Wagin hosts Tom Quilty Cup
Every six years the Tom Quilty 100-mile national endurance ride returns to WA and last weekend Wagin had its first turn to host the 49th annual event.
When the _Countryman _arrived late in the evening on Friday, all was quiet before the midnight start.
Riders were sleeping until the loud speaker started sending wake-up calls throughout the campgrounds.
Then night turned to day as the Wagin Sportsground lights flooded the oval and 104 horses began to gather for warm-ups in front of many of the town's community, who were curious of the event's attraction.
Riders were wearing helmet lights to find their way on the well-marked course through local farm properties, which was designed by Wagin farming couple David and Anita Lunt.
The start of the ride began with a flurry of horses off into the dark, leaving spectators no choice but to return the next morning to discover what took place under the half-moon.
A few hours into the ride, event photographer Red McQueen was driving towards Wagin only to spot a riderless horse seemingly heading back to camp.
"I slowed and started to calm the horse with my voice and was able to catch it and send for help," he said.
By Saturday 10am, 31 riders vetted out, which caused some surprise to members of the WA Endurance Riders Association.
Diana McGirr, of Donnybrook, said gradual inclines made the Wagin course very challenging.
"It is a fair course and you have to ride to conditions," she said.
Enjoying the ride tremendously in the early morning was Jessica Langridge, of Queensland, who was in the lead at leg three.
Not far behind were other Eastern States riders with WA's Frances Overheu, of York, also well placed.
Junior rider Rebecca Radny, of Serpentine, was also chasing the leaders.
The first back at the finish line about noon, Langridge was nervously awaiting the last vet check on her horse - if it passed the tests, she would be the overall winner of the ride.
To her delight, the all-clear was given and event director Ieva Peters was the first to congratulate the first-time Quilty Cup winner followed by her partner Matthew Sample.
Only two minutes later NSW rider Ben Hudson was cleared to finish in second.
The joy on every rider's face that finished the race was special to witness.
Tasmanian rider Debbie Grull (third place) said the ride was enjoyable compared to some of the cold, rainy and windy conditions she was accustomed to.
"The trip to WA was a great adventure," she said.
Meanwhile, Victoria's best-placed rider, Kristie Taprell (fourth), who at 21 won team gold at the World Equestrian Games in endurance, said she enjoyed the farm crossings at Wagin.
WA's best-placed finisher was Overheu (fifth), who has been in the sport for 18 years.
The Gingin cattle producer said her horse had clocked up 8000 kilometres.
"Longevity in the sport comes down to your horse," she said.
"My Arabian gelding, Poseidon Moon, is a legend."
WA's best-placed junior rider, Rebecca Radny, finished second in her division and had a time to rival the adult division's top placers.
Of the 102 overall riders, 36 completed the ride, a remarkable achievement for the sport and the town of Wagin.
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