When October 7 comes around, Tahnaya Mercieca will become one of the youngest riders in the Tom Quilty endurance ride.
The 12-year-old MacKillop College student will be riding Malleegrove Qaarma, her 15-year-old pure-breed Arabian gelding, during the 160-kilometre race.
The Tom Quilty, which will be held in the granite mountains of Victoria, is considered the pinnacle of Australian endurance rides.
Qaarma, as Tahnaya refers to him, may not be her fastest horse, with the family owning seven in total, but she loves him just as much.
“He’s just a special horse, I love his characteristics,” Tahnaya said. “He loves attention and he’ll let you know when he wants some.”
Qaarma is quite a fussy horse, who only prefers Tahnaya riding him and doesn’t take well when anyone else tries.
Current preparation for the Tom Quilty is tiring work for Tahnaya and Qaarma, as they get up in the early hours of the morning, even in the middle of winter.
“We do two sessions of one hour a week and then a two-hour ride on the weekend,” Tahnaya said.
“When it gets closer to the race we’ll do one hour a day.”
The gruelling 160km race has five legs and at the beginning of each leg, every horse is checked by vets to make sure they are healthy enough to continue.
With only 215 of the 342 riders from last year’s Tom Quilty finishing, Tahnaya’s goal is set firmly on just finishing the race.
Her focus may for now be on the Tom Quilty, but Tahnaya has cited showjumping at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as her big goal.
In Tahnaya’s last endurance race with Qaarma, she finished first in the junior Gulgong Endurance Ride, finishing the 80km ride in just four hours and 17 minutes.
Tahnaya’s mother Michelle said she couldn’t be more proud of her daughter.
“I love her, I’m her biggest sponsor,” Michelle said.
“I love her dedication and passion.
“If you’ve got a goal and a dream, then you’ve got to follow it and as a parent you’ve got to support your children.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help fund Tahnaya’s travel and entry expenses at www.gofundme.com/2hxxks4.
He’s just a special horse, I love his characteristics- Tahnaya Mercieca