The creation of the Australian stock saddle was quite the wild ride.
Story Fiona Carruthers Photo State Library of Queensland
In 1981, a Syd Hill Suprema Super Drafter saddle ended up in the world’s most powerful office, when Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser gifted it from the Australian people to US President Ronald Reagan – presenting it to him in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C. Both were keen horsemen and land owners, and it made for a brilliant photo opportunity as the two leaders admired the fine craftsmanship.
Virtually from the minute it was created, the Australian stock saddle became an icon. Dubbed “the armchair of the bush”, its long flaps, wide dished seat, distinctive mustard yellow or royal blue serge underlining, and bold knee pads screamed ‘Made in Australia’.
Fraser’s choice of gift placed its home-grown symbolism on the world stage. “It was barely 100 years old by 1981, but it had become the much-loved national saddle, and it represented a way of life in Australia, also evoking the qualities – like toughness and a pioneering spirit – of those who rode in it,” says Michael Drapac, Victorian horse owner and developer.
Michael has spent the past decade amassing the world’s largest collection of Australian stock saddles, with more than 200, the best of which form the Drapac Collection.
This story excerpt is from Issue #149
Outback Magazine: June/July 2023