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Return of the ringer
Stockmen and stock horses make their comeback 

Story: Kieran Kelly
Photos: Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood

ImageIt seemed like a good idea at the time. Stockmen's wages had been going up throughout the 1960s and the traditional droving plant with its hassles of keeping large numbers of horses and men fit and working was a quaint relic.

The cattle stations of Australia's far north were big business and there was no longer a place for sentiment and romance. The helicopter was the way of the future.

Cattle would now be mustered by machine - one man in a Bell 45 could do the job of a platoon of expensive drovers and their troublesome stock horses. The traditional method of moving cattle by mixing quiet, handled stock or "coachers" into a wild mob was no longer considered economic.

The ringers, the best and boldest horsemen, who rode on the dangerous wings to turn, or ring, the fleeing mob, were to be quietly consigned to the dustbin of history.

ImageHow times change! There is now a scramble to re-assemble horse plant all over Australia's north and a good stock horse commands good money.

Twenty years ago you couldn't give one away.
So what happened? Story end

Full story: Issue 2, December - January 1999

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