ACM Profile: Stephen John Baxter

3.6.1957 – 7.12.2013  From Jamie Dowling, immediate pas tPresident and current Director of the SCA and current Vice President of the NCCA  (Published in Feb – March 2014 Australian Campdrafting Magazine)

Stephen Baxter – over 30 years as a member of the Southern Campdrafting Association, 26 years as a Director, 4 years as Vice-President and 12 years as President. I believe that it is fair to say that this man had the greatest positive impact on the SCA than any other individual in its 40 year history. When he started drafting and courting Trish at the same time, he was told many times that he would never win a draft. It took awhile – 6 years in fact – but once he tasted victory he went on to become one of the top drafters in the Association, winning many drafts, including our annual All
Round Horse, Maiden Horse, Novice Horse and Open Horse on a number of occasions.

Steve & Willing Photo taken by Dave Christensen

Steve & Willing Photo taken by Dave Christensen

It was however, when he became a member of the Board that his contribution to the SCA became apparent. Not only did he want to compete himself, he also wanted Campdrafting
to be made accessible to people outside the Campdraft community. His pondering led to the establishment of the Encouragement Draft. Being Baxter, he somewhat over promoted this event to the point where 300 plus entries were taken at Barnawartha for a few years running. This necessitated running a second arena. Oblivious to the chaos and angst this caused the Committee and competitors trying to juggle the 2 arenas, it wasn’t long before he had to get hold of the reins and bring it back to a more manageable event. The consequence of course was a boom in SCA membership.

Stephen dedicated a lot of his time to promoting the sport at ground level. He instigated many drafts, not only with encouragement and advice, but with real effort. He would help design, build and lend portable yards to many committees over the years just to help get them started. A case in point was Balranald where just a few weeks ago he travelled out there to help with setting out a Campdraft ground to get them started.

He strived to lift the profile of Campdrafting through the successful Mitavite Series and also the Equitana Competition at Melbourne Showgrounds, all of which he was very proud. Stephen presided over the SCA for 12 years, during which time he offered strong leadership and good governance and with the sound support of Tony and Marilyn Bowden and the Board, was able to mould the Association into what it is today – an organisation able to offer its members a safe, well insured and financially secure environment in which to draft.

Steve never shirked the rough and tumble. Sure he bruised a few egos along the way, but I must say that on a number of occasions the odd member wanted to bruise more than his ego! One evening, Steve and I went to a local committee meeting to help them sort out a few internal issues and upon arrival, it was quite obvious that things were a bit fractious. After an hour of trying to bring things under control, Steve eventually took the chair and got the meeting underway.

A fairly hostile meeting ensued and when this meeting concluded, we stepped outside only to be confronted by a couple of agitated members, one was verbally describing Steve with colourful adjectives and the other was quite intent on landing one on his snout. Being much shorter than him, Steve was able to hold the would be assailant at bay by simply placing his hand on his forehead, rendering his blows unrewarded, whilst continuing the conversation with the other chap. Things finally settled and we drove home. I did say to him that I didn’t particularly like this job and he simply replied that it was just part of the fun! Steve was very aware of the history of the SCA and of the families and individuals whom founded our Association, many of whom are life members.

This photo of Steve was taken on the 30th of March 2013 which shows the determination and real guts, although unwell Steve climbed aboard ‘Rockafella’ (photo taken by CB Photography) competing in the Champion of Champions John Vinge Memorial Draft, where winners for the past 30 years were invited back to ride. It was held at Barnawartha’s thirtieth Draft, Steve finished in 4th place, his wife Trish & Sam won the event, this was Steve’s last ride.

This photo of Steve was taken on the 30th of March 2013 which shows the determination and real guts, although unwell Steve climbed aboard ‘Rockafella’ (photo taken by CB Photography) competing in the Champion of Champions John Vinge Memorial Draft, where winners for the past 30 years were invited back to ride. It was held at Barnawartha’s thirtieth Draft, Steve finished in 4th place, his wife Trish & Sam won the event, this was Steve’s last ride.

He was also very proud of his own family, Trish and Claire, and their wonderful achievements over many years competing on horses that they had mostly bred themselves and happy to lend to fellow competitors. Baxters would never leave for a draft until late in the evening and their arrival time would be from 10.00 pm Friday to 4.00 am Saturday. They may be a bit bleary eyed in the morning, but sharp as a tack by the time they stepped into the camp.

Steve had a great sense of humour and when an opportunity presented itself he would use it. At Bacchus Marsh many years ago, we were listening to the Judge’s address prior to an Open Draft and just as he finished one of Baxter’s old sparing partners, Mick Conroy, rode up on his great horse “Cruise”. “What did he have to say Baxter, what did he have to say?” Baxter turned to him and said, “Mick, all he had to say was that he hates Catholics.”

As Campdrafting grew throughout the country it became apparent that a national body would be required to bring consistency to our rules and regulations across Australia and to gain Federal recognition for the Sports Institute. Hence our National Campdraft body was formed, the NCCA. Steve represented the SCA from the outset and gained tremendous respect from the other delegates of the Council, many of whom have travelled large distances to be here today to honour him. With the outbreak of Equine Influenza, the entire horse industry in Australia came under threat and with that the Australian Horse Industry Council became the major forum to address the issue. It wasn’t long before Steve was elected to represent Campdrafting on that Council. Initially Steve was somewhat concerned about how he was going to deal with all of these educated people, but once again he gained a sound and respected voice within that organisation, which is also well represented here today. Along with Noel Chiconi from the NCCA, Steve put in a huge effort to resist the compulsory micro-chipping of all horses which eventually led to the Government repealing the legislation.

Steve’s influence extended way beyond the horse industry and on many a road trip with him, the amount of people that would ring to thank him for his assistance or advice was
testament to his generous nature. From his adopted community of Ivanhoe in western NSW, to Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and beyond, Steve’s influence and presence has been profound and will be sadly missed.

Our condolences go out to Trish, Claire, his brother David and Barb and nephews Brendan and Bec and Andrew and Erin.