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Kambah Pony Club member, Talea Hasko-Stewart, wins 2008 Youth Encouragement Award – ACT Equestrian Association

Talea is currently on a personal holiday in the UK. I thank her mum, Fia, for providing some excellent information for Talea's rider profile.

Talea qualified for this award by achieving outstanding and consistent results in endurance riding to become the National Junior Distance Rider with 1504 km in successful competition in 2008, more than any other rider in NSW, and placing 2nd for National Junior Pointscore.

Talea Hasko-Stewart receiving her award from ACT Equestrian Association president, Christine Lawrence.
Talea receiving her award from Christine Lawrence, ACTEA president

Points and distance were gained through numerous 1st places and other placings at rides of 80 to 160 km in length, winning junior rider in the 400 km Shahzada Memorial Test and placing 5th overall.

Her two horses last year, Blake's Heaven Summer Reign and Blake's Heaven Ventura, were also placed highly in their individual horse pointscores, at both the national and national junior levels.

In 2009, having already completed 620 km in endurance competition, Talea is on the long list for the Australian endurance squad to represent Australia in international endurance competitions. She is also entered in another major endurance event known as the Quilty.

Talea started endurance riding at the age of 6, riding her shetland pony in the 15 km social ride based at Equestrian Park. By the time Talea was 8, she was competing in rides of 80 km–plus. She is also a regular volunteer helping with the running of the local endurance rides and in particular with marking the course.

Pony Club is still an enjoyable part of Talea's riding routine as she likes the other disciplines too; and since she has started concentrating on her dressage and jumping she has progressed a lot in the past 9–12 months. She can also see how good this type of work is for the horses' overall well being. It is important that endurance horses are balanced and able to work on both sides, otherwise they cannot remain sound and free from back/hip issues over hundreds of kilometres.

The Hasko-Stewart family team is called Blake's Heaven after their property and registered stud name. Talea assists with the breaking of the Blake's Heaven horses, including Reign and Ventura. All of Blake's Heaven horses are broken in using soft English hackamores. These allow the horse to eat and drink freely, especially during such long rides, and are much nicer for the horse than a bit. They can also be ridden with bosals (a rolled nose piece) or rope headstalls. Unfortunately, pony club does not allow the use of hackamores so Talea rides Ventura in a bit for pony club and as a preference, they are trying a Myler bit and a similar German-made jointed bit to avoid the 'nutcracker' snaffle action.

All endurance rides are vet controlled and if the horse is not deemed 'fit to continue' at the end, you have not completed the event. Complete care and awareness of the horse's body and hooves are vital.

For most of her endurance rides, Talea's horses are barefoot. She and her family believe barefoot is best because of the role of the frog in pumping blood to the legs. Their horses have had great success barefoot but also some frustrations. If the course is harder under foot, especially gravel roads, they wear hoof boots mainly at the front, but boots can also rub and cause discomfort. After trying a number of boot styles, Talea and her family now use 'Renegade' hoof boots, but for very high-level events like Shahzada or the Quilty she is now inclined to shoe just for the event. Talea's mum, Fia, does the hoof trimming herself.

To compete in endurance you don't have to be a great rider, but you cannot do it seriously (like any discipline) without being a balanced rider and understanding the basics of flat work. When you start, you do a lot of trotting; as you get faster you do a lot of cantering and fast work. You have to be keen and like riding because you spend many hours in the saddle, and you have to be prepared to treat your horse as a partner and 'listen' to what the horse is telling you – is he or she sore, or otherwise unhappy? Or what are you doing wrong?

Saddle fit is s HUGE issue for endurance riders. Over the years Talea and her family have had many problems and now use mainly Trekker treeless/flexible saddles imported from Germany. They are dressage/endurance saddles and EFA approved. Talea rode 348 km of the Shahzada event in the same saddle and blanket (with an underblanket to let the sweat roll out) without any back problems. They also love their Coverdale endurance saddle.

The local endurance club is ACT Endurance Riders Association. For those interested in endurance or going for your K certificate, the local endurance ride this year will be held in early September at their traditional ride base, a property in Uriarra called Brookvale. There will be a 40 km trainer and a social ride of 20 km or less. ACTERA will organise group transport from Equestrian Park for people who do not have a float.

See ACTERA contact details on this website for more information on starting out in endurance. The NSW Endurance Riders Association (NSWERA) website also has useful information. Talea is only one of a number of very successful endurance riders in the ACT and surrounds.