Thanks and best wishes for the festive season and for 2024

As 2023 draws to a close, I write to express my thanks to the Australian endurance community for their contributions to our sport through the year.

Despite the difficult economic times, Divisional (state) memberships held up pretty well in 2023 with about the same numbers as in 2022. While this is encouraging, Divisional memberships are still about 20% down on 2019 (pre COVID) numbers.

This year’s Tom Quilty Gold Cup, our national championship, was run at the Stirling’s Crossing  complex in June. As always, the facility was an absolute picture and conditions were perfect for the event. 182 horse and rider teams headed out the gate at midnight and, of these, 131 successfully completed the ride. This represented a 73% completion rate, one of the highest on record. Line honours went to New Zealand rider Ashley Cole, who weighed up to middleweight to ensure she was in the running for the win.

I would like to thank the Stirling’s Crossing team and QERA for agreeing to host the event at short notice after VERA, whose turn it was the host the event in 2023, signalled its inability to do so in October, 2022.

Also run this year was the two-day 220km Winton to Longreach ride. Once a focal point of the western Queensland calendar, running from 1980 to 1988, the event was revived in 2023 to celebrate the 100 years of Queensland's Country Women's Association (QCWA) and to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Angel Flight. 32 horse and rider teams rode the event with exactly half – 16 – successfully completing a tough course in trying conditions.

Another of our sport’s premier events, the Shahzada marathon, a 400km event held over 5 days in St Albans near Sydney, was again cancelled in 2023 because of track damage caused by extreme weather. The Shahzada team is looking forward to reviving the event in 2024.

The 2024 Tom Quilty Gold Cup will be run in October at the Wirrina Cove venue in South Australia – the same venue as the 2017 Quilty.  The 2025 event will be held in Sassafras, Tasmania in May 2025 and planning for this is already underway.

I would like to express my personal thanks to the AERA management committee, Divisional delegates and the hundreds of volunteers around the country who keep our sport running.

I wish all Divisional members and the broader endurance community all the best for the festive season and for 2024.