|Brook Sample and Brookleigh Excalibur - winners of Tom Quilty 2010 & 2012 (Photo: Sue Crockett)
Sponsored by Events Queensland, it’s only four weeks until Australia’s world famous 160km endurance horse ride begins. The rural township of Kilkivan, located in south-east Queensland, will proudly host the 2013 Tom Quilty Gold Cup from June 7-9.
Current national champion, Brook Sample, 38, of Kenilworth, who already has six Quilty Cups to his name, plans to compete again this year and hopes to make 2013 his 7th victory.
Brook has competed regularly in this iconic endurance horse ride since reaching the qualifying age of 12. His first 160km ride was the Quilty in South Australia in 1986 when he placed first in the Junior Division.
He has ridden in the Quilty 12 times, each time finishing in the top 10 and winning first place in 1990, 1995, 2002, 2009, 2010 and 2012 – a record unmatched by any other Australian endurance rider.
“What drives me to keep going back to the Quilty is testing my horsemanship skills in the biggest ride in the country and against the best riders in the country,” explained Brook, as he prepared for this year’s challenge.
To nominate for the Quilty riders must successfully complete a 160km ride prior to the event. Their horses also must have completed at least one 80km ride since May last year.
Due to unprecedented weather events affecting several key qualifying rides in south-east Queensland, the nomination date for the 2013 Quilty has been extended to May 15.
Of the nominations already received from endurance riders across Australia, numbers are particularly strong from New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania (host of the Quilty 2012 at St Helens).
There is also a strong international contingent this year with riders coming to Kilkivan from the U.S., Japan and New Zealand.
The venue for the annual ride is rotated from state to state which means a different track in a different part of Australia each year so riders don’t always have to travel long distances to take part.
This year’s 48th Tom Quilty is hosted by the Kilkivan Endurance Riders Club (KERC).
The ride base is at the Kilkivan showgrounds, where each leg of the Quilty begins and ends. Despite significant flood damage at the showgrounds earlier this year, the track is in good condition according to KERC president, Vern Berry, and marking of the five legs of the 160km course begins in mid-May.
The Quilty’s head vet, Jon Fearnley, has selected a team of 23 accredited endurance ride vets who will set up camp within 100 metres of a fully equipped vet hospital at the showground.
The vet team will conduct a pre-ride check of each horse prior to the start of the Quilty that begins at midnight on Friday June 7 and ends at midnight on Saturday June 8. The winner of the Quilty this year is expected to complete the ride around midday on Saturday.
Prior to the start and at the end of each leg, the horses are individually checked to ensure they are hydrated, their heart rate is under 60 beats/minute and they are fit to continue. The horses are checked again at the end of the ride, and the top five place-getters in each division get another look over on Sunday morning (June 9) to select the winning horses for the Best Condition awards.
“We’re advocates for the welfare of the horses and to make sure they are protected and that the ride is not just about getting a Quilty buckle,” said Jon who has been vetting at endurance rides since 1990.
“For some riders winning Best Condition Horse is a greater honour than coming first, as it indicates their judgement in how well they’ve managed their horse during the ride.”
There are members of the vet team from each state in Australia and accredited FEI endurance racing riding vet, Jenny Weston, is crossing the Tasman for the event from New Zealand’s Massey University. In another international exchange, Gary Cook who has vetted for many years at the world famous Tevis Ride in northern California is coming to the Quilty from the U.S., and Jon Fearnley has been invited to vet at this year’s Tevis in July.
The Tom Quilty Gold Cup is a test of true horsemanship and participants aim to complete the 160km course within 24 hours.
The ride’s motto is To Complete is the Win and a specially crafted and highly esteemed Tom Quilty belt buckle goes to each competitor in recognition of the high standard of horsemanship required to successfully complete the rigorous course.
This means many long hours in the saddle and the careful tending of tiring horses. At the end of the ride, each mount is vetted and must be deemed in sound condition and fit to continue.
From June 3-10, a week of social festivities and educational activities are planned around the ride for the riders, their strapping teams, families, friends and spectators, most of whom will set up camp around the Kilkivan showgrounds.
The Quilty Week program includes a pre-Quilty campfire party, the Australian Endurance Riders Association’s 6th Annual Awards presentation, followed by a wine, cheese and olive tasting and an art and photographic display featuring horses and Australian scenes.
The program also includes a Veterinary Team Dinner and a Strappers breakfast. The Quilty awards will be presented on Sunday June 9, and the 2013 event concludes with the Quilty dinner and charity auction.
In addition to the Tom Quilty Gold Cup, which goes to the overall winner, awards go to winners of the four divisions – middleweight, heavyweight, lightweight and junior, for Best Condition and the Pat Slater Cup (awarded to a horse based on ride performance, conformation and overall presentation). And all riders who successfully complete the course within 24 hours receive the Quilty buckle.
“On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank our major sponsors – Events Queensland, QERA, Nanango Heritage Endurance Riders Association, IRT, R.M. Williams, Gympie Regional Council, Stanwell Energy, Printcraft and Davcar Horse Floats and Trailers. Without this support an iconic event of this magnitude would not be possible,” said Vern Berry.
For more information on how you to take part in this iconic national event go to the Kilkivan Quilty website www.kilkivanquilty.com and register as a volunteer.
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