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What Could Be More Appealing?

Three days in South Africa and I’ve been horse riding twice – all day Friday (beach to town to bush) and 10kms Sunday morning up the road. Rhino were pointed out to me and warthog and there’s promise of many more rides and scenery to come.

I had the joy of riding Top Deck – a roan/grey anglo arab gelding on Sunday morning and was riding with a young man who does endurance riding. The result: trotting 4kms or so before heading back at a walk (only cause my mount felt a bit sore, or I’m sure we would have continued at the same pace).

To keep up with the horse in front, Top Deck extended his trot beautifully or broke into a rocking horse canter which I could have sat to all day. What a gorgeous feeling!

Running a trail ride business is half of the package here. I’m learning a bit about the family’s real passion: endurance racing in South Africa.

A horse will start around the age of four and a half or older. If only four, they can start in 30km rides, but no more than this distance. There are 80, 120 and 200km rides. You can race an 80km competitively or can enter and run the first leg (30km) and if all’s well the next 30 and finally the last 20. You get no recognition of having competed, but do build up km’s for you and your horse.

At the end of each leg, a horse’s fitness is tested and if deemed fine by a vet, you can continue racing the next leg of the ride. Before the race, the Cardiac Recovery Index (CRI) or Ridgeway test is performed on the horses.

The essential element of this test is the horse is put through an exercise period of around 30 seconds followed by a similar rest period. The horse’s heart rate is then monitored a minute after the exercise starts to see if it’s heart rate has returned to normal – this being the heart rate that is taken before the test is started to establish a resting heart rate figure. The exercise is carried out at the trot and over 80 metres – 40 away from and 40 towards the vet.

There is no monetary value for endurance racing though some events have sponsors who provide prizes. However, most are taken part in for the recognition of kilometers for the horse and rider. There is of course also the sense of achievement through having trained up a horse to be fit enough to cover these distances at a trot or canter. If you love your time in the saddle and to be constantly moving, consider this form of horse riding!

“Riding is not a sport, it is a passion. If you do not share the passion, you do not know the sport, and therefore are wasting your time.”

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