As she prepared to face the fourth leg of the gruelling 100-mile Tom Quilty endurance ride, Kristie Taprell knew she would have to dig deep to fend off fierce competition.
A seasoned campaigner with 30,000 kilometres of endurance competition under her belt, 17 Quilty buckles and 4 wins to her name, Taprell was feeling nervous.
But sweet-natured Arabian mare Castlebar Belair, owned and trained by Holbrook’s Meg Wade and Chris Gates, was holding up well in the tough terrain of the Tasmanian course.
Of the 140 horses that set out from just after midnight at Scottsdale on October 6, there may have been 10 horses in the running for the prestigious Quilty cup.
“I knew I had to take a risk and that the fourth leg would sort out the field – I had to trust the course would bring the others undone,” Taprell said.
Trusting her instincts and the willing 11-year-old mare beneath her, Taprell rode to the pair’s strengths as they wound their way up hills, through sand and across a course set to test the country’s best endurance horses and riders.
“This ride she was strong through the technical section and I could feel her thinking and carefully placing her feet,” Taprell recalled.
“She’s a really sensible and gentle horse; she looks after herself and she leaves absolutely nothing on the table.”
When the pair crossed the line in third place and vetted through in first place after the fourth leg, Taprell could taste victory for the fifth and final leg home.
For Thologolong-based Taprell, 34, the 160-kilometre Quilty is the country’s pinnacle event of endurance riding.
The trophy is named after Tom Quilty, a cattleman in the Kimberly area of Western Australia, who in 1966 was asked by his mate RM Williams to back a 100-mile ride modelled on the renowned Tevis Cup in the US.
Quilty donated $1000, which was used to make a gold cup that now resides in the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland.
A proud Chris Gates said the mare had been primed for the race and praised the “brilliant” riding of Taprell to claim the coveted cup.