How to Campdraft With Your Horse

Campdrafting is a uniquely Australian horse sport that puts the skills of both horse and rider to the test and is a great test of how good a cattleman you truly are. Campdrafting involves two main stages firstly "The Camp" or cutout yard where the rider selects his beast, separates it from a mob and works it, and "The Course" or arena, where the rider guides his beast in a pattern. Campdrafts are judged by a single judge on horseback. Instead of a whistle to signal disqualification of the end of a run, the judge will crack a stock whip, if the stock whip is cracked you are disqualified (cracked off).


  1. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 1
    Before you even think about beginning to campdraft, you need to ensure that both you and your horse are up to the job. Riders need to be very competent and confident and should have some experience working cattle. A horse will preferably have had experience working cattle. Horses should have the ability to turn on their back legs, stop and start quickly similarly to a cutting horse. Indeed, many cutting horses, or, more commonly cutting bred horses, often make fine campdrafters, providing they have the speed to keep up with a beast in the arena. The most common breed used for campdrafting is the Australian Stock horse, closely followed by the Quarter horse, however almost any smart horse with a bit of cattle sense can make a campdrafter.
  2. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 2
    If you have never seen a campdraft before, it is probably a good idea to go for a look first. Many small towns in Australia run a campdraft at least once a year and there are campdraft exhibitions at all the major royal shows. Campdraft calendars can be accessed at the following sites-<> (Australian bushman's campdraft and rodeo assn.), <> (Southern Campdrafting assn.), <> (Australian campdraft assn.), <> (Australian campdraft assn.), NB- As these sites are different associations they all have different campdrafts.
  3. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 3
    Go to a small campdraft first. So, you're all set, you've got an idea what to do and you're at your first draft. It's probably best if you go to a small local one for your first time. The competitors will tend to be more friendly and it is a lot more fun, even if the cattle are often more difficult.
  4. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 4
    Like any sport, you will need to warm your horse up before you run. If you have time, you should take at least half an hour to do this, and longer if your horse is unused to the atmosphere. Once the initial warming up is done, a great place to work your horse is in the arena, returning cattle that have already been run into holding pens. Everyone is usually welcome to help out but it can get crowded in the mid morning before the weather is too hot. This is great to get your horse on cattle and to get him used to the atmosphere.
  5. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 5
    Once you and your suitably warmed up horse are ready, you should head to the camp. How long you spend here is personal preference. Some people arrive half an hour before their run, others arrive just as they are about to go in. My personal preference is to arrive 10 runs before mine, to give both you and your horse ample time to relax and for you to pick a beast.
  6. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 6
    Pick the right horse. Picking a beast is probably one of the hardest parts of drafting. Often this is a personal preference, with people choosing a certain breed of cattle or maybe heifers or steers. A general rule of thumb is to pick the beast you would want to take home to slaughter. You don't want a little mouldy beast as the smaller ones can run very fast and are often dangerous. A beast that is over fat is likely to knock up outside and prevent you from completing the course. You want a beast that turns away from the horse and rider (but does so calmly- the beast that bolts away will do just that outside), is alert and not in amongst the mob. in an ideal world this is what you would pick. also, never be afraid to ask, most campdrafters are more than happy to help a newbie.
  7. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 7
    OK, so you've picked your beast and the announcer has just called your name. RELAX. If you get tense, so will your horse, and you WILL stuff up. Ride in with one hand on your waist to relax you. If the judge isn't looking, you can ride amongst the mob to help chose a beast, just be careful not to start working until he says go.
  8. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 8
    Start when you are told to and not before. The judge will tell you to start when the previous competitor's beast is off the course. Usually he will call out to you to start, or it may simply be a nod. Either way, be ready when he says go. There is nothing more infuriating than someone trying to pick a beast when the judge is waiting. Shorten your reins, using two hands and calmly try to cut your beast from the mob. If he is on his own you can simply ride up to him and push him down the camp. You may need to bring more than one beast up the front. This is OK, but should be avoided. It looks bad and it works your horse up. Once your beast is separated you need to turn it about 2-3 times at the front of the camp. Once you become more experienced you can get a bit more 'fancy' but for your first little while its best to keep it simple.
  9. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 9
    You have finished your yard work, you need to call out for the gate at the front of the camp to be opened. Yell out "GATE" or "RIGHT" or whatever else, just make it loud and clear as the gatemen are more than likely chatting or half asleep.
  10. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 10
    Now is the scary part. You are outside in the arena. For the purpose of this we will assume it is a left hand course (the judge will tell you if the course is left or right hand). Your aim is to turn the beast around the first peg, then bring him round in a figure 8 and go round the second peg before going through the "Gate" (two pegs"). The whole course is similar to a barrel course. Use common sense to turn the beast. If you want him to turn a gradual left, hang back about the length of one beast back and one out from his head, on his right hand side. If he turns to quick, change sides to correct him. Sometimes it is necessary to "Shoulder" the beast, or push him with your horse's shoulder. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNLESS YOU AND YOUR HORSE ARE VERY EXPERIENCED. This is one of the major causes of accidents.
  11. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 11
    HAVE FUN. Remember, you are not doing this to make money. If you win that's a bonus, if you get the whip in the camp then bad luck, try again next time. Don't lose heart. If you stick at it long enough you will get there.
  12. Image titled Campdraft With Your Horse Step 12
    Now go and waste some money on entry fees.


  • Make sure you watch some of the experienced guys to get a feel for what to do. Actually watching a draft will make you learn a million times more than the internet.
  • Don't be discouraged. Some judges can be incredibly biased and sometimes no matter what you do you can't win. Don't give up, try again next time.
  • I can't stress this enough- HAVE FUN. Too many people nearly ruin a good sport by taking it too seriously.
  • Don't be afraid to ask. Almost without exception campdraft people are very friendly and are more than willing to help, be it giving you some advice or helping you pick a beast. You may even find people offering you help without you asking. Don't take offense, listen to what they have to say.
  • If you are just starting out see if you can find a campdraft school being run. Ask your local campdraft committee if they know of any upcoming schools
  • A campdraft is scored out of 100- there are 26 points for cutout, 75 for horse work on the course, 2 points for the first peg and 1 point each for the second peg and the gate. You will be disqualified (get the whip) for, among other things; Tail turning, or not facing the beast, losing the beast to the back of the camp twice, losing control of the beast and riding dangerously


  • Keep an eye on the beast at all times. I have seen too many horses trip over a beast that has fallen in front of them, or had the beast knock them off their feet to take this lightly
  • Don't try anything you aren't sure of.
  • Campdrafting is a very dangerous sport. While not a rule at many drafts, it is advisable that you wear a riding helmet.

Article Info

Categories: Riding