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Queensland Endurance rider shares her adventures in France

Following a very successful 12 months on the Australian Endurance Circuit, Queensland teenager Eadie Mc William had three qualifications for the Endurance World Cup for Young Riders and Juniors in Castelsagrat (FRA) on the 2nd September 2023, and together with Team Toft, the decision to represent Australia at this important event on the International Endurance calendar was made.

Eadie is quick to acknowledge the support of the Toft family from Toft Endurance, based in Marburg Queensland who have supported her involvement in Endurance riding since she began lessons some years ago and had her first competition start in 2018.

Eadie has successfully partnered with a number of Team Toft’s horses and said “After lots of team discussion, it was decided that I should take Larntainey Silver Treasure on the journey to the France. Treasure travelled with his stable buddy and arrived at Jean-Michel and Clémentine’s stables where he was given the time to prepare for the hot conditions expected on the 2nd September.

Eadie continues. “It was a very long journey to get ‘Treasure’ from Marburg to Castelsagrat. The flight with International Racehorse Transport went to plan from Melbourne to Hong Kong, then Amsterdam, followed by a long drive in the truck to the South of France. Treasure had a good trip travelling beside his best buddy and eating and drinking lots along the way.”

“Arriving well at Jean-Michel Grimal and Clementine Chaud’s stables, Elevage D’Artagnan, Treasure was acclimatized to the hot weather and began his final preparations for the event. The week before we travelled to Monpazier along with his travel buddy Twilight te. Twilight te did a successful 1* with Alexandra and had a good look at the course for the 2024 World Championships. I was able to take Treasure out on the course and did my final 40km run there on the Sunday before. Off this final trial, he was very sound which gave us a lot of confidence for the week ahead.”

“Early in the week, we packed, repacked and repacked, and then we were ready to go. On the Wednesday we set off for the Youth World Championships in Castelsagrat with Treasure by himself. This was a 3-hour road trip and on arrival, his documents were checked and he had an arrival vet examination and we sorted out the accreditation for the team. Our accreditation for the arrival was already pre-organised by Equestrian Australia and we certainly appreciate their support.”

“When we arrived in Castelsagrat on Wednesday afternoon, Treasure adjusted very well to his new home for the next few days. He never stopped eating and drinking, as well as hand led grazing during the day. On Thursday morning Treasure and I had our first training ride. Having done the event in May, I was familiar with the landscape and remembered some of the obstacles to keep in mind. Treasure loved marching around the training track, an 8km loop with a variety of surfaces, on the flat and also some hills. The more I talked to him and told him he was 'a Good Boy Treas', the happier he was! After a fabulous training ride, we attended the Chef d’Equipes meeting which provided a lot of technical information regarding the event. And after, a pre ride riders briefing. At about 6pm, I attended the official Opening Ceremony where I was brought to the town square by a horse drawn carriage to be presented on stage with my ride bib. It was a very special moment proudly carrying the Australian flag and having my parents and my team to cheer me on.”

“Appreciating a couple of big days ahead, the priority was having a good dinner and an early night. Our team stayed at the one house just 10 minutes from the venue in a small village called Montjoi. Friday was an important day as it was all about the pre ride vet inspection. Treasure presented like the champion he is, his pre ride trot was amazing and we officially had a start in the World Championships. After this, Treasure and I had a very relaxed last training session whilst the rest of the team concentrated on the hold area, the crewing equipment and the on-course vehicle. It was really special to represent Australia being amongst some spectacular horses and riders from around the world.”

“Friday night I was surprisingly relaxed, but didn’t sleep a lot thinking about the day Treasure and I were going to face the next day. We had an early wake up to prepare for the 7am start. My mum was fussing over what I was eating and drinking, and Penny and Alexandra were concentrating on what Treasure ate and drank. Treasure is normally not given a feed pre ride, but on this occasion, he decided to have a small breakfast and lots of carrots. He was saddled and I was mounted by about 6:30am to proceed our nice and steady warm up.”

“The night before it had been raining so made for a lot of mud. We had a great start but stayed extremely cautious as the field was finding the slippery corners and downhills difficult.”

“For the entire first loop, conditions were wet and slippery and there were several incidents with horses and riders parting company. I was very happy with the way Treasure was handling the conditions, he has a smart mind and is very sensible. In anticipation of these conditions, we put road studs in his shoes to avoid any issues. Off the first loop, we were about mid field and Treasure was ready to present on arrival. An incredible first loop trot, straight A’s and 1’s on the vet card and I was feeling relieved to have gotten the first loop out of the way. During the hold, Treasure was eating and drinking well and looking around like he hadn’t done anything.”

“Going back on course, the conditions had improved and the ground was starting the dry out therefore instead of travelling at 14.7kmph in the first loop, we had increased to 16.3kmph. There were big hills and undulation over the whole ride and this really suited Treasure as this was his favourite. Treasure was very happy now in a smaller group of horses, where he was leading and enjoying the track. As with the first loop, we enjoyed the crew points with our Tony and Alexandra provided iced water for the hot and humid conditions. After vetting amazingly off the second loop, he had a hypersensitivity test by the FEI which took about 1 minute and then into the hold for more food and drink and more carrots. My parents were ensuring that I was eating and drinking myself whilst Penny, Alexandra and Tony cared for Treasure. He was being a very good boy.”

“Heading out on the third loop, we were very happy to be maintaining the same speed of the second loop. At this stage I was very happy with how Treasure was travelling and I was really enjoying the ride myself. On arrival off the third loop, he vetted very quickly, trotted extremely well and his vet card was perfect. The hold off the third loop was an extra 10 minutes longer, to allow for a compulsory re-present to ensure all of the horses were fit for the last loop. Treasure presented incredibly with yet again another great vet card and a heart rate of 39.”

“Similar to the other loops, Treasure was very keen to be heading out the departure gate again. It was a great feeling cantering out onto the last loop of the Youth World Championships with still so much strength like we had started. By now the ground had completely dried up and Treasure was taking the course with ease, getting faster and faster eventually catching up to three more horses. The last crewing points went smoothly, and it was great to have the on-course vehicle with our team driving beside me for the last few kilometres. Coming into the ride base was a long hill, Treasure knew where he was an charged up with so much power leading a small group of horses behind him.”

“Crossing the finish line was particularly memorable after such a tough yet beautiful ride, holding hands with an American rider who we had done majority of the ride with. Once again, Treasure presented quickly after a faster last loop going 17.1kmph, with a perfect trot and vet card. This was a super result after such a huge journey. We were very fortunate to have placed 19th out of 70 starters.”

“We are all so very pleased with Treasure’s performance and he is now having a well-earned holiday in France! We look forward to the next adventure.”

Equestrian Australia thanks Eadie McWilliam for sharing her story and hopes that other young riders will be inspired to follow their dream in equestrian sport. Happy riding.

Article courtesy of Equestrian Australian and written by: Berni Saunders

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