This morning I drove over to Alfiano Natta to watch the endurance races. The venue for this event was Cascina SoleVerde. But when I awoke this morning the fog was quite thick, so I was wondering how it would be when I arrived at the compeition venue which is not far from where I live here in the Monferrato. However, when I arrived a bit of fog was still hanging around.
Two races took place today. The pre-competition veterinary check began already at 8.30 this morning. The first race which was the 50 km started at 9:30. At 11:00 the 25 km (débutante class) race started.
Mostly Arabians were ridden by the competitors. I also noted that the age range of the riders was quite diverse—men and women alike. This is an equestrian sport that riders of all ages can compete in as long as they are physically fit.
As you can see various breeds and cross-breeds of horses competed. I found this quite interesting and I was happy to see this, because I hold the opinion that various breeds (and cross-breds) of horses can finish a competition in good condition. (I will talk about this more in detail later.)
Most of the people at today’s event who were not riding were actually support people for the competitors. There were also many dogs here today—seems to be the situation at equestrian events in general.
It is also essential to know that one does not necessarily need an Arabian to compete in endurance. The type of horse(s) you train and develop over the years for this particular sport is dependent on what your goal is, your horse’s abilities and other factors. After having personally observed many endurance competitions and talked with experienced competitors in various countries, I can certainly tell you that breeds like Akhal Teke, Thoroughbreds, Morgans, and Trotters, can also be used in endurance competitions. Of course, there are mixed opinions about this among horse people–everyone tends to have their favorite breeds. Nonetheless, one should try to keep an open mind to other possibilities.
In the end, it all depends on how you condition your horse and yourself. And, of course, the horse must be able to pass the veterinary checks before and during the competitions. When I was conditioning my horses for events/horse trials and hunter pace competitions years ago, I was using interval training to condition them. I rode Morgans and Thoroughbreds who were extremely fit and could handle moderate distances quite well—without coming up lame. The outcome is dependent on how you train and condition the horse(s) and even bloodlines might have influence. Though in general Thoroughbreds are not generally good for endurance riding.
So, if you are motivated to ride endurance, don’t think for one minute that you necessarily need an Arabian—other breeds can also compete. However, I must say that if you are planning to develop a horse for the 90 and 150 km endurance competitions and want to progressively place well, i.e. being competitive with the majority of the Arabians, then it would be best if you rode an Arabian or Akhal Teke.
If someday you hope to compete internationally then an Arabian or Akhal Teke would certainly be the ideal breeds to compete with. Incidentally, I have friends who compete quite successfully with Akhal Teke. Moreover, some high profile 3-day event riders have also competed in endurance for many years using various horses. However, if you’re goal is to ride in endurance competitions purely for you and your horses own enjoyment and your primary objective is to compete at lower levels and not to compete against the Arabians, i.e. place high, then you can certainly use other breeds and cross-breds. Always remember, each horse is an individual.
One thing that can never be emphasized enough: It is quite important that your horse is in optimum condition for the level you are competing at, passes the vet checks i.e. heart rate is normal and horse is overall sound after the race is over! Your horse’s overall health and well being should always be your top priority! If you always do this you will have a happy horse and one who lasts for many years.
I enjoyed seeing the endurance competition here today–many beautiful horses competing. We regularly have endurance competitions here in Piemonte, and I will certainly keep my blog readers posted about upcoming events. Until the next time…
Addendum (posted 28 November 2012): More to read about the endurance race HERE
By Karin Susan Fester (c) 2012