Endurance: the sport of ultimate rider and horse fitness
24 October 2016
Australia is rich in our vast array of sporting fields, and horse sports are no different. There are many different horse sports and each have their own merit and levels of varying difficulty for both horse and rider. Each horse discipline can be taken as a stand-alone sport and horses and riders bring to each sport a variety of skills and abilities to strive for success.
Endurance is a sport of horse and rider fitness, a marathon of distance riding that measures the success of the event completion in time in which the ride is completed and health and fitness of the horse. I spoke to Endurance rider Ellen Vine after her recent ride at the Australian Endurance Championships, the Tom Quilty Gold Cup.
Ellen grew up with horses and like a fortunate few of us, has spent her whole life riding horses. Her attraction to the sport of Endurance started at a young age, with her family owning an Arabian stud, Henley Farm Arabians. After many years of riding with her local Pony Club, in 2010 Ellen bought her own Arabian and started competing in Endurance.
Castlebar What’s the Goss, (Goss), is a mare of pedigree Endurance bloodlines, and the foundation for Ellen’s Endurance riding career. Many of us riders dream for those good horses that allow us to be the best, dream big and get us to those new highs– and this mare is exactly that. Good breeding although not everything, can eliminate some unwanted characteristics in a horse: bad temperament, poor conformation, poor performance history. Goss, has got it all, although a little on the smaller side (14.2hh), she has amazing ability (in endurance terms: “can maintain fitness”), and a very willing attitude, though not without some little nuisances.
Like every sport, big things do not happen overnight, and Ellen and Goss have been training for the Tom Quilty for three years. This year was the first year she successfully qualified for the event after competing at the New South Wales State Championships held at Woodstock (an 80km event).
Ellen and Goss are testament to modern horse riding. The strong focus on horse and rider fitness leads to intense training, lots of miles in the saddle and a huge amount of conditioning. Equine physiotherapy is an emerging discipline and Ellen strongly believes in keep her horse physically strong and at her best, and uses Wining Edge Veterinary Physiotherapy to keep her mare in the best condition prior and during events.
Horse riding is the unison of both horse and rider, and like our Olympic slogan — two hearts ride as one — is very much the essence of every horse sport. Rider fitness is also imperative and to maintain fitness for endurance, Ellen too has to work hard. Diet although very important, is not over analysed by Ellen, who believes that eating good healthy food is always a key to success (never mind the occasional naughty snack). Preparing for an event, Ellen would often dismount and run with her horse for a few kilometres at a time to change things up and keep her fitness high.
Although this year’s Tom Quilty did not go exactly to plan for Ellen and Goss, unfortunately vetting out at 120km into the race, sadly that is but the nature of the game- no matter how hard you train and prepare, it all comes down to how well you go on the day. This has not deterred Ellen one bit, and she is already preparing for her next events with the Tom Quilty in sight for next year!
So for all of you budding Endurance enthusiasts– find a friend, get involved, have fun training hard and be the best you can be with an animal that will be with you every step of the way!