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A challenge worth getting out of your swag at 4.30am in the middle of winter for

ABOVE: Avril Cummins riding Ironbark Park Whispering Jack with Brandon Dick riding Cameo Persiaa were both successful in the 80km event. Picture: JO ARBLASTER

IT’S not called endurance for nothing.

Long hours in the saddle over testing terrain and in all weathers is challenging but tends to build a bond between horse and rider that far outstrips any relationship built on a dressage arena or over a showjumping course, endurance riders will assert.

A sport which had its beginnings in Australia more than 50 years ago now appeals to riders young and old throughout the country. Most weekends, endurance families will hitch up the float and trek for as long as it takes to get to a ride where they will pit themselves against the weather, the terrain and the clock to achieve the distance of their choice. The aim is to complete the course with a sound horse where temperature, heart-rate and respiration meet strict parameters.

Many families made the trek to an isolated paddock outside Canowindra late in June and set up camp to take part in the Canowindra Challenge. With rides of 10, 20, 40 and 80km, there was a personal challenge in the offing for everyone, from first-timers to old-timers.

After pre-ride vetting on Saturday ensured the fitness of the equine competitors, a bevy of assorted mounts and their riders hit the dirt tracks, which offered stunning views of the Belubula region for those who had time to look. Some with keen horses had their hands full, while others enjoyed the opportunity of riding new tracks and making new friends along the way.

After completing their chosen distance on well-marked tracks, horses were checked for soundness and metabolics. A thumbs-up from the vet meant a successful completion.

With horses fed and rugged against the frosty conditions, riders enjoyed an evening around the camp fire followed by an early night before the 4.30am wake-up call on Sunday morning.

ABOVE: Jenny Shepheard riding Currowan Maximus (nearest camera) with Nicola Mepham and Meracious Mahrousseh. Picture: JO ARBLASTER

An air of excitement accompanies every pre-dawn start and at 5.30am, with headlamps bobbing and horses snorting apprehensively in the morning mist, 70 riders and their seasoned horses headed out to ride 80 kilometres.

Track marker and ride organiser Louise Piddington said it was a pleasure to welcome competitors and their families to share in the wonderful countryside.

“The Belubula Endurance Riders are passionate about promoting the sport of endurance and our team put so much work into making sure that horse welfare was at the forefront, that newcomers to our sport felt included and that people got to experience new riding trails,” she said.

First across the line in four hours was middleweight rider Jenny Shepheard, from Nelligen on the South Coast of NSW, riding her home-bred 10-year-old Arabian, Currowan Maximus.

Ms Shepheard, who has been doing endurance for more than 20 years, said Maximus had performed well.

“He hasn’t had the chance to do much with drought, bushfires and Covid recently so I was very proud of him,” she said.

While Maximus’ time was fast compared to those who may have taken six or eight hours to successfully complete the distance, the endurance motto – to complete is to win – applies to everyone.

Ms Piddington thanked all who came and supported the ride, which gave competitors the chance to complete their last ride before the 2022 National Championship Tom Quilty Gold Cup ride at Tooraweenah in mid-July.


ABOVE: (Clockwise from top left) 1. Successful 80km competitor Jolene Cole riding Kurrajong Aces. 2. Karen Cave riding Egg with Frances Woodbridge on Nina and Jo McCabe on Monty were all successful in the 20 km social ride. 3. Sue Todd and her Appaloosa Shakari Bear with Roz Edmunds riding Mindari Ace High completed the intermediate distance. 4. The full shot of 80km lightweight division winner Nicola Mepham and Meracious Mahrousseh with 80km middleweight winner Jenny Shepheard on Currowan Maximus. 5. Damir Cokas with his Standardbred Tokai was the winner of the best managed Standardbred award in the intermediate distance. 6. The Johnson family took to the tracks for the 40km intermediate ride. Pictures: JO ARBLASTER


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