BANGING around Brett Woodbridge’s 110ha property outside Bungendore in beaten up old pick up is an experience in itself.
We’ve gone in search of some of the 40 rodeo horses that call the place home. Brett’s 13-year-old son Casey, who later proudly shows me the video of his first ever bull ride the weekend before, holds his balance in the tray behind the cab.
As rodeo families go, they don’t come much more steeped in rough and tumble culture of bull rides and bravado than the Woodbridge’s.
A rider himself for some 17-years, Brett and his wife Tracey now breed and supply saddle bronc and bareback horses to up to 10 rodeos a year across the state.
Casey, meanwhile, is the youngest of the couple’s four children to have taken to the rodeo arena after step-brother Ranieri, sister Kodie and older brother Travis.
As we race across part of the property, Brett leans on the horn. The horses are used to getting feed from the truck, he explains. And within seconds, a large part of the herd comes into sight.
We try to outrun them in an attempt to set up a good photo but they easily keep pace and horses and vehicle pull up almost simultaneously.
As we get out of truck we’re immediately surrounded and Brett and Casey start tossing out feed.
Not wanting to take a hoof to the head, I move around a bit nervously looking for a possible photo as Brett reassures me somewhat dubiously that, “they shouldn’t be too dangerous”.
That reassurance comes just before the two horses next to me all of a sudden leap at each other in a flurry of action.
“If you don’t feel comfortable though, maybe go stand by the truck,” he adds. I promptly make my way back to the safety of the ute.
It’s clear though that there are as many personalities among the horses as there will be among the riders who’ll be attempting to cling to their backs come this Saturday’s Queanbeyan Rodeo.
Some are relatively docile, although certainly none to the extent of your average hobby horse. Others however, like the notorious Grave Digger, even Brett can’t approach with the guarantee of safety.
“Some of them I can handle but they won’t let me touch them,” he tells me.
He also explains how in a strange way, his property is something of a retirement home for many of the horses I can see.
While the Woodbridge’s breed some of their own rodeo horses, many are cast-offs, animals who’ve proven too wild or simply gotten too old for their previous owners. One, Brett points out, he picked up in exchange for a case of beer.
“You sometimes hear people giving rodeos a bad wrap but most of these horses would’ve gone to the doggers long before now if we weren’t here,” Brett says.
“The most work any of them will ever do now is eight seconds of riding, if that, at a handful of rodeos during the year.
“The rest of the time they’re just out here, growing old. It’s not a bad life really.”