WHEN most school students were spending the holidays playing video games and hanging with their friends, Wagga's Courtney Lewis was competing for a national title.
The 14-year-old Mater Dei Catholic College student made the marathon two-day road trip to South Australia's Barossa Ranges to compete in the prestigious Tom Quilty Gold Cup.
The cup is the national championships for endurance horse riding and brings together hundreds of Australia's best riders.
Created by famous Australian horseman Tom Quilty in 1966, the Gold Cup is now known as the largest professional endurance ride in the southern hemisphere.
It was Lewis's first time travelling to South Australia to compete, and she ended up running third in the junior division on horse Kyang Mister Personality.
The pair was one of just nine to finish the 160-kilometre endurance ride in their division, and Lewis returned home to Wagga with one of the coveted buckles she went over there to claim. She says while the trip took a lot of effort and organising, she loved the experience and was stoked with the result.
"The trip itself was really long, it took us two days to get over there," Lewis said yesterday while enjoying the last of her school holidays.
"Because we had the horses we had to keep stopping.
"It was the first time I'd been to South Australia for riding and the whole family came over with me, so it was pretty fun.
"I enjoyed it."
Dad Col, mother Donna and two sisters Bridie and Maddison made the trip over to support her and were rapt when she finished third.
Lewis and Kyang Mister Personality completed the five legs in a time of 14 hours 48 minutes, just two minutes behind second-placed Colleen Krahnen and Connor Krahnen.
The riders start the endurance race at midnight and have to complete the five legs within 24 hours, and need to have their horse vet-checked at the end of each leg to ensure it is fit to keep going.
Nine of the 18 horses entered in the junior division were unable to finish due to medical reasons.
Lewis has enjoyed a stellar 2011 season on her horse and qualified for the Tom Quilty Gold Cup when she ran second at the state championships in July.
She has been riding horses since she was just seven years old, and both her sisters regularly compete alongside her.
Lewis will now begin preparations to tackle the 120km Snowy Zone Championships in Coolamon, but is planning to travel to Tasmania next year to try to better her placing in the Quilty Cup.