In national squad

SAFELY HOME: Norbert Radney brings West Coast Acheron home at the end of the 160-kilometre Qasim Challenge at the Collie race course on Saturday.
SAFELY HOME: Norbert Radney brings West Coast Acheron home at the end of the 160-kilometre Qasim Challenge at the Collie race course on Saturday.

“HE’S a tough little horse,” remarked one official, as 13-year-old Arab stallion West Coast Acheron strolled past the finishing line after a 160-kilometre trek through bushland south-east of Collie.

His journey had started shortly after a midnight on Friday, following a vet check, and ended between 4.30 and 5pm on Saturday.

The little chestnut had not raised a sweat at the end of his journey around the Collie racecourse and through the bush.

He had been cantering towards the finish when his rider, Norbert Radney, slowed him to a walk.

Another rider explained that coming in quietly would lower his heart rate and help cool him down before the compulsory vet check.

The cool wind would also help, she added.

After the vet check, there were hugs all around when the WA Endurance Riders’ Association honorary veterinarian, Dr Anne Barnes of Murdoch University, announced Acheron and Dr Radney had qualified for the Australian squad to contest the Senior World Endurance Championships at Euston Park near Newmarket in England during August.

Even before Acheron and Dr Radney finished the event, Dr Barnes said they were well within qualifying time so there was no need for Dr Radney to push his mount.

Acheron would not want to race without other horses around him, she said.

Dr Barnes, who also chairs the Endurance Riders’ Association’s national selection panel, said she would preside at one more qualification ride in Queensland.

Final selection of the national squad would take place in June.

“It’s nice to have a choice between qualified combinations but a devil of a job to choose between then,” she remarked.

Also involved in the weekend selection was New South Wales judge Dr Patricia McKay-Annetts.

This will not be Dr Radney’s and Acheron’s first trip abroad. In September 2010 they competed at the World Endurance Championships in Kentucky. They did not complete the course, being pulled out for veterinary reasons.

Earlier in the year, Dr Radney and his wife, Jane, were both riding to qualify with Acharon for the world competition. Both could not ride the one horse so they tossed for it and Norbert won, Dr Barnes said.

About 80 riders and horses contested the various competitions at the Collie race course.

Getting top billing were the Qasim Challenge, a three-star160km ride, a two-star 120km and one star 80km ride.

There were also 25 and 40km rides for younger and less experienced horse and rider combinations.

Most of the competitors had camped at the racecourse the night before and quite a number remained on Saturday night.