The tiny Queensland town of Wallumbilla bands together to stage one of the best horse events in the state with its annual campdraft.

Story By James McEwan

Travellers heading west on Queensland’s Warrego Highway across the plains from Chinchilla pass through small towns dominated by huge wheat silos. Clustered around the road crossings and the rail line, communities such as Drillham, Dulacca, Jackson, Yuleba and Wallumbilla look to be typical, trim outback towns where life is quiet and regulated by the farming seasons.
Wallumbilla, however, has one feature that separates it from the rest – The annual Wallumbilla Campdraft. It is a feat of small-town organisation, involving at least a quarter of its 300 inhabitants and most of the surrounding cattle stations over the two days of competition.
The town’s income is historically tied to the cattle and wheat industries and, in recent times, to natural-gas production. Locals also commute to work in nearby Roma. It can be a busy place, but there are still plenty of volunteers for the campdraft.
Competitors appreciate the consistently good standard of cattle laid on for the competition, the showground’s 150-metre by 100m sandy loam surface and its location in Central Queensland’s traditional horse country.
Steve McNamara, the very image of a tall, tough Australian cattleman, is a dedicated rider who enjoys the Wallumbilla draft. “My wife Karen and I do about 10 events a year, ” he says. “She’s a better campdrafter than me – sometimes I think I’m just along as a truck driver. This is a sport that can cost a bit with the travelling and fuel etcetera, but we have a Charolais cattle property near Chinchilla where we also breed horses for campdrafting so that’s an advantage.”
Steve says good horses for the event are mostly Australian Stock Horses with some Quarter Horse in them. “They need a combination of strength, agility and an innate ability to read cattle,” he says. “From a rider’s perspective you need to pick your beast well. We say that you pick the one you’d like to buy. I look for a kind head, enough intelligence, a combination of good speed but not too wayward. You don’t want a lump of dough.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #70

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2010