Six nations gather

Two New Zealand riders setting out at sunrise. Photo: Sarah Sullivan Photography 411915_32


Endurance horse riders from six nations gathered at Inglewood for the 2024 Endurofest. ERLE LEVEY was there to capture some of the action.


“They were impressed by the size of Australia. They couldn’t believe the distances … and they couldn’t believe that we all sleep in our trucks and swags. They wouldn’t do that at home. They always stay at motels. That’s part of the experience … of sitting around the campfire.’’

It promised something for everyone and the 2024 EndurAFest riding weekend at Inglewood certainly delivered.

Riders from six nations were competing in the inaugural Australasian Regional Endurance Championship, alongside individual riders from throughout Queensland and New South Wales.

The highlight event saw teams from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Malaysia competing over 100km, together with riders from Singapore and China participating as individuals.

There were 170 entries across 10 events, ranging from 20km to 160km over the three days.

Federation Endurance International (FEI) riders were looking to compete in Europe and the 2025 World Cup, as well as Australian Endurance Riders Association (AERA) riders from throughout New South Wales and Queensland.

In the true tradition of endurance, the Inglewood course provided everything – from sunshine and dusty trails to cloud cover, light rain and through to storm-like conditions on the final day.

The staging of the event at Inglewood Showgrounds coincided with the announcement that the Stirlings Crossing Equestrian Club at Imbil will again host the Tom Quilty Gold Cup in 2026, after hosting the 2023 event.

The premier event on the endurance calendar in Australia will be held in Tasmania in 2025.

The Tom Quilty 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. It also hosted the 2019 event as Queensland’s preferred venue at that time.

The Regional Endurance Championship saw 19 entries with an 84 percent completion.

AERA secretary Kim Moir said Inglewood was a big ride away from the normal, in terms of the response and the fact this event attracted so many international entries.

“The international teams were very embracing of the idea. This is an important step in the growth of the sport.

“AERA registered riders will work towards the Queensland State Championships at Widgee in July, and the Tom Quilty in South Australia later in the year.’’

Throughout the weekend there was a sense of achievement in getting together in international competition, and for the those riders from other countries to experience the different make-up of the course to what they are used to … the open Australian bushland with variety of soil types, undulations and creek crossings.

“The courses in South East Asia are really faster whereas here there are more obstacles or unusual landscape,’’ Kim said.

“They are riding other horses than their own – they are trusting that people will give them a good steed.

“And that has been a feature of it – pride from the horse owners that their steed will do well.’’

Event organiser Peter Toft did a massive job in helping organise the event, due in a large way to the international contacts he has made through his years in the sport.

First successful completion over the line was Ashley Cole (NZ), riding Razorback Blue Avatar, in a gallop finish from Catherine Bailey (AUS) riding Bullio Charlotte.

The teams event takes the combined time of the first three of the four riders.

Team placings were: 1. Australia in 18:33:14; 2. Malaysia,18:35:11; 3. New Zealand, 20:36:52; 4. Japan, 22:32:22.


Managing an international team of endurance riders requires flexibility as well as consistency to overcome challenges of language, culture, riding experience and a different landscape.

Virginia Barber of Mainstreme Endurance at Wondai was tasked with co-ordination of the Malaysian team.

Sitting around the campfire at night after the event, Virginia said the team were good to work with.

“They made me work hard but they are very easy to get on with.

“We came here on Tuesday with our own horses for AERA events and I provided one for the teams, but he didn’t get used. He was a back-up and we relied on a few other stables.

“We ended up having to use all of the horses to make it happen. We had to be very flexible – consistently.

“Any time you think you have it organised it changes – none of the team had ever been to Australia.

“They landed in Brisbane and probably wondered what they had come across … the country is different to what they were used to at home.

“There was chaos right from Day Dot with Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese and Singaporeans all arriving.

“They were impressed by the size of Australia. They couldn’t believe the distances … and they couldn’t believe that we all sleep in our trucks and swags.

“They wouldn’t do that at home. They always stay at motels.

“That’s part of the experience … of sitting around the campfire.’’

The teams event is a grouping of four riders – whether junior or open.

With a red sunrise at the start and warm day, they handled the conditions pretty well, Virginia said.

“They were very easy to deal with – there were some communication barriers as you would expect but the chef could speak English. He would translate the important stuff to the riders.

“They found our riding conditions to be a lot slower than they were used to. They run on sand much of the time. Most of the courses are flat and they usually travel about 17-18 km an hour but here we travel slower.

“On their first leg they usually canter out but here I told them they must trot the first 5km.

“We had a big team meeting before the ride. My job was to ensure the owners (of the horses) were happy as well as the riders.

“My main concern was that the horses were being treated correctly. We said a 5km trot and to do 14km an hour. I had to make sure they didn’t want to go too fast, too early.

“This is the first role as a manager and my concern was making sure our horses were healthy – ours are not used to travelling at this speed. It’s more 12km to 14km an hour here.

“All of our riders got through, that’s the main thing. At least they adhered to what I said.

“Many times over the ride I had to reinforce that we are here to finish. We are not here as individuals – we are here as a team and you have to look after your horse and finish.

“It’s important to listen to instructions and ride to instructions.

“You have four riders and it’s the top three times that are counted.

“The team members were happy to have the ride, let alone to finish second.

“They’ve been happy the whole time.

“It was a cool experience – tiring, challenging but I loved it and would certainly put my hand up to do it again.’’


For Gympie rider Sherry Lowe, the 80km event was the highlight of her sporting career.

That and gaining her Tom Quilty buckle in the 2022 Gold Cup at Tooraweenah in New South Wales.

The buckle is awarded to those who complete the 160km ride in 24 hours.

At Inglewood, Sherry was riding Ramalea Phantom – one of Fiona Fenech’s horses.

A 6am start saw the ride in darkness for 45 minutes, with low cloud overhead and very little rain during the morning.

“They were great conditions for the horses,’’ Sherry said. “It gave us the ability to get the horses recovered quickly and through the vetting area after each leg.

“For rural showgrounds, the Inglewood community and team have really improved the venue to be able to host large numbers for that event.’’

The first two hours on the first leg it was a flatter track than many courses in Queensland but it still has its challenges … deep sand at times, small washouts and “whoa boys’’ … ridges in the road for water run-off.

The course also lends itself to be able to move along at good speeds. Sherry averaged 16.2km for the first leg, 15.5 on the second, then 17.5km an hour on the final leg.

Intermittent showers on the second leg brought challenges for the strapping team but they performed brilliantly, Sherry said.

“Having that designated strapping area of an express lane for horses that have been travelling well, then the team areas, was a good concept.

“About half a dozen of us went out within a short period of time and 10km through the final leg we were close together.

“That’s when the weather really picked up … we were not just competing against other riders but against the elements.

“It was getting very sticky underfoot. Water was running off the track.

“It was like riding through a whirlwind for the last 2km, and when we got to the finish line the tent was unrecognisable.’’

Sherry took out overall line honours as well as winner of the middleweight division. Imbil rider Matt Sample was second across line and first heavyweight.

Ash Christofis and Karen Winkel finished equal first in the lightweight division.

Sherry started riding in primary school and her first AERA ride was as a junior in 1999.

“This, for me, is if you talk about work-life balance – some have a gym membership, others go on a park run or spend time with friends – this gives me that.

“It’s something I can share with family, with friends.

“Endurance is a family sport. To complete is to win … this has been more about the horse’s journey than mine.

“The Queensland State Championships are at Widgee and I have set my sights on that, they are right in our back yard.

“To train and ride an incredible horse in such tough conditions is one thing … you are not just competing against other incredible riders, but personally.

“Riders such as Matt Sample, in which we contested a gallop finish. Matt really lifted me.

“This has been one of my greatest sporting career highlights.’’


Australasian Regional Endurance Championship 100km:

1. Australia: 18:33:14: Catherine Bailey and Bullio Charlotte, Eadie McWilliam and Harry Who te, Sarah Parker and Cooroora Allyjah, Emma Ireland and Kurrajong Aces.

2. Malaysia: 18:35:11: Mohd Saari and Beersheva Djeishah, Mohd Emboog and Bullio Gold Son, Mohd Rally and Cameo Felspar, Mohd Hashim and Splendacrest Clara.

3. New Zealand: 20:36:52: Susan Latta and Allusion TA, Helen Graham and Wattle Tree Amir, Ashley Cole and Razorback Blue Avatar, Lucy Allomes and Shanelli Park Phoenix.

4. Japan: 22:32:22: Toshiaki Hirohashi and Emilina, Mifuyu Arai and Drusilla te, Izumi Nakayama and La Luminiere te, Misaki Nagatsu and Razorback Queen Mamba.


Heavyweight: 1. Matthew Sample, Stirling’s Macca; 2. Jo Barsby, Dumaresq Vaquero. 3. Troy Butler, Falcon Hill Mahbeer.

Middleweight: 1. Sherry Lowe, Ramalea Phantom; 2. Clea Gaultier, Oso Nerida; 3. Amy Everett, Shellal Blue.

Lightweight: 1. Ash Christofis, Lightning McQueen; 1. Karen Winkel, Shardell Azeem; 3. Margot Maugeais, Sephora te.

Junior: 1. Malachi Andrew, Bangalow Park Cobber; 2. Stella Standing, Golden Thunder; 3. Abigail Enstrom, Rhinestone TA.


Heavyweight: 1. Shelley Jones, Shellal Blood Moon.

Middleweight: 1. Bec Miller, El’Maas Ginger Kisses. 2. Case Clarke, La Belle Amour.

Lightweight: 1. Natasha Thackwray, Shakaan.

Junior: 1. Charlotte Irwin, Picnic Park Smart Return; 2. Ruby Grace, Duray Indochine.