Ararat will be well represented when Australia's most prestigious endurance horse ride takes place this weekend.
Simon and Kasey Thomas and Shannon Decker are among more than 300 riders who will participate in the 2019 Tom Quilty Gold Cup at the Imbil State Forest in Queensland from midnight on Friday.
The cup is the pinnacle of endurance riding in Australia, with riders tackling a 160 kilometre course over a 24 hour period.
The riders have all participated in and completed the event multiple times, but Simon Thomas said competing again is as exciting as ever.
"Everyone who completes the course within 24 hours achieves a gold belt buckle. Kasey is looking for her third, I'm hoping for my fourth and Shannon is aiming for a fifth," he said.
"On average we attend 10-12 endurance rides a year but this is by far the biggest."
The event shifts from state to state each year, settling in Queensland this year. Thomas said the group made the trip north at the weekend.
"We left Saturday and made stopped over two nights, it is a long drive," he said.
"It is good to have some other Ararat people up here too. Marg Williamson and Justin Burger are strapping for us, our local vet Helen Spencer is up here vetting for people and Digger Hayne is working as a chief steward."
Competitors have 24 hours to complete the course in order to receive a golden buckle. Strict veterinary protocols are in place to ensure the wellbeing of the horses involved.
"The is pre-ride vetting before the race starts on Friday night, then there are checks around every 40 kilometres or so. There is also a vet check at the end of the ride to give thumbs up or thumbs down if you successfully completed the course," Thomas said.
"The horses are the stars of the show. They do an amazing job so we make sure they are well looked after."
The cup will also be an opportunity for the Ararat riders to celebrate some personal milestones at a presentation evening before the ride.
"Shannon will be recognised for 10,000 competitive kilometres on a horse and my horse Morundah Just Sharii will be for 3000 competitive kilometres," Thomas said.
"It should be a great occasion."
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