Riding for awareness
BELINDA Ritchie is nearing the end of an epic journey, riding her three horses along the Bicentennial Trail in order to raise funds and awareness for the National Stroke Foundation.
A lawyer, Ms Ritchie decided that when a job contract in Brisbane came to an end last year it provided the ideal opportunity to take to the Trail.
Ms Ritchie’s ride began in Healesville in Victoria and is scheduled to end on Sunday when she rides into Cooktown, with her trusted and much loved horses Clincher, Trump and Rube.
It’s a journey that began in November last year, taking over 11 months and covering an epic 5330 kilometres.
In the early stages of Ms Ritchie’s preparations for the ride her father suffered a stroke.
While he has recovered from the stroke, Ms Ritchie decided to use the ride to raise public awareness as well as raise funds for the National Stroke Foundation.
Speaking at an overnight stop with the Rumney family near the Mowbray River, she said the ride has been a journey of discovery.
‘‘When I started the ride I really didn’t know what to expect,’’ Ms Ritchie said.
‘‘I’ve always loved history, and have always been aware of the Bicentennial Trail, but it’s surpassed my expectations.
‘‘The whole ride has been a highlight, but I guess the Kosciuszko National Park, Oxley Wild River and Kroombit Tops National Parks were outstanding in their beauty, and spotting two crocodiles swimming in the Mowbray River near Port Douglas was great.’’
She’s faced riding in torrential rain, having to wait for flooded rivers to drop, travelling over rugged terrain and suffering through the heat and drought of Queensland.
Ms Ritchie has mostly camped out at the end of a day’s ride, looking for a suitable site withwater and grazing for the horses.
Along the way though she has also enjoyed the hospitality of locals.
‘‘I’ve been constantly amazed by the kindness of people along the Trail, whether it’s been the offer of a bed for the night, or a bale of hay for the horses when we’ve reached drought areas,’’ she said.
‘‘There was also the road worker who handed over his lunch box containing meat and salad, saying not to worry he had plenty more.’’
Ms Ritchie said she’s also developed a close bond with her horses, or ‘‘my boys’’ as she referred to them.
‘‘One of the aspects of the trip that is amazing is just how close a bond you develop with the horses.’’
Clincher, Trump and Rube are unshod and have handled the marathon journey without any problems.
‘‘My biggest worries have been those nights when the boys have had no feed, and I struggled to sleep knowing they were hungry,’’ she said.
While looking forward to the end of the journey in Cooktown, after so long on the Trail Ms Ritchie isn’t too sure how she will settle back into life as a lawyer in Brisbane.
As for her boys they’ll enjoy some well earned R&R on a friend’s property in Stanthorpe.
To learn more about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of this outstanding young woman’s journey, Ms Ritchie has a Facebook page ‘‘Tails from the Trail’, or to make a donation to the National Stroke Foundation, go to her fundraising page at http://doit4stroke.com.au/ tailsfromthetrail
BEL AND HER BOYS: Belinda Ritchie and her three horses Clincher, Trump and Rube