In 1925, the purebred Arabian stallion Shahzada was imported to Australia by Mr A E Grace, to stand at stud on “Woodlands Grace” near Denman. In his later life he was bought by Mr R Williams of Booralong. The influence of Shahzada on the Arab & Stockhorse in Australia is well known. Some of his famous progeny are Sirdar, champion at the Sydney Royal in 1934; Genghis Khan; Ishamael; and a daughter Judith. The well-known sires Delos and Aethon both trace back to Shahzada, as do well renowned endurance horses - Stony owned by the Webb family; Shieke, bred by R M Williams; Oonoonba Leo owned by Gordon Hobday; and Ralvon Aeneas owned by Sandra Hatton.
The inaugural Shahzada 400 km (250 miles) ride, the longest event of its type ever held in Australia, proved to entrants, organisers and spectators alike, to have been worthy of all the effort and time spent in bringing it to fruition, following some years of contemplation. On August 29th, 1981, the quiet and historically beautiful town of St Albans in NSW, became the base for this most challenging and unique event. With 80 km of hills and trails to be ridden in two legs each day for five consecutive days, the course was laid out with a differing route and colour marker to be followed each day. The marking system utilised a new and most successful idea. Short strips of venetian blind, in bright and easily discernible colours, were tacked to trees and turning points, thus never leaving riders with any doubt as to where to go, for longer than a few minutes between markings. This method could well be the ideal for all future ride organisers to copy.
Equally new, and differing to the normal one hour maximum for vet checks, riders were given the option to rest longer, but they still had to cover the daily distance within the allotted riding time. The daily starting time was also flexible on all but the initial leg.
On Monday, August 30th, at 4am, 26 riders left the misty and cold starting line and headed off into an unknown and unexpectedly exhilarating week. Within the first 50 km it appeared as if the front runners, setting a cracking pace, were unaware what this event meant to most riders, who used the allotted available time to their advantage. After the first leg most took just the one hour break and continued straight out again.
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