A year ago I couldn’t have even contemplated taking my horse to a massive event, let alone one of the biggest rides on the endurance calendar. People used to hold their breath when I rode Pepper for the fear of her exploding.
My persistence with the Arabian Stockhorse mare was met with calls to “get rid of her and get yourself a decent horse.”
Born stubborn, I battled on and took her to dressage and pony club events before taking on our first 40 kilometre endurance ride in Windeyer in June this year.
Pepper and I then ventured north to Killarney for our second for another successful completion before I was encouraged by long-time endurance rider and Armidale local Ruth van der Wegen to enter the 120 kilometre mini marathon at Shahzada. Shahzada, ‘the ultimate test’, is held annual in the last week of August at St Albans in the Hawkesbury.
The gruelling 400 kilometre marathon conducted over five days sees even the most experienced riders and horses succumb to the course with less than half completing.
The smaller but still tough 120 kilometre mini tests both newcomers and old hands at the sport and this year 76 per cent were successful in completing. There are creek crossings, climbing up and down rocky mountains and long hours in the saddle.
‘To finish is to win’ is the Shahzada motto and I tackled the mountain terrain with my formerly “crazy” horse to successfully complete in 17 hours and 29 minutes. No explosions were had and a blue sash was awarded. Needless to say I will be making the trek next year.