John and I were both raised in Far North Queensland. We have always shared a desire for opportunity and adventure...a curiosity that has led us ( and our three children ) all over this great sunshine state throughout the years. We have had the privilege of experiencing life on cattle stations from one end of the state to the other. From bushfires and droughts to cyclones and massive wets, there is seldom a shortage of challenges to the outback life. You simply have to love the learning, love the journey.
John's passion for a life on the land began very early in childhood. Riding was an escape and freedom that he and his two older sisters relished. Raised on the properties where his father worked, they were allowed to use the station horses when the stockmen were not requiring them. The three would embark on exploration missions, discovering swimming holes, high rocky trails and tracks at every opportunity. Riding was bareback in the beginning until they could afford saddles. Each school holidays, when they were able to come home from Boarding School at Rockhampton, a journey of 1500 km's, John and his sisters invented challenges and adventures for themselves and their trusted four legged companions. From swimming the horses, racing, jumping and maneuvering them over obstacle courses and treacherous mountain goat passages, they were in constant friendly competition amongst themselves. Their horse riding excursions would always finish in a feverish gallop the last mile home to the house gate, the last rider having the detested gate duties.
John's passion was always to own a cattle station. Even as a boarding school junior, John would glean the rural newspapers for what type of properties were for sale, where they were, how much they were asking for them. Everything he acquired was in preparation for when he would own one. He would study what saddles to use, what bridles, what type of gun for feral animals, what yard set-up, what breed of cattle, what weight gain, and imagine himself owning one.
Leaving school and after a short stint at a boiler making apprenticeship, John escaped a "sensible" future and headed to western Queensland for the unknown. Here he was employed as a "ringer" ( station hand ) on a cattle property, the first of several that he would work on during the next 4 years. Over time, a mate talked him into getting a helicopter licence, as a way to move forward in his employment opportunities. But a licence was expensive and didn't guarantee a job.
Then a fellow by the name of Kerry Slingsby ( Owner and operator of Heliworks W.A. ) gave him a "start" in Kununurra as a mustering pilot, and John's world suddenly got a whole lot bigger. Kerry was to unknowingly become one of John's most influencial mentors. The experience, knowledge, ability and confidence that Kerry instilled in "his boys" ( his team of mustering pilots ) made a tremendous impact on the direction that John's life took. He sowed seeds into his men that allowed them to move into careers in flying around the world, that would have been way beyond their dreams and expectations. Had it not been for the time, training, and confidence that Kerry instilled in these mostly "bush blokes", many would never have realised their full potential.
And so John's life progressed to flying mustering helicopters in the Kimberley Ranges W.A. for a period of 5 years. At one time he recalls with a laugh... "helping out" on a muster that saw 5 choppers flying side by side, mustering against tidal surges of scrub cattle. Mustering opened up the bush in a new and diverse way for him. Working cattle station after cattle station, yard after yard,.... owners, managers, ringers, vast expanses of land, thousands of head of cattle, dust, and a diversity of ideas, ethics and management styles which make up northern Australia Primary Producers. All gave experience and knowledge that would help shape who John was to become. Working with men like Gary Dan and John Quintana over the years, added impetus, ideas and influence to John's dream.
Seeing an opportunity back home, he borrowed to purchase his first helicopter and began his own mustering business in Cape York Peninsula in 1989. His business grew to 4 helicopters over the next 5 years, but his dream never waivered from wanting a cattle station of his own. This was the "busiest time of his life" and it is hard to grasp the hours flown, distances covered, properties traversed, cattle moved and constant concentration that life in the mustering pilot's seat demands.
As soon as the dream became achievable, John bought his first property "Strathleven" ( 202,000 acres in Cape York ) and next door "Kings Junction" ( 188,000 acres ) then in 1991, the latter being sold shortly after as was pre-arranged. He continued to fly as he built up his herd and infrastructure on Strathleven, for the next few years. After the death of his father in 1994, and mother in 1995, John sold Strathleven as he needed a break from the isolation of station life, and a change of pace. His Dad had occasionally come to Strathleven to lend a hand, and John felt the loss of his company and support. Seeking out a dose of people, he travelled overseas for a while and upon return, ventured down into northern New South Wales looking for a new direction. He finally settled in Airlie Beach for a "sea change", but after 12 months of town life, he had itchy feet to get back onto the land.
He purchased "Langlovale" ( 88,000 acres ) west of Georgetown in 1998, and we were married shortly after. We welcomed our first daughter into the world 2 years later. When Mikaila ( Meeka ) was 8 weeks old, John decided to "go for a look out west". This "look" resulted in us selling "Langlovale", and moving 1200 km's south to a property west of Muttaburra. "Levuka" ( 33,000 acres ) became our home and our son Koda was a welcome addition to our family there in 2002. The opportunity to purchase the property "Hanworth", ( 26,000 acres next door ) came shortly after the arrival of the 4725 head of Brahman cross cattle we had bought with us from "Langlovale." However, as life on the land is unpredictable, so certainly are the seasons. It turned out that we had arrived just in time for the best "One in a hundred year drought". Soon after we were forced to completely de-stock both properties. As soon as the first storm cloud appeared on the horizon bearing rain, we sold up and moved 1800 km's back up north to where it "always rains"...Cape York in Far northern Queensland.
Purchasing "Strathmay" (300,000 acres ) at the end of 2002, we moved in the following April as soon as the roads were open after the wet. "Strathmay" was our home for next 7 years. Our last daughter Maddie arrived in 2006, and we enjoyed the multi-faceted challenges of this remote cattle station immensely. John mustering the property using helicopter, bikes, dogs and horses. Although we employed the odd person, most of the time he worked alone, employing only when there was cattle for processing in the yards. The wet season would shut the roads and we were isolated each year from Christmas to March, even to June one year after a huge cyclone system called "Monica". We would "stock up" with food stores before the wet and receive our veggies and mail via the mail plane once a week or fortnightly as weather permitted. As our airstrip would get too wet, John would fly the chopper to a neighbor's property about 20 km's away to collect the mail.
Some of our best memories were of the "Wet" in Cape York. The "Dry" season almost always bought huge bushfires with massive 20 km fronts, which each property would mostly fight alone. Then the wet would come again, the fires soon forgotten. The black scarred, dusty ground would again become swallowed up by the velvet-like first green cover of new grass. Beautiful to behold. The Cape would regain her crown of being the most glorious wetland paradise again. Thousands of chorusing frogs singing, croc eggs hatching, baby emu's running around, birds chirping and flowers of every description and colour displaying their splendour in the swamps. Rain brings the precious promise of life. Long walks with the dogs of an afternoon, bogey board skiing behind a 4 wheel motorbike up the flooded roads. Pristine tea tree swamps boasting water lillies and animal life. Peace.
We sold and left "Strathmay" in 2010, purchasing "Pinnacle" ( 33,000 acres ) near Mareeba where we were able to send the children to school. It was here that John acquired "Morgan Fever" and his love affair with the breed began in earnest. After 4 years the itchy feet came back and we were off again for new adventures. Heading 1700 km's south, to the area of Goondiwindi on the Queensland / NSW border we arrived at "Minnel" ( 7,500 acres ) in 2014. This was quite a new adventure acclimitizing to the extremes of weather. We were used to the heat, but the cold was a huge "learning curve"! Upon nearing completion of our improvement program to the property, John decided that we were graziers in an area quickly being farmed up, so yet another move was imminent.
After much research, and another 950 km journey north....Christmas Day 2016 saw us unpacking "pressies" ( a truckload or two of packing boxes ! ) at our new property "Burrenbring" at Nebo, west of Mackay. Nebo is a small town in the heart of cattle and horse country, hosting a multitude of horse and cattle events throughout the year. A pioneer town, it initially consisted of graziers and miners, and today continues to service the surrounding cattle properties and the lucrative and busy mining industry. The town is set along the banks of Nebo Creek, about 8 km's downstream from our property.
"Burrenbring" ( 25,000 acres ) is our little piece of paradise. It has a mixture of country types which makes it unendingly interesting. The homestead is set high on the banks of Nebo creek. It's setting surrounded by soft, undulating black soil rolling ridges, flanked by big hills that quickly become mountains up in the back country. The western side of the property has rich volcanic type loams, and more rolling ridges. We have extremely high mountain ranges, stony creeks, mountain springs and Rocky ridges, steep pastures that we have not traversable by vehicle since Cyclone Debbie. We use mostly 4 wheel motorbikes or Horses. We experience the odd frost but only near the house, and pinch ourselves at such an amazingly temperate climate. The most delightful coastal breeze skips over the range to meet us most evenings.
We have deer running wild in the creek frontages, Koalas in the trees, Quokka's at night and mini patches of Hoop pines and rainforest. The mountain country is quite pristine with unspoiled ecosystems featuring incredible views, rocky gorges and escarpments, freshwater springs, creeks, and waterfalls in the wet. Cattle, being peaceful herd animals by nature, contentedly graze the steep pastures and our horses have quickly made it their home. Our working dogs are unimpeded by prickles and happily follow the Boss on his horse along the sometimes very steep terrain. It is a challenging work environment, tailor made for horse-back mustering. Stunning views, multiple tracks, diversity of terrain and just enough "wild" country to keep John, his horses and working dogs from ever being bored. It is a property that has allowed John to happily rely on his reserves of knowledge and experience. It has so many diverse and unique features and challenges that I expect we will be here for a long season.
"Burrenbring" has turned out to be perfect Morgan Country ! ( and we all appreciate that happy husband equals happy life ! )
Since being at Burrenbring, we have come to fully appreciate the Morgan horse, in all their attributes. Seldom a day goes by without John riding for one purpose or another. He now has daily opportunity to incorporate dogs and horses in a work environment where they complement each other wonderfully. The Morgans are certainly an amazing horse breed. Athletic, Intelligent, Enduring, Hardy, Cow- y and rewarding. It's no longer a choice...it's a necessary pleasure.
All our horses are purebred Morgans and all have been registered both in Australia and America. (The geldings are only registered in Australia ).
We now feel we have something special we hope we can share with the Australian outback, after all it has given us over the years. This horse is unique, extremely versatile and hardy. They have an amazing willingness to please, which when combined with their high intelligence, makes them a very loyal and rewarding servant, and an absolute pleasure to handle.
It is our dream that the Morgan name will become as commonly known, utilised and valued as the "Australian Stockhorse" or the "Australian Quarterhorse". A horse like the morgan should never stay a secret... For more on our story please click on this link below Link : ...Equine Excellence Article Issue May - June 2013.* A similar article also featured in "Horsewyse - 12th Birthday Winter Edition - May-June 2013.
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