Splendacrest Endurance Training has been in operation for 8 years, and was started by Jay Randle in order to address an obvious need for training and education in the sport of endurance riding in Australia. After being introduced to endurance, Jay realised that there were very few opportunities for newcomers to the sport to gain the knowledge and training that would allow them to be competitive. As endurance riding is quite different from any other horse discipline, Jay wanted to introduce young riders to her holistic approach to training, in a supportive and nurturing atmosphere.
Splendacrest is a horse and rider training facility situated in Toowoomba, North of Brisbane in Queensland and Jay has up to 22 horses in work - some of her own - and some in training for their owners.
Jay told me that she grew up with horses and has trained and ridden in nearly every discipline - showing, dressage, showjumping, polocrosse, western - "You name it and I have had a go!" She laughed. "I was in the United States working with cutting horses for 9 years and when I returned to Australia, I realised the it was going to be difficult for me to get back into the sport. A chance meeting introduced me to endurance riding and the level of horsemanship and knowledge about feeding, gaining and maintaining fitness is by far above that required for most horse sports and I was instantly hooked. Preparing a horse for a 160 km ride (100 miles) is a very special achievement and endurance is a sport gaining in popularity. This creates a requirement for a very professional approach to preparing and training horses and an ongoing responsibility to educate and train the newcomers to the sport."
Jay explained, "The origins of the sport are very interesting and endurance was modelled on the "Pony Express" which is known to have tested the grit and stamina of the ponies which made deliveries across the wide open plains of early America. The Tevis Cup is a 100-mile endurance ride for amateurs and has been held annually since 1955."
"The ride is held in Placer County, California, starting at the Robie Equestrian Park and ending near the fairgrounds in Auburn. There are mandatory 60-minute rest stops and veterinarian checks at Robinson Flat (30 milepost) and Foresthill (70 milepost). Each rider who completes the 100-mile course within the 24-hour limit ... and whose mount is judged "fit to continue" is awarded a silver Completion Award Buckle ... and so began a worldwide interest in measuring a horse's endurance!"
"In the early 1960's the legendary Australian horseman RM Williams went to the USA to see The Tevis Cup and felt confident that Australian stock horses and their fit and capable riders could match the skills of their American counterparts. He discussed this with land owner and grazier Tom Quilty and in 1966 Australia conducted the inaugural Tom Quilty 100 mile ride starting from the hills in Colo NSW. The "Tom Quilty" departed from Colo for many years but as the event grew in popularity the venue changed to a rotational system so that enthusiasts from all over Australia could take part. There is no prize money awarded to the Tom Quilty winner - but the gold cup is the recognition that the top combinations in this sport look to have sitting on their mantelpiece."
Jay added, "We prepare a team for the Tom Quilty each year and to have our horses finish fit is what we are aiming for!"
"Anyone who is a competent, confident rider and eager to learn more about the sport, is welcome to apply for a riding position with Splendacrest Endurance Training. The minimum age is 13 years, with no upper maximum age limit! Students will learn all about the sport, including vetting procedures, feeding, health care and general horse husbandry."
"The most important aspect of any sport is to develop youth involvement. No sport can survive unless new members are constantly trained and supported, and in any sport, it is the youth that will carry the it into the future. Splendacrest Endurance Training is committed to promoting endurance riding to young people. One way that this is achieved is by offering an "apprentice" year to prospective junior riders, followed by a "competition" year. These two years of training are provided free of charge to young riders, and this program has proved to be highly successful since its inception in 2001."
Jay has about 14 girl riders under her care and some of them come with no riding experience - just a love of horses and desire to learn about them. The girls come to Splendacrest at least three times a week, Jay feels that this is a minimum amount of time in the saddle, if a rider is to be fit enough to progress and reach a level of competence that will allow them to ride competitively.
The stated goal for these Junior Riders (must be 15 years or under) is to reach the Top Ten in Queensland in successful kilometres ridden in competition (distance). To then attain points awards, as well as Top Ten placings in Australia. To date, the Splendacrest Junior Riders have been very successful and Jay keeps setting goals that will see them develop into top international competitors. It is a great formula and putting the training into practise at an event is a real bonus for the girls - we all share the highlights!"
Jay explained, "The sport of Endurance is governed by two separate bodies, The Australian Endurance Riders Association and more recently the FEI. Endurance was first introduced to the World Equestrian Games program in 2002 when the Games were held in Jerez, Spain. The rules and requirements of the sport have changed quite a bit since 2002 and now the horses must qualify at an accredited competition. Also, riders cannot take part on a leased horse. The FEI system is becoming more popular as people look to qualify for International events like WEG"
"The first level of the sport starts with 80 km rides, then 120 km, 160 km (this is the old 100 mile ride) 320 and 400 km rides. The longer the distance the more demanding the job of getting the horse fit, proper feeding, care of feet, legs and general good health. Attention to detail is the key - the rider must notice everything, even the little things - because a 100 miles in 1 day, tests every aspect of the preparation and little things are the difference between finishing or having to withdraw."
"The girls do not pay for lessons or training, in return they help me with my horses and clients horses that are being prepared at Splendacrest. The only outgoing expenses that the trainees pay for is their competition nominations. In cases where this is difficult or impossible, Splendacrest will find a sponsor or sponsor the rider so that they get to take part." Jay explained.
Above - Jay Randle with international rider, Sachiko Murai, and Shardell Shahbarnah Golden at the Far-A-Way Easter Endurance Carnival, 2006.
Photo by Sue Crockett, www.suecrockettphotography.com
I said to Jay, "It sounds like you are an unofficial Youth Development Scheme of the kind that gives them a real purpose and allows them to have some goals and motivation through the time in their lives that many of their friends and peers will go off the rails?" She laughed and said, "Oh yes, there is a lot of that, all of the girls know that if they want to run away, they are always welcome ... and I have had quite a few stay with me for a while, over the years. It is amazing to see them respond to the responsibilities and ties that are part of working with horses, in particular having their dedication tested by a vet at the stops on a ride - if they do not do their job, the horse will not finish and I teach them all to put the horses first!"
Above - Jay Randle with Tarnia Kittel on Quick and Easy, and Bridget Nottle on Sahateyn Star Dancer.
Photo by Sue Crockett, www.suecrockettphotography.com
Jay has competed all over the world and says "International competition is the true test and all of the training and education that the girls receive with me prepares them for a future at the highest level."
She explained, "Every summer Splendacrest sends a team to New Zealand to learn the "Kiwi" ways and they send a group over here. I have had a number of students take part at International events and am very proud to have former pupils representing Australia at the World Youth Championships in Hungary on September 5, 2009. There are 6 Australian riders and Bridget Nottle got her start at Splendacrest. I was able to find Allix Jones a suitable horse for this event, he will come from a friend of mine in Switzerland. The Aussies leave next week, my love and best wishes go with them all."
"There is a lot for the girls to learn and feeding the endurance horse is of vital importance. I have been a firm believer in Prydes feeds for a number of years now ... it is the best. I feed EasiResponse and EasiPerformance and this gives the horses the energy and stamina to finish their events sound and strong. My feeding regime is probably a little different to some - I feed wet and when I say wet ... I mean very wet - the more liquid the better, as this is the key to successful preparation of an endurance horse. I add Copra Meal to feeds as this allows me to add lots of water and it also provides roughage to their diet."
"Prydes Feeds are highly palatable and this is also a key factor - a horse that does not eat well will never succeed as an endurance horse, a good appetite for the energy feeds is a must and Prydes is a favourite with all of the horses here." Jay concluded.
Jay promised to keep Cyberhorse informed about the progress of Splendacrest and the exciting Youth Team trip to Hungary. Thank you Jay Randle - you are a star!
Above - The Splendacrest Endurance Team at the Peak Crossing training ride.
to contact Jay or to apply for a position, e-mail