Endurance riding has come a long way during its 30 year history in Alberta - from a handful of riders located in western Alberta to more than 100 riders province wide today. Among the internationally recognized disciplines governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) - endurance, jumping, dressage, driving, vaulting and reining - endurance stands out as one of the fastest growing disciplines.
The first world endurance competition took place in Virginia in 1988, with one member from Alberta, Joan Harris, nominated to enter. Without any support, she helped bring home a team silver medal. Now, for every rider heading to international events there is a support team of no less than three people per rider. Grooms, crews, coaches, team vets and chef d’equipes give their time and money to help our dedicated riders succeed.
And as interest in endurance riding grows, the qualifying process becomes more refined. In 1988 riders were chosen based on the number of rides they did locally. Having completed at least one, 100-mile event assured you of a placing. Now, there is a qualifying process in place. To be considered as a competitor, riders and horses must have competed in a number of FEI-sanctioned rides at a certain speed and in a certain length of time. The youth are also being included now with championship events being held for them.
All international competitions, whether championships or qualifiers are governed by the FEI with its head office in Lausanne, Switzerland. This assures riders that everyone competes on a level playing field.
In the past, FEI qualifying endurance rides in Canada were few and far between. Now, Alberta has a venue for a competition of this calibre, at Horseshoe Lake north of Edmonton and hosted on the Long Island Light Horse Associat ion’s grounds. The first FEI qualifer was held here last May. The event was such a success that many western Canadians have inquired if there will be another. There is a need, not only for riders but for people wishing to become FEI officials, to have a dedicated venue in the province where they can train and learn.
To become an official, one must go through qualifying stages, much like riders. Up until recently, Keith Thorne was the only official in Alberta. Now we have three more in training— Dr. Roxy Bell, Dr. Deanna Spiker and Joan Harris, along with others from the west. Having a regular FEI ride with the necessary courses taught here will put Alberta on the endurance map.
Last year, five riders trained and qualified in Alberta for a place on the Canada Endurance Team. They are chosen on a point-for-miles-completed basis. Tara MacLeod and her daughter, Ariel, were on the Canada West team that attended the pre-world competition in Kentucky last October. Kathy Irvine came in second overall on a grueling five-day, 250-mile ride in Idaho last September and Caroline Williams and Leanne Marchant travelled to eastern Canada to compete.
The date for the next FEI ride is May 22 and 23, 2010. It will be a two-day ride with open and FEI divisions. Visit our website at www.enduranceridersofalberta.com for more information.