You probably know about the stockhorse, the camp horse and the drover’s nighthorse; but there were also station nighthorses, with very important roles.
One such nighthorse was Rigmarole, a plain dark bay; not much to look at but a good, honest worker. ‘Old Rig’ lived alone in a small night paddock near the homestead on a large cattle station near Taroom, Qld.
While he was never asked to do anything heroic, like galloping for the doctor many miles away to save a life, he did everything asked of him and did it well.
His first job of the day was to take one of the houseboys to round up the horses from one of the huge horse paddocks, with his swinging, armchair-like canter. He knew where to find the sneaky rogues who tried to hide among the wattles, and which way they would run.
Then he’d get a break back in his paddock until it was time for a rouseabout to muster the cows; occasionally he had to carry a newborn calf home in front of the rider. Sometimes the three young lads on the station would muster the cattle, and Old Rig showed great patience when he had them all on his back. Despite going full tilt down the hill and over the creek, they always came home intact, and with the cows.
Old Rig did not suffer fools; he allowed himself to be caught by those who approached him like the old mate he was; those who huffed and puffed and yelled were led a merry dance over hilly terrain. He also taught many to ride.
After 10 years of loyal work, Old Rig died doing his job one Spring morning, while mustering. When some horses broke from the mob, he propped and wheeled after them, slipping on grass heavy with dew, came down heavily and snapped a leg. The rider wasn’t hurt and went for help. The master had to grab his rifle and it was a sad, sad day for all on the station.
- Abbreviated from a story by ‘Bruno’ in Hoofs and Horns 1959.