Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Endurance competitions for horses and humans

It's all about teamwork, the horse, the rider, the "pit team" who help maintain both horse and rider and sometimes participate in competitions - endurance competitions that is. I had the joy and privilege of being a volunteer helping the veterinarians that check the horses.
 Gringo stands with his owner looking over the campground, the barn and the start line (not visible in this shot)

I learned a lot about horse fitness that day.

There were three different competitions - a ride and tie - which to me must be very difficult. A horse and rider and an extra rider head off from the start line. The extra rider running after the horse and rider who reach a certain spot where the horse is tied and left as its rider heads along the course. The second rider eventually reaches the horse, unties it and pursues the runner, obviously passing the runner, finding the next spot on the course, and stopping securing the horse, then heading off on foot down the path. And so it goes until all competitors are in, their times recorded and their horses given a final vet check.

The other two competitions were "set times" in which horse and rider had to cover a certain number of kilometres absolutely on the dot of the time allotted by those who set the course. Fascinating. The courses ranged on trails through the Ganaraska Forest, one was twelve kilometres (two loops of six with a vet check at the end of each)  the other 25 k.

Horses being cooled before the next round of competition or just before the final vet check where their body temperature must be normal. All the parapharniala in the background is set up by competitors coming for the day.

Approaching the start/finish line
Being checked out - the skin tone, the gait, the heart beat - all sorts of things to make sure the horse is in excellent shape.
And just in case you are concerned that the horses are being coerced or forced to enter these competitions... this video shows a horse who watched his owner ride out on another horse, not him. He was so upset, feeling sure he should be the one to carry his owner that no one could hold him and he was put into this paddock to wait until his owner's return - an interesting sidelight on loved and cared for animals. He called for a long time and ran to the corner where he's last seen his owner ride out. Each horse I saw enjoyed the day - a couple had a problem with an ankle and were immediately pulled from competition, but all were interested in the whole panorama!

All in all it was a terrific day. I have a great deal of admiration for the owners, volunteers (all the vets are volunteers as well) the host of the competition and most especially the horses... what a day! And I get to do it again soon - now is that wonderful?

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