H4C ‘Stories from the Saddle’
As I head out for my early morning horse ride before normal daily station routines begin; teaching my two youngest daughters via distance education whilst studying a diploma of agribusiness management, preparing meals as station cook for up to 20 mouths, NT ICPA President duties, NRWC CRT duties, NTSDE Council chair duties, mustering, fencing, gardening, horse training, mother, jack of all trades-master of none...my mind wanders back to that month when it was simple: get on my horse and ride up the track…
Join me as I reminisce over ‘Stories from the Saddle’ when we rode 1,000km, over a month in the saddle to raise awareness for Bush Kids.
No ‘I’ in TEAM!
Driving the 1,460kms return trip into Alice Springs the week prior to embarking on our epic adventure to pick up Tash from the air port, I couldn’t help but muse that she’d already had quite the journey just getting out to Suplejack for our 1,000km horse ride to start.
Tash is a dental nurse from Qld and took almost 6 weeks off work and travelled half way across the country in order to join me on this amazing ride. The fact that she’d committed and followed through was no small feat. To have a friend willing to put life on hold for such a long period of time to join me on this adventure was simply incredible!
Having Tash along for the ride meant long days in the saddle were often filled with girly chatter. There were times when we rode along in silence due to the exhaustion from the uncharacteristically hot winter (37*C) but generally the conversation was filled with laughter and wistful excitement from anticipation of events ahead.
The week leading up to our departure was filled with shoeing horses, tack and saddlery adjustments, packing the vehicles with horse feed, swags, groceries, camping gear and basically ensuring there was a backup plan for every conceivable problem we might face. Veterinary supplies, first aid kit, snake bit kit, satellite phone, two-ways…etc.
Tash and I hatched the plan to ride from Suplejack to Darwin a year prior, but by the time D-Day arrived the whole quest was feeling very surreal. Was this really happening? When we saddle our horses on Saturday morning 17th June, 2017 and ride out the front gates, what does the next month have in store for us? We have over 1,000kms of horse-riding in front of us, can we make it? Can our horses make it? Will we lose our horses in the desert? Will we have a vehicle break down? Will we get sick? Will we be behind schedule? Will we be so sleep deprived and saddle sore that we just can’t go on? What on earth does the next month have in store for us…?
Our support crew had doubled just the day before we were due to ride out, so when Saturday morning arrived there was a busy hive of activity…extra bedding, camping gear and ensuring a third vehicle was packed with enough water for 3 days on the road before needing to be refilled. In hindsight I can’t see how we would have managed without Aunty Marg and Dennis (our ‘water boys’).
Aunty Marg and Dennis came out to ‘Suplejack’ from their home in Qld to visit a week before the ride started. You’ll have to ask them whether in hindsight it was good timing or bad!
Aunty Marg is one of Dad’s older sister’s from a good catholic family of 10 kids. There are many members of our Cook Family, I have 68 first cousins on my Dad’s side; our family is big, generous, kind and supportive beyond imagination! This is well exemplified by the way Aunty Marg and Dennis jumped on board to help out with our cause. They took a month out of their lives at the drop of a hat to dedicate to the ‘Horses for Courses’ – Ride for Bush Kids. Aunty Marg and Dennis’ week with us turned into over a month of slow dusty trekking across the Northern Territory.
Rod and Norma had their wagon packed to the hilt with all the essential camping gear, cooking utensils, camp shower, fridges etc. Norma was number 1 chief cook and bottle wash. Her scrumptious meals were different every night and she ensured we ate like kings. Norma’s Kitchen consisted of a little gas cook top and an open fire. Norma kept us healthy and nourished with her loving meals.
From the day of inception when the H4C ride was to become reality, Rod and Norma committed to being right there to support us. It’s hard to describe the feeling of having that commitment from day dot, there’s a definite security in knowing these two wonderful people had our backs! Rod oversaw everything went to plan on a daily basis and was our go-to man whenever anything needed attention.
Every day for 32 days these incredible four people ensured our campsites were safe and secure for people and horses, we had enough precious water to drink for not only us but again also for the horses, they set up their tents every afternoon and packed them up every morning, cooked incredible meals, repaired vehicles, set up camp showers and set up and packed up camp. Every day for 32 days they kept us safe and on track! They are simply amazing, inspirational, wonderful friends to have supporting us!
My family, are my unsung heroes. Their backing in the lead up and from afar during the ride was beyond imaginable. Dad saved the day many times before the ride started with provisions and ideas. My brother Cambo shod my horses and Mum was right beside me, offering moral support every day in every way leading up to us riding out the front gate.
Mum was the one who I bounced ideas off. She proofread, created, organized, made phone calls, helped me plan and even sat for hours doing an external RSA course in hospitality to ensure we could offer our parched guests an alcoholic beverage at the Fundraising Arrival Dinner. If it wasn’t for my Mum’s shoulder to lean on, I’d have surely fallen off the perch!
…And so there it was, we were ready to roll…Rod was behind the wheel of my little truck, Norma driving their wagon and Aunty Marg and Dennis in the ute, all three vehicles stacked high with gear, we were quite the snail paced convoy!
Our ‘farewell committee’ made us feel like rock stars as we rode out through the front gates of Suplejack. There was clapping, cooee-ing and yack-ai-ing, three of my four kids, Jesse, Shannai and Kiralee, Mum & Dad, Cam & Leza and their 5 Kids and the boys working at the station at the time, Jordo and Mat and brother-in-law Jake, all there to cheer us off.
There was lots of excitement as we rode out the gate and over the hill, yes it was kind of a big deal…a years’ worth of organising and campaigning had come to fruition and as we rode out of sight and I felt an incredible feeling of pride, gratitude and love!
The people we surround ourselves with are the people who define us. People who are trustworthy, generous and kind, supportive, reliable and dependable, the ones we know will be there throughout our most trialing quests. I’m so thankful to have had these remarkable people as support throughout this incredible journey! We most certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did without such an amazing team of people!
Next...‘Stories from the Saddle’ read about: how we had to sleep inside the truck (which was packed to the roof with hay, bags of horse feed and other gear) on our very first night because of A Cheeky Dingo!