Thursday, July 16, 2009
Australia: Mudgee’s endurance champion
BY BEN HARRIS
Mudgee's equestrian endurance champion Mette Sutton has accomplished her greatest ever feat, winning an equestrian gold medal for Australia at the 34th annual South African Endurance Championships.
The ride was held last week in Fauresmith, a small lucerne and potato farming town in South Africa's Free State province.
Sutton and her five other Australian teammates - Jennifer Gilbertson, Clare Fleming and Tami Parnell from New South Wales, Gayle Holmes from Queensland, and Jil Bourton from South Australia - won the 'Best International Senior Team' gold medal in a Tri-Nation battle with South Africa and New Zealand.
"It was pretty amazing to win, I never expected it," Sutton said.
Sutton said that the Australian team did not go out and try to post the quickest time. All they wanted to do was to finish with as many riders as possible, which they did, as five of the six Australian riders completed the course.
"The team referred to itself as girl power," she said.
It was Sutton’s debut ride for Australia and she said she became emotional when Advance Australia Fair was being played.
"On the first day they played all the three national anthems and they played Australia's first. I sang the words out loud and there were a few tears... I tried to hold them back but it's not often you represent your country in the sport that you love,"
The multiple Cooyal ride champion was invited to take part in South Africa’s premier endurance event by the Australian Endurance Riders Association in May.
The ride consisted of three days of gruelling riding; covering a distance of 201kms -75kms on the first two days and just over 50kms on day three.
The Fauresmith course ran over low hills and ridges, along dirt roads and stony sections that slowed riders down.
Sutton said she found conditions to be very similar to Australia's.
Only 60 per cent of competitors completed the ride and Australia finished 46th out of the 86 that finished.
Riding a seven-year-old grey Anglo Arab gelding named 'Buks', which was supplied to her by the Endurance Ride Association of South Africa, Sutton rode in a time of 11 hours and 23 minutes.
Sutton said that was a good time for her but it was not as quick as some of her other competitors.
"I was surprised at how fast the South African riders were. They would take eight hours to ride 200kms at speeds of 24km/h."
The Mid-Western Regional Council’s 2009 Australia Day sportsperson of the year recipient will now take a well-earned rest from big competitive races.
She will focus working on younger horses including her three-year-old coloured mare 'Tuldar Dream Catcher' for competition.
While her famous equestrian horse 'Tuldar the Magician' will have a spell for the rest of the year and will be back for the Tom Quilty gold Cup in June next year.
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