Bison are a good option for training

by / Wednesday, 12 August 2015 / Published in News Around The Drafts

The sport of campdrafting continues to grow in popularity, right across Australia, but high prices and low numbers of cattle are making it hard for committees to organise events.

The shortage of cattle is making the option of using trained bison to educate horses and riders even more attractive.

But bison are a good option for training for other reasons as well, and they’re of sufficient value for instructor Kendall Nielson to base his training operation around them.

He has been teaching a campdraft school at Geurie, near Dubbo in the New South Wales central west and organisers say there was intense interest in joining the school.

Mr Nielson said he was convinced that bison are a boon for training purposes.

They’re more reliable than cattle, they always react the same way and that makes it easier to train both the riders and the horses.

“I’ve had bison for seven years now, and I’ve been using them to teach outside schools for four or five years now,” he said.

“They’re more reliable than cattle, they always react the same way and that makes it easier to train both the riders and the horses.

“With cattle, you could put five cattle through the camp and you’d get five different reactions.

“And they’d be going too fast for training; with the bison I can slow them right down, it’s like having a freeze frame so the rider can understand what they’re doing wrong, and what they’re doing right.”


Mr Nielson is based at Dungog, in the Hunter Valley; during the week he is an instructor at the Tocal Agricultural College, but these days his weekends are almost completely occupied with campdraft schools.

Col Sylvester has a farm nearby; his family are campdraft devotees across the generations and he’s been watching his grandchildren learning from the bison.

“They’re a great tool for teaching, because they are so predictable,” he said.

“They won’t do what you want them to do unless you position yourself correctly; once you learn how to do that with bison, then you can apply the knowledge to cattle.”

While the bison are ideal for training, there are not sufficient numbers of them to run campdraft competitions and the demand for stock continues to outstrip supply.

“There just aren’t the numbers of good trained bison around,” Mr Nielson said.

“It would be too costly for me to get into breeding them: I’m too busy doing what I’m doing now.”


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