Story by Gretel Sneath, Photography by Peter MacDonald
Adam Litchfield has just finished bronco branding a mob of cattle on the bottom of the Birdsville Track after mustering them on horseback across the scorched gibber plains. It’s thirsty work, but the adrenalin has kicked in and he’s keen for another bout of man versus beast.
“I wish I could just ride horses and chase cattle all day,” he says.
A fifth generation station man, Adam, 38, is a true Aussie cowboy who was born to ride. His experience in the saddle has led to some incredible opportunities, from droving on the Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive to working as a stockman on the set of the Baz Luhrmann movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. One year, he was even asked to carry the Melbourne Cup down the final 800 metres of the famous Flemington straight – but that’s all a bit of a distant memory now, for he’s taken the reins of the family business.
Mundowdna and Wilpoorinna stations sit side-by-side on 2600 square-kilometres of South Australian desert country. It’s some of the lowest rainfall, permanently inhabited land in the world, but it’s home.
Images feature Adam Litchfield at Mundowdna Station, photography by Peter MacDonald.
“When you grow up on a station, it’s difficult to imagine doing anything else,” Adam says. “I guess it becomes your destiny.”
Five solid years of rainfall has brought life to the harsh desert landscape and the Litchfields recently added the historic Mount Lyndhurst to their property stable. The 3489-square-kilometre station on the Strzelecki Track shares 980 kilometres of boundary fence with their existing land – and that’s a lot of ground to cover.
“You can get more done on a motorbike, but horses help to slow things down a bit with the cattle work – and cows don’t hear you coming when you’re mustering, which is a bonus,” Adam says.
The best horse for the job? “A good one!”