Step back in time: the Golden Plough is coming to Lyndhurst on June long weekend

Cowra's Jason Gavenlock and his Australian Draught horses won the 2019 Golden Plough when the event made a return at Eugowra.
Cowra's Jason Gavenlock and his Australian Draught horses won the 2019 Golden Plough when the event made a return at Eugowra.

The Golden Plough returns to the Central West on the June long weekend, and organisers are planning a weekend that should appeal to lovers of horses, heritage or just a great day out in the country.

The coveted title is awarded to the ploughman and two-horse team with the best single furrow in the traditional competition, and it's coming to Lyndhurst on June 12 and 13.

Cowra's Jason Gavenlock, who won the coveted Golden Plough in 2019, will be back to defend his title.

But he's not overstating his chances, he says interest in the event has increased dramatically since its return two years ago after an 11-year break.

Gavenlock understands there are at least nine contenders for Sunday's Open event, he says that's nearly double the 2019 entries.

Gavenlock himself will be driving 2019 champion Jigsaw but this time with his full brother Wally.

"I've possibly made it harder on myself, bringing in another young horse," he said, but the event has always been about far more than Sunday's title.

It's about keeping part of our history alive, and working with the beautiful big horses.

Gavenlock says this year's Plough weekend will have more events for the spectators: there'll be an obstacle course for horses and drivers to navigate.

One event will feature the driver being pulled on a sled, the other, which he's really looking forward to, is the log snig obstacle course.

"This is simulating what would have been working in the bush, stacking logs and avoiding obstacles," he said.

Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Association Western Branch president Aleks Berzins says the event just keeps growing, both in interest from ploughmen (and women) and with community groups coming on board.

Lake Cargelligo's Steve Johnson and his six-horse team will be running wagon rides on the Golden Plough weekend - only $5 a ride.

There will also be a demonstration of traditional, horse-powered chaff-cutting and on Saturday night there'll be a dinner at the Golf Club and entertainment by Eugowra's Bill Norris.

The Lyndhurst Golf Club and Team Penning Grounds is a new location for the event, Gavenlock said the group has made a good space available for the ploughing events.

And there will be more than the coveted Golden Plough itself: there are novice, ladies and even junior events to roll out on Saturday, and veterans on Sunday before the Golden Plough.

The feature event, Gavenlock highlights, is a real test of skill.

"It's a fine art," he summarises.

"It's one individual driving a pair of horses and controlling a single-furrow plough.

"It involves controlling and setting your plough to suit the ground: if it's hard the plough will pull to the left, if it's soft the plough will pull too deep."

Plough competitions, Berzins says, have been popular since horse-drawn ploughing was the norm. It was always an opportunity for a horseman to demonstrate the trueness of his furrow.

"There's a lot of pride and a lot of skill in it as well," he said.

Judges look at the plot that has been ploughed, as well as study how the team works, he explained.

And while modern machinery might be more efficient, Berzins says it just doesn't get much better than watching the soil turn over as you walk behind your horses on a beautiful afternoon.

There's also a very real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

"The slow, steady nature of it, and working with horses, it's pretty special," he says.