Mary Valley set for major endurance riding events

Fiona Fenech and Ken Moir about to set out and chart the Widgee course for the 2024 Queensland Endurance State Championships on July 20-21. 416635_01

Erle Levey

The premier event on the Australian endurance horse-riding calendar is to return to Queensland in 2026.

Stirlings Crossing Equestrian Club at Imbil will again host the Tom Quilty Gold Cup – the third time in seven years – which serves as further recognition of the sport’s growth in the Gympie region.

The event will be held in South Australia in October this year, and Tasmania in 2025.

It is hosted on a rotational basis among the Australian states with Stirlings Crossing having previously stepped up in 2023 when Victoria was unable to host the event.

Stirlings Crossing also hosted the 2019 Tom Quilty as Queensland’s preferred venue at that time.

The holding of the 2024 Queensland State Championships at Widgee on July 20-21 will be an important event for horses and riders in their preparations for South Australia.

Widgee will hold 160km, 80km and 40km events at the showgrounds.

As well as aiming to complete the course, riders will be looking for the distinction of a top finish in the state competition.

Widgee will also serve as a way to improve the stamina and condition of both riders and horses for the Tom Quilty later in the year.

In a further boost to the Mary Valley, the 2025 Queensland State Championships will be held at Stirlings Crossing.

Australian Endurance Riders Association (AERA) secretary Kim Moir said horses do not have to complete a 160km to qualify for the Quilty but the riders do. It’s a matter of getting the horses fit to compete.

Determining the Widgee course for the state championships has seen track coordinators mapping and riding the terrain over a number of weeks.

It is a very picturesque setting with some significant elevation through state forests and open farmland, making for a technically-challenging track.

Horse riding is well-established in the Widgee community, with enthusiastic support and significant infrastructure at the showgrounds.

The 2025 Queensland State Championships at Stirlings Crossing will be a test event for the 2026 Tom Quilty.

Stirlings Crossing has proven to be able to organise important events and the region can generally be relied on for dry yet cold weather, making it good conditions for horses and riders.

The impact on the region will be significant because it’s the 60th Tom Quilty and should attract a good field from across Australia.

The first meeting for TQ2026 will be towards the end of September this year to see who will be involved in the organising committee.

“As a committee, we will be looking at how to make it a significant event to celebrate the history,” Kim Moir said.

“It will bring a lot of people into the region.

“We have history with the Tom Quilty, especially at Kenilworth and Kilkivan.”

The event was held at Kenilworth in 1988 and again in 1994, at Boonah in 2006, Nanango 2008 and Kilkivan 2013.

Stirlings Crossing Endurance Club will be looking for a pool of volunteers for the 2026 event – preferably those who some experience and knowledge of the sport through volunteering at club level and surrounding rides.

It’s a big commitment to get horses ready for such events and bring them to the venue … there have been representatives here from WA, SA and TAS as well as the east coast states.