Drafting up a champion
Hayley Ahern rides into every new challenge
CAMPDRAFTING: It’s a sport that requires persistence and a “never give up” attitude and for horse riding champion, Hayley Ahern, these traits are noticeable.
Born in Kilcoy and attending both primary and secondary school there, Ahern decided to study veterinary nursing at Ithaca College for five years.
“I studied whilst working. After 12 years of working in Kilcoy as a veterinary nurse I moved to Gayndah with my family and took up a surgical nurse position in Mundubbera working there for six years,” Ahern said.
Enjoying her job immensely and getting to campdraft at multiple shows, Ahern said her love for horse riding began when she was a young girl.
“After completing high school I went to the Dalby Stock-horse sale when I was 22 and purchased a horse,” Ahern said.
“We rode horses on the farm but not much as a kid, I decided I wanted to do campdrafting and went with my mum to Dalby.
“We weren’t really horsey people, but with campdrafting it was the adrenaline rush you get when you put the beast around that drew me to it.
“It’s not all about winning, it’s about having a good time and getting to compete in something you love.”
Campdrafting is a difficult sport that doesn’t always go according to plan, she said.
“It’s the sort of sport where you could be a winner one day and face defeat the next,” she said.
“It’s what makes you go back and do it, the addiction of drawing a good beast, sometimes you can look and think it’s a pearler but then
it turns out to be no good.”
The drafts have increased in popularity, with some events hosting up to 200-300 competitors.
“They’re getting more and more popular, what used to be just 30-40 competitors can go upwards to 300 competitors in one draft,” Ahern said.
“It’s good to see the sport has gained popularity and that more riders are interested in campdrafting.”
Ahern attended the Biggenden Show at the weekend and placed well in some of the drafts.
“I rode the young horse called Sunny’s Duplicate and it’s a good horse, it won at the Gympie Show and then again at the Biggenden Show in the Stockman’s Challenge,” Ahern said.
“It was a bit of a shock to win the challenge but it was a nice feeling.”
Ahern lives in Gayndah with her family and says her greatest highlight is her three children and husband.
“I just love them to bits. My oldest son is called Mac and he’s seven, Darcy is six and our girl is nearly 18 months old,” Ahern said.
“I also achieved another goal this year which was to go to the The Australian Reining Breeder’s Cup event held in Dalby.
“If it wasn’t for my husband who pushed me out the door and said ‘go and do it’, or my two other friends who encouraged me and supported me, I wouldn’t have attended.
“I ended up placing in the top 10 so I was very happy and thrilled, didn’t think I would end up doing it for another few years.”
Her young children love drafts but Ahern said they are not so keen on riding horses simply for leisure.
“The boys love to ride, they love to draft, they aren’t keen to just trot around as they will think ‘why? We want to ride’,” she said.
Ahern said trust was paramount when riding.
“You don’t need a world beater horse to win a campdraft, you just have to trust your horse and have a good time.”
❝ It’s the sort of sport where you could be a winner one day and face defeat the next. — Hayley Ahern
WINNING COMBINATION: Vicky Elliott presents Hayley Ahern of Gayndah with the Mark Elliott Memorial for winning the stockman's challenge on Sunny's Duplicate at the Biggenden Show on Saturday.