CHAMPION RIDER: John Stanton riding Cooper and Jaye Hall ran off for the title in the Champion of Champions at Warwick Rodeo 2008, with John losing by half-a-point.
CHAMPION RIDER: John Stanton riding Cooper and Jaye Hall ran off for the title in the Champion of Champions at Warwick Rodeo 2008, with John losing by half-a-point. Contributed

John stands as a legend in the world of campdraft

HE'S not a big man but wherever he goes in the campdrafting world, John Stanton is a legend.

The now 86-year-old has won almost everything there is to win in campdrafting except the Warwick Gold Cup but he will return in 2017 to have another go and every other competitor knows while he still has a run, John Stanton is never beaten.

He has placed in the Gold Cup on a number of occasions since first competing at Warwick in 1966 and still considers it the 'home' of campdrafting in Australia.

In 2016, John was awarded the Warwick Tribute to Australian Campdrafting.

This award isn't just for a rider who has won the Warwick Gold Cup, rather, it's presentation means the recipient has spent a lifetime in the sport, has more than likely been successful at the highest level but not necessarily, it's more what the person has put back into the sport, be it loaned livestock, administration on a large scale, time, work and sweat.

In John's case, it's all of these.

Originally from Tamworth, NSW, and born into humble circumstances, the son of drover Jack Stanton who just happened to be the Australian Buckjump Champion and who went on to represent Australia in South Africa , John won his first campdraft at Coolah, NSW, in 1946.

At the time, John was working as a horse-breaker but in order to make enough money to support his campdraft and rodeo interests, he and a mate teamed up as rabbit trappers and made a go of it. John still has a silver-plated rabbit trap on the wall in his trophy room.

John was more than a campdrafter though, he rode rough stock up until he was 38 and considers the highlight of his career came in 1954 when he rode the previously unridden feature horse at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, in front of the Queen and Prince Phillip.

"We were at the Sydney Royal Easter Show on Easter Saturday and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were there and apparently wanted to see a buckjumper," John said.

"Now the rodeo wasn't to start until 9.45pm but the Queen had a dinner engagement and so the officials said they would buck a horse for her to see right on 8 o'clock.

"I was offered the ride for £25 ($50) if I rode and to take it right on 8pm. £25 was a lot of money in 1954.

"Now the horse they chose for me to ride was the feature horse, 'Black Widow,' a mare from Merriwa. She was a steep kicking thoroughbred who dropped her shoulders, had never been ridden before and never was again.

"She was very hard to get out of the arena and the Sydney show ring was huge so I went to Alf Bignall, a pick-up man with a horse fast enough to catch her. Alf rode the grey horse into the ring and when the whistle went, he was there.

"'Stumpy' (Bruce Timmins) saddled her up but cross-tied her in the chute and because of her style, we put the surcingle over the seat of the saddle, not through the front, which made the difference and I rode her.

"I collected the £25 and as I said, it was the highlight of my rodeo career, riding the unridden horse in front of the Queen and 56,000 people, as reported in the next day's Sydney Morning Herald.

"Why did they pick me to ride her? I don't know to this day but it was probably because they didn't expect to have to pay the money."

In a unique twist, John Stanton was awarded the Queen's Medal 47 years later for services to campdraft and rodeo.

John went on to represent Australia in campdrafting at the 2000American Quarter Horse Association World Championships and his son, Tom Stanton, also represented Australia in a team which took part in the Calgary Stampede.

John won a total of 11 ABCRA Open Horse of the Year titles and has collected 17 trophy saddles in all, two on the same day, 300 miles (480km) apart.

He has won four World Championships, one at Chinchilla, the second at Rockhampton and two more at the Royal Easter Show.

In 1999, John carried away 16 out of the 17 bronze statuettes presented at the AQHA Australian Championships presentation night.

John doesn't talk much about his success in campdrafting or rodeo, it's a bit like pulling teeth to have him recall those wins but what he does like to talk about are the horses he rode, the ones he bred and his breeding program.

"My proudest achievement is my contribution to the sport through the breeding program I've put in place over the years," he told me.

"I didn't breed my first real champion horse, Tarzan. He won a hundred campdrafts and I could demonstrate a cutout on him without a bridle.

"At the ABC Australian Championships at Walgett in 1969 or '70, he won the Open Campdraft then I rushed him over to the cutting arena and he won the Open Cutting competition as well.

"However, most of the rest I bred, broke and trained and many people will remember names like Personality, Miss Gee Bars, Dodge, Chance, Breeze and there's whole lot more."

So, at 86, what does the future hold for John Stanton?

"I just want to be competitive while I'm alive," he said.

"While I can pull my boots on, I want to keep going. And when the day comes that I can't get out of bed and pull my own boots on, I'll be prepared to hand the number plate in."

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