Story by Jess Doherty  Photos from Habermann family  & Jess Doherty (Published in Feb – March 2014 Australian Campdrafting Magazine)

“Their horses have something about them that makes you stop and watch. They all go in a very similar manner and have this uncanny ability to leave the yard on a loose rein and slip up beside one like its no effort at all.”

Kerrie and Swift Miss after winning the Ladies at the Blackall ACA Finals in 2010

Kerrie and Swift Miss after winning the Ladies at the Blackall ACA Finals in 2010

Everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good horse. What they like to see in the camp. What appeals to them as they watch a horse leave the yard and head towards the first peg. Some people like horses to be extremely well trained, very mechanical and responsive in the yard. Others prefer them to carry there head a little higher and run to cattle without being pulled on. For me, there is a line of horses that stand out when you see them at a draft, and a fair few of them belong on one truck… that of Zane Habermann & Kerrie Thomson. Their horses have something about them that makes you stop and watch. They all go very similar and have this uncanny ability to leave the yard on a loose rein and slip up beside one like its no effort at all. Zane
and Kerrie are big believers in keeping it simple and while their lifestyles may have changed in the past few years, their horses are only getting better.

Zane Habermann was born in Rockhampton in 1982 and spent the first few years living at “Wallaville” outside Gin Gin in south east Queensland. He has an older sister Melinda (May) and a younger sister Kristy and recalls only being ‘a little tacker’ when his parents moved to their current home, “Eastern Creek”. The 18,000 acre property is located between Mt Perry and Monto and this is where Zane’s life of horses, cattle and hard work began. Zane admits he wasn’t much of a scholar and couldn’t wait to get out of school and go to work; “I did primary in Mt Perry and went to Monto High for the small part of high school that I did do. I bloody hated it!! I only lasted about a quarter of the way through year 9! I got home from school one Friday afternoon and told Mum I wasn’t ever going back to the bloody place! Monday morning I had a job working for a neighbour and it was there I got to work with an older fella named Barry Warrell. I learned a lot from him over the next two years and watched him ride a real rough horse when he was around 60 year old!!”

The following year was spent back at home cutting posts, for which Zane remembers “I cut somewhere around 5000 posts for the year, just enough to buy myself a car and a gooseneck and then I packed up and left.” Zane then went contract mustering for a few years, working on several different properties including Camboon, Hainault, Nestorvale, then up to Clermont and back down to Taroom and Wandoan then to Coondara for Wayne Knudsen. By this time Zane was 20 years old and had a string of his own work horses, when Australian Country Choice (ACC) offered him
a mob of 1800 head to take on the road. So he, Jay Pearce and Clane Dunn walked the steers from Wandoan through Taroom and onto Roma which took about four months.

Zane cut around 6500 posts in 12 months at his parents property

Zane cut around 6500 posts in 12 months at his parents property

For the following six years, droving became Zane’s life. He walked cattle from Roma to as far north as Richmond and everywhere in between, taking several mobs for the Radel family from Injune/Augathella. And this is where Zane’s courtship with Kerrie Thomson began. “I’d known Kerrie since I was about 14 but it wasn’t until I was 22 that we started dating. Kerries’ family is from Alpha and I had cattle on the road west of there. She used to come and visit me a bit and I’d climb windmills to get phone reception to ring her when she didn’t!” Zane and Kerrie have been engaged for nine years now with a baby on the way and as Zane puts in “We have been a bit too busy to get married!”

He credits this time and miles on the road to getting his young horses going, but he never had a string of Campdraft horses back then like he does now. “When I left home I only took a few of my own. I bought and sold a bunch of young ones to make a few extra dollars along the way but only really had work horses back then. And I reckon I buggered a fair few horses up by not giving them a spell.” But amongst those work horses was one very special chestnut mare… one which is now referred to as “One of the best mares in the Country’. One mare named Swift Miss.
Zane purchased “Miss” as she is affectionately known from his parents as an unbroken yearling after winning a bunch of Juveniles on her mother, Blue Swift. He bought her and another blue filly the same age, broke them in and took them mustering for 12 months. He remembers, “the blue filly was probably better than Miss as a 2yo but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. I was at “Bonanza” mustering with Pearcy when she went through a fence one night in a thunderstorm and licked the urea out of a cattle trough in the next paddock. I found her dead the following morning. I reckon Miss is lucky to be alive… she could have gone through the fence with her.”

Zane on his first pony Comet when he wanted to be a drover. He still has the same saddle bag.

Zane on his first pony Comet when he wanted to be a drover. He still has the same saddle bag.

Zane had Miss on the road and while he cut cattle off the tail of the mob while droving, he never cut one out in a yard until her first Campdraft start as a four year old. It wasn’t long before Miss won her first draft at Wallumbilla, then headed to Paradise Lagoons for the very first time. Zane laughs when he tells the story “I nearly sold her at Paradise that year. Kevin Ryan offered me $10,000 for her and I nearly took it! Thank god I didn’t. She went home with Kerrie that year and hasn’t done a days work since.”

Miss has not missed a Paradise Lagoons Campdraft in 10 years and has more than left her mark, winning the Mort & Co Open Draft two years in a row, in 2011 and 2012. She also won the Champions of Champions Draft at Paradise in 2012 and Kerrie won the Ladies on her in 2013. According to Aside from her Paradise success, this great mare has gone on to win over 19 Campdrafts including the ACA Finals Ladies Campdraft, the ACA/ASHS Novice Horse of the Year and too many Opens, Restricted Opens and cut outs to mention. At 15 years of age the great mare has had her last Campdraft run and is now retired to the breeding paddock. Zane has a yearling colt by One Moore Playboy out of her which he will break in this year, along with two successful embryo’s, one
by Acres Destiny and one by One Time Jack of Tom & Jane Williamson’s. They are also awaiting a positive preg test for her to carry her own Metallic Cat foal. She is known as one of the best mares in the country and rightfully so… she has the scores on the board and the majority of them are at the biggest Campdrafts Australia has to offer.

Every person has that one horse that they credit their Campdrafting career to and there is no doubt that Swift Miss is that horse for Zane. “For a long time, Miss was my only horse. I had a bunch of others come and go but I got pretty fussy once I had Miss and nothing matched up to her so I kept turning them over. I reckon I won more Campdrafts when I just had her than I do now with a truck load!”

So after Miss’s first start at Paradise, it was back to droving and contract mustering for Zane while Kerrie based herself at her parents property “Glen Avon” and rode young horses and contract mustered around Alpha. For the next five or so years, Zane would return to “Glen Avon” in between jobs and in this time, Zane and Kerrie also purchased a small place outside Capella where they would base themselves.

Long stints apart, thousands of kilometres on the road and long days in the saddle where what Zane and Kerrie became accustomed to until early 2008 when a routine mustering job changed Zane’s way of life. “I was contract mustering at Charleville and Gary Saunders was there doing the flying. I was on the ground with a heap of men and one day Gary offered me a job flying choppers. So I finished the job and headed home, parked my gear in the shed and drove to the Sunshine Coast to do my helicopter license. I was there for about 6 months all up and Kerry sold a bunch of horses at Agrow Sale for me to help pay for it.” Zane returned home with his license and as promised, worked for Gary Saunders for 12 months before purchasing his own chopper and starting his own business “Central Park Helicopters.” “I flew by myself for about 12 months and then purchased another two, basing one at Tambo, which Tom Crozier flies for me and the other at Alpha which Dan Black operates.” Zane admits that while his flying work is seasonal and dependant on weather, he does have a constant flow of work from a good client base he has built up. One which is based in the triangle between Tambo, Alpha & Springsure, sealing his decision to sell their Capella block and purchase a property outside Springsure. Zane and Kerrie purchased the 1000 acre block “Prospect”, 5km outside of Springsure in 2010 and have developed the place in the past 3 years. “There was only a house here when we bought it, but we’ve built sheds, yards, stables and arenas since.”

So as Zane puts it “I’ve had to learn a new way of getting horses going. I don’t have the cattle work or the miles that I used to have but I am not overdoing horses as a result.” Zane puts it simply “You only have to ride them a few times to work out if they are going to be good or not. Horses can read cattle a hell of a lot quicker than we can, so I figure if you get up beside a steer and sit him up and your horse doesn’t stop and you are swinging on his head, then he isn’t going to be much good to you! He has to be thinking about stopping before you are!” Zane is a big believer in working cattle from a young age and doesn’t fear starting them at a draft as a 2yo saying “If you ride them within their limits and don’t do anything to them at a draft that you wouldn’t do to them at home, then what’s the difference?! I don’t think you should gallop them to the front of the yard and get wild on them, but there is no harm starting them early if you just poke along.” Zane starts them on bison as soon as he breaks them in and says that by the time they have had 30 rides, they are tracking and turning around with one pretty good.

Zane and Swift Miss after finishing 3rd in the top 30 Shoot Out at the Blackall ACA Finals in 2010.

Zane and Swift Miss after finishing 3rd in the top 30 Shoot Out at the Blackall ACA Finals in 2010.

This theory has some pretty good backing with a 2yo mare of Zane’s catching the eye of many people last year. The little brown mare called “Mississippi Swift” is by Acres Destiny out of a grey mare called Sarita that Zane used to draft. She was broken in and only a few months later taken to her first Campdraft. She won the Maiden Draft at Rolleston last year at her third start and also finished third in the Novice at Baralaba. Zane agrees that for her age she is a bit of a freak and is excited about the future of the little mare he calls “Brownie”. While some people may think it is too soon to start a horse drafting, this filly has since had 5 months off, has been embryo’d and won’t start drafting again until April. Kerrie and Zane have a fantastic team of mares on the truck at the moment, all of which have foals on the ground, or recipient mares about to foal with their embryos. They have two Mentor mares, Mentose and Memphis, a six year old grey mare they call Bluey, Rosie Oak who is by Comet out of a Freckles Oak mare and Kerrie’s good old mare, Dove. Miss Swift, or “Creamy” as they call her, is trying hard to fill the missing shoes of Swift Miss and little Mississippi Swift will be back on the truck this year also. Dove has been a champion mare for them both and has a list of accolades to her name nearly as long as her best mate and counterpart, Swift Miss.

However 2014 could prove a little interesting as these two mares have been inseparable for many years and are known to go a little crazy when apart. “They are equally as weird as each other” Zane says. “If Miss had to go to a draft without Dove she would lay down and sulk, wouldn’t get up for a feed, it was ridiculous. When we sent them away to get embryoed, they would have to go together and if one was finished, there was no way you could bring her home. You would have to pay agistment for the pair of them to stay there together!” With Zane and Kerrie’s first baby due in March, Dove has no choice but to stay on the truck for another year as Kerrie doesn’t think she will have a lot of time to ride the young ones. But after that she will join Swift Miss in the broodmare paddock and no doubt live a very happy life breeding babies with her best mate.

Kerrie & Dove in the Top 30 Shoot out at the ACA Finals in Blackall, 2010

Kerrie & Dove in the Top 30 Shoot out at the ACA Finals in Blackall, 2010

Zane Habermann and Kerrie Thomson are two of the most down to earth, lovely people you will meet in the Campdrafting fraternity. They are extremely modest about their achievements and vow only to ride horses they have bred from now on in. And why shouldn’t they when they have such an incredible line of mares. They are investing money into their breeding program and hope that one day Zane can slow down flying helicopters and spend more time at home with his family and horses. So take note next time you are at a draft, if you have not already. Watch the way Zane’s horses leave the camp, full nose on the blade of a bullock and seem to sit up with one with the slightest amount of pressure on the reins. It is an art…. a talent that many aspire to master and it just goes to show that it can be done without spending all day in the saddle.