Sunday, September 27, 2009

Australia: To complete is to win as riders conquer Quilty


To complete is to win.

It's a simple philosophy Karen Rhodes takes into each endurance ride she tackles.

With that in mind, she is a winner many times over.

The holder of the most buckles for competing in the Shahzada marathon, a gruelling 400km event held over five days, the Woodstock horsewomen maintained her perfect record with trusty companion Shadow in another taxing ride, the Tom Quilty Gold Cup.

Rhodes was one of seven Lachlan Endurance Riders' Club members to tackle the 160km one-day ride in Victoria last weekend.

Only three finished.

Rhodes and Shadow successfully completed their fifth Quilty together, while Alan Lindsay notched his 10th buckle and Mark Lindsay his first, both with a time a tick over 18 hours.

Included among the local withdrawals were former winner Andrew Bailey, Robin Gossip, Mary Symons and Ray Rhodes, all failing compulsory veterinary examinations with their entries.

That's why reaching the finishing line is a major achievement in itself.

"That's the whole thing with endurance, it’s slow but to complete is to win," Rhodes said.

"There's five legs and you have to come in and vet at every leg.

"It was a good, testing ride, not over the top."

Rhodes' finishing time in a touch over 19 hours was more than nine hours adrift of the Matthew Sample and Brookleigh Ricardo winning combination.

That doesn't bother her, though, in a sport she regards as a hobby rather than a business it is now with Arabian interests.

"To complete a ride in that sort of time, they're superb athletes these horses and the people that ride them are professionals. That's what they do," she said.

"Once upon a time it was just everyone's hobby, now it's a business."

Shadow and former horse Kelly have been the mainstays of Rhodes’ endurance riding career.

Between the two they have combined for 14 of Rhodes' 15 Shahzada buckles. She estimates they have clocked 7,000kms each in competitive rides, excluding training.

But all good things must come to an end and Shadow, a striking Arabian Cross stock horse, seems destined for retirement after his latest campaign.

"He could have been a more competitive horse if he had a different rider," Rhodes joked.

"I've been competing on Shadow eight years and in that time he's completed six Shahzadas out of six, five Quiltys out of five and a couple of state championships.

"He's been an incredibly sound horse.

"He's always been ridden slowly so I guess that's why he's lasted so long.

"You get to know them inside out and they get to know you."

It is Shadow's efforts in the Shahzada which will most be remembered.

The NSW Endurance Riders' Association 2008 Distance Middleweight Horse of the Year helped Rhodes to her 15th buckle out of 16 attempts at the Shahzada in the rugged terrain of St Albans where the Hawkesbury River meets the Blue Mountains.

No rider boasts more buckles.

Meanwhile, the Lachlan Endurance Riders' Club will hold a ride at Woodstock Showground on the weekend of October 17-18.

The vet will take place between 9am-12pm with a 20km social ride and a 40km training ride on the Saturday.

On Sunday there will be a social, training and 80km ride.

The club are encouraging people to come and try the sport and enjoy the beautiful countryside, see what endurance riding is all about. Day membership will be provided.

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