I' a 'townie' - growing up on the South Coast of England in a small town.
I've always loved horses.
I travelled to Australia in 2000, spending four months as a jillaroo in the Northern Territory, got the obligatory horse tattoo and accepted that that had been my 'horsey' experience of my life.
Fast forward 10 years later, seven months pregnant, I became the proud and very inexperienced owner of a yearling.
"You won't ride now that you have kids," everyone said.
"But determined as I am, I had not waited until 35 years of age to own a horse to let kids stop me now.
Since then, Monty (Mariba Shazam) and I have learnt everything from each other.
Every testing situation has simply brought us closer.
Monty dislikes being fussed over, hates my cuddles, and acts just like a naughty teenager at times, but is the most reliable friend, without him, I would be in a very different place.
Joining the WAERA (Western Australian Endurance Riders Association) family 12 years ago, I never dreamt I would find such utter happiness and friendships.
Every single person I have spoken to (and that would be quite a lot) has helped me along the way.
While volunteering at the Easter Marathon in 2018 and 2019 I watched in awe as several friends achieved their successful completions.
Having ridden three separate 80 kilometre rides and now a qualified endurance horse and rider, I still could not possibly comprehend riding three in a row.
Training with my ride buddy, attempting qualification for the Tom Quilty (100 miles or 160 km in one day) since January, we were going well until equine luck had a cloudy day for my training partner.
What shall I ride now?
As we had been training towards 160km, I thought, bugger it, I'll enter the 240km Easter Marathon, I have nothing to lose.
Easter Marathon 2021 is 240km, being 80km over three consecutive days with the same horse.
Starting at 4am in the dark was a novelty for me and Monty, he handled it beautifully, as everyone says their horses do.
Following small fluorescent markers stuck to trees is not as hard as it seems.
My training partner's advice parrot was sitting firmly on my shoulder telling me to take it steady, so we did.
OMG - we vet checked through the first leg (40km) and apparently I only have to do it all again five times more.
Teaming up with an endurance legend, we do leg two.
I just have to get up at 3am the next day and do it again.
I cannot believe how well Monty is going, I am feeling good too.
At this point I'm rather glad of the mountain of extra personal fitness training I have been doing since October.
I can honestly say, I am enjoying every kilometre.
Sometime that afternoon, as I lost all track of time, a successful vet check after 160km, I have a quiet tear walking Monty back to camp, giving some worried friends the impression I had vetted out.
I confirm that they are tears of sheer pride for my horse and what we have achieved today.
We have never ridden any further than 80km up to this point.
Any kilometres we make on day three will be icing on the cake.
My nerves are on edge this morning at 4am as I am beginning to think we could actually do this.
My training partner parrot and my ride buddy Cassie, both squawk in my ear that this is just the first of two 40km rides.
Off we go and before I know it, we are home, vetted through and going out for the last 40km.
Then at 10km in, Monty hits 'the wall' - soft sand and tired legs don't mix, so we took it even steadier and spent even longer at the checkpoint.
He ate and drank well, and seemed to gain his second wind.
Now I can start breathing again - 30km to go.
After the final checkpoint 10km from home, I am feeling sorry for my riding partner Cassie who has listened to my waffle now for 230km.
We enter the Collie racetrack for the final time, with both horses looking great, I realise that Monty and I have achieved something I never dared dream of - 240km.
I am so tired and completely amazed that we are about to cross the finish line.
I am speechless at the enormity of what my main man has achieved.
Monty did try to give me a heart attack at the final vet check with so many people there to watch us, his heart rate went sky high.
Thanks to everyone who helped to bring it back down to a very respectable 45.
Our awesome president Anna Erickson did exactly the right thing and calmly but firmly escorted me away from my horse as I suspect she could feel my heart rate exploding.
At the final trot out those vets don't give a thing away on their faces.
I dared to look up on our return to the head vet, (80m run has never seemed so long) and got thumbs up, everybody cheers as I scream in happiness and cuddle Monty, who tolerates it for a few seconds then tells me to let him go.
Much congratulating and champers later at the presentations, there are cheers and tears for the riders who achieved completions.
Then my world just went higher, I was awarded Best Managed Horse.
My husband cried, I cried, words still fail me and I am in tears writing this - 240km Marathon Best Managed Horse - for me, it doesn't get any bigger than that.
I love you Monty, you rock.
As only endurance people do, as soon as you finish one ride, they ask you what you're riding next.
All being well, we shall enter the 160km Qualifying Tom Quilty ride.
With endurance riding you can only saddle your horse, start the ride and see what happens.
As I have wildly exceeded my dreams to not only own a horse, but to come this far with my best friend, I say, bring it on.
May the spirit of the Easter Marathon live on,
To complete is to win.
Tom Quilty endurance ride
Collie will host the Tom Quilty endurance ride from October 1-3 after the event was postponed last September due to COVID-19.
This will be the 55th running of the event and the sixth time WA has hosted it.
Riders have 24 hours to complete the entire 160km course that starts at midnight on the Friday night, sometimes with just a slither of moon.
Riders tackle the event over five legs to return each time to the racecourse to be deemed fit by the veterinary panel to continue the ride.
In the sport of endurance riding the welfare of the horse is paramount.
The horse must pass all of the veterinary check points including the check at the end of the ride.
The criteria for this is the same following each leg.
The horse must not only be sound and metabolically stable, it must in the opinion of the vets, be fit to continue, even at the finish line.
For more information and updates - go to tomquilty2021.com or the event facebook page at facebook/TQ2021.com