Errol and Gita Thomas and nine-year old Tobin have some of Australia’s best-bred quarter horses in their wider family circle. Living cheek by jowl on the 40 acre block they all call home, the lives of both animals and humans interact continually in a panoply of activity and mutual commitment.
This family — ‘Team Thomas’ they call themselves – is in the top echelon of the sport of Reining, the US’s Western form of dressage and as such, quite distinctly its own thing. The tack, the riding methodology and most importantly, the competition judging — which is universally standard and based (says Errol) on performance and not on the politics of personality — are unique.
The Reining champions’ lifestyle requires them to train their current working horses, Bubbles, Gidget and Mr Ed, for up to two hours four days out of every six.
And it’s a sport to which, in a style typical of both Errol and Gita, they give their all or not at all. Their commitment over the eight plus years they have been involved in Reining has paid dividends which are measured by them in terms of the lifestyle they are able to live and the friendships they have made.
Errol, a one-time world champion pistol shooter, is now a top-ranking national Reining Futurity champion. A trophy cabinet full of fabulous silver buckles and ornamental racks of ribbons and rosettes bear testimony to his — and Gita’s — successes in the ring.
Gita, who runs her Australian-first franchised hairdressing coaching business, Salon Advantage, from home, has reached Intermediate ranking in a sport that begins with Green and moves through Rookie, Limited and Intermediate to the pinnacle of Open.
As a beautiful Darling Downs sunset begins to bloom low on the western horizon, Errol, Gita and young Tobin do their stuff in the huge arena behind their home. Their horses gently lope in disciplined circles, the reins loose and the control of the riders seemingly (but indeed not) effortless. A sharp gallop from Mr Ed, ridden by Errol, ends in a spectacular sliding stop brought about only by the word “whoa”, the dust softly settling in harmony with the setting sun.