Sunday, June 15, 2014

Turkey: Lasting to the Finish: Endurance - Full Article

The horse has always occupied a special place in Turkish history and culture. The new sport of Endurance Racing is proving popular as it helps people to rediscover this connection

Jane Louise Kandur Published : 14.06.2014

I spent much of my childhood in the saddle, or longing to be in the saddle. Horseback riding was my great passion, and I pursued it whenever I could. However, upon moving to Turkey, I turned my back on the sport. I had young children now, and without transport to get to and from the stables, riding just wasn't feasible. Six years ago a friend who wanted to start riding dragged me to a stables. Since that day, I have been trying to ride, on and off, whenever I can. Growing up in the United States, riding was the sport of cowboys; it belonged to the people, and anyone could do it, without spending a fortune on fancy gear. You could gallop through the hills, jump over rivers, feel the wind on your face, all for a small fee. But in Turkey I saw that everyone was in shiny boots, spanking new jodhpurs and a luxurious velvet hard hat.

The price of such equipment here makes this is a serious investment, and once you have made it, you feel compelled to go on. If the student wants to buy their own horse, this is even more of an investment, with the most basic horse starting at a price of around 30,000 euros.

However, a few years ago I met Efe and Yasemin Çehreli, who run Sırapınar Country Club. They have a different approach to equestrian sports. Efe started riding in 1998 as a hobby. But he was dismayed that this was a sport for the elite, and anyone who did not have the money to purchase a potential champion was scorned. He knew that horses run in the blood of Turks; in Turkish history the horse was a revered and treasured companion. But what Efe saw was that the horse had now become a vehicle of status, being divorced from its historic past.

Efe and Yasemin decided that the best way to break this stranglehold on riding was to become involved in the Equestrian Federation of Turkey. Efe became a licensed rider in 1998 and in 2006 qualified as a judge for show jumping competitions and then for dressage competitions, finally qualifying as a judge for endurance races. In 2013 Efe was appointed as a member of the endurance committee by the president of the Equestrian Federation.The Çehrelis passion and leading cause is the promotion of endurance riding...

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