HEIDI Wade of East Lynne has turned in a marathon-effort to finish 17th at the 50th anniversary of the Tom Quilty Gold Cup, a demanding 160-kilometre endurance horse riding race.
Wade, riding six-year-old pure Arabian Pevensey Prosecco in the heavyweight divison, was joined by fellow South Coast riders Roy Counsell aboard Espirit Sherwood in the middleweight division and Irene Adams on Shane D Survivor in the lightweight divison.
Unfortunately Counsell, who was aiming to finish his fifth Quilty, bowed out half-way through while Adams’ horse was declared lame after the fourth leg, with only 12 kilometres to go.
It was Wade’s first attempt at the world’s largest endurance ride – 340 riders set out at midnight amid torchlight - and there was plenty of hard work leading up to the competition.
Wade’s horse was just above minimum age and it had to have completed three 80-kilometre endurance rides previously.
“He is quite young to compete in this kind of endurance race but has proven to be an amazing horse,” Wade said.
“I am extremely proud of him and just to complete this ride is to win.
“This type of competition takes a lot of training time and we managed to even finish 17th; so happy with that.”
Wade finished the course in 16 hours and 33 minutes, which she said wasn’t “really fast” but great for a steed aged six.
“It was a great effort, the winner of the middleweight division, Ben Hudson, did an amazing time of 10 hours and 16 minutes,” she said.
Riders rode five different legs and had hold times of between 40 to 60 minutes, and each horse that finished leg three had to receive a veterinary check.
“They check everything; heart rate, hydration, gut sounds, saddle area, leg injuries and they have to trot out to check for any lameness,” Wade said.
Wade said she couldn’t have completed the journey without her trusty strapper, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes at each pit stop.
“Vetea Facchini was amazing,” she said.
“She had the fun job of waiting for me during each leg and making sure all horse and rider requirements were ready when I came back in.
“Roy did some emergency repairs on my horse’s hind shoes before the last leg.
“He gave me heaps of support and encouragement.”
Counsell said the sport was filled with massive highs and lows and just being part of the experience again was satisfying.
“If you can imagine 340 horses going at midnight under torchlight, setting off into the bush,” he said.
“It was a great experience.”
Counsell said his horse passed the vet check, but he decided to withdraw.
“We decided he wasn’t quite right,” he said.
“It was highly disappointing but there’s always next year.”