About Esther

I am Esther, Daughter of Lindsay Matthews and Maura Luxford, sister to Hannah Rose Luxford-Matthews and Joe Collett (12). I am 20, Hannah died at age 20.

Getting clear on why I would want to ride all the way across our country to raise awareness and funds towards melanoma research in Young Australians is something that I woke feeling on November 5th 2010. What is life if we don’t use it towards something that will outlast us? Finding a cure for cancer is something that will outlast us. Getting young people aware to the dangerous effects of exposure to the sun will minimise the amount of diagnosed melanomas in young people – this will outlast us. The other thing I wish to focus on in this ride is generating hope for brighter futures in young Australians. I want to tell my story as a young person at 18 who lost her older sister aged 20. I want to express my family’s story and motivate people to get out and LIVE. 4600k’s on a saddle horse is nothing compared to the year long journey Hannah lived with cancer. Riding across the Nullarbor Plains is nothing compared to a 13 year old being diagnosed with melanoma. 10 hours in a saddle for three months is only a very small time out my life, and it will be life changing but not life threatening…I want to bring a message to all Australian’s – Hope. I ride for hope of finding a cure to melanoma and minimising the diagnoses of preventable skin cancer. Actions speak much louder than words, BUT with actions and words we can bring about change.

I work two jobs and have been studying full time up until the planning of the trek became a very large part of the hours in my day! I work as a sales assistant at Jay Jays (clothing store) and as a waitress at Park beach Bowling Club Bistro. I have always had a passion about horses, when I was younger I was gutsy nobody could tell me that it was too hard! Hannah and I began pony club at Willawarrin. Once we were old enough Hannah and I began to campdraft and do junior rodeos, on top of junior rodeos and Pony Club we also did natural horse-man-ship on our spare weekends! Mum was always loading up a truckload and sometimes also a float load of horses as well on the back of the truck and carting us off somewhere for a weekend. As I got older I developed a fierce love of showjumping and eventing.

I left home at seventeen taking Diva (a brilliant mare that my Dad had bought me) and Rueben my Jack Russel and went off and worked as a working pupil in the eventing world for a year. I learnt to work hard, and also the value of treating my horses like more than a dollar sign. I was still 17 when Han had her first diagnosis. Hannah diagnosis with melanoma never seemed too serious to me. I never thought twice about it. Han was as she always was, laid back about it and just took it in her stride. I came back to my home town of Kempsey and began riding track work (race horses) and doing some casual work with young horses with a good mate of mine, to pass the time until my next adventure came along. I was share housing in Kempsey with an apprentice jockey when I got the news that Hannah was in Melbourne and the cancer had come back. Luckily for me I had great friends who supported me and shot straight off to Melbourne to be with Hannah and Mum. With a week of being there I scored myself a job at Flemington race track and had a tidy wage coming in each week. Han used to love me coming home smelling of horses and listening to the story’s of the crazy animals I was getting on each morning. Riding race horses is thrilling stuff, but Mum always cautioned me to never fly faster than my guardian angel! The shock and reality of Hannah’s final days hit me like a tonne of bricks. After Hannah passed away I came back to the mid-north coast and began to slowly fray at the edges. Grief is something that is so individual, just like a fingerprint. My grief of losing a sister is incomparable to Mums grief of losing a daughter, and nobody on earth feels what you feel. Learning to live without Hannah was a day by day thing, some days were okay, some were like shoving my heart and soul through a cheese grater and trying to put the pieces back together. But, at 18, I learned that life goes on. No matter what you have to get up, dress up and show up. There is life after loss. I had enrolled in university to study a Bachelor of Technology Education (secondary) and was accepted. I began to piece together plans and dreams I held before Hans passing. I remember the phone call from Mum telling me she was going to ride a pushbike from Kempsey to Melbourne, I thought Mum had lost her mind. But she did it, and did it with passion and purpose. By the time Mum was prepared to head off on her bike ride I had moved to Wagga Wagga and was living and working with Vicki and Des Schiller, both renowned horse people in Australia. I had taken Hannah’s mare Lena there and had  began to do a little bit of barrel racing and roping on her, this was Han’s plan for her and Lena, so I figured I had better do a little living for the both of us! Mums bike ride was a great success, and she had barely arrived home and she was in the saddle of her trusty team of horses getting ready for her next big adventure! Yet again Mums horse trek was a massive success! After coming back to Kempsey for Mum’s send off and being around people who knew Hannah. I remembered I had such strong connections with people and places here, I returned again to the mid-north coast.

At Mum’s arrival in Melbourne with her horses I declared I was going to ride three horses across Australia. So over the months between then and now, I put my passion and determination to good use and have planned the logistics of travelling over 4600k’s on three horses! Lofty, Titan and Meg are my team, and we will take 96 days to ride from Crescent Head (Kempsey)NSW to Perth WA. Leaving on May 2nd 2011 (would have been Hannah’s 23rd birthday) and arriving on August 6th 2011 (my 21st).

I will be keeping you posted! Happy Trails,

Esther. xo

Esther and Lofty (photo courtesy of Daniel Darwin)

Esther and Lofty (photo courtesy of Daniel Darwin)

At Tyrone in Wagga Wagga on Lena

At Tyrone in Wagga Wagga on Lena