Pick-up brothers to the rescue


NO MATTER what form of equine code you choose to throw at them, Upper Horton brothers Pete and Dave Kelly are very comfortable in the saddle.

For many years, the two were well-known names in saddlebronc around the rodeo circuit.

But while they’ve both hung up their competitive boots in that bone-jarring event, they still find time to juggle running their own properties at Upper Horton with performing clerk-of-the-course duties at Barraba Jockey Club’s annual cup meeting, and combining as the Manuka Chaff pick-up team at various rodeos around the region.

Next on their agenda is Bendemeer Rodeo on February 15 – all the action to kick off at 6pm. 

“It’s undoubtedly one of the best little shows about, probably because of the great committee they’ve got up there,” Pete Kelly said.

Dave Kelly can boast victory – “it might even be two” in the Pete Jenner Memorial Saddlebronc which has been a drawcard on the Bendemeer program for many years. In rodeo, both the protection clown (bullride) and pick-up men (saddlebronc/bareback) are considered the rescue riders by many competitors.

“Our job basically is to make sure the cowboy lands safely back on the ground.

“Dave used to jump off when he was riding, but not many cowboys can do that.”

Inside knowledge of the sport “helps heaps” in the brothers’ work to uphold the safety of the cowboys.

Pete can boast a World Saddlebronc title while touring the United States in 1997, but injury the following year put the red light on his competitive career.

And while neither can boast a National Finals Rodeo saddlebronc title (though they have won the Champion Pick-Up Team title on several occasions), Dave has grabbed the average crown several times. And he’s won the saddlebronc at Sydney Royal more than once.

“You get to know the horses, and what they’re going to do. That lets you get yourself into the right position when the eight seconds is coming up.

“Our job is to get the cowboy safely back onto the ground and out of the arena.

“The same when we were riding ourselves. We relied heavily on the pick-up men.”

The Kelly pick-up team kicked off in the 1960s with Pete and Dave’s dad Bill Kelly and their “uncle Pip” – the late Phillip Kelly.

“They did it for a few years in the ’60s, then went back into it in the ’80s. Between the four of us, we’ve been doing it ever since.

“Dave and I started picking up at 17 – dad and uncle Pip really taught us the ropes,” the 42-year-old said.

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