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Caloola Farm training weekend, 7–9 June 2008

ACTERA booked the Caloola Farm cottage for the long weekend so that members could take advantage of the excellent (but hilly) trails leading from the farm into Namadgi National Park.

Belinda Hopley arrived early on Saturday with her experienced endurance horse Girilambone Sorceror (Soss) and was joined a bit later (after some dramas with a float plug) by Fia, Talea and Lorien Hasko-Stewart and Adeline Gibson with Blake's Heaven horses Summer Reign, Ventura, Bombora and Dubonnet.

On a perfect cool but cloudless day the horses travelled fast but not too fast for more than four hours, ensuring sweaty horses and satisfied riders, all of whom were intending to compete in the Wandandian 80kms ride the following weekend.

The trails were beautifully soft underfoot. The Namadgi bush was beautiful after recent rains and the creeks, although far from full, were flowing across the trails.

Lorien's horse Bombora thought the first large sandy creek looked like a perfect place for a swim, but after a rapid dismount Lorien managed to stop him diving right in.

When we finally got back from the long ride, the sun was rapidly dropping. Lorien and Adeline had appointments on Saturday night and Talea had a showjumping event on Sunday so the family group had to head home straight after the ride. Belinda and Soss were left to a quiet night on their own, which Belinda used to complete a study assignment.

Unfortunately when Belinda set off the next day for some further training, she discovered one stirrup had broken and had to cut short her ride.

Gertraud and Mark Norton had hoped to come for the Sunday and Monday but had to cancel as Getraud had to attend to her [work].

Cathy and Jeremy Banwell and non-rider husband and father, Martin Banwell arrived on Sunday. After a short ride for Cathy and Jeremy, they enjoyed a family barbecue and an early night. Cathy had her trusty Lac-la-Biche Talique and Jeremy was riding Blake's Heaven Caruso, a four year old, on his first weekend away from home.

Other non-riders, Marg and Simon, also came out for a couple of hours and did some quiet bushwalking on the good trails.

On Sunday night the horses were intrigued rather than frightened by some local fireworks - as well as the braying donkey in the next paddock.

On Monday morning the Banwells left the very cosy cottage for a bushwalk and returned to find that Fia and Talea had arrived back.

Despite forecasts of rain or worse, the weather held and was overcast and cool without being frosty. This time the riders headed up to the NSW Border, including a testing 5km climb up a mountain. Despite the hills, Jeremy's mount coped extremely well and somehow managed to sweat less than the experienced endurance horses. The horses were all very well behaved until just as they were about to leave the national park, Reign kicked Caruso in the chest. Thankfully Caruso was not injured, and not even lame or sore, but as a lesson to naughty Reign Talea rode him off home on his own (which was good training of a different kind).

The riders who could not make it missed out on a lovely winter's weekend, without the freezing winds and sleet which can sometimes arrive very quickly in Namadgi - a sign of global warming, or just good luck? Those of us who did make it had a wonderful time amid spectacular scenery and came home with fitter horses, which was our aim.

The only downside of the weekend was the very rough and corrugated dirt road into Caloola, but as usual with many difficult roads, it was worth it to be able to ride in such magnificent conditions.

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