THE demanding sport of long-distance riding has transformed a once trigger-happy South Coast horse into an enduring gentleman and a winner.
When Trigger came to live with East Lynne’s Heidi Wade and her mother Marilyn Himmelberger, the red-spotted grey’s age and parentage were unknown. Not so his bad habits.
“He was not really trustworthy,” Mrs Wade said.
“A friend had bought him from people who found him hard to handle, then she had to move away, so he came to us.
“He was hard to catch and would pig root.
“One day, we decided to try endurance and he is a new horse. He is now a perfect gentleman and we can put anyone on him. He comes up to us and wants to go.”
With neighbour Vetea Facchini in the saddle, Trigger has eaten up kilometers of training in the forests around his home and is impressing veterinarians and timekeepers at rides around the state.
Not bad for an old boy.
“We don’t know how old he is, but we think at least 20 years,” Mrs Wade said.
In competitive endurance, winning can be losing.
Your horse can be first across the line after a 120km ride, but if a panel of veterinarians do not think it can turn around and do it all again, you are disqualified.
The award of Best Conditioned Horse, judged the morning after an arduous ride, often carries even more kudos than the winning ribbon.
Trigger won the coveted award twice last month in his light-weight division.
On October 6, the probable part-Arabian won the lightweight division at Brookvale’s Snowy Zone Championships, was first over the line and won Best Conditioned.
“He is awesome,” Ms Wade said.
“His riding time was 8 hours, 51 minutes for 120km and it was not an easy ride. I am amazed, especially for his age.”
He backed up October 27 at The Rock, near Wagga Wagga, with a second placing and another Best Conditioned award.
The award, Mrs Wade says, is about horsemanship, not winning.
“It shows how well you have managed your horse,” she said.
Rather than stiffening up overnight, “they have to still be in the best condition they can be and willing to keep going”.
“It goes on his heart rate, metabolic, gut sounds and over-all appearance.”
Trigger was second in his division at an earlier ride at Woodstock, after beginning the year with a third and two fifth placings.
Mrs Wade appears even more chuffed that her young neighbour is doing so well on his back.
“Vetea is an awesome rider on an unreal horse,” she said.
“She came to me at 14 or 15 years wanting to ride a horse. She always wanted her own horse and I am so proud.”
Ms Faccini is now ranked second rider in the Snowy Zone.
Ms Wade is also proud of her own mount, Yinbilliko Jackson, a 16-year-old part-Arabian stock horse.
Until a recent stone injury, Jackson had taken her to third placed rider in the Snowy Zone.
He won the heavyweight division at Wingello earlier this year and took third placed and best conditioned in his division at Coolomon, with a time of three hours, 59 minutes for the 80km event.
Early on Sunday, Trigger and Ms Faccini will ride out in a 100km event at Sassafras, with Mrs Wade resting Jackson and riding Blake’s Heaven Reign, owned by Snowy stable, Blake’s Heaven Endurance.