Australian Horse Events & Horse Recreation

Though it is increasingly expensive to own and look after a horse in Australia it is still far cheaper than in many other countries, due to a relatively temperate climate and more readily available grazing land around cities and towns.  Consequently there are still thousands of Australian horses owned purely for recreational purposes of one kind or another.

The Australian Horse Industry Council has a very detailed list of links to ponyclubs, flat racing and harness racing associations, eventing and equestrian organisations. There is also a wide variety of other useful links on practical topics such as drought feeding horses, horse agistment, horses and bushfires, hoof care, horse diseases and quarantine.

Bronco Branding:

In the late 1980s bronco branding was developed as a sport by old bushies who didn’t want to see the skills disappear. It is a specifically Australian outback sport with events held in Queensland’s Channel Country and north-eastern South Australia during the dry season. A brief explanation of the bronco branding event can be found at the Barcoo Shire Council website.


The Polocrosse Association of Australia has a very well written history describing how the game developed in Australia after 1938 from a basic version adapted from polo played in England. The website also has a comprehensive list of links to polocrosse associations all over the word. Visit Polocrosse Worldwide.

The Polocrosse World Cup was held in Warwick (southern Queensland) in April 2007. Competing teams were from New Zealand, U.K., Ireland, Canada, U.S.A, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A world cup event is a great opportunity to see the world’s best polocrosse riders in action and with luck it will be held again in Australia before too long.


Generally speaking Australian polo is played in more settled areas – it’s a different cup of tea. Put it this way; there are more stockhorses playing polocrosse and more millionaires playing polo. Visit the Australian Polo Association for information and the Federation of International Polo for a lengthy list of overseas associations.


The sport of campdrafting developed from the skill of cutting specific beasts out of a mob on stations, where there were no yards or drafting races.

For information visit the Australian Campdraft Association or the Southern Campdraft Association. The Warwick Gold Cup (Queensland) is one of the most prestigious competitions.


The Australian Endurance Riders Association has a detailed calendar of Australia-wide endurance events and a good list of links to endurance riding associations in Europe, North America and South America.

The Australian championship event is the famous Tom Quilty Endurance ride begun by Tom Quilty and R.M. Williams in 1966. It is now a strenuous 160 kilometre (100 mile) ride that attracts riders from all around Australia, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

Champion endurance horses are usually purebred Arabs or not far from it. In recent years the United Arab Emirates has had a huge influence on endurance riding in Australia, with many Australian champion horses being sold into the UAR for very high prices and owners have been paid well to train winning horses for UAR owners.

Rodeos and Horse Sports:

Many of the rodeos and horse events held across the north during the dry season have become institutions on the social calendar that people travel hundreds of kilometres to attend.

Particularly well known are the events in Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Timber Creek, Pussycat Bore, Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Brunette Downs, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, and Mareeba. The Mt Isa Rodeo is Australia’s biggest rodeo.

Members of the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association are mainly one-day (amateur) competitors, most of whom live relatively close to the particular event they attend. The website has an excellent explanation of campdrafting and the various rodeo events such as bullriding, bareback riding, saddlebronc, steer wrestling, rope & tie, team roping, ladies barrel racing, breakaway roping and steer undecorating.

The Australian Professional Rodeo Associationis the national professional organisation and it has more of an American influence than the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association.

Dressage, Showjumping, Eventing, Driving:

The Equestrian Federation of Australia has regular updates on how Australians are faring in dressage, showjumping and eventing competitions within Australia and overseas, as well as detailed information on insurance, judging, accreditation, event rules and regulations, competing overseas and horse and rider applications.

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI – Federation Equestrian Internationale) has a comprehensive calendar of international horse competitions.

These include the World Equestrian Games, The World Cup Jumping Final and the European Dressage Championships plus other shows that have eventing, driving and endurance events. A visit to this website never fails to make my feet itch, I’d love to visit some of these spectacular horse events in person.) The FEI website also has an interesting history of the less well-known sport of tent pegging.

The Olympic website has information and photographs of the Olympic Equestrian Events (Dressage, Evening and Jumping).

I hope free-to-air television stations will eventually give Olympic equestrian events more airtime. It is easily the most expensive Olympic sport to compete in, particularly for people in the southern hemisphere who have to cart their horses such a long way.

In fact most Australian equestrian competitors of international standing have to base themselves in the northern hemisphere for financial and practical reasons (including livestock quarantine issues), and Australians quite often compete on borrowed horses. It is surely also the most difficult sport to win, given that competitors must not just perform perfectly on the day themselves, their horse must also. Olympic equestrians deserve much more recognition.

Horse Racing:

The annual horse event that all Australians are familiar with. Many people argue that there should be a nation-wide public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day. A very sensible idea since most people take the afternoon off anyway. I have even been on a train that the driver very thoughtfully pulled up in the middle of a paddock so that all the passengers could hear the running of the race on the crackly intercom system.

Like all big horse races it’s unfortunately mostly about money these days, but the atmosphere at Flemington is electric.

Horse Expositions:

Equitana is held every second year and is the equine equivalent of the beef expositions held in Rockhampton every three years.  Equitana Asia Pacific is the largest horse event held in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 50,000 visitors, 1,000 plus horses and several hundred tradefair exhibitors.

For beautiful images of Australian stock horses resting and working on the world’s largest cattle stations, see the unique coffee-table style books packed full of full-page photographs — ‘Life as an Australian Horseman’ & ‘Million Acre Masterpiece’.