WHITSUNDAY rider Tony Laurent and his Arabian horse 'Prince' have qualified for the premier endurance riding event in Australia, to be held in Kilkivan, in southern Queensland next June.
Laurent won the notoriously difficult Denison Creek race to qualify for the Tom Quilty Gold Cup championships.
The prestige associated with competing in the Tom Quilty Cup is huge and it is the goal of Australian endurance riders to attempt the ride in their lifetime.
Laurent is thrilled to have qualified for the event.
"We have been trying to complete a 160km ride in qualifying time for years," Laurent said.
"It takes about two years of training to get a horse that fit.
"Then of course you have to have a horse with a huge heart and willing character.
"All those lonely days and nights out there training in the forest develops a wonderful bond between you and your four legged companion."
Endurance riding entails long distance, cross country horse riding with regular vetinary checks to ensure the horse is in a fit condition to continue the race. It is an increasingly popular sport around the world and Laurent hopes the sport will grow in the Whitsundays.
Races generally take about 24 hours to complete a gruelling 160km course.
The Denison Creek ride west of Mackay, which Laurent recently won to qualify for the Tom Quilty Cup, is notoriously difficult with one international competitor calling it the toughest in Australia due to the very steep mountains.
"At one stage, about three in the morning, I found myself just about on my hands and knees trying to make it to the top of a rise with Princy [his horse] pushing me from behind," Laurent said.
"About an hour later we were standing in a fresh mountain stream, both pretty well done in.
"Then we had a talk where I said 'come on mate, we can do this together.
"He really lifted in spirits and lifted me with him. We flew home from there and won the event.
"What a joy to have such wonderful contact with these beautiful animals."
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