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21 July, 2022

Toora juniors top 56th Tom Quilty

Amongst the bogged horse floats and muddy tracks, the 2022 Tom Quilty Endurance Ride Gold Cup was hosted by Tooraweenah for the first time in 31 years, and the town was buzzing.

By Emily Middleton

The showground was alive with over 190 riders, their horses, vets, support teams, strappers, and everyone you can imagine, ready for riders to take part in the 24-hour, 160-kilometre event.

Four juniors from Tooraweenah took to the track, with two of them coming out on top. 12-year-old Lara Duff and 16-year-old Charlie Bonham crossed the finish line together as first juniors, with a time of 12 hours and 36 minutes.

“It feels pretty good, for my first Tom Quilty event getting first junior and fittest horse,” said Lara.

“That means my horse was in the best condition, so you win that based on what your horse looks like after 160 kilometres, who’s looks the best and is the least tired.”

“I’m pretty stoked,” said Charlie.

“I’m very pleased with that outcome, this is my second Tom Quilty. I’m pretty happy.”

Junior Isabella Worner said that although they had all completed 160-kilometre endurance rides before, the Tom Quilty was quite different.

“The track was definitely harder than many other tracks around here, it was really wet and boggy from all the rain,” she said.

“I think it was just really boggy and a lot harder on the longer legs as well,” said junior Sophia Moppett.

A ride as long as 160 kilometres is not only physically strenuous, but can pose a huge challenge mentally. When asked what goes through their mind on these long rides, most of the juniors explained that the focus on their horse’s wellbeing keeps them awake.

“What goes through your mind is just taking care of your horse, making sure you’re getting along alright, concentrating, and not falling asleep, because you’ve been up for a long time,” said Charlie.

“It’s not just being physically prepared; you also have to be mentally prepared. Because you just have to constantly keep going, never stopping until you finish,” said Isabella.

“You just have to ride to your horse, and you’re thinking about that. Thinking about what the horse has left, and what it doesn’t have left in it,” said Sophia.

The 160-kilometre ride is split into five different ‘legs’, each with a break in between. Charlie explained that at the end of each leg, there is a hold time. Here, your horses are checked by vets who make sure the horses are still healthy and happy, and if successful they are put in the yards with the strappers who feed them and look after them while you rest.

Not one, not two, but three awards were received among the Tooraweenah juniors, including the champions of the unrestricted team’s event.

“Box Hill Arabian’s won the teams event too,” said Charlie.

“Our Box Hill Arabian’s won, so that’s four horses, all bred by my family from the same place, and you do a teams event on where you place and what time. And our team won the unrestricted teams event, which is pretty exciting.

“There’s three different categories within the teams events, so there’s international, restricted, where you have to have two middle, one light, and one heavy weight, and unrestricted. So anyone who wants to participate can, and it is a much bigger class.

“We had Sam Duff and three juniors, Lara, Sophia, and myself. We all vetted through, and we won it.”

The juniors all walked away from the ride thrilled to have participated, and are ready to take on next year’s Tom Quilty.

“It’s just a really good time to get out, hang around for a bit, and ride your horse,” said Sophia.

“I would love to do it again.”

The 2022 Tom Quilty Gold Cup winners were Kristie Taprell and Tahlia Frankie on Castlebar Roulette and Castlebar Bazaar. The winners completed the ride in 10 hours and 39 minutes.

The Gilgandra Weekly caught up with last year’s winners, Stella Harbison and Jessica Aistrope, to reflect on their own achievements in 2021.

“It was surreal to win. I think not just the fact that we ended up coming across the line together first, it was just a mammoth effort to drag five horses to Western Australia, multiple vehicles, however many people we had. It was a massive effort and I think walking away with the cup was unreal at the end of the day, but well worth it,” said Ms Harbison.

“I don’t even think it has sunk it yet. It was quite a privilege to be apart of. Hats off to everyone involved really,” said Ms Aistrope.

The riders hadn’t been to Tooraweenah before, and were excited to give the new trail a go.

“It’s a very different course this year, and we haven’t ridden here before, but apparently there’s a lot of mud and a lot of mountains, so we’ll see how we go,” Ms Harbison said [before the event].

The lead up to the ride meant that Tooraweenah’s village of around 250 people, had an influx of nearly 200 per cent.

Over 400 people from all across the country set up camp around the showground, and enjoyed the events put on by the Tooraweenah Endurance Ride Club. Starting with the wine and cheese night last Wednesday evening, local producers had tastings and sold their products to the guests.

This was followed by a market day held in Tooraweenah’s main street on Thursday. Out-of-towners commented on Tooraweenah’s warm and welcoming community, with some even going as far to say that Tooraweenah has been one of their “favourite Tom Quilty destinations”.

Tooraweenah Preschool and Public School, alongside the Lions Club, served food and made sure their canteen was open for anyone needing a bite to eat. The weather held off for the most part, however due to heavy rains days before, many vehicles became bogged. This included at one point, a tractor. However, community members and farmers alike rallied together to lend a hand, and made sure everyone had a good and safe time, with many laughs along the way.

The 56th Tom Quilty was a huge success for all involved and for the town of Tooraweenah. Everybody is looking forward to next year’s event, supposedly being held in Victoria.

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