Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gold in sport of sheiks

Muswellbrook Chronicle
July 20
photo: MEDAL WINNER: Renee Saxby blitzed the Trans-Tasman Federation Equestrian Internationals as a member of the Australian team.

IF HORSE racing is the sport of kings, then endurance riding is the sport of Sheiks and local Sandy Hollow resident, Renee Saxby, has brought home another gold medal for Australia after blitzing the Trans-Tasman Federation Equestrian Internationals (FEI), as a member of the Australian team.

Renee's latest success gives her the chance to qualify for the World Championships to be held in Malaysia next year.

The host of next year's event, the King of Malaysia, joined the Trans-Tasman ride to help sure up his own qualification to ride in his home country for the Championships.

Renee said the support that the Malaysians gave the Australian team was fantastic.

"The king had a lot of supporters with him and every time we stopped at a check point the Malaysians would yell "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi"," laughed Renee.

"I rode with the King for about 100ks and he was very nice," she said.

"He is actually going to pay for six Australians and their horses to go to the championships next year, which is incredible," said Renee.

Australia holds the most team medals in international endurance events.

Internationally the sport has the largest membership of any horse sport and in Australia it is now the fastest growing equine discipline.

Renee only began endurance riding in 2001 and is as passionate as she is successful in her new sport.

"You need to be mentally a bit tough to be out at night alone for six or seven hours without anyone else in sight, you certainly get a good bond with your horse," said Renee.

"Not a lot of people get up at night put a light on their heads and ride for 100ks," she laughs.

"At the last event my team member and I rode for three quarters of a leg in the middle of the night without seeing anyone and we started to get a bit worried; we wondered if we had missed an arrow and were actually lost, but thankfully we were on the right track," she said.

Renee said that competing in Australia prepares them well for competing in the Middle East, where the sport is extremely popular.

"Racing in the Middle East is incredible," said Renee.

"You actually have four wheel drive support for each rider that drives with you on the course and is ready to give you whatever you need," she smiled.

"They will hand you food and water out of the car, you can find out how fast you are actually riding by looking at the speedo, you can even ask them to drive to the nearest riders to calculate how far ahead or behind you are.

"The prize money overseas is huge and various royal families over there all enter the events to race each other," she said.

There is no prize money for endurance events in Australia, so many competitors need to go oversees to compete well in their sport and the Australian bred horses are well sort after by many Arab buyers, so many Australian competitors end up selling their horses.

Some Arab buyers are interested in Cherox Assassin, affectionately known as Killer, so Renee will need to decide if Cherox would prefer to ride with her in Malaysia or relocate to the lap of air conditioned luxury in the Middle East.

Many international riders arrange to ride horses in the event country, rather than the often prohibitive costs of taking their own horses with them.

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