Endurance Equestrian Competition

 

Endurance Equestrian Competition

The Endurance Equestrian Competition, a Test of Raw Guts and Power.

 
Lusitano-056The Endurance Equestrian Competition is a Test of Raw Guts and Power.   Endurance riding competitions were made for the tough and well-prepared riders and horses.   They are not timed and they are not watched all through the course which goes through wild country where there are no roads, going up and down mountains and crossing streams and rivers etc.   Endurance riding competitions started in the United States when cavalry soldiers needed to prepare themselves and their horses to travel long distances in the field.   During that time each horse was supposed to carry three hundred pounds over one hundred miles of any kind of terrain in one day.   This was a training exercise though.
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Lusitano-019The Endurance Equestrian Competition started in 1955 when a man called Wendell Rafie decided to ride with a group of men from Lake Tahoe, across the Sierra Nevada all the way to Auburn in twenty four hours.   It was a grueling trip.   When they finally arrived, beat and exhausted, the decision was made to turn this into a sport.   Later it was adopted by FEI as an International Equestrian Event.   Endurance competitions did not start in Europe until the 1960s.   Although the audience is unable to watch it continuosly all the way through the competition.   In modern times it is enjoyed on television while helicopters fly over the teams keeping the audience informed and watching every step of the way.
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Lusitano-050The competition is done in different manners in different countries.   The FEI competition has two modalities: a one day endurance race, and a three day race.   Both races are divided in stages or legs where the team is allowed to rest and eat before starting the next leg.   During this time the horses are checked by a veterinarian who declares them able or unable to continue.   The length of the race varies from event to event.   The average length is one hundred miles per day.   A three day race they will go for three hundred miles.
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Lusitano-063When the competition started in the 50’s, each rider was handed a map and a compass so he could find his way around and stay in the circuit.   The map pointed out the location of compulsory obstacles and the rest spots and veterinarian inspections.   Today the rider carries the same map but he finds his way using a GPS.   Most of the sections or legs are located in open country roads and places.   But some of them are done in completely wild country where there are no houses.   A team may be required to ford a stream or river right after coming down a mountain.   It may be difficult to help a rider if he has an accident or gets hurt.   In these wild legs, it is a requirement that less than ten percent of the territory to be covered during the race be populated or have any kind of roads.
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Lusitano-059The race includes many different types of terrains and natural obstacles.   Man-made obstacles are not included anywhere in this competition.   The rider uses his map and GPS to find the obstacles he must complete.   These obstacles can incluse fallen logs, or thick forest brush or anything else but a nice walk down a prairie lane.   This competition is not timed.   The first rider who arrives and his horse is declared abled to continue is the winner.   Riders must learn to pace their horses and save their energy for the long haul ahead.   The only restriction with regards to how they complete the race is that the rider must be on the horse when he crosses the start line and crosses the finish line.   If during the way the rider wants to give the horse a breather he may stop to rest or he may get off and walk or jog besides his horse.
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Lusitano-018Time in most competitions is not the most important issue.   But it is kept anyway by establishing a minimum and maximum time allowed to complete the race.   The team can usually stay within these limits without too much effort.   There is plenty of room both ways to move along at their own pace.   The only thing is that when certain markers along the way are reached the team must continue straight to the camp without stopping for anything.   But before reaching the marker they can check their time and calculate how much they have left to reach the camp.   If they are ahead, they can stay there as long as they want.   If they are behind schedule they can speed up to catch up with the others.
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Lusitano-036The only acceptable stop after the marker is passed is if the horse wants to drink some water in a creek or stream.   This is considered a good gesture towards the horse because they do not usually stop unless they are thirty.   The rider must continue immediately after the horse finishes his drink.   To compete in this discipline the rider must not only be proficient in any terrain on his horse but he must also know about survival and especially how to read a map and use a GPS device. If he is not experienced in these matters he could suddenly find himself alone, in the dark in the middle of nowhere.   The horse requires a lot of training too so he can build the necessary stamina and endurance to go through the trial in one piece.   The training method used with these horses is usually one recommended by Xenophon thousands of years ago.   This training still works not only for endurance racing horses but for animals dedicated to other disciplines.
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Lusitano-022This training is an on and off technique where the horse changes paces and speeds constantly every certain distance.   This method allows the horse to gain strength and endurance while keeping its muscles flexible and strong.   For endurance preparation the horses are trained going up and down hills, jumping and walking through brushed terrain and even going through sand draws.   This toughens their muscles and give them the needed strength.   It is believed by many who understand endurance riding that this is the reason why Arab horses have so much success in endurance riding.   The sand has given them the energy and stamina that horses that have never walked in sand do not have.   Another factor that experts attribute to the Arabs success is the shape of their heads and the size of their nostrils which allows them to inhale more air and keep the blood in their heads cooler than the average horse does.
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Lusitano-032The reality is that all these facts are nothing more than theories.   Any well-trained, strong horse with a good rider can win an endurance race if the team works well together and trust each other without reserve.   Good training, trust and understanding are the base of any great competition championship team.   Even the horses coming from traditional breeds with spectacular fathers and grandfathers will not necessarily be great competition horses.   A great equestrian competition champion has to have the heart, the courage and determination to go all the way, in style.
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