He was just eight years old when his love for campdrafting began. Forty years and 22 national open rider titles later, Australian competitor Pete Comiskey’s love affair with the sport is as strong as it ever was.
Campdrafting basic rules
- Cut out the cattle and bring one to the gate
- Block the animal from running back to the herd
- Within a time limit, control and guide the animal around a peg course
- Drive the animal towards a final gate
A combination of control, horsemanship, completion and speed determine the score.
The central Queenslander’s achievements in the unique Australian sport are unmatched, and his passion has continued to grow alongside his achievements throughout the last four decades.
It was only earlier this year the campdrafter won his biggest purse yet; $100,000 at the Willinga Park World Championship Gold Buckle Campdraft in New South Wales.
“My dad was a keen campdrafter and he carted me all over the countryside and through the juvenile years and then into the open ranks, and never looked back I guess,” he said.
Ever since those early days, the Comiskey clan have been regulars on the campdrafting circuit, spending more than six months on the road travelling 30,000 kilometres throughout New South Wales and Queensland.
Mr Comiskey was the 2018 champion rider at the Willinga Park Gold Buckle Championship Campdraft. He won $100,000. (Landline: Lara Webster)
They take more than a dozen horses with them each trip.
“Wherever there’s a big draft we try and do that, and a sprinkling of the drafts in central Queensland as well,” Mr Comiskey said.
When ABC Landline caught up with the family, they were at the Clermont Gold Cup in central Queensland, an event Mr Comiskey has already won six times.
“It [campdrafting] doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s one of those sports; it’s very addictive,” Mr Comiskey says. (Landline: Lara Webster)
Success in the ring
Winning 22 national titles does not come easy to any athlete, but there is one very important ingredient right at the top of Mr Comiskey’s list; hard work.
“You’ve got to have a combination I suppose. Get all your horses in, they’ve got to be fit,” he said
Mr Comiskey says when you’re in the competition you make yourself available, show up and find another way if something isn’t working. (Landline: Lara Webster)
“It’s having confidence and belief in what you’re doing and that sort of stuff.”
The hard work outside the arena all takes place at Westpoint Station, near Nebo in central Queensland, where the Comiskeys also run 2,000 head of commercial cattle.
Whether it’s for mustering or training for a campdraft, the animals are always being ridden, and Mr Comiskey’s wife Bryony Puddicombe helps train in between school runs and looking after eight-month-old Leila.
Horses-in-training get a daily swim in a purpose-built dam for fitness, recovery and to stay in good shape. (Landline: Lara Webster)
Mr Comiskey believes the most important part of training is developing a good relationship with your horse.
“If I had to do anything over again I wouldn’t have spent so much time with horses I didn’t have a connection with,” he said.
“There’s a lot goes on in the minute you’re in that arena there, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff that goes on, so you’ve got have a really good relationship.”
A family affair
Mr Comiskey does not travel the roads alone — his wife, daughter Leila and five-year-old son “Little” Pete are right beside him.
He also sees his two older sons and extended family around the circuit.
The camp set up — the family take all of this gear to every draft they attend. It is on the road six months of the year. (Landline: Lara Webster)
“That’s why I’ve got this rig the way it is,” he said. “It’s a home away from home, you know.”
Ms Puddicombe is also successful campdrafter in her own right, and while it is not easy juggling young children with life on the road, she would not change any of it.
Ms Puddicombe displays her ease with the horse and her ability to control “the beast”. (Landline: Lara Webster)
“Pete’s older boys, they don’t live with us but we see them a lot at the campdraft, so in every level it’s quite a family-orientated game, you know. We all cross paths at a campdraft,” Ms Puddicombe said.
“Pete’s parents are here so if my run coincides with Leila waking up or needing a feed or a change or something I just dump her with someone else, but they’re all pretty relaxed and everyone’s helpful and one big family.”
The next generation
Five-year-old “Little” Pete is following keenly in his dad’s footsteps.
While most youngsters would be led on horseback, the mini campdrafter competes all alone on his horse, Smarty.
“I see a lot of his father because obviously his father does it because he loves it so much,” Ms Puddicombe said. (Landline: Lara Webster)
“(“Little”) Pete’s got the same passion for working hard, and for the game and for the competition and I think as long as he enjoys it and we can keep him alive long enough … he’s a goer.” Ms Puddicombe said.
Watch more on Landline on Sunday at 12:30pm
The Comiskey clan — Pete, Little Pete, Bryony and the horses — head back to camp after a long day of training. (Landline: Lara Webster)