That about sums up how I feel…

Joe and I completed our first 160km (100 mile) ride! This qualifies us, as long as the Gods continue to smile on us, for the Tom Quilty ride which is Australia’s premiere 100 miler (it’s our equivalent of Tevis in the USA or the Golden Horseshoe in the UK). The Quilty rotates between states and just happens to be in Western Australia this year. Qualifying now means I don’t have to either a) make a 2,000km trip across the middle of Australia to compete in the ride in another state or b) wait 7 years for it to come back to WA again! Also, having done ONE 100 miler, I am now qualified to enter the Quilty, should I wish to, forever. I don’t have to qualify again. It’s been on my bucket list for a while to ride the Quilty in another state (the South Australia track is especially lovely, apparently) but anyway – that’s getting ahead of myself. For now, it’s only just starting to sink in that I will get to ride it in October…

So: the ride story. I think this will break down into 2 parts: lead up, and the actual ride.

Lead up: I spent ALL WEEK before the Friday I was to leave packing, This is pretty normal for me. I also made a visit to a dear friend who had recently coached a swimmer through a marathon swim and she sat down with me and worked out an eating plan FOR ME. I have been so focused on Joe and what he eats/drinks/does/needs that of course I had forgotten about my own nutrition and hydration plan. Armed with her instructions I felt slightly more confident, about me at least!

Joe was looking super cool all week. One of the joys of having him running in a herd situation on 100 acres is that I don’t have to micro manage his diet and exercise him every single day. In fact, I barely touched him in the week leading up to the ride. We weren’t going to add anything to his fitness in that week, and he gets plenty of light movement just grazing and playing with his mates. He did manage to give me the occasional heart attack by playing VERY hard with his paddock mates: all I could do was stand there with my fingers over my eyes and pray: “Don’t kick him now. Not this week”…

Thursday afternoon, half packed, and it was boot glueing time. They always tell you not to try something new at a ride, and here we were, glueing boots on Joe for the first time, before the biggest ride of our lives! However:

1. Glueing is not new to us, although it is for Joe. We used to use glue ons on Prycie all the time.

2. I was taking 2 complete sets of spare Gloves with gaiters.

3. Because we do all our training barefoot, and knowing the tracks at the ride quite well, I was confident that if we did spit off a boot we would be able to make it back to ride base barefoot.

The process went surprisingly smoothly, while I tried to stay very Zen and not shout at Pete (who is, poor sod, the “Man In Charge of Glue”). All 4 boots stayed on overnight Thursday and finally, after lunch on Friday, we said goodbye to the kids (Thanks Grandma!) with promises to let them know how I was going all the way through, and away we went. We arrived at ride base at about 2 o clock on a cool, sunny afternoon. The forecast for the weekend was for overnight lows of about 6C (43F) and 18 C during the day (65F), with light winds. Perfect riding weather.

We set up camp in a little huddle, with one other very nervous first time 160-er and her vast strapping crew. Joe vetted through well, with his usual body condition score of 4 out of 5… Fatty. Still, better than having a hard keeper I guess. Then I fiddled endlessly and nervously with my gear while Pete cracked a beer and started a game of boules in camp… Clearly I was doing something wrong here! A second good friend arrived at about 6: her job was to be to make sure I ate and drank what I was told, and stayed in my chair and din’t interfere with Pete, who was to be in charge of Joe. he knows him well and can strap him perfectly efficiently without my “help”. We also greeted Nancy, our body worker extraordinaire, who would be attending to Joe’s muscles all through the ride.

Ride briefing was at 6.30 p.m: 5 legs (40km, 40km, 30km, 30km, 20km) and all holds 45 minutes, vet gate into hold, heart rate to be 60 bpm or less, and no compulsory represents. All good. Printed handouts to remind us which numbers to follow, and 24 hours to complete it in…

Australian rides are quite different to American ones: they are generally a series of loops out from ride base, so all vet checks and holds are in camp, no away checks. This makes crewing and organisation a lot easier. Nice people light an enormous bonfire and heat up 44 gallon drums of water to heat water for the strapping crews, and you can go back to your camp for all the holds, after vetting through.The first 2 legs were the same loop twice, as were legs three and four. “Vet gate into hold” means that you can present for the heart rate check as soon as your horse’s pulse drops to criteria or below, and your ride time stops when you reach criteria: then you have 45 minute hold time. You can stay in camp for longer, but cannot leave before the 45 minutes are up. If you choose to stay longer, then that time is added to your ride time. They also start at midnight…

I caught up with 2 other riders, also attempting their first 160, who I have ridden with in the past and who I know Joe travels well with. We all agreed to ride out together at midnight. Everyone always tells you to “ride your own ride” but honestly if you have someone who likes to travel at the same pace as you and whose horse your own horse gets on with, it does make things a lot easier.

And so, a cup of tea and a bit of a warm by the fire, then off to try and get a bit of shut eye before the midnight start. I really didn’t think I would sleep, but surprised myself by getting a couple of hours before the alarm went off at 11.30..


Ride base at midnight.

Part 2 will follow…





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