The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Buckjumping in Peace and War
Buckjumping in Peace and War.
Horses! Yes, they'll always do me. I've been among them all my life, and guess I'll be with 'em till I'm down below the daisies.
My father's a better rider than I am, and he's still going strong at 60 odd. I was born in '84, at a township on the Upper Murray. The Dad was a horse-breaker, and each of us boys—there are five of us, and all can ride a bit, my brothers being top-notchers— had a pony of his own. As kiddies we learned to love horses, and we took to riding as naturally as ducklings do to water. We rode to school, of course, and on free days had many a glorious gallop in the bush. Can you put me on to anything better than a ride in Spring, among bonny old gum trees, or along a creek, where the "wattle gold trembles 'twixt shadow and shine?" A bit of Gordon, that, and for all he was a poet, Gordon knew something about horses and bushcraft. But you don't want me to talk poets, so I'll switch back on to rough riding.
I worked with the Old Man at horse-breaking for a few years after I left school, and then joined Skuthorpe's Buckjumping Show. Travelled with that turn-out for two years, and swopped over to Eroni's Cireus. I put in a couple of years with Martini, and then my brother Arthur and I started a show of our own. We ran it for two years before selling out to the syndicate, Australian Backjumpers Ltd., with whom I travelled for 12 months. My last •change as a civvy was to the Irrigation Commission Works, at Leeton, N.S.W., where I was foreman in the stables for five years. I enlisted at Holdsworthy when the Remount Unit was forming, and came with it to Egypt.
Let's get to business, now. I want to say, that the Australian roughriders are the best in the world; the Yanks can't hold a candle to them. The Australian is a better man at handling a bad horse. With Billjim the horse is king, and a damned good one, too. The majority of Light Horsemen, are good riders; they understand horses, know how to treat them, as well as how to ride them.
In the Remounts here are some of Australia's best roughriders, men who'll tackle anything, and make good. There's Cpl. Roy Stanbridge, Cpl. Jim Brown, Tprs. Dick Bell, Jim Hubbard, B. Bardwell, Archie Richards and Bob Adams. We had some pretty tough propositions in horseflesh during the earlier days, but for the past year remounts have been very easy, generally speaking. I prefer Australian horses to any other breed; they can stand greater hardships, and go for a longer period without water. One reason why our nags are so hardy is, that they are not pampered. It is nothing out of the way for a horse to run in the paddocks till it is five or six years old, before being broken in. They are out in all sorts of weather, and learn to shift for themselves.
Perhaps the worst buckjumper I ever tackled in Aussie was a big bay horse called "The Rebel." He was a bad one to strike. At the circus he was with, thev used to bring him out and offer £ 5 to any man who could bridle, saddle and ride him in twenty minutes. (Dempsey was the only man who did it. Eds.) You've got to watch a wild horse closely and form a rapid plan of action. Then get busy like a flash, or you're beaten. While on the subject of famous buckjumpers, I would like to answers a question that has often been asked: Which was the rougher horse, "Snips" or "Boba?" Without doubt, "Snips" was the harder and rougher of the two.
No, I don't think you can teach a man to be a roughrider; its a gift, and if you aren't born with it, you'll never be what's called a good rider. And it runs in families; as I've said, my father and all my brothers are crack riders, two of the latter, Arthur and George, being right in the front rank, with Billy Waite.
Seen some bad busters in my time. One day,. I saw a horse chuck both saddle and rider. By Gum I it was funny. The chap sailed through the air on his saddle, and he came down on it, too. Never knew a man to be seriously hurt through being bucked off.
Mules are not so hard to manage. A magnune mule bucks only a few times before quietening down. Camels? Don't like 'em. Finish camels for me. The horse is the best kind of four-legged beast in creation.
(Photographs of buckjumpers in action appear on opposite page. Reference to illustrations: No. 1, J. Dempsey; 2, Dowdels; 3. Hepworth; 4, Gillies; 5, Hepworth; 6, Dowdels; 7. J. Dempsey; 8, J. Brown.)