As a guest of Tourism Western Australia, H&H’s deputy news editor Charlotte White’s four-day horse riding holiday involved immersing herself in the cattle muster at Home Valley Station, in the harsh red land of Australia’s north-west.
Home Valley, an hour or so’s drive from Kununurra airport, is a 3,000,000-acre cattle farm, made up of three formerly family-run stations.
Around 2,000 cattle are taken off the farm each year and much of the rounding up is now done with helicopters — the land is just too big to be done any other way.
But the rounding up in the ring of 1,500-acre paddocks around the station is done in the old-fashioned way, by John “JR” Rodney and stockmen Jason Newman and Cyril Yeeda.
All three come from New South Wales, Australia’s horse country, and are horse and cattlemen through and through.
The difficulty of rounding up the cattle increases as the season goes on.
In the last couple of weeks, you are left with the most difficult, wily cows, who have managed to evade capture all winter, and the scrub bulls, completely feral, magnificently horned beasts, who have no intention of being rounded up and want to take all your cows with them.
Having never driven cattle before, Charlotte joined the last drive of the season and gives her top tips for enjoying a ranching trip:
- Take your own riding hat if possible — it’s much safer and more pleasant than having to borrow one
- Remember your suncream and a long-sleeved cotton shirt. The sun is fierce in Australia even in the winter
- Acquaint yourself with the cinch girth before you go — stock saddles don’t have buckled girths and they are quite fiddly
- Don’t lean forward to get off on a stock saddle — I did and my tummy was black and blue from a close encounter with the pommel horn!
- Practise your cattle call: “Ged-up cows”, “no you don’t!” and “come back here you little @*&$” are all common cries
For more information visit: www.hvstation.com.au, www.qantas.com.au and www.skywest.com.au
To read the full travel feature about Home Valley Station and for details about other ranching holidays see H&H magazine (29 November 2012)