Eglinton rider Tahnaya Mercieca has, for the second year in a row, finished in the top 10 at the NSW junior endurance riding championships which were held last weekend in Wisemans Ferry.
Mercieca, who is just 10 years old, was onboard her purebred Arabian Malleegrove Quaarma for nearly two-thirds of a day as she completed the 160-kilometre trek.
She was fifth for the junior division, taking a total of 18 hours, 23 minutes – minus a vetting time of 3h30m for a total ride time of just under 15 hours.
Her mum Michelle even went to the lengths of trying to talk her daughter out of competing given the wet and miserable conditions, but the youngster, who has been riding for five years, wouldn’t be deterred.
“I was doing a lot of pacing around waiting for her to come in at the end of her lap every few hours,” Michelle Mercieca said.
“They started at midnight and it was pouring with rain. The course is unlit and all their vision comes from a lamp they wear on their helmet.
“For safety, every child under 12 has to ride with an adult as a riding partner.
“It is a really tough track and there are spots where you have to jump off and lead the horse up steps and cliffs and that sort of thing.
“They probably average around 15 kilometres per hour. It is about a steady pace rather than really pushing them.”
Tahnaya started riding with the Bathurst Pony Club, and found herself involved in endurance riding through the man who is now her coach, Frank Mollema.
In the last couple of years she has been at the pointy end of state competition, and in between her endurance rides has also managed to finish in the top five for showjumping and dressage at this year’s Inter School State Championships.
“We were fortunate enough to meet Frank, whose property backs onto ours and he is into the endurance stuff. He’s helped her out a lot,” Michelle Mercieca explained.
“She’s been up there in the top 10 in a number of different categories.
“She won her age group in her zone last year for the ‘one horse, one rider’ category; sometimes they might have two horses or two riders in a team.
“At a rough guess, she’s ridden about 1500 kilometres in competition in the last two years.”
Given the gruelling nature of the sport for rider and horse, there are plenty of regulations in place during competition.
The horses must be vetted every few hours to make sure they are well enough to continue, and there are a number of people, aside from Tahnaya herself, who have a role to play.
Sarah Kelly acted as Tahnaya’s riding partner last weekend, while strapper Kevin Kelly, farrier Andy Jones and Mollema in his capacity as coach all played a part in the young rider’s success.