Kentucky Cup Endurance Competitions Start with Challenging Conditions

It was weather fit for neither man nor beast. But, it was not going to stand in the way of the determined horse-and-rider combinations that made their way to the Kentucky Cup Endurance --the official test event for the discipline of endurance riding and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

The day promised two international-level competitions consisting of a 75-mile and a 100-mile race through Bluegrass farmland. But, that would change halfway through the event for those combinations competing in the 100-mile marathon. The footing began to lose its integrity and become excessively slippery for the horses, and they began sliding on the turf. For safety reasons, a decision was made by the organizers to shorten the 100-mile and turn it into a second 75-mile contest. Safety is a very important word in an equestrian’s vocabulary.

As the day started, there was excitement among the many support teams that assist in the challenge of safely managing the horse through the race and the 23 countries gathered from around the world at the Kentucky Horse Park. In the pre-dawn hours, the work began.

Pouring rain and 40-degree temperatures currently face those riders on the trail that includes a 20-mile lap through farms and across busy roadways (state and local police are ensuring stopped traffic). With safety paramount, each lap is followed by a mandatory check-in (or "vet check") where the rider will dismount. What follows is an examination of the horse by a team of veterinarians and support staff to ensure proper temperature, heartbeat and respiration rates, plus a full metabolic profile. Once the horse is trotted to confirm soundness and deemed fit to continue, the horse is cleared, the rider mounts and the race goes on. But finishing first in endurance doesn't necessarily ensure a win. Upon completion of the grueling test, the horse must once again be checked. Only once proper health is established is the result official and the winner crowned.

There is no shortage of winners and champions (and dignitaries for that matter) in the Kentucky Endurance Cup. Current European endurance champion Maria Alvarez Ponton of Spain is competing, as is Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, son of the leader of the team from the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, who dropped out of the competition prior to its start early this morning.

American endurance "royalty"--Valerie Kanavy (a former United States Equestrian Federation Equestrian of the Year and two-time World Champion) is competing alongside her daughter, Danielle McGonigal, also a World Champion. There are a total of 30 American riders in the 100-mile marathon.

"This event is an excellent opportunity for the riders, and especially the large contingency of Americans, to get a sneak peak at what they will face at next year’s World Equestrian Games," said Vonita Bowers, USEF Director of Endurance.

The 75-mile race began at 7:30 a.m., and it is estimated that the first rider will complete the trail in approximately eight hours. With the reduction of the 100-mile race, it is expected that the leaders will finish in a similar timeframe due to the shortened trail.

A complete wrap-up of the Kentucky Cup Endurance event will be issued on Thursday, October 15, following a press conference with the winning riders, plus the announcement of the Best Condition Award being bestowed on the horse completing the marathon in the best physical condition.

For more information on the event, visit www.alltechfeigames.com.

About the Author

Brian Sosby

Brian Sosby is the Editor of the United States Equestrian Federation's EQUESTRIAN magazine based in Lexington, KY. He joined the former AHSA's Sports Operations department in 1999, and moved into Marketing and Communications in 2000, serving as both Business Editor and Assistant Editor before taking on the Editor title. He can be reached at (a href=mailto:Brian Sosby is the Managing Editor of the United States Equestrian Federation's EQUESTRIAN magazine based in Lexington, KY. He joined the former AHSA's Sports Operations department in 1999, and moved into Marketing and Communications in 2000, serving as both Business Editor and Assistant Editor. He can be reached at bsosby@usef.org.

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