Posted on 13 April 2018
Dried up dams and dusty, parched fields were the introduction to the sheep and cattle country of northern New South Wales for eleven of our Secondary School students and two teachers who took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Jackaroo and Jillaroo experience.
Teacher, Glen Henville and I accompanied 11 girls from Years 9, 10 and 11to Leconfield Sheep and Cattle Station which is owned by Mr Tim Skerrett and located almost an hour’s drive inland from Tamworth.
Soon after arriving, each of us was allocated a horse for the trip, and we learned how to care for them: we learned how to tie various kinds of knots; to saddle our horses; and to groom them. We had a range of riding experience within the group, but by the end of the trip, every one of us mastered (to various degrees) how to mount and dismount, walk, trot, and even canter. We could each command our horses to stop, go backwards and relax.
This is a working farm, and we did a lot more than just horse riding. Each day’s itinerary was varied, and we had lessons in whip cracking, lassoing, sheep shearing and bush cooking. We mustered sheep and cattle and spent one challenging afternoon weighing the station owner’s calves in the yard and treating them for ‘red eye’: a nasty virus which is caused by flies and can render them blind (exacerbated by the dry conditions). I think this was the most confronting, yet rewarding experience for our students.
Our accommodation was a shed fitted out with a small kitchen, bathroom and two rows of double bunk beds. A camp fire slowly burnt outside for most of the trip, and was used extensively for bush cooking. With no TV, phone service or internet, our ‘down time’ was spent playing table tennis, cards, reading or writing in our journals.
The owner of the station is the ultimate ‘horse whisperer’ and his methods and skills are second to none. He advocates ‘natural horsemanship’ and we had several master classes with him about this. He gave us the necessary ‘tools’ to control our horses without the need for force. With the flick of a finger in the air, or the slight pressure of a thumb applied to the right section of the horse, we could entice them to move precisely the way we wanted (well, a bit). It was absolutely amazing, and truly, for me at least, the highlight of the trip.
The Jackaroo and Jillaroo expedition is just one of the experiences our students can have as part of the Duke of Edinburgh program. Later in the year, we will have another group of students sailing the seas in the Tall Ships expedition.
Duke of Edinburgh Program Coordinator