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On the open range

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

On the open range

Horses watering, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, by Herbert Basedow, 1928.
Horses watering, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, by Herbert Basedow, 1928. National Museum of Australia.

From the 19th century, mounted overlanders drove thousands of sheep and cattle to new stations across central and northern Australia. On these vast, isolated properties, flocks and herds roamed semi-wild over the open rangelands, and to manage them, stockworkers, including many Aboriginal men and women, developed distinctive kinds of horses and styles of riding.

Friendly rivalries over who was best at everyday tasks like mustering, horse breaking, and droving developed over time into the sports of campdrafting, rodeo and endurance riding. Influenced by similar competitions in the United States of America, by the mid-20th century these sports had become codified, and today attract thousands of competitors from across Australia.

Explore some of the stories and objects

 Bruce Breaden’s hat
Akubra stockman's hat

Worn by Aboriginal stockman Bruce Breadon in the 1990s.
 Ted Fogarty’s saddle
'Barcoo' poley saddle

Modified saddle used by Ted Fogarty for bronco-branding in the Northern Territory.
 Tom Quilty Gold Cup 2013
Tom Quilty Gold Cup

Trophy won by Brook Sample on his seventh victory in the long-distance endurance ride.