Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kentucky Cup: Cold, wet conditions test endurance riders

Kentucky.com
By Ryan Alessi - ralessi@herald-leader.com

The easy gallop at which contenders started Wednesday's endurance race at the Kentucky Horse Park belied the grueling conditions that riders and steeds would face over the 75-mile course of soupy mud and some slick pavement.

This isn't a sport for the faint of heart on a clear day, let alone Wednesday's rainy, sub-50-degree conditions.

"I don't know. Is it crazy or stupid?" said Danielle McGunigal, 38, of Fort Valley, Va., after the second of four loops of 13.3 to 24.7 miles.

By that point another competitor, Matthew Sample of Australia, already had been whisked to the nearest portable heater to counter hypothermia-like symptoms upon arriving at the first checkpoint. (He wouldn't finish the race).

And McGunigal's mother, two-time world champion endurance rider Valerie Kanavy, was forced out after her horse slipped and fell.

All that was just in the first half of the race for those rain-chilled riders and horses that finished Wednesday's test run of the endurance event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Horse Park.

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