ENDURO: Kaylea Maher and her horse, nine-year-old Atticus, won the Tom Quilty Gold Cup for endurance horse riding in the lightweight division.
ENDURO: Kaylea Maher and her horse, nine-year-old Atticus, won the Tom Quilty Gold Cup for endurance horse riding in the lightweight division. Patrick Woods

Maher conquers Quilty Cup but won’t stop there

What made you first start endurance riding?

My mother Jeanna Maher began endurance riding when I was eight and when I turned 12, I started competing on my mother's horse Ariel.

When I finished school at Gympie State High School, I started training horses at different stables in Kenilworth and Gympie for around six years before working in our family business Rushoz Endurance.

How many Quiltys have you entered?

I have been in six Quilty Cups. I finished ninth in the lightweight division in 2006; I didn't compete in 2008 and 2009; then in 2010, I decided to put weights in my saddle and came 10th at the Quilty as a middleweight.

I was first in the lightweight division at Kilkivan in 2013 and three of the horses in my team I had worked with at the stables - including training two of them - scored some of the fastest times overall.

At this year's Tom Quilty Cup in Hawkesbury I won the lightweight division for the second year running and was third overall on Atticus.

What is a Quilty Cup?

It is the pinnacle for endurance riders. It's a 24-hour competition where the rider and horse must complete a 160km-course, ensuring the horse passes five vet checks along the way.

How long have you lived in Imbil?

It has to be about 22 years.

What was your most challenging competition?

The most challenging was when I competed in the Far-A-Way ride in Imbil last year, a week after giving birth to my youngest Bella.

It was the most difficult and exhausting ride and I was just pipped and placed second overall. I could hardly even hold the horse.

Do you get a lot of support from family members?

Yes, my partner Akhmed Pshunou is heavily involved in the sport. He competed in the world championships for endurance riding when he lived in Russia. His riding eventually brought him to Australia where we met.

We both loved horses, endurance riding and worked in stables. All he wants to do is win a Quilty and I keep getting all the glory.

What are the biggest challenges during an endurance competition?

There are always issues you have to manage. You have to be continually making sure the horse is eating correctly and not getting too fatigued. The vet checks are very strict when riding a horse across such a long distance. It is easy to be eliminated from the race if the horse is deemed lame, stressed or hungry if not managed correctly. You have to keep in mind the parameters of the horse's health.

What is the most dangerous situation you have been caught in?

Because the race begins at midnight, if you have no light or it goes out, it is easy to get lost.

How often would you train?

I train in the Imbil forestry five days a week, riding between 10-30km with multiple horses.

Would you like to take endurance riding further in the future?

My goal would be to compete overseas; somewhere in Europe , but it costs a lot of money to transport a horse.

Have you ever competed overseas before?

Yes, I competed in Dubai in 2012 but my horse bolted three times during the race.

Player profile

Name: Kaylea Maher

Age: I will be 29 on Sunday

Born: Victoria

Favourite food: Lamb

Favourite TV program: House Rules at the moment

Favourite music: Whatever is on the radio

Favourite movie: Disney movies

Funniest moment in sport: It happened at my last ride

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