Wild ride is just

Head­ing back to tough race

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­[email protected]­ral­weekly.com.au

SHORT hooves, a kind eye and some­thing that looked like it was ready to run.

Those were a few of the fea­tures Kathy Gabriel looked for when pick­ing a semi-wild horse for the Mon­gol Derby – a 10-day race that stretches 1000km across the vast coun­try.

“But ba­si­cally… I was just look­ing for some­thing that wouldn’t kill me,” she joked.

This year, Kathy, who is the ru­ral per­son­al­ity be­hind pop­u­lar, and of­ten hu­mor­ous, Face­book page Ex­pe­ri­ence

Aus­tralian Agri­cul­ture, pooled much of her re­sources into com­pet­ing in the iconic race.

She was in­jured on day three, after a fiery ride on a bolt­ing horse that only came to a stop with the aid of two handy Mon­go­lian horse­man, and even­tu­ally pulled out by day five from a shoul­der in­jury.

De­spite this, she is de­ter­mined to save again for the $18,000 en­try fee and take the risk rid­ing half-broke for­eign horses.

She has been ac­cepted for the 2020 race and she thinks she can win it.

“Bloody oath I think I can win it,” she said.

“There is a lot of ifs and buts to this race and any­thing can hap­pen, but peo­ple have won it who you wouldn’t ex­pect. I think I have ev­ery chance of win­ning it. That’s what my aim will be when I head over there.”

The last time the Ru­ral

Weekly caught up with Kathy she was work­ing on Eva Downs Sta­tion in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

She has ded­i­cated most of her life to work­ing with horses, and now man­ages a cat­tle prop­erty near Be­nam­bra in the Vic­to­rian High Coun­try.

She first heard about the race when she was work­ing in the north­ern beef in­dus­try and word spread that Will Comiskey, a horse­man from Dingo, Queens­land, won the race.

“Through Face­book I learnt of a few Ter­ri­to­ri­ans who com­peted in the derby – one was Jodie Ward from Kather­ine,” she said.

“I looked into it and just knew it would be mind-blow­ing to be part of.”

Kathy is crowd-sourc­ing some of the fees needed to com­pete. She is also hunt­ing for a ma­jor spon­sor, and when she reaches that tar­get, her race will then fundraise for a Mon­go­lian char­ity dear to her heart.

She is al­ready hard at work prep­ping for the 2020 race, and thinks the skills she gained from this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, which com­menced in Au­gust, will give her an edge.

“Any­one who has done the derby will tell you the most dif­fi­cult part is pick­ing a horse,” she said.

When rid­ers com­plete a race leg, they walk up and down a line of about 40 horses to choose their mount. Dur­ing the race they will ride be­tween 25 and 28 horses.

“The ba­sic thing you look for is a horse that looks fit,” she said.

“I would look at their hooves, be­cause they don’t shoe their horses or trim them, so the shorter their hooves means they have been rid­den more.

“If they are fit­ter they will be able to go fur­ther and faster, and, hope­fully they will be quiet.”

Kathy also heeded ad­vice she learnt from cam­p­drafters and looked for a mount that had “a kind eye”.

It be­came a bal­anc­ing act – try­ing to select a horse that looked both safe and fast. Her main goal was to com­plete the next leg as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“If you pick a fat, quiet one, you might end up walk­ing the whole leg, so in­stead of it tak­ing two-and-half to three hours, it might take you six or seven hours.”

All horses are vet checked be­fore they have a run, and vet­ted again when they reach the next check­point; strict penal­ties are given to com­peti­tors if their horses don’t pass the vet’s re­quire­ments.

Kathy said she rode some “ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful” horses that were smooth and re­spon­sive to her di­rec­tions, but she also had some wild ones.

On day three, the last horse she rode proved to be a hand­ful.

“I picked the horse, they

PHOTO: LAU­RENCE SQUIRE

IN­CRED­I­BLE RIDE: Kathy Gabriel dur­ing the Mon­gol Derby.

PHOTO: KATHY GABRIEL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Herders wait­ing at a horse camp.

A Mon­go­lian herder’s sad­dle.

Graz­ing hob­bled horses.

PHO­TOS: KATHY GABRIEL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

A Mon­go­lian stal­lion.

Typ­i­cal horses that are rid­den – strong with amaz­ing stamina.

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