Endrance ride spurs passion for endurance
WHAT started out as a business deal 22 years ago, turned into a lifelong passion for accomplished endurance rider Dick Collyer.
Dick, who operates his Arab stud from his 688 hectare property Totara at Leyburn, with partner Jill Crowley has been breeding arabs for 40 years.
I saw all these exhausted people come in to check points on their horses and then take off again and I admired them so much. There was real buzz about taking off at midnight.
However, it wasn't until he sold one of his "good horses" to a bloke he thought was a "good rider", that his love of the sport was born.
"It was 1991 and a bloke I knew wanted to win the 1994 Tom Quilty Endurance Ride, as he had already come second twice in what is regarded as the pinnacle of the sport," Dick said.
"However, the horse and the bloke didn't suit each other, so I took the horse back and decided I would take up endurance riding myself," he said.
"I set my sights on the 1994 Tom Quilty, as it takes about three years to train a horse to compete in a 160km ride."
That horse was Sigmund and Dick went on to ride in his and his horse's first Tom Quilty at Kenilworth. And they completed the ride with Dick earning the right to wear the coveted belt buckle.
Dick said with any endurance horse, he started out doing a few training rides of more than 40km and trained about five times a week at home.
"I do three short rides of about one-and-a-half hours, and one longer ride of about three hours each week," he said.
"Time is more important than distance, when it comes to training an endurance horse.
"A horse can get fit quickly, but they have to build up muscles and ligaments and their skeletal system over a few years."
Dick said he usually competed in about three 80km rides on a young horse in its first year of competition and had taken part in endurance rides all through south-east Queensland.
After his first Tom Quilty ride in 1994, Dick said the ride organisers in 1997 decided competitors had to qualify for future rides, as numbers grew too large to handle.
"Now, riders have to complete a 160km ride to qualify for the Tom Quilty," he said.
His partner Jill, who also competed in the Tom Quilty Ride, said the motto of endurance riding was "to complete is to win".
"There is not so much onus on winning but rather completing the ride," she said.
A teacher by profession, Dick organised the 2000 Tom Quilty at Boonah, where he was living and working at the time.
"I was the president of the Fassifern Pony Club back then and I was a teacher at Boonah for 27 years, before I moved to Leyburn five years ago," he said.
With Dick heavily involved in the running of the toughest ride in Australia, Jill also fell in love with the sport.
"I saw all these exhausted people come in to check points on their horses and then take off again and I admired them so much. There was real buzz about taking off at midnight," Jill said.
Jill took seven attempts before she completed a 160km ride and qualified for her first Tom Quilty. She is now in training for this year's ride on the June long weekend at Kilkivan.
Rather than riding this year, Dick will be strapping
for Jill on her 13-year-old mare Lilla.
But he did go on to compete in a second Tom Quilty at Nanango in 2008, where he placed sixth in the heavyweight division.
In 2006, he also organised a second Tom Quilty at Boonah, which was the largest ever, attracting 307 entries.
Nowadays, Dick has 70 horses in his stud, with seven stallions standing. He is preparing and training six horses for the upcoming endurance riding season.
Dick said endurance riders didn't place much importance on bloodlines, but rather if a horse could get the job done. He had bred and sold horses that had gone on to compete and taste success internationally.
"One horse I bred, Harriet, represented Australia twice at Dubai in the World Endurance Championships, where she won a gold medal in the team's event; and in Aachen, Germany, at the World Equestrian Games in the endurance competition," Dick said.
"I also won the best conditioned horse on her at the State Endurance Championships," he said. "I was made an offer for her that I couldn't refuse, so I sold her and she went on to compete all over the world."
One of Dick's long standing sires, Shah Dara, was bred by R.M. Williams and given to Dick by an old friend, Mike Harper of Karara.
"Shah Dara was by a horse called Shiekie, a famous R. M. Williams stallion, which won three Tom Quilty buckles, one with R.M. on his back," Dick said. Shah Dara won Queensland Endurance Riders Association Sire of the Year in 2005, Points Score Sire of the Year in 2007 and Distance Sire of the Year in 2006 and 2007.
Dick has been heavily involved in the association for many years, serving as president 2001 - 2006, and is the vice president of its state management committee.
He has taught at Clifton State High School for two years and is one of the qualified staff responsible for teaching the new equine program at the school this year.
Dick trains his endurance horses in the evening after school and still manages a win - he took out the heavyweight division of the Fernvale ride last November on his horse Lion Hunter.
"I also won best conditioned heavyweight horse, which is almost as special as winning it," he said.
Dick described endurance riding as an "addiction".
"There is nothing like being in the saddle on a horse you've bred and broken yourself, standing at the start of the Tom Quilty ride," he said.
But it also comes with its disappointments.
"Eventually, everyone gets vetted out," Dick said.