A Dungog equestrian has faced and conquered a gruelling challenge, completing a 400 kilometre horse endurance ride over five days.
Monique Echentille from Main Creek competed in the Shahzada Memorial Endurance Ride which attracts competitors from across the country.
Shahzada is held annually in the last full week of August in the mountains surrounding the picturesque Macdonald Valley, at St Albans, north west of Sydney.
The ride is named after Shahzada, a champion grey Arab stallion, foaled in 1913 in the United Kingdom and brought to Australia in 1925.
The ride’s motto is “To finish is to win” with the emphasis on completing the whole 400km course with both horse and rider fit and well.
Monique was one of 44 riders to start the 400km ride and one of only 20 to successfully finish with her mount Follydown Kadin, a 15-year-old Arab.
She completed the course in 47 hours and four minutes.
For their efforts she Kadin earned the Shakista Encouragement Award for 2017 which is given to a first time Shahzada horse and rider who successfully complete the course and are seen as true ambassadors of the spirit of Shahzada.
A keen horse rider for many years and a goal setter, Monique found the perfect sport when she discovered endurance riding in 2012.
“Endurance riding is basically trail riding over long distances at a reasonable pace,” explained Monique.
Social competitions are run for 5kms-40kms and the more competitive rides are conducted over 80kms, 100kms or 160 kms.
There are periodic veterinary checks throughout which determines if the horse is fit to continue and a final vet check at the end of the ride.
Riders are placed in weight divisions and place numbers are based on the time taken to complete the ride.
“Over the years I have discovered that speed was not my interest more the endurance side to the sport, so I decided to tackle “Shahzada,” she said.
The event provides two rides, the mini marathon which is 120kms over 3 days, giving riders a taste of what Shahzada is all about.
Monique took on the main ride being Shahzada - 400kms over five days.
“Each day the course would open at 4am, so armed with my headlamp and trusty steed I was out travelling the valley floors until I reached the biggest hills the Macdonald Valley has to offer,” she said.
“Upon reaching the hills I would hop off my horse and lead him over boulders and along single file goat tracks on the edge of cliffs, having complete trust that he will follow my every step and he trusting me that I will not lead him astray.
“After 50kms I would return to camp and my horse would be checked by the vets and I would receive the all clear to head out again for the remaining 30kms of the day.
“The course would re-open at 11am however you could begin your second leg at any time as long as you complete it before 5pm when the course closed.
“I would head out on track again, out along the valley floor in a different direction, up another hill and what goes up must come down.
“Returning for another vet check and receiving another all clear to continue on the next day.”
This was Monique’s existence for five days.
“Believe it or not, after Wednesday both you and your horse get a second wind and before you know it, it’s Friday.”
On the last day of the event Monique rounded a bend to see a large crowd cheering her home.
“I had a panel of vets watching my final trot out to observe if my horse is lame or he’s sound.
“They asked me to repeat my trot out as there were unsure of his soundness.
“My heart was in my throat, both my horse and I were exhausted but we just needed to run for 100 more metres and we’re done.
“The crowd were now cheering even louder; my horse and I are now running back towards the vets who are giving us the thumbs up.
“We’ve done it!!
“The sense of accomplishment and pride I have in my horse is indescribable and I believe the key to our success was the trust my horse and I place in each other and the appropriate training.”
Monique won’t have long to go before she takes on another endurance ride. She will travel to Woodstock near Cowra for an event where riders take on 160 kilometres in 24 hours – starting from midnight.
It will be the perfect way to celebrate her 36th birthday which falls that weekend.
Monique thanked her husband Paul Hulbert for all his support, along with Dean Walkom her training and riding buddy through the event; Mel Anderson her mentor and strapper for the event and Gil Stevenson who has been a mentor and training buddy.
Also in the spirit of accuracy I actually completed it in 47hr 4mins J