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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Gentle art of the plough lives on through heritage enthusiasts

ABOVE: Ladies plough champion Jocelyn Cockbain and Ruby.

TRACTORS with GPS guidance are now used to run straight furrows in paddocks but in the past, great horses were guided by men with kind and gentle hands to create beautiful plots.

This farming heritage is remembered and kept alive every year by ploughing events across the country but the most prestigious of them all is the Golden Plough Championship in NSW, which has been fiercely contested every year since it was first held in 1976.

Wongarbon, about 18km east of Dubbo in central NSW, was the venue for this year’s event.

More than 800 ploughmen and women from across Australia competed for the coveted trophy and national bragging rights.

The Western Branch of the Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society hosts the two-day annual event, which includes horse working classes, obstacle courses, wagon rides and horse-driven chaff cutter demonstrations along with ladies, junior, novice and veteran ploughing competitions.

The ultimate aim of the competition is a straight line and it's not as easy as you think.

Horse drawn ploughing involves skilfully guiding one or two draught horses, pulling a single furrow plough, to create a straight plot of a minimum of eight runs. These are judged on linear accuracy, depth, sharpness of cut, total width and how the soil is turned.

Points are also heavily weighted towards the relationship between horse and competitor.

ABOVE: The 2023 Golden Plough winner Darren Gavin.

This year’s golden plough champion was Bathurst's Darren Gavin, who also took out the winning plot.

Second was Jason Gavenlock, who won Straightest Furrow Award, and third was John Reedy.

Jocelyn Cockbain, of Tamworth, was first in the ladies plough, first in the log obstacle, third in the Long Rein and was the overall champion horse and handler. Second was Demi Chapman and third, Melinda Gavin.

The junior plough winner was Joey Reedy, of Wallabadah.

Barry Schaefer took out the veteran’s plough aware with Chris Chapman filling second and third places.

After the competition was done, there was plenty of time for what country people enjoy most in the evenings – a bonfire, camp oven dinner and a good chat.

ABOVE: Junior finalists Chelsie Berzins, Zoe Berzins and Heidi Gavenlock.
ABOVE: Heidi Gavenlock proving you are never too young to start.

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