The last two legs of the Tom Quilty Cup were abandoned for the first time in 40 years after 50mm of rain in 24 hours made it unsafe for horses, riders and rescue vehicles in the rough terrain around Sheffield in Tassie’s central north. The very first event winner was a Victorian, maybe this is something for the Mountain Cattlemen and the Victorian Government to build on in the light of the recent legislation banning cattle in alpine national parks?
One hundred and ten riders from across Australia, from Japan and the United Arab Emirates took up the challenge at midnight, to ride 160 kilometres (100 miles) in one day, over some of Tasmania’s most rugged terrain. The three leading riders who went on to be declared the 2005 winners were Peter Toft and Penny Toft, and Adbullah Kharis from the United Arab Emirates.
In 1966 R. M. Williams, the then editor of ‘Hoofs and Horns’, a pioneer Australian horse magazine, worked with Tom Quilty to establish a long distance competitive horse ride. Williams was inspired stories of the American 100 mile Tevis Cup and wanted to see if Australian riders and their horses were as tough as American competitors – it has done this.
Tom Quilty, a great horseman and cattleman from WA’s Kimberley, gave $1000 for a gold cup for the first 160 kilometre one day race, in 1996. The race begins at midnight and the winning rider receives a silver belt buckle within 24 hours! The cup is a perpetual trophy, and the original Gold Cup is now in the Stockman’ Hall of Fame, in Longreach, Queensland.
Cash prizes were originally offered as incentive for competitors, however, at the last minute it was pointed out that local by-laws prohibited racing for money, over public roads. Officials and riders decided to compete simply for the Tom Quilty silver buckle. Endurance riding in Australia is an amateur sport, with no provision for prize money.
Although originally opposed by the RSPCA, the ride was endorsed by the University of Sydney’s Rural Veterinary Centre. Horses in training for the event were ridden over set distances and times, to help determine suitable veterinary standards. It was mandatory that the strictest of veterinary controls be applied to the ride, in the best interests of the horses, and in order to show the budding sport was a professionally run event, and not an exercise in cruelty. The sport grew – fifty mile rides are conducted in all states with the annual 100 mile race being rotated.