Riders are talented but horses are real stars of campdraft
IN THE days before dirt bikes and gyrocopters dominated the grazing industry, stock horse breeders were a dime-a-dozen.
But times have changed.
The beef and lamb industries have become almost entirely mechanised so horse breeders have adapted, becoming hyper-specialised.
What was once commonplace is now an elite skill feeding the performance market and events like Warwick's Gold Cup Campdraft is proving the quality of horse genetics as much as it is the skill of the rider.
It draws breeders - like Rohan Marks from Clermont - who use the event to showcase their mares.
"It's exposure for the parentage of your stock, so the mothers of the stock you want to potentially sell are out and about, doing the job and competing," he said.
Rohan and his wife Kerry run a small breeding operation spread across properties at Clermont and Aratula.
They've bred horses for decades and are building toward selling embryos in near future. "We don't have brood mares as such, but we embryo our competition mares," Mr Marks said.
"We're breeding out of our competition mares, their stock are just coming through now, we want to make sure they are good before we start selling too many."
It's a long wait to see if a mare can produce the goods.
She has to win a few campdrafts and so do her offspring. If the foals perform well at a campdraft it increases the value of their brothers and sisters.
If all goes to plan the couple will transition from selling foals and proven horses to selling embryos.
"We want to make sure the progeny are good and so we want to trial a few," he said.
"You can name your price when you know the progeny are good."
Despite the small market for performance horses, there is big money in breeding good stock.
A well-bred mare can fetch tens of thousands dollars at auction. The Landmark Classic Campdraft and Sale at Tamworth is one of Australia's top performance horse sales.
Yaven Spinacat topped the 2018 sale at $130,000, Breks Shouda Ducked came in second selling for $80,000 and there were plenty lots sold for well above $50,000.
It's traditionally the mares that fetch this big money because, unlike the stud cattle and stud ram market, there's a greater value placed on the genetics of the performance mares over stallions.
But Mr Marks is not convinced mares are solely responsible for a foal's performance.
"That's a good debate, with horses, if the mother's lines are not strong, the male's lines aren't going to change things radically for performance," he said.
"Although, having said that, there's dominant sires that lift performance a long way.
"If it was all that easy and straightforward we'd be out there, but it's like the race horse game, there is most definitely dominant sires. Not all well-bred horses are champions but champions are always well bred."
Mr Marks has form at the Warwick campdraft ring.
He won the Champion of Champions and Canning Downs Campdraft in 2016 while just last weekend he won the Grandfather Clock at the Chinchilla.
Whether he makes his mark on the Warwick Golden Cup remains to be seen, but the Clermont breeder is confident in his stock and his horsemanship.
"That's why you're here, if you don't think you're a chance of winning you wouldn't nominate."