Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meet the WEG Discipline: Endurance - Full Article

22 February 2010
by Jennifer Bryant

The sport of endurance, like those of eventing and driving, has its roots firmly planted in practicality.

Before horses were companion animals, playthings, and sporting partners, they were transportation and instruments of farming and of warfare. To travel distances too great to cover on foot, one needed a horse. A surefooted, hardy mount with stamina was a must for those who had to undertake long journeys.

Today we watch the miles slip by from the windows of planes, trains, and automobiles; but we recognize "the original off-road vehicle," the horse, in the sport of endurance, now an International Equestrian Federation (FEI)-recognized discipline and one of the eight that will be featured at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, September 25-October 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Endurance became a competitive sport relatively recently, in the 1950s, and the FEI recognized the discipline in 1982. As it's conducted in FEI-level competition, endurance horses and their riders traverse a course of 160 kilometers (100 miles) that's divided into several sections or "phases." At the conclusion of each phase is a mandatory veterinary inspection, during which the horse's condition is assessed and monitored to gauge his fitness to continue. The horse is held until his respiration and heart rates, among other vital signs, indicate that he has had enough of a breather to go on.

Time spent in the vet box counts toward a competitor's total time, and so the objective is to start with a supremely conditioned horse who needs as little rest as possible. The horse's fitness and well-being are paramount, and any rider determined to be pushing a tired horse can be disqualified.


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