Horse-riding pair share rural education message in NT

Raising awareness: Tiani Cook, flanked by daughters Shannai and Telia Wade, shared her Horses for Courses experience with federal ICPA delegates in Alice Springs. Picture: Sally Cripps.

Raising awareness: Tiani Cook, flanked by daughters Shannai and Telia Wade, shared her Horses for Courses experience with federal ICPA delegates in Alice Springs. Picture: Sally Cripps.

A journey of story-telling is how Tiani Cook described the epic horse ride she and childhood friend, Toowoomba’s Tash Walker, undertook in the Northern Territory last month.

Tiani, the president of the Northern Territory Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, told the federal ICPA conference in Alice Springs she and Tash had raised $13,000 for the education lobby group with their 1000km trek, but just as importantly had raised awareness.

During their 31 days in the saddle, from the front gates of Suplejack Downs 730km north of Alice Springs in the Tanami Desert, to Darwin, they were often joined along the way and given lots of physical and moral support.

“We told of the ICPA story and of the needs of our children,” Tiani said. “Probably 80 per cent of the people we spoke to didn’t have a clue what ICPA was, but we’ve reached a nationwide audience through the media now, and the momentum hasn’t really slowed.”

A good percentage of the funds raised came from the dinner held in Darwin at the conclusion of the month-long trek and Tiani said interest in their message of the challenges faced by rural families seeking to educate their children had really snowballed.

“People are keen to organise another for next year now,” she said. “It took us 12 months of planning, getting the word out and so on, so it’s good to start early.”

They averaged between 30 and 40 kilometres a day with their four horses, taking only two rest days for the whole trip.

Looking back, she could laugh about a number of incidents that took place, including Tash’s horse getting away and staying just out of reach.

“You learn a lot about yourself and people in general,” Tiani said.

“We had night time visits from dingoes, donkeys, and pigs but we never lost the horses, which was my greatest fear, with no fences in the desert.

“You also become very close to your horse – I discovered they dream and they snore.”

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