Thursday, July 17, 2008

Australia: Riding to Victory

Blayney Chronicle
18/07/2008 10:24:00 AM
Dianne Luker (right) and Anabriar Khaboul cross the finish line in style after a grueling 160

Dianne Luker truly beat the odds, battling night blindness and a last minute call up, to take out the 2008 Horseland NSW State Championship endurance ride on Anabriar Khaboul.

Anabriar Khaboul’s Wellington based owner and rider, Peter Cooper, was recovering from heart surgery and thus unable to compete in the grueling 160 kilometre event and called upon Luker to ride in his stead, a choice that proved successful.

Luker had ridden Anabriar Khaboul previously and was on the horse, ready for the 2am start at Manilla, north of Tamworth, along with the race’s 85 other entrants.

“I had ridden the horse earlier in its career but it is 10 times the horse it was then,” Luker said.

“He’s just an awesome horse.”

It wasn’t easy going for Luker either, as the experienced endurance rider suffers from night blindness.

It made the early start in the race difficult.

“Friends of mine are aware of my poor night vision and there is always someone to stay with me during the dark,” Luker said.

The horse was a favourite going into the race and didn’t disappoint, with Luker crossing the finish line holding hands with Stuart Hitchcock to signify that the race finished in a tie in a time of 10 hours and nine minutes.

Hitchcock, on the horse Farras, had caught up at the end of the fourth stage and the two riders agreed to finish in equal first, with Luker winning the lightweight division and Hitchcock the heavyweight.

Both horses were deemed the fittest in their divisions by the vet panel.

Luker said it was not unusual for two horses to tie the race because the motto for endurance racing is “to complete is to win”.

“The ride organisers did not want a gallop finish, as it could be dangerous and a bit rude to ask a horse to do that after he had taken a person 160 kilometres,” Luker said.

Endurance riding involves five stages over 160 kilometres with a one hour rest and vet check betweens stages.

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