23 April 2024

Five-time Man From Snowy River Challenge winners proof the best cowboys live in the South West Slopes

| Edwina Mason
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cowboy catching a horse in an arena

Cootamundra’s Morgan Webb won The Man From Snowy River Open Challenge this year and is now a five-time victor in the competition. Photos: The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival.

The NSW South West Slopes is still in the business of producing champions, with Cootamundra cowboy Morgan Webb and Young’s Christy Davidson clinching titles at last weekend’s The Man From Snowy River (MFSR) Bush Festival Challenge.

Also a junior challenge champ, Morgan also holds the record for being the youngest Open Champion, having first won at the tender age of 19, and now with $30,000 in prize money and another buckle to add to his silver-laden belt, it makes a total five triumphs for the now-43-year-old in this classic Australian test of horsemanship.

But Morgan is first to credit his trusty 12-year-old gelding Norman, bought as a two-year-old at a sale in Holbrook, who wasn’t just sashed for his efforts but took home a new kit any horse would be proud to bear, complete with silver-plated leather bride and maybe, for him, more importantly, a rug and nosebag.

READ ALSO Forget the Man from Snowy River, meet the king and queen of Corryong

Not that the rug will be of any use in the next six months as the Webb family, including Morgan’s equally equinely talented wife Emma, are on their annual pilgrimage to Far North Queensland, which mixes work – the breaking and training of horses – with family in Emma’s home town of Almaden, near Mareeba.

Four days, 2000 kilometres away from Corryong, in Charters Towers shooshing his daughter in the back seat of the car, Morgan had nothing but praise for the 2024 event, which attracted record crowds and entries.

“It’s always a pretty big thrill,” he said. “It’s a huge crowd and because I’m originally from Tumut, a lot of my family and friends are there as part of the crowd.

“But for me, it’s always a frontrunner in terms of challenges because of the atmosphere and because it is so unique in terms of its standing in our nation’s history.”

woman on horseback in arena

Young’s Christy Davidson, on Slide Aside Cowboy, is a five-time MFSR Ladies’ Challenge winner.

Christy Davidson is also buckling under the weight of silver, hers from The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival Ladies’ Challenge, which she’s won five times, the first four under her maiden name, Christy Conner.

It was down to the wire in her final – a wild horse catch – which she and her horse Slide Aside Cowboy came into with a 10-point lead but nailed with speed (the fastest of the class) and agility.

This win places her second in the most titles ever won in the MFSR event, behind, guess who – the aforementioned Emma Webb (nee O’Shea), who won an extraordinary eight in a row from 2014-2022 in the years after Christy last won the event in 2013!

Christy also won the Ladies’ Silver Brumby Catch with an 84 score to win $1100 worth of prizes to add to her Ladies’ Challenge $7500 cash prize.

READ ALSO Young couple clinch titles at prestigious King of the Ranges stockman’s challenge

The formidable four from the South West Slopes includes past The Man From Snowy River winner Kieran Davidson, who placed fifth in this year’s Open Challenge. He came away from the event slightly annoyed he lost a cow, but extraordinarily proud of his wife, who is so fast it was impossible to nail her to a phone.

“I never doubted her, she was driven and prepared and everything fell in place. For someone who 50 per cent of her time is working the farm, it was a brilliant outcome for her,” Kieran said.

If their pedigree is anything to go by, keep watch for the future generations of Webbs and Davidsons, who, already beating around on horseback, look likely to emulate their parents.

* The Man From Snowy River Challenge began in 1995 and is the showcase event of The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival held in Corryong over four days in April.

Highlighting the special relationship between horse and rider, the quest to find today’s Man From Snowy River sees Open, Ladies’ and Junior challenge riders compete in a range of preliminary events including pack horse, bareback ride, stock handling, whip crack, cross country and a stockman’s cutout – which culminate in finals on Sunday.

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