At home in the saddle

Stock Horse breed loses a leader

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David Wilson holds the supreme led Stock Horse, Glen Lee Rivoli Mahogonay (owned then by his father Keith), at the 1998 National Australian Stock Horse Show, Condobolin.

David Wilson holds the supreme led Stock Horse, Glen Lee Rivoli Mahogonay (owned then by his father Keith), at the 1998 National Australian Stock Horse Show, Condobolin.

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Horseman, grazier, campdrafter. The Australian Stock Horse breed lost one of its greats in David Wilson.

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The horse industry, and especially the Australian Stock Horse breed, lost a mentor, a leader and one of its top breeders and campdrafters when David Wilson died, aged 63, on November 16 last year.

David, who owned and operated the beef cattle and horse property, “Glen Lee”, at Gilgandra, was born at Kyogle on April 14, 1955, to then dairying parents, Keith and Nola Wilson.

At age 5, his parents packed up the family with the milking cow and its calf, and a pony called Candy, and moved to Gilgandra, where they became beef and wool producers.

David had a competitive streak from a young age, which helped him to win Sydney Royal Show champion boy rider at 6, and in his 30s was also awarded Rotary’s Sportsperson of the Year for successes in campdrafting – a pursuit he began at just 17.

Yet these early wins were but a glimpse of what was to come for this eventual 10-time awardee of the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association Ltd (ABCRA) Most Successful Campdraft Rider title – the only rider to achieve this feat, and with all 10 wins accrued in 20 years.

David Wilson and his father, Keith, in the "Glen Lee" woolshed during the 1980s. The family continued to run Merinos until Keith's death in 1998, when the workload with wool and maintaining their highly successful horse stud meant something had to give.

David Wilson and his father, Keith, in the "Glen Lee" woolshed during the 1980s. The family continued to run Merinos until Keith's death in 1998, when the workload with wool and maintaining their highly successful horse stud meant something had to give.

Tamworth stock and station agent Jim Lyons, who knew David since they were boys at Gilgandra Pony Club, said “he was as competitive then as he was later in life”.

“He was a very good show rider and they lived for it. He was a great fellow and a great mate of mine – he was a real straight, hard worker,” he said, adding that David’s mother Nola used to teach riding to a lot of the kids – David’s younger siblings (born after the move to Gilgandra), brother Michael and sister Julie (now Sharpe), being among them.

However, it was the coming together of his riding ability, competitiveness and the right horses that really set him on his path to success.

David established the Glen Lee stud in 1972, at age 17, with the help of his father, when he purchased the Thoroughbred stallion, Romantic Gold – but the stud’s reputation wasn’t duly cemented until 1980, when he bought the stallion Rivoli Ray.

Born in 1967, Rivoli Ray would become a sire of great significance for Glen Lee, and as fellow Stock Horse breeder, David Ross, Lancefield, Victoria, said, was the beginning of a succession of influential stallions that would help carry David’s campdraft success, as well as cement the Glen Lee name as a source of quality, performance-focused heritage lines.

David Wilson on Glen Lee Rivioli Donna in the ABCRA National Campdraft Finals at Walcha in 1987.

David Wilson on Glen Lee Rivioli Donna in the ABCRA National Campdraft Finals at Walcha in 1987.

Along with Rivoli Ray, the stud was also home to Rivoli Reward (by Rivoli Ray), and the more recently known Glen Lee Rivoli Ray Tech (by Warrenbri Romeo).  

Glen Lee Rivoli Mytech, by Baronet Hornet and from a Rivoli Ray mare, was also a significant stallion in both the campdraft and breeding arenas for the stud.

The influence of these stallions is through hundreds of direct descendants, which represent significant heritage Stock Horse foundation lines – another passion of David’s and a big factor in the lines from which he chose to breed.

Mr Ross remembers when he met David 25 years ago, at which time, if you wanted to buy a Glen Lee horse, you had to join the waiting list.

“In those days you couldn’t just go and buy a horse – there was that much demand for the horses, you had to wait until you were told it was available,” he said.

He also recalls when Ray Tech, arguably the most successful show breeding stallion in the breed with more than 200 registered progeny before an untimely death at age 16, collectively across two years in 2001-02 at the Scone and then Albury National shows, won the national maturity (2001), supreme ridden Australian Stock Horse (2001), supreme led (2001), supreme working (2002), supreme under saddle (2002), and champion led stallion (2002).

David also had a big involvement in the direction of the breed, in Australia and in its establishment in the US. This included his many horsemanship and campdraft clinics, which he conducted in both countries.

With the stoic support of wife, Sue (nee Moss, of Moss Vale), whom he married in 1992, the couple also set-up and ran youth camps at Gilgandra Showground and on “Glen Lee”, as well as specialist campdraft camps (in the early 2000s) to help women improve their skills in what had “otherwise been a men’s club”, Mr Ross said.

“A lot of that was very forward thinking for the time,” Mr Ross said, explaining how David gave a lot of time to youth camps, including sponsoring children from interstate, helping kids to improve their skills and even giving some kids a horse if their families weren’t able to.

“A lot of these kids have gone on as professionals in the industry, as well as overseas,” he said.

He served as an ABCRA director for 10 years, and an Australian Stock Horse Society director for 17 years where he had roles on the executive committee, including two years as chairman. During this time he was on the society’s sports and stud book committees, was a Level 2 judge, breed assessor, and Level 1 coach.

Mr Ross said David was instrumental in helping set the breed standard, including the motif of the horse used in the breed’s emblem.

“He was also the person who was really behind the pattern book, which has all the workouts for classes and that really helped bring professionalism to the judging process in the breed, plus he was also chairman of the national Stock Horse judge’s panel when the panel brought in the accreditation program for judges in the breed,” he said.

This included being panel chairman for at least five years. David retired as a board director in 2015.

He is remembered by wife, Sue, daughter Paige, and niece, Amy. 

-ANDREW NORRIS

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