Wondai rider wins Queensland endurance event

Virginia Barber and La Belle Amour, QERA State Champion rider 2022 and best conditioned horse. Pictures: SARAH SULLIVAN PHOTOS


Victoria Barber proves to be a champion in the true sense of the word, as ERLE LEVEY reports.


“I’m still learning from horses … they teach us every day.’’

Wondai rider, trainer and endurance horse breeder Virginia Barber is a champion in the true sense of the word.

Not only does Virginia encourage other riders to participate in the sport, she is now Queensland Endurance Riding Association (QERA) State Champion 2022.

Held at Tepon Equestrian Park, Herberton, on the Atherton Tablelands, the championships saw strong representation and results from southern Queensland riders.

For Virginia, riding La Belle Amour, the combination won the 160km middleweight division, best conditioned horse, and state title.

It was a double, double success as her daughter Georgie, and fellow Mainstreme Equestrian rider Ellie-Rose Bowden, were equal first in the junior division.

Kilkivan’s Shelley Chapman of Shanelli-Park Endurance, took out the lightweight division, riding Box Hill Nitro, and won best conditioned horse.

Jarrah Kelly of Shanelli-Park Endurance riding Picnic Park Smart Return became an Open rider in June and now has finished her first 160km event, not only completing but also receiving third junior.

This combination never faltered during the very long night on an extremely challenging track.

The North Queensland ride also saw four competitors earn the Triple Crown – Ellie-Rose Bowden riding Silver Centurion, Georgie Barber riding Concerto, Tracey Eastaughffe riding Moondarra Elton, and Alana Simpson riding Meea.

To earn the Triple Crown, one rider, one horse combination must complete a QERA affiliated Marathon, the Tom Quilty Gold Cup & the QERA State Championships all in the one year.

New state champion Virginia was riding on a back track at Wondai when I spoke to her.

A QERA committee member, she juggles her own love of riding with taking classes for all ages and abilities. Yet Virginia specialise in National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) clients … those with challenging physical or mental conditions.

At the end of December she will be hosting and organising a junior boot camp for up-and-coming riders at the Wondai property.

With people such as Virginia encouraging other riders, there is a rise in the number of people coming into the sport.

Having started riding at the age of 10, Virginia says she is lucky enough to live her passion.

“I’m still learning from horses … they teach us every day.’’

The mare she was riding in North Queensland was La Belle Armour.

Virginia picked her up a couple of years ago, as “Belle’’ was a bit too much for the owner.

“Friends suggested she would suit me, as she was too high-spirited for dressage.

“They have to want to do their sport. She didn’t like dressage as much as endurance.

“Horses are the same as us in that regard. You have to want to do it.

“They have so much love and affection.

“In endurance you quickly find you cannot do the distances unless you have a relationship.

“You get hot, tired, and so do they … but they still keep going when asked.

“There are not many other sports that do that.’’

For the championship ride at Herberton it was a 9pm start to make the most of the cooler night-time conditions.

“We were not expecting too much heat,’’ Virginia said.

“The course was very hilly, rocky … a very technical track.

“There was no rain.

“It was through different forests – rainforest, eucalypt – then beautiful open bushland with fresh running creeks.

“Being a 160km event I decided that my mare prefers to go by herself rather than with other riders.

“The plan was I would ride my horse and the the two girls – Georgie and Ellie-Rose – would stick together.’’

Virginia likes to take the first leg of the course steadily because of the long way to go, but to stay as close to the front runners as possible.

“There is no need to win until the second and final legs.

“Completion the name of the sport … the results make it better.’’

There was an 81.25 percent completion rate in the 160km event.

This was the first state title for Virginia, after coming second in a gallop finish at Bowen in 2019.

For Georgie Barber and Ellie-Rose Bowden, they started the 160km event together and that’s how they finished – equal first in the junior division.

“They have been best friends since the age of seven,’’ Virginia said.

“Ellie-Rose is like part of the family – she does a lot with us.

“Georgie loves doing the hard yards and getting the results from it.’’

As well as chasing the state title in the junior division, both of the girls were going for the Triple Crown, but as well as finishing the three specific events in the same year, Georgie and Ellie-Rose were placed in each of them – first in the marathon at Stirlings Crossing, second in the Tom Quilty and now first at the state championships.

“You need to try very hard to do the three rides rather than place in each event,’’ Virginia said. “They’ve done amazingly well.’’

At Herberton, Virginia, Georgie and Ellie-Rose were helped by Mark Nimon, with Casey Clarke as strapper.

“It took a team effort to get three horses around 160km.’’



1. Briony Ledingham and Brynjell Phoenix (best conditioned horse). 2. Amanda Godden riding Duray Peregrin Took


1. Virginia Barber, La Belle Amour (best condition). 2. Saasha Grogan, Halo Rhapsody In Blue. 3. Tracey Eastaughffe, Moondarra. 4. Sue Vacher, Miva Zamil.


1. Shelley Chapman, Box Hill Nitro (best condition). 2. Alana Simpson, Meea. 3. April Murphy, Aloha Desert Thor. 3. Clare Fleming, Amarin Brindi.


1. Georgie Barber, Concerto (best condition). 1. Ellie-Rose Bowden, Silver Centurion. 3. Jarrah Kelly, Picnic Park Smart Return.