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25th January 2006

OBITUARY by Kate Harris
Gertrude “Gertie” Brook
1922 – 2005

Gertrude “Gertie” Brook, the only woman to win campdrafting’s most prestigious event, the Warwick Gold Cup, passed away peacefully on Boxing Day 2005.

Gertie created campdrafting history in 1951 when she was successful on the wonderful gelding Popeye, owned by Clive and Len Ballard, of the Macleay district – and she remains the events only female winner to this day.

The number of competitors in the Warwick Gold Cup, the pinnacle of the campdrafting world, has risen dramatically over the years as campdrafting and the Australian Stock Horse has increased in popularity.

Gertie also won the ladies draft in 1951 and was runner-up in the Warwick Gold Cup in 1953 and third in 1949.  Popeye was her mount on all occasions.

Her win in the Warwick Gold Cup is memorable not only for it being the first by a woman but because she had to compete for the title in a run off against Jack Cooper riding Zane.

Her prowess in the saddle won her the World’s Championship Campdraft at Sydney Royal and she won over 100 drafts on Popeye alone.

Gertie was born in 1922 at Bellingen on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, one of nine children, and her childhood was spent on the family’s dairy farm, where she took every opportunity to ride her beloved horses.

She began to compete in shows in her early teens.

Such was her enthusiasm she accepted rides on horses in hack classes, jumping, sporting and campdrafting – in fact, her first ride in a draft was when she won the ladies draft at Dorrigo Show.

In the 1940s Gertie teamed up with the Ballard brothers to travel the shows and rodeos and compete in campdrafting events.

Transport was a problem, so Clive used to hitch a horse in a sulky and jog the campdrafting team along behind.  Eventually trains were used when they needed to travel long distances to compete.

The Ballards bred a number of horses by the Thoroughbred stallion Bullseye, including Gertie’s 1951 winner Popeye.

Bullseye’s progeny have figured in many successful working horse pedigrees in the Macleay district.

Gertie was full of praise for Popeye, who started life as a racehorse but quickly showed his adaptability as a cattle horse.

Her brother Bob Brook, said Gertie maintained Popeye’s manners contributed to their many successes.

“She used to say you only had to think what you wanted him (Popeye) to do, and he would do it,” Bob said.

Gertie lived at “Budgerie”, a small cattle rearing property at Macksville, where she bred Hereford cattle and Australian Stock Horses, until failing health forced her to move, in 2000, to the Hawkesbury district to live with Bob and his wife Joyce.

She was able to take a few horses with her and spent many hours watching her niece Colleen put her top-class showjumpers through their paces.

Joyce and Gertie were long-time friends.  It was Gertie who first introduced Joyce to her brother.

“We used to travel around the shows together and at one Dorrigo Show, I beat Gertie in our rider class,” Joyce said.

“This didn’t go down all that well as Gertie was invariably the winner.”

Gertie was a typical product of her upbringing and, although dedicated to her horses and to campdrafting, was an accomplished seamstress and a very good cook.

She was a quiet person, a hard worker and a natural horsewoman.  While living at Macksville, it was not unusual for her to be contracted to muster cattle for some of the bigger properties using her dogs, mainly Kelpies.

Although women have competed in the Warwick Gold Cup for years, Gertie’s place in its history remains assured.

The first woman to run a place was Gwen Duncan, who was third in 1938 and fifth in 1946.

Of the other women to place, Gwen Chicken was third in 1975, Chris Hall equal third in 1990, Sue Salmond equal second in 1992, Jane Hall third in 1994 and Jackie Bright sixth in 2005.

With Thanks to The Land Newspaper