Gold: Murray Bridge equestrienne and
endurance rider Jill Bourton took home gold
at the recent South African Championship at
Fauresmith in Free States.
MURRAY BRIDGE equestrienne and endurance rider Jill Bourton has won gold with the Australian team in the South African National Endurance Championships at Fauresmith, in the Free States.
A New Zealand team was also invited to compete in the recent tri-nations event, with more than 400 riders from South Africa.
The South African team consisted of six of their fastest qualifying riders who were the favourites to win gold.
Both the Australian and New Zealand teams were provided with good, qualified horses.
The Australian team arrived a week before the event and were hosted at a game farm near Klerksdorp, in the North West Province, where they were able to ride and train their horses.
During the week, Bourton suffered a fall as the 16.2 hand Anglo Arabian horse she was borrowing shied at a stable.
A Queensland rider also fell during the incident as both horses bolted.
Both riders were unhurt apart from bruising and were able to continue riding.
By the weekend, horses and riders had travelled to Fauresmith in the Orange Free State where the three-day ride was held.
The Fauresmith three-day 200 kilometre championship has been going for 34 years and is regarded as the premier endurance event in South Africa.
The ride started with 382 riders and finished with a 58.7 per cent completion rate.
Bourton set the pace for the Australian team from day one and completed the third day as the first international rider across the line with a total riding time of 11.04 hours.
She finished 43rd out of about 155 riders in the standard weight division.
The New Zealand team lost all but one of its riders through vet outs over the three days of the competition, the South Africans lost three and the Australian team only lost one, resulting in the gold medal for Australia.
"It was certainly the highlight of my year and probably my endurance career," Bourton said.
"The horses were amazing and the speeds were very fast over terrain very similar to our far north and Flinders Ranges.
"I actually felt quite at home."
Bourton said the hospitality and generosity of the Africans was amazing and she would not hesitate to go back.
She hoped she could inspire more South Australian riders to apply to take part in future teams.
"The Eastern States tend to dominate the international side of our sport and even though we have some good endurance riders in this State, I was the first South Australian to compete overseas for some years," she said.