Big Three Award has to be one of the most exclusive clubs in the Equestrian world, simply due to its rarity.
The Big Three is something that all riders can achieve. The WEG Games and World championships are, in all practicality, not open to all riders; most of us simply don't have the money to make the attempt.
In a sport that prides itself on its motto 'To finish is to win', there have to be achievements and standards that all can equally aspire to. This is one of them. To display the horsemanship necessary, in one year within a framework of four months or thereabouts, to complete these 3 ultimate rides and still have a horse fit to continue, has to be glowing testament to the rider and horse in question.
The Big Three consists of a successful completion in the NSW State Championship, the 400 km Shahzada marathon and the Tom Quilty Gold cup, our national championship. Records are made to be broken and once the bar is set at a particular height, competitors will plan on how to get over it. It isn't going to be easy but what a fantastic achievement, to realise what you and your horse have achieved together as a team! John Howe
1991 John Howe and Beau Gallant Omen
1994 Sonia Bonham and Santarabia Mazra, Laura Cheney and Coolaroo Cassandra, Helen Lindsay and Kintamani Fosta
1996 Pauline Brewer and Leets Valley Sonny, Louise McCormack and Grey Rose
1997 Shan Symons and Dashandra Sonaria
1998 Shelly Ison and Miss Ellie
2000 Deslee Jones and Dammah
2003 Stuart Hitchcock and Flashlite
2006 Jan Wade and Oakey Dokey
2008 Allix Jones and Shellal Cattle King Flyte, Jan Wade and Hajira Leonie
2009 Carol Major and Major Luke, Rowena Robinson and Karumba Nazrani
2010 Katrina Bodewes and Booramby Silver Elk, Martin Gregson and Burren-dah Gladiator, Allix Jones and Shellal Cattle King Flyte, Carol Layton and Omani Mr Sqiggle, Marion Lengronne and Sasam, Stuart Lymbery and Garonne Park Walker, Noni Seagrim and Rahan Mushtar, Sue Todd and Shakista
2011 Stuart Lymbery and Garonne Park Walker, Sue Warren and Warren Park O.B.One, Sonya Ruprecht and Yahweh-Salih Sir Ibn Gelibene, Dean Walkom and Santa Pasa Zaraq, Cheryl Strachan and Kintamani Sapphire, Julie Brooks and Aloha Byshara
2012 Jennifer GilbertsonÂ and Windaroo Devina Glamour
2013 Julie Brooks and Aloha Byshara, Carol Major and Saradon
2014 Allix Jones and Al Marah Gypsy Red
2017 Jodie Luck Lindall Alabaska; Sarah Lymbery Aloha Typic; Sue Warren Entrourage Era
Jennifer's Accidental BIG 3
When the then three year old Jennifer Gilbertson met her first pony, it was love at first hug.
At age 12 she got her own pony and had the best time riding around Randwick and Centennial Park with her friends and their ponies.
Eventually Jennifer married Graeme and they moved to the Macdonald Valley in the 1990's. Once again all Jennifer's friends rode horses and many were Endurance riders. Jennifer was roped into strapping for Rosemary Scott of Baker's Creek and her horse Pepsi. The ride was Shahzada.
Jennifer was captivated by the Shahzada experience. It was time to revisit those wonderful childhood memories, she already had a pleasure horse that was a13.3 h.h Palose Pony, Gilbertsons Blaxland. Their first ride together was the Mud Hut 40km ride at St.Albans after which Jennifer was well and truly hooked!
In a stellar career that spanned the next 20 years Jennifer did it all: 7 Shahzadas, 8 Tom Quilties,11 State Championships, chuck in The Tevis Cup in America, numerous International rides representing Australia, has 4 World Championships, competing successfully in three and strapping when Australia bought home gold. As well as a total of 29,000 kms. Jennifer has become the most travelled Endurance rider in Australia.
Enter Antonia Gilbertson, Jennifer's Step Daughter.Antonia was a resident of Tasmania and decided that she would like to get a Quilty Buckle in her home state in 2012. Now Antonia does not own a horse and was not qualified. To any one else these would be pretty big obstacles to overcome, to Jennifer – it was just another project.
As Antonia doesn't have a horse and is not an endurance rider, Jennifer would have to come along with her. So she got four horses ready for the challenge. It turned out that two didn't make the grade.
As a mount for Antonia, Jennifer loaned her Kurrajong Shadad, a horse who had been there, done that and done it all again. For herself Jennifer took the left over horse that she had brought for her grandchildren, a pony club specialist, Windaroo Devina Glamour, a part Arabian chestnut mare. The last horse that Jennifer would have considered as an Endurance mount. However, Devina is rather well bred on the Arab side counting Chip Chase and Ralvon bloodlines. A good sound pony, so away they went.
Antonia's first foray into the world of endurance riding went like this:- flew up from Tassie, rode horse, vetted out, flew home to Tassie.
Eventually Antonia did qualify as an Endurance rider and then it was time for her Quilty Qualifier. Two days before the Wingello state ride, Graeme's super reliable Landcruiser broke down. So they hired a car, picked Antonia up from the airport and set off for Wingello. Next, a bearing on the float seized a few miles short of the ride base! Other riders passing, included Ian Burns, picked up and took us to the ride base. Antonia and Jen got their State Championship buckles. Jennifer's eleventh.
Quilty Tasmania in June, here we come. Hello St Helens. Antonia's dream ride.
It was cold. It snowed a little in leg two but those ponies were on their game.
Both riders made it into the Top 10; both riders collected rugs as well as those precious buckles. Numero uno for Antonia, and number nine for Jen.
Project Antonia was now complete.
It now dawned on Jennifer "That's legs one and two of the Big 3″ had successfully been completed!! That wonderful top of the tree achievement that had so far eluded her was a possibility.
In recent years Shahzada has been difficult for Jennifer, but here she was on The "last horse I'd ever choose for an Endurance mount". Well, she's sound, no white on her legs, (hopefully no greasy heel), nothing to loose and everything to gain and why not have a go?
So Jennifer and Devina lined up on the last Monday of August and away they went. There were a few minor problems midweek that were managed and Friday p.m came and the thumbs went up. Shahzada buckle 8 and THAT Big 3 Award WAS THEIRS.
"So what thoughts were in your mind as the thumbs went up"? I asked. "Total disbelief, did it really happen, amazement, jubilation and elation"
Yes, she cried a bit too, but that's obligatory.
So as Jen says," This is the last horse I would have chosen, but she did it like a champion".
The Big 3 is the epitome of excellence for Endurance,
Jennifer's trophy is the 30th presented. There are only 27 riders to be thus honored, three have two Big Three Trophies and so that brings up the number 30.