Everything ready for Kilkivan Great Horse Ride

Craig Allison, Leah Lowe, Troy Lowe and Abi Horn of Kilkivan Great Horse Ride. 398611_01

Erle Levey

Polish the saddles, get out the cookbook, write a few lines of verse … everything is in readiness for the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride this weekend.

Horse enthusiasts from far and wide are expected to descend on the town to acknowledge its long heritage with horses and celebrate the Australian bush.

Now, almost 40 years since the first ride, the three-day event will be filled with horse rides and entertainment for all ages.

Yet Kilkivan has had a longer association with trail horse riding, having been the site for one of two bicentennial events to mark the opening of the 5330km-long National Trail – stretching from Cairns to Healesville, outside of Melbourne.

That was in October 1988, as part of an Australian Bicentennial project.

RM Williams, then aged 80, headed the procession down the main street, where then Queensland Premier Mike Ahern, opened the Queensland section.

Fabian Webb of the Webb Brothers fame started the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride in the mid 1980s as a tribute to the history of the area.

Adding to this year’s event will be two endurance horse rides on the Sunday. These will be 40km and 20km rides to highlight endurance riding.

The weekend kicks off at 2pm Friday with a 12km walk-only trail ride, and continues with three more trail rides on Saturday.

Ride organiser Craig Ellison said the whole weekend from Friday through to Sunday was based around horses and bushcraft.

“It’s an equestrian event and we’re bringing endurance to it … this is something new to for the weekend as there’s a lot of trail riders in the area.

“We are doing demonstration endurance rides of 40km and 20km ride on the Sunday to build up interest in the sport.

“Riders will leave the Kilkivan Showgrounds at 6.30am Sunday before returning for vetting to ensure the fitness of the horses.

“Poet Murray Hartin is compere for the weekend.

“We’ve got bush poetry, working dog demonstrations, a camp oven cook-off … something for everyone.

“This year the rides start and finish at the showground, so it’s a lot easier for riders rather than having to start at one location then arriving somewhere different.

“It will be so little bit more like an endurance ride where you go out and come back to the same location.

“While the endurance ride is being organised by the people of Kilkivan, it’s being run under the banner of Stirling’s Crossing Equestrian Centre.

“We are expecting a lot of good support because while equestrian sports in Australia are growing at about seven percent each year, endurance has had some challenges over the past few years.

“There has been equine influenza, then the Hendra virus and Covid, so there’s a lot a lot of good reasons to promote endurance. It’s bringing people back together.

“It’s a good family sport and there’s a lot of things we can do to get it back on track.

“We will install the timing gear from the big rides so people can get the feel of it.’’

Nominations for the endurance events are being taken on the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride website.

There’s is no deadline, Craig said. Registrations will be accepted up to the day of the ride.

“This should be a massive event. It’s great country around Kilkivan.

“The weekend is not only about endurance, it’s a big event and it’s good to see people back out in the country on horses.’’

While the essence of the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride will always be the ride itself, there is much to do for non-riders and visitors of all ages.

There will be a band and a bar on both Friday and Saturday night, and the Kickin’ Up Dust Youth Talent competition.

On Saturday afternoon the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride literally stops traffic as hundreds of riders gather at 3pm to parade down the main street of town, celebrating the end of a successful day’s rides.

The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, Gympie Troop will be leading the main street parade and also performing a demonstration on Sunday in the campdraft arena.

Full details on the weekend: www.kilkivangreathorseride.com.au/