Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Belize: Speed and Endurance in the Wild West




7newsbelize.com - Full Story

It was a staple on the sporting schedule for years and horse racing is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. And while in America it's called the sport of kings, in Belize, it's the country folk who keep the sport alive. In Cayo, it's more than a tradition, it's a passion, and this weekend we witnessed an off-road horse race unlike anything we'd ever seen. 7NEWS was there from start to finish and Keith Swift has the story.

Keith Swift Reporting
With the command to go - the 11 riders were off on the 24 mile Hanna's Endurance Challenge.

Rodolfo Juan, Organizer
"Today we're going to select who is really the toughest rider in this country. We are having an endurance race which is a test over 25 miles of horse and rider and it selects really who will be the toughest rider in the land."

And though they set off at lightning speed, the winner would be decided not on speed - but on endurance. That endurance was tested in 8 three mile laps up hills and down valleys on the sprawling but rugged and difficult terrain of the Juan family's 400 acre ranch in Cayo.

Santiago Juan, Organizer
"The goal of the race is to get the horse and the rider to learn about each other, to pace yourselves, it is not only about speed - it is about knowing your horse, knowing what to do and when to do it and that's what endurance racing is all about."

The riders spent months on horsebacks preparing for the race but it takes more than just knowing how to ride a horse to win. You need to know how to manoeuvre a horse like this through rough jungle terrain. These riders have to know their horses.

Rodolfo Juan,
"It is really about knowing your horse and knowing how to pace the horse. As you can see it is a very warm hot sunny day, it is 25 miles, that is a lot of distance to cover and therefore you need to know how to pace your horse so that you don't push it too much, otherwise you will just exhaust the horse or you risk injuring the horse."

A difficult balancing act - and that’s why on his fourth lap when Cesar Shi heard this:

[Horse Breathing Heavy]

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