Kate Neubert had Willinga Park’s young horses cutting cattle quickly.
The US cutting-horse trainer had just six weeks to help plan the future of the Australian Stock Horse stud’s campdrafting stars, so she quickly got down to riding some of its recently started horses.
“It’s been technical stuff; working on the mechanics of how they move and respond – lots of little details,” said Kate.
Back home, Kate is a respected cutting-horse trainer and competitor who gained national recognition while competing in the 2017 Road to the Horse competition where she was both a finalist and the Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award winner.
Away from the glitz and glamour, most of her work is preparing and training young horses. This was Kate’s second visit to Australia, having made the trip to Tamworth last year with a client who was showing at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity event.
“I flew into Sydney, spent a couple of days looking around and then went to Tamworth. Got to know a lot of people around there,” said Kate. “There were also a few people from home over, showing and judging…It was pretty neat to see my sport of cutting in a different county.”
Kate noticed little differences in how the event was run and the different bloodlines of the horses used in Australia, compared to the US. Tamworth also provided an opportunity to visit Tom Williamson – a campdraft breeder and trainer.
“That was my introduction to campdrafting. I ended up spending some time at Tom’s place. He raises good horses and is very accomplished, said Kate. “I followed the young horses we worked on at his place by video – some of them went through the Landmark Sale in February; one did really well. He sold a few they were using on the property while I was there.”
Kate said the US has no equivalent to campdrafting. “No one back home would know what you are talking about,” she said.
Kate added that she has learned some lessons here. “Not only what they do with the horses but the growth of cutting. That interests me because there are things about cutting that limit it from growing. Cutting is expensive – the entries are expensive – and the training process is long; it takes a lot of training to get the horses to the point where they’re competitive. Tom and I talked about how things are set up in campdrafting, why it attracts so many people and the good things about the sport.”
Tom was also Kate’s introduction to Willinga Park’s Brett Parbery.
“Tom’s known Brett a long time. Brett wanted to develop the young-horse program at Willinga Park, and find somebody to invest some time and thought and plan for the future.” Kate and Brett talked on the phone a few times, the timing worked, and now she’s here.
With that tight timeframe, Kate said her biggest contribution to the future of these young horses is passing on her insights. Her immediate goal was to assess their talent, then steer them in the right direction.
“What would I want these horses to do ability-wise, what are they going to need? You have to spend some time on them – assess them – which ones are going to be successful athletes?”
Kate said the cutting horses had become “a little bit condensed” in the body compared to what is needed for campdraft and believes breeding for temperament will be important if campdrafting is to grow as a sport.
“Obviously the great hands are going to be able to get along with more challenging horses. But if you’re going to promote them, they’ve got to be pretty easy for the average person and not need a lot of maintenance. They’ve got to pick it up quick and then keep a hold of what you teach them. It’s like that for every horse sport, but for cutting the horses are in a program, and they consistently train a lot of days. In campdrafting it’s more, rest them, drag them out, then go – the horses need to be able to handle that.”
Kate found the Willinga, Park youngsters good to work with.
“Overall I’d say they’re very quiet, easy to be around. A part of that is the program, they’ve been handled a lot. The ones I work with at home may not have had much done … minimum care. It’s nice you are able to have them out. They’re relaxed. If they want to play, they do it while out. Back home they have more horses in stables. When you have them in a stall all the time, they come out pretty high. It does change their mindset because if they’re confined in a stall for 23 hours, they’ve got more energy to spend.”
It wasn’t only the young horses who enjoyed the temperate climate and extensive facilities at Willinga Park. Kate made time to see her way around the award-winning complex; including a viewing from the air. She was working a horse in the round-yard when Willinga Park owner Terry Snow came by and asked if she wanted to go up in the helicopter? Yes, she did!
“You get to appreciate how much is going on all over the property. It blew my mind.” The pilot flew them out over the coastline: “We saw a whale and calf out there, not far off the beach. Coming back in, just wow, this is a really unique place, and the vision for the future is pretty cool.”
Kate agrees with Terry’s goal to professionalise campdrafting; upping the entry fees and prize money so that horsemen and women can make a better living from it.
“Terry’s got a breeding program that will be great, but you’ve got to have a lot of those people in the sport to make it; to sponsor events, and make it more prestigious and professional…We’re really fortunate to have that in the States; there are enough people that contribute so trainers can make a good living, raise their families and do well.”