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Don was born on January 15, 1926 in Crookwell in Brooklands. He was the only son of Os and Evelyn McDonell and he had one sister, Joyce, who predeceased him.
Don grew up in Crookwell watching and learning from his father as he was a horseman himself. Os showed and taught Don how to break horses in from a very young age and horses became Don's life from then on.
Don went droving at the age of 13 after leaving school.
As Don would say, "I left school early. I had a bit of a set to with the teacher and because I hadn't done what he was accusing me of, I picked up my gear and told him he could keep his lessons." When the teacher then said to Don he should do as he's told, Don's answer was "No, I'll do as like."
And that was that for Don and school. Within days he had a five bob job, taking a mob of sheep to Rugby and from that day on horses, stock, and the Australian countryside become Don's classroom.
Don had his first rodeo it was at the age of around 15, with the famous Tom Willoughby, the brother of Don’s good mate Reggy Willoughby. In 1948, Don won the Australian Championship Steer Ride at the Sydney Royal Show. Also in 1948, Don married Valarie Plumb and in 1949 in December his only son was born, Les.
In later life Don played polocross with Grenfell Polocross Club and Neila at Cowra. Don Managed numerous properties in the Young and Crookwell districts. Don managed a property on the outskirts of Crookwell where he was breaking in horses and doing some training for the well-known Bart Cummings.
After finally settling in Grabben Gullen, he still continued to break in and train horses for numerous people. After retiring at the age of 68 he went to assist with Mick Doyle’s thoroughbred horses at Fullerton for three months and stayed for 12 years. In later years, Don took up team penning for a sport and pleasure.
He spent a lot of years coaching and teaching Pony Club kids for both Crookwell and Taralga and he received life membership from both clubs. Don also received an award for his 50 years service with the Crookwell Pony Club. He was chaperoned around by a good friend, Ray Phelps, who travelled with Don and his horses to events in his later years.
Don was known for his horsemanship and his great knowledge of working dogs.
Don is survived by his wife Sandra, son Les, daughter-in-law Jenny, five grandchildren and four grandchildren.