NewsTribune photo/Katlyn Rumbold
WYANET — What began as a way to give back to the horse industry five years ago has transformed into one of the most popular annual endurance horse races in North Central Illinois to date.
This weekend, June 27-29, horse enthusiasts will gather just northeast of Wyanet to take part in the sixth annual ‘My Back Yard’ horse ride co-managed by Lori Windows and Jennifer Allen, both of Bureau County.
‘My Back Yard’ is a weekend of trail rides and endurance races running through the scenic hills, creeks, timber and fields of the county. The event is open to all levels of horse riders.
“On Saturday, we offer a 50-mile endurance ride and a 25-mile limited-distance,” Windows said. “We also offer a 12.5-mile drive and a 12.5-mile novice ride.”
The 50-mile endurance ride will begin at about 5 a.m. followed by the 25-mile limited distance at 5:30 a.m. then the 12.5-mile novice ride after that, said Larry Allen, who is hosting the ride on parts of his land. “Every ride is open to everyone,” said Windows. But for somebody who hasn’t conditioned their horse frequently Allen advises,
“They might want to try the novice ride. Some people may think they’re ready for 25 miles, but haven’t done the proper conditioning.”
Distance riding is one of the few equestrian sports where beginners and longtime champions can compete on an even field, riding anywhere from 10 to 100 miles in a given race. It is a sport for everyone who loves horses and riding, regardless of age, breed of mount, and experience level.
“Distance riding is what we do,” emphasized Windows. She has ridden more than 40,000 miles in competition, having competed at all levels including the World Equestrian Games.
“We can’t have a sport if somebody doesn’t offer to manage rides,” Windows said. “It’s a lot of work, but I think anybody who rides and/or enjoys this sport should pay it back somehow. A lot of our help are other riders.”
Distance riding is also one of the only animal sports that animal rights groups accept, as the horse is and always will be the first priority. If the horse seems too hot or sore, it won’t compete, Allen said.
“Those are professional veterinarian opinions,” he said. “Not just someone off the street.”
In fact, while endurance racing, competitors are required to stop at designated “vet-checks” to make sure their horse is performing properly. If the vet finds something wrong, they’re required to stop.
Dr. Wes Elford will be the head veterinarian at this year’s race. Windows said he has been all over the world checking horses at both world and national championships.
Awards will be given to competitors placing first through sixth. Camping will be available for those staying throughout the weekend.
To ride or just help with the race, call co-manager Lori Windows at (815) 878-4555.
For directions, call host Larry Allen (815) 866-3565.
Illinois Valley News Tribune
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