“To qualify is to win”. This is the motto of most endurance riders and never was that truer than at the Waitomo Endurance Club & Equi-Sports Bay of Plenty End of Season wrap-up held in the gorgeous Matata area this month.
This was won by Waitomo Club’s own team “The Glo-Bugs” (Tosca Bell on Piwakawaka, Judith Warren on Smokin Joe and Koa Gower on Bombarta). Runners-up, Team Nikau Sliders, were 19 minutes behind. Both sides followed the 15km course, opting to ride as teams rather than as a relay. Team kilometres were added together to find the fastest overall. The Glo Bugs happily accepted gift baskets sponsored by Kawerau New World and Equibrew, with the runners-up receiving gift baskets from Delights Arabians and Kawerau Liquorland.
A mystery time was set to decide the winner of the 15km ride. Riders departed on the same course as their team-based companions, unaware of the optimum time. Only when they returned to base and attended the prize-giving was the optimum 1.43.25 revealed; local combination Julia Dodds and her mount Marley were crowned the winners with their time of 1.32.18. Daughter Karlene Roberts was second place with Denise Green third, and all riders went home with a selection of prizes.
Competitors on day two saddled up in the early morning light preparing for a 6.30 departure for their 80km challenge. Just two entered the open division: local rider Daryl Owen on Miro Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki’s Amanda Walton on Sharif Asma. Endurance riders must qualify over a set number of kilometres before they can call themselves an open combination and compete for placings. Five riders entered the 80km novice division, including Sonia Swinbourne on the standardbred Peruvian Vance, 12-year-old Rowan Redmond on Martika Fire and Ruth Dawber on Miro Dusty Trails. All had just one 80km novice ride to complete before they could claim the open rider title. The sole combination in the Dunstan Nutrition 65km, current 160km North Island Champions Jenny Chandler and AC Tigger, also left with these riders, opting for the companionship rather than a solo flight.
Grey cloud began to roll in, followed by a light drizzle which was welcomed by riders as they followed the marked trails which popped in and out of the forestry before turning back into the shelter of the trees. Owen and Chandler took an early lead in their events and both horses flew through their compulsory veterinary inspections, earning both a red ribbon and prizes sponsored by Fiberfresh, Dunstan Nutrition and others. Unfortunately, Amanda Walton and her mount fell victim to the challenging course after loop two when Sharif Asma’s recovery raised some concerns with the attending vet and they were vetted out on metabolics. The remaining novice field continued to file in with just one rider opting for retirement at the 65km mark. Both Rowan and Ruth’s mounts passed their inspections along the way and they finished the ride in a time of 9.12.01 to become open combinations, Ruth quoting Sir Edmund Hillary as she crossed the line for the final time: “We knocked the b***r off!”
Also running that day was a 40km event. Six-year-old Sacha Boyle from Taumarunui stole the show as she steered her Welsh mare Mylie ME around the tough course to secure not only their first novice qualification but first 40km event as well. Grinning from ear to ear in the pouring rain, she melted the hearts of many, even running her own pony out in the final trot-up while slipping and sliding in the wet conditions. She was thrilled to not only win prizes sponsored by Waitomo Club & Saddlery Warehouse but also to win the Eukanuba pet prize draw, nominating her favourite working dog, Minion.
Auckland’s Joanne Hull on SS Shemrani and Sarah Addy on Escarda Mozambique claimed victory in the Farmlands Taumarunui 40km Open, crossing the line just seconds apart, with the nearest competitor 35 minutes behind them. All riders went home with prizes sponsored by Farmlands Taumarunui. Eleven Novice combinations entered the Saddlery Warehouse 40km Novice. All rode to qualify, approaching the rapidly deteriorating course carefully and cautiously. The last horse home came in at 5.12.43 and all passed the final trot-up, each going home with a selection of sponsored prizes.
25km Poker Run
A highlight of the Waitomo Endurance Club calendar is the 25km Poker Run. Horse and rider combinations head out along the marked trail collecting cards as they go. Back at base, the rider with the best hand wins! This year’s Run was sponsored by long-time endurance supporters Fiberfresh and BJ Merino with bags of feed or a new saddle pad up for lucky winners.
Five junior combinations braved the wet conditions alongside 14 in the senior division. Riders departed later in the day, but this proved to be to their detriment as the conditions worsened and the horses ahead had left behind a wet and mucky course. Most played it safe and travelled slowly, which was deemed beneficial as all but one passed the final veterinary inspection. Waitomo riders claimed victory in both classes: 17-year-old Brittany Van Dijk-Turner on Kaimanawa Queen of Hearts won the junior event with a pair of jacks and a pair of sevens, and Grant Ingle on Supre Storm won the senior with triple nines. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves despite the worsening rain, and all riders in this division went home with at least a small prize in recognition of their efforts.
The Waitomo Club thanks the following businesses/people for their sponsorship of this event: BJ Merino, Equibrew, Fiber-fresh, Dunstan Nutrition, Wild Spirit Photography, Kawerau Liquorland, Saddlery Warehouse, Kawerau New World, Tim & Tosca Bell, Sonia Swinbourne, Farmlands Taumarunui, RD1 Hamilton, Betron Alpacas, Delights Arabians, Natasha Guest, Fairview Mazda, Trish Dakin Photography, The MacPherson Family, Amy Ingle, Hannah Edwardson, & Blue Pegosus Horse Shoes