WITH the motto “to finish is to win”, the Shahzada Memorial Endurance Test by horseback is not for the fainthearted or the ill-prepared.
But a Manilla woman has taken on the nation’s best endurance riders, winning top honours in the gruelling 400km event with her buckskin steed Boss by her side. It must’ve been seven times the charm for Kim Hagon, as she’d competed in the event six times before, but this year was the first in which she took out the coveted gold buckle.
“It’s a bit like the holy grail of marathon riding – a great ride, but very hard work,” Mrs Hagon said.
She attributed most of the glory to Arabian stockhorse, Boss.
“You have to have a good horse under you, and he was rock solid all week,” she said.
Born and bred at Mrs Hagon and her husband Kym’s property, Araluen, Boss has proved quite the endurance star in his 12 years,
competing in the event five times.
It’s one thing to compete five times but to finish five times is quite the feat, as the event has a 50 per cent attrition rate due to its difficulty.
Although 60 competitors set off at this year’s event, only 27 riders and horses crossed the finish line.
Taking in some beautiful yet treacherous countryside, the ride begins at St Albans and travels over river crossings, fire trails, through thick bush and steep hill descents.
“It’s a pretty lonely sport, with just you and your horse, but you get to see some phenomenal country,” Mrs Hagon said.
With riders needing to complete about 80km a day during the five days in heat, cold and even the odd spot of hail, it’s a ride for serious competitors only.
Veterinarians appear 11 times throughout the arduous course, and horses can be eliminated for lameness or any sort of injury incurred during the event.
Particularly infamous is the part of the ride known as “The Steps”, where competitors climb up a steep cliff face, jumping onto different levels.
“It needs a sure-footed horse. Horses have been known to go over backwards,” Mrs Hagon said.
But it was all in a day’s work for Boss, who crossed the finish line at exactly 34 hours. Mrs Hagon said her strategy to leave after other riders and then chase them down worked in her favour.
“He’s a very competitive horse. He likes to win,” Mrs Hagon laughed.