Monday, September 07, 2015

Local equestrian sees team effort in endurance race as 'absolute honor'


NEW RINGGOLD — The bond between a local girl and her horse led a team to victory Aug. 21 at the Federation Equestre Internationale North American Endurance Team Challenge in Ontario, Canada.

“It was an absolute honor to qualify. I wasn’t expecting it. The athletic power of my horse is just incredible,” Emily Stemmler, 21, of New Ringgold, said Tuesday.

The 75-mile race through the Ganaraska Canadian Forest involved riding four phases of color-coded trails through various terrain with gaits varying from walk, trot and cantor to gallop.

“It was a more technical trail, but I’m used to riding trails around here with hills,” Stemmler said. “Faveur is extremely good at cantering up and down these hills, so it was exciting to go past people. The sheer athletic ability of my horse is incredible.”

Stemmler rode Faveur, a 9-year-old Asgard Arabian gelding, through the finish line in seventh place, combined with the scores of her two teammates, Meg Sleeper, Virginia, who placed first, and Katherine Gardener, Rhode Island, who finished eighth. The race began at 6:30 a.m. and all had to complete the race before 7:30 p.m. to avoid team disqualification.

Seven riders represented the northeastern region of the country in the race, but participants came from as far as California, Ireland, Israel and Romania.

“It was really cool. You encounter people from California, Texas and Alberta, Canada, and you all have the same passion of horses and riding,” Stemmler said. “Endurance is a little different in the sense that everyone is out to finish first and then after that is the competition. Everybody is looking out for each other riding through.”

Each phase of the race was separated by mandatory holds, or rest periods.

“It’s just something that the horse has to do on their own. Faveur did amazing with it,” Stemmler said.

A crew was assigned to each rider to get the horses heart rate below 64 beats per minute as quickly as possible. Horses were checked by an official veterinarian before the horse and rider could continue.

Stemmler has completed a couple 50-mile rides and three 75-mile rides before, so she and Faveur were prepared.

Horses and riders needed to complete five rides through American Endurance Ride Conference, National Federation for Endurance, then complete a 50-mile FEI ride to be eligible to ride at the 75-mile FEI level at NAETC.

FEI is an elite branch of endurance that is internationally recognized and has its own specific regulations and registrations for both horse and rider.

The scariest part of the race was at the starting gate for Stemmler.

“The starting gate is where it’s most nerve wracking. Forty-two horses go out at a trot and sometimes a gallop,” Stemmler said.

Hills proved most difficult for the horses, but Faveur was used to them.

“The toughest part was hills for horses,” Stemmler said. “The trail was mostly all forested with flat ground and hills so there was a lot of up-and-down movement. Compared to terrain around here, I wouldn’t consider it as hard. The hills here are more rocky. This was more sandy.”

Stemmler has been riding Faveur for three years.

“I love this horse. I absolutely love him, he is incredible,” Stemmler said. “I’ve done all but two endurance rides on him. He’s a very independent horse.

“He takes care of me when I ride. If something is wrong with me he just knows and he’ll turn around. He trusts me because he knows I’m taking care of him, too. I never have to worry about him taking off on me.”

Faveur is not an affectionate horse when first confronted, Stemmler said.

“It definitely took time to build up, but after you go that many miles it kind of just develops,” she said.

Faveur, owned by Holly Corcoran, was bred for endurance races.

“He was already trained before I started riding him. From birth, he was bread for endurance and given the best possible advantage,” Stemmler said.

... full article, Republican Herald