Meet Our Rider: Ruth Benney (Australia)
Your name, country of residence, and age?
Hi there! My name is Ruth, Im 39 yrs old, mum of 4 amazing kids, married to my childhood sweetheart, and we all live together in Modewarre.
Modewarre is on the edge of the Otway Ranges, in the Surfcoast shire, Victoria.
How long have you been riding horses for? - how many horses do you own?
I’ve been trail riding for as long as I could hold on to the back of a horse by myself. Maybe at about 4 years old I started riding independently. My Dad would saddle up our old standardbred, and I would poke around the farm on him. He was the gentlest horse I have ever encountered in all my time. I ventured further and further away from home as I gained more independence... (and eventually a younger horse). Living in a small farming community I had other farms to explore, and with “back paddock” access to Lake Connewarre I had marshes, and small cliffsides to explore for hours on weekends and school holidays. I would ride my horse ANYWHERE. Ocean Grove, Leopold, Drysdale and every single corner of Wallington, where I grew up.
I have always ridden, EXCEPT, for a period of about 6 years when I was busy having Babies!!! My dear horse by that time was very old, and eventually we had to put him down. I didn’t want to bring a new horse into my life until I had the time to regularly ride him.
I thought I could wait until the youngest child was about 5… I think Ted was 3 when I purchased 2 Standardbred Mares, and a welsh pony. (all on the same day!).
Since then, I haven’t looked back, and again haven’t stopped riding.
I now (currently… this week) have 6 horses.
Rosie and Scout- QH mare and foal who is 3months old.
Smokey- a precious 14hh pony given to me by my dear friend just prior to his passing late last year. Smokey came to me an unbroken 2 ½ year old. I have broken him to saddle, the process being a very fuss free and natural progression of our bonding. This horse is so far the closest in personality to the gentle Standardbred I had as a small child.
Prince-unfortunately has unknown breeding, most likely Australian riding pony. He has his faults, but each time my daughter and I take him out in a group, we are asked if we would sell him. I have successfully broken him in to pull a jinker, this new career he is enjoying as a cart horse has quite likely extended his time in our family of horses, as he can still take us out and about even though my daughter has outgrown him.
Molly- is a miniature pony X Shetland. She is no oil painting but has plenty of spunk to make up for it. I’ve taught her to shake hands (not my greatest achievement as I stupidly taught her to shake with the wrong side), and I have also broken her in to pull a little jinker. I don’t like having horses in my paddocks and them not being stimulated with some kind of activity. Horses enjoy work, and its so good for them… so… hence, molly gets to pull a cart 😊
Aldi- (no, he’s not named after a supermarket!) Aldi is my best mate. 15.3hh Standardbred. I got Aldi straight from the track… literally! I had someone else break him to saddle, so he was VERY green when I began riding him. He was not taught any leg aids… and COULD NOT go in a straight line for the fear of some kind of horse eating creature would attack him from above, below, or anywhere around! Thankfully those days are long gone and only the occasional Kangaroo threatens to eat him up for dinner!!!
What are your main motivations for entering The Gobi Desert Cup?
I was first interested in riding in Mongolia when I read an article in RM Williams OUTBACK magazine. I then watched Tim Copes documentary. These two things got me rather excited about the idea. But, I thought at that point that it wouldn’t be something I could actually do. My friend Bob (who recently passed) encouraged me to do it. he was a Farrier, an endurance rider (in the early days), racehorse trainer, breaker, roughrider and virtually the greatest horseman I’ve known. Bob didn’t throw comments like this around. He would always call a spade a spade. If Bob believed I could do it, I thought to myself, well… maybe I actually could! I’m motivated to do this for Bob, and also to show my kids, and anyone who might doubt their abilities, or who doubt others abilities to prove that big things can be achieved with the right attitude. When I say attitude, I need to have the right attitude to others as well, and be open to advice, not just the nice things like compliments and encouragement.
What have been your major highlights/achievements in endurance riding/equestrian sports?
I have participated in a handful of VERA rides, which are a major highlight, but having family coming #1 for me, and running our own business, it has made the weekend VERA rides difficult for me to get to. I prioritise midweek, (during school time) for my longer rides.
Other great achievements? Some might see them as a miserable list of equestrian achievements! As a child I was very much a loner. Preferring more than anything to head out on my horsey adventures around our Farm, and the Bellarine Penninsula on my own. I was the only member of my family to ride, and I had no friends who rode. I also had no awareness of any possibility of an alternative to pony club! Pony club never appealed to me, I was waaaaaay to shy! My greatest disappointment is that I grew up thinking I wasn’t good enough. I thought I wasn’t Skilled enough (I didn’t have lessons), I didn’t look right (gumboots, jeans and flanno shirt), I had the wrong type of horse (Standardbred!).
If anyone… ANYONE had of introduced me to endurance riding… I would have been fantastic at it! I rode that Standy (the 2nd one I owned) for MILES every night after school and every weekend moment I had! In hindsight he was an incredibly fit horse!
I guess if I was to mention the (horsey) things I’m most proud of, I would say. I’m proud that I ride with my daughter. As a child I dreamed there might be a time I could ride with my own child, (maybe I was lonelier than I realised at the time). I’m proud that I’ve broken 2 horses in to pull carts, and 1 young horse to saddle. These things were goals of mine, and throughout the course I’ve time, I’ve made them happen. I’m proud that I’m still riding at 39 yrs. old (considering that many girls stop riding when they find boys!) and I plan to continue to ride until the day I fall off a horse dead! Im proud of every new thing I learn about horses! There is always something new to learn and I get excited every time I can add to my knowledge. Finally, I’m proud, that I’ve overcome the stupid belief that I’m not good enough.
My GREATEST highlights in equestrian sports… is coming up in August. I haven’t had an impressive “formal” leadup, so what? That’s just MY story, and I feel it’s full of achievements.
What are your long-term goals in the sport?
I really enjoy the challenge of getting the best out of my horse. I enjoy helping him be the best he can be and pushing myself to be the best I can be. Endurance competition is a huge amount of fun, but to have my horse in peak fitness to keep at it, I’m not sure this is the right time in my life. It takes a lot of hours! My hubby, our kids and our business, and also caring for my Mother AND scheduled to begin foster parenting later this year… I’m somewhat “time Poor”.
Regardless of all my excuses, I do wish to continue with long distance riding! The Bicentennial national trail is on my bucket list, and I have also recently become aware of an organisation who takes provisions to remote and hard to reach locations (mostly overseas) on horseback. I think something like this would be right up my ally!
What do you fear the most about the race?
Hahaha! I have this theory, if I don’t think about it (the scary bits), I won’t have anything to fear. It works a little bit.
I am still shy, no-one would believe it, but meeting everyone is nerve-wracking for me. But… I will have my Bestie with me and I have got a lot better over the years.
Im also concerned about injury. I’m not afraid of being hurt as such, but it’s the concern I have of not being able to complete the ride! I HAVE been working really hard with a fantastic trainer to toughen me up. The work has already been proven to have helped as my Mare kicked me in my left inside kneecap just before Christmas. It was a complicated area to be damaged, and the Dr’s including radiographer were puzzled about how I didn’t smash it up more! My trainer and myotherapist put it down to my increase of training. Considering also, that I had dicky knees 2 years ago that I had to take pain relief for, prior to riding, and now I rarely think about them, well…. What more can I say?
How do you think our coaching has helped you so far for The Gobi Desert Cup?
Camila’s information has been fantastic. I also think that having the Messenger group to chat with is really the icing on the cake! The updates pretty much answer all the questions I’ve had to this point, and of course covered plenty of things that I haven’t considered!
For the future weeks, I feel that developing the familiarity with the other riders and Camila, makes it easier to know that everyone can comfortably approach with questions down the track.
List your current personal best in equestrian sports - other sports?
Really?! Again?! Well, I’ve given birth 4 times! Does that count? Seriously, not a sporty girl. But give me a horse and I’ll ride it. Having said that, I’m smart enough to know that if its not rideable… ill tell you to ride it! 😊
What do you feel are your main strengths for The Gobi Desert Cup?
My do or die attitude (can’t go having regrets!), My determination, and the motivations that I have to support me through my determination.
Basically, its my character, and how my character has formed and developed through my life story that is going to give me what it takes to get through this. I’m fit, I’m strong, but I’m not an athlete… and I know that. It is REALLY important to me that I do well in the GDC because this is an opportunity for me to demonstrate to my children that a person like me (boring old mum 😊) can do amazing things when they put their heart and soul to it!
What areas do you feel that you need improvement in before the race?
I really need to get some longer rides under my belt! I’m not worried about the long distance we will be riding. I just want to KNOW how long it will take so I can gauge times and set a good pace.
Do you currently do any other kind of training beside riding horses? If yes, provide details.
I have been going to a PT for over a year now in anticipation of participating in a different race.
I meet twice a week and extend my training time to bike riding with the kids and I have just started swimming again. (I don’t like swimming… ill see how long I can keep at it!)
How much are you riding in preparation for the race, what is your training plan?
Basically, I ride as much as I can! Usually 4 or 5 rides a week. I do also ride out on my ponies with or without saddle and changing stirrup lengths to adjust to the different feel and balance. I’m also wearing my backpack loaded with water and other bits and bobs all the time, (when I bike ride also).
Over the coming weeks I have some longer bush rides lined up on some different horses, each of which of course will have different quirks that will be new to me… to keep me on my toes!
Why do you think people need to sign up to ride The Gobi Desert Cup with you this year?
I love that Camille has put this event together in Mongolia. I think that having it co-ordinated in a way that employs local Mongolian people, NOT disadvantages them or exploits them is brilliant! So, why not contribute to this in a fun and challenging way. Having goals and dreams is an important key to enjoying life, so I think if you enjoy a challenge, love horses and will travel… do it!
Finally, what would be a successful ride for you?
Success for me will come in different shapes for me. Ultimately, Winning the whole race would be BRILLIANT, But, I know that I’m up against some seasoned endurance riders… so I’m going to be respectful of their skills and experience and not think to big of myself.
If I can make a respectable time, for the whole ride, and hopefully in all sections of it I will be thrilled.
Gaining new knowledge and skills throughout my time prior and during the GDC, would have to contribute to my opinion of success, as would my improved level of fitness.
Coming last would be an awful shame, but as long as I knew I gave the whole event my 110%, I could live with it… (I think).
Being disqualified would be the greatest disappointment. (another reason for more endurance competition knowledge).
By Heather Wallace