Thursday, November 03, 2005

Endurance horse racing: when to finish is to win

Nov 02 2005

Golden's Cindy Penno has owned, trained and shown horses for a number of years. But nothing in her previous experiences quite prepared her for her latest venture.
Penno, along with local veterinarian Michael Peterson, is coming off a season where they became heavily involved in the relatively obscure sport of endurance riding.
Endurance riding, as defined by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), is an athletic event with the same horse and rider covering a measured course within a specified maximum time.
Penno says she and Peterson became interested last spring after he received a memo from the Endurance Ride B.C. (ERBC) group in Kelowna, regarding a clinic they were putting on to encourage more veterinarians to participate in the sport.
"Because he [Peterson] was interested in continuing education, and we both have a similar interest in horses, we thought: 'What the heck - let's go down there'," says Penno.
It was the start of a busy season that saw both attend a host of competitive events throughout B.C.
In total, Penno says she logged 112 competitive miles of rides during four events - her first one in Summerland last May.
Penno used two of her horses during the season but recently purchased another that she will ride for the next one.
Her new horse, Ali, is a nine-year-old Arabian gelding - an experienced endurance horse with 960 competitive miles already under his saddle.
Peterson became a valuable contributor to ERBC events and ended up working five of the eight B.C. races. He recently returned from a prestigious endurance race event in Boise, Idaho where he served as head veterinarian.
"The motto in the sport is: 'To finish is to win'," says Penno. "The horse needs to be fit to continue and that is the biggest challenge - doing the race with a horse that is sound and healthy and has energy left to go."
Penno explained that races vary in length from 25 to 100 miles and that there are a variety of ways the track can be set up. "Most of the rides I've been on have been done in what they call 'loops'," she says. "You are given a map and you follow these marked trails."
As the sport does demand a lot from both rider and horse, the main focus is on the well-being of the animals. "It is not on the rider, it's totally on the horse," says Penno.
She explains that the horses are stopped throughout a race and given a thorough check-up by the attending veterinarian before being allowed to continue. The number of stops is dictated by the length of the race.
Penno is now looking forward to next season and conquering many miles with her new competitive horse - the aptly-named Ali.
richard mackenzie
Star Reporter

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