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Posted by Equestrian Australia on 11/04/2024.
Photo by Peter Kendall

Endurance - an adventure and a partnership

In Australia, there is an upsurge of interest in Endurance riding, and you can see why, as the discipline offers so much for riders who enjoy spending time with their horse and many hours in the saddle taking in nature’s pleasures. 

Equestrian Australia spoke with Queensland Endurance rider Alexandra Toft and asked her to share with members and friends why she and her family love the sport so much, and she enthusiastically agreed.

Alexandra said, “Endurance is a unique sport; a challenge, an adventure and a partnership. It is a pursuit that requires devotion to the horse, who is the hero and best friend in our expeditions.  Endurance riding clubs and competitions take place all over Australia, and anyone can share the fun and friendship, no matter where they live.

Alexandra Toft riding Calcium Artagnan. Photo by Tomek Sport Photos

“Typically, Endurance rides range from 20km through to 160km. There are also multi-day rides with some events starting in the morning and some at night. Families, friends, individuals, and teams can participate. Some like to compete, yet, all have the same goal of spending time with their horse and completing their chosen distance successfully.

 “Out the gate an adventure awaits. Marching along goat trails into the midst of forests and emerging to find the sun rising before you; cantering in large groups conquering vast distances in sandy deserts and trotting along dusty country roads taking in the sun, the wind, and the rain. Any terrain is possible, any weather is possible, and a bond that is formed by the hours of training and care, Endurance is a sport that allows us to realise what is possible, what can be fun, humbling, difficult, and rewarding.

“Endurance riders travel beneath moonlight and torchlight getting a head start on the heat of the day. A competition can start at just about any time, always prioritising the welfare of the horse. Some of the sights at these hours taken in through your horses’ ears, include wildlife, so many tree species, creeks, and torchlights scattered up a mountain as a field of 100 horses and riders ascends together to on top of the world. Some of the sounds include the reliable rhythm of strong hoof beats, owls hooting, horses neighing, and friendly chatter among riders.

 “Presenting a fit and sound horse at every moment is the endeavour. Preparation is multi-faceted involving breeding and development, nutrition, shoeing, training, competition and recovery. Building a connection with a horse and spending years together, can be a rewarding process. Training is by far the most time-consuming part of Endurance. Many horses in the sport have long and successful careers, enabled by slow and patient training and prioritising rest and recovery. 

 “Horses undergo vet inspections before the start of competition, after each loop, and after the course. Vets can prevent combinations from progressing or completing at any point. The parameters for vet testing include vital signs, metabolic signs and assessment for physical injuries and gait.

 “Endurance riders must be prepared for so many possibilities, but adapting to the unexpected is also necessary. Every rock, every creek crossing, every shy, every degree rise in temperature, other horses’ behaviours, other riders’ behaviours, water intake, food intake, and more, are just some of the things which present challenges. Remaining at your own pace, according to your own training and plan, is important.

 Alexandra painted her special picture of Endurance riding, and Equestrian Australia asked her to share information about the recent overseas success of Toft Endurance members and plans for the year ahead.

She explained, “2023 was another good year for Toft Endurance with one our team members Eadie McWilliam representing Australia at the World Youth Endurance Championships in Castelsagrat (FRA).  We travelled to France to support Eadie and Treasure, and they made Australia and members of Toft Endurance proud. 

 Eadie McWilliam riding Larntainey Silver Treasure.  Photo by Sarah Sullvian

“This year our members are preparing for another big season. In Queensland, we have many local rides, some FEI qualifiers, and the Australasian FEI Regional Championship at the Queensland Endurafest in Inglewood. We will also be continuing our adventures in France, where a few of our horses are currently based in readiness to compete in the upcoming French season. Our focus is the World Endurance Championships in September 2024, which will be held in Monpazier, France. 

 “If you love horses, nature, and a challenge, then Endurance riding might be for you. Essentially, you can choose your own adventure.

 “A good way to get a taste for Endurance would be to come along to the Queensland Endurafest in Inglewood, from May 31st to June 2nd, we would love to see you there.

 Alexandra concluded, “Thanks to Equestrian Australia for shining a light on the sport we Endurance riders love. Clubs from all over the country will make everyone feel welcome and there will be experienced members willing to help newcomers.”

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