by Albertina Nakale
WALVIS BAY - Excitement is mounting as horse riders prepare themselves for the annual International Horse Endurance Ride, which gets underway at Walvis Bay on Wednesday.
According to the Namibia Endurance Ride Association (NERA), a significant number of riders from South African and Botswana and hosts Namibia will be in action in this highly acclaimed competition.
"Walvis Bay is the ideal location for the competition. The dune landscapes provide for some of the toughest endurance rides, attracting riders from all over the world," said the secretary of NERA, Annette Hanekom.
The first endurance ride in Namibia was held in 1966 between Veldduin and Maroelaboom, and soon grew in leaps and bounds.
After the withdrawal of the South African Defence Force in 1989 endurance riding came to abrupt halt in Namibia. However, by 1990 the Grootfontein Endurance Ride Club was established and the first endurance ride after independence was held in April that year at Kranzfontein, near Grootfontein.
The maiden edition of the National Championships was held at Gobabis in 1992. Ever since the endurance sport has grown tremendously and there are currently more than 200 members and seven clubs.
"More important than the numbers is the quality of improvement that Namibia Endurance Riding has experienced. We have grown to become internationally competitive with our wonderful and tough horses.
While our riding routes are a true challenge in stamina, fitness and endurance."
As with the previous competitions the event has not only attracted top riders beyond Namibian borders but has lured high profiled technical delegates, veterinarians, supporters and friends.
"As you can imagine this is a healthy boost to the coastal economy and an opportunity to promote the area as a tourist attraction. The competition will be held in compliance with the regulations of the Federation Equestre International (FEI)."
The competition that wounds its way around Walvis Bay, covers a distance of 130 kilometers for the senior open division and 120 kilometers for the junior riders.
"This is the biggest equestrian event in Namibia. It does not only put the country on the international map, but also promotes Walvis Bay and the town's unique environment.
"According to our estimates, the income this event will generate will be thousands of dollars through accommodation, meals and other tourism activities as participants, officials and spectators will flock to the endurance championships," Hanekom concluded.
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