Friday, October 13, 2006

US: AERC Championship Lure

Endurance rider logs thousands of miles

In 12 years, Ruth Anne Everett of Hickory has logged thousands of miles from the back of a horse, participating in endurance rides for equestrians throughout the United States.

"I enjoy being outdoors," she said, "and endurance riding has given me the opportunity to see some of the country's most beautiful sights while on horseback."

While Everett's participation in the sport has allowed for scenic rides along equestrian trails in parts of Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, for her, endurance riding is more than a chance to see the sights.

This year alone, Everett has logged 620 miles in 12 different rides. In September, she won first place in the Biltmore Fall Fling, a 55-mile endurance ride held annually to benefit Mountain Hopes, a therapeutic horseback riding program in Mars Hill.

"The Biltmore Fall Fling is a tough course," Everett said. "This year, there were 51 riders to participate, one-third of which were eliminated."

Everett's standing in the sport of endurance riding has enabled her to qualify for the National Championship, an event scheduled for Oct. 22, in Fort Valley, Va.

"It's a sport of strategy," Everett said. "A rider has to condition the horse to go the distance. You have to pace the horse throughout the ride and factor in things like terrain, weather conditions and even distance traveled from home.

"It's much different than racing a horse," she said. "You have to know the horse's limits and his abilities on that particular day."

According to Everett, endurance rides, or races, vary in distance, but are typically 50 or 100 miles. Longer rides can take place throughout the course of the day. As with any race, the horse with the fastest time wins -- but there is a catch.

"There are checkpoints along the way where a vet monitors the horse's heart rate and overall fitness," she said. "The horse has to be declared fit in order to continue."

Riders are eliminated when their horse exhibits lameness or metabolic problems, Everett said.

"I wear a special type of watch to monitor the horse's heart rate throughout the ride," she said. "To pass the vet's check, the horse's heart rate must be at 64 beats per minute. At the end of the ride, the horse must have a heart rate of 64 beats per minute to finish the ride."

Everett's husband, Mike, is also an endurance rider. The couple have four horses quartered at Leatherwood, an equestrian community in Wilkes County, where there is an abundance of mountainous terrain for conditioning their horses.

The equestrian trails at Leatherwood are Everett's favorite to ride, she said. And her horse of choice is a 10-year-old Arabian named Pretty Boy.

In addition to endurance riding, Everett is director for the Western N.C. Early Intervention Program for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, a program that provides services for families with children ages birth to 3 that have been identified with a hearing loss in order to minimize language and communication delay.

Learn more about the sport of endurance riding at Catawba Valley People

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