Mary Valley rider celebrates equestrian glory
VICTORIOUS Imbil rider Kaylea Maher has today taken out one the most prestigious equestrian events in the endurance riding world.
Maher led the middleweight division of the Tom Quilty Gold Cup and crossed the finish line shortly after 1pm Saturday on her still-lively mount, nine-year-old arab gelding Matta Mia Dimari.
Her official time: 10 hours, eight minutes and 53 seconds.
The "100 miles in one day" enfurance event covered 160km of Imbil forest tracks and was based at Matt Sample's magnificent Stirling Crossing equestrian centre, just outside Imbil, where event attendees are said to have trebled the town's population, creating a massive holiday business boom.
The purpose-built centre is rated probably the best in the southern hemisphere and one of the best in the world.
It was privately developed by Matt Sample, whose father Bob has been a stalwart of endurance riding, especially in the Mary Valley, for nearly 50 years.
Nearly 300 horses and their riders took part in the ride, which began at midnight.
About 3000 people attended the event, most of them cheering loudly from the roadside fence as Maher rode to one of the big horse riding victories in the world.
Matt Sample described the Tom Quilty as "the Melbourne Cup of endurance racing."
Mr Sample also operates his arab horse stud, Stirling Crossing Arabians, at the site.
"Arabs are the only horse breed that can carry weight at speed for 160km," he said.
Chief vet for the event, Matthew Walker, said horses were vetted at every stage of the event so veterinarians can assess their heart rate, matabolism and general wellbeing, before allowing them to continue to subsequent stages.
Weather had been an enormous help to the event.
"The weather has been great," he said. "Cooler winds overnight and lower humidity has been a benefit to the horses and riders."
Organising committee chair Kim Moir described the event as a constant effort, to get started and to keep running smoothly.
"I've been up since 4am Friday," she said.
Also the president of the Stirling Crossing Endurance Club, she said club members made up a large proportion of the thousands of people who attended the weekend event.
"Horses need to be fed and watered and so do people, everyone needs to be safe and the work begins three days before..
"There are all the jobs to do with bringing people into the grounds, arranging biosecurity checks and helping organise the volunteers who do all the jobs associated with that.
"It's only held in this state every six years.
"We have a lot of the same people volunteering, which is a good thing because you can get used to the strengths of each person.
"We have 299 riders.
"We started with 323, but horses are horses and you have to vet them out if they suffer any injury, including being lame from stepping on a stone, or pulling a muscle.
"The event has four divisions - heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight and junior -and to win the cup you have to compete in the hearbyweight or middleweight divisions.
"You can even finish the ride after 160km and still be vetted out. That helps ensure the horses are treated properly.
"And they do it for buckles - a commemorative buckle to each division winner. There's no huge prize.
"Tom Quilty and RM Wiliams chatted about it and wanted to see if anyone could cover 100 miles (as it was then) in one day.
"We have riders from 12 to 77 and males and females all doing exactly the same ride.
"The gender and age equity just happens.
"A 12-year-old may be riding with his or her parents but if they are vetted out, the child will probably continue riding through the night in the Imbil State Forest, with only a lamp on the head for illumination.
"You have to know your horse and you have to be able to ride it home at a pace it can maintain and you have to change positions to shift the load sometimes."
"RM and Erica William started it in 1965," Bob Sample said from his position, helping watch out for horses or riders needing help towards the end of a supremely demanding event, on everything from horses' hooves to riders' backsides.
"RM spoke to his mate Tom Quilty about sponsoring a cup and the first event was held at Colo in New South Wales," he said.