round yard which is like a small schooling enclosure.
I mounted the horse, that was easy. Bill explained to me how to make it go, how to steer it and most importantly how to stop. I walked around the yard
I was really hoping that I'd get a placid one at this stage
briefly but after about just 5 minutes in the yard he said 'lets go for a ride!' and off we went.
We were out for a good few hours and It was a really nice ride, I only went at a walking pace and kind of half broke into a trot on a couple of occasions but the terrain was fairly tricky, the land isn't open flat fields, we were through forests in between and around trees, over fallen logs, up and down some fairly steep slopes etc. Magic was really responsive, i felt comfortable and had no worries being on the back of him for that amount of time.
When we returned back we hosed the horses down and let them go into the paddock. We ate lunch, had a siesta and in the afternoon we went to pump water around the farm
The morning routine is always the same, breakfast between 7-7:30am, milk a couple of cows and then prepare to ride.
Today I was encouraged to trot more, I was more than up for this, it was just a question of perfecting my technique, this got better as the day
My trusty steed!
went on but trotting can present a bit of a bumpy ride. After ridding for about an hour Bill said that we were going to go and muster some cattle. This was an awesome experience and I was by now feeling fully in control of Magic, he did what I told him and was very responsive on the steering, I was just struggling to get any consistent speed out of him.
We found the cattle, rounded them up and proceeded to ride behind them to herd them towards home, this was brilliant! As we followed them two broke lose and started to head down the hill to the right. Acting purely on instinct I kicked into Magic pulled him right and trotted down the hill going out wide and coming back in to direct the two stray cows back into the herd. This was an excellent feeling and after that there was no stopping me, I was on the ball! if any cow strayed even slightly out of line I was there putting them right back where I wanted them to be. Bill was very complimentary and said that i looked like I had been doing it for years.
Heading out for the first time
I'm pretty sure I've got the hang of this already!
Both Bill and Lisa had complimented me on my riding position, Lisa is the Dutch girl who is currently working for Bill, she is actually travelling around the world much like myself. Bill had said to me earlier in the day that Lisa is one of the best riders he has ever seen and that for tips on riding position and posture I should watch her,....well they were directions that I certainly had no problem in following and with Bill being my tutor what else could i do but follow his instructions!
In the afternoon we transported a bull in the back of a truck to a different field where it was suspected that the resident bull is firing blanks if you catch my drift. I then had to separate the cattle that we had mustered into the enclosure that morning, I did this by getting in with them armed with a length a plastic pipe, it was a fairly straight forward procedure to be honest.
With the work done we loaded up a cool box with beer and drove up to mountain side to watch the sunset. Back at the homestead we threw some big steaks
on the BBQ had a good feed, sat by an open fire outside for a while I played the guitar for a bit and then turned in for the night.
The morning routine ran as usual but today's agenda was slightly different. After milking the cows we had some work to do with the cattle before going riding and this included, ear tagging, ear clipping, pregnancy testing, branding and for one unlucky calf a castration.
As painful as some of these procedures look they apparently do not heart the animals and they hardly react. Strangely the only one they do react to is the ear clipping which ironically looks like the least painful but they hate it. The castration is an unpleasant thing for any man to watch, as Bill carried out the procedure he gave us a narrative and its amazing how he can make such a horrid looking process sound so harmless he said " you take the 'purse' in one hand and the blade in the other, make a small incision and squeeze out one of the 'stones'. find the other 'stone' make another incision and repeat the process." After having that
Still on it
so far so good!
done plus an ear clipping, tag and having three hot branding irons pressed into his butt I couldn't help but think that things could only get better for this little calf as the day went on.
The cow I pregnancy tested was well in calf, due to drop in the next week or two. This procedure did involve me inserting my arm into the cows arse, I could feel the fully formed head and back of the calf, I was more concerned about damaging it than anything else but I am assured that it is all very durable inside there.
With the necessary work done we mustered the cattle back out to the field and then continued to ride on from there, I was again riding Magic as usual.
One of the other guests Lee, had asked me if I had cantered yesterday, to which I replied "I don't know". I knew I had been trotting and it felt like I had gone fairly fast but I was unsure of how to determine what constituted as a canter, at what speed or what point does a trot become a canter?
On this particular ride, on Bills
instruction I did canter for the first time and as soon as I did, I knew that it was my first time because you really can tell the difference. A trot can be quite bumpy and fairly uncomfortable, especially when you are a novice and have not quite mastered the rising trot. A canter on the other hand is smooth rhythmical and comfortable, you can really sit into it and relax as soon as I realised that and had done it for the first time I just wanted to keep doing it. I wanted to go faster and faster for longer periods of time but despite my wanting to do this Magic did not seem to share my desire and I found it very difficult to get him going and keep him going.
Lisa explained to me that as a beginner it is better to have a horse that is hard to get going but easy to stop rather than the other way round. I understood that and it made sense but I now wanted something a bit feistier and later that day Bill said that he thought I had reached my limitations on Magic and said that tomorrow
he was going to let me ride AJ.
I awoke saddened at the prospect of this being my last day on the farm and my last opportunity to ride. Every time I got off the horse all I wanted to do was get back on it again and again, I was keen to just keep ridding I wanted to perfect my skills and to add to that I now had a desire for speed as well. Despite being sad, I was also excited because today we were going to re riding faster and today I was going to be riding AJ.
AJ is a 4 year old Appaloosa. I caught him introduced myself, put a bridle on him and led him away to saddle him up, now an expert I was capable of doing these things unassisted.
Bill had decided that today, after three days of ridding, it was time for a lesson. Although that sounds a little backward there is good logic to the method as the past three days had allowed me to get comfortable in the back of a horse and build my confidence and basic ability. The plan was to
spend an hour in the round yard cantering.
I was one of three in the round yard and last to attempt cantering around it, following Bills instructions with controlled stops etc. It was pretty difficult there are a couple of areas around the fence where the horse will always want to stop and other sections where he will just want to take off. It took some doing and I Bill pushed me pretty hard including making me canter a full two circles round the yard with my feet out of the stirrups, because I had lost one earlier and instinctively pulled up, he'd had a go at me for that and said keep going you don't need the stirrups.
When we were done in the round yard, despite the hard time he had given me Bill said that he was really impressed and that I had learnt the most out of anyone because AJ was by no means a 'push button horse' yet being so young and it took some work to control him.
When we went out ridding as a group I was cantering through the forest around and over obstacles it was just absolutely fantastic
I loved it.
That evening we headed up to a different mountain side, again to watch the sunset but this time more prepared we lit a fire cooked a stew and camped out under the stars. In the morning we woke at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise. Just a couple of hours later I had to say goodbye and I headed for the train station. My short lived life as a cowboy sadly at an end.
There are more photos below