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Endurance races are an experience like no other

Many reasons why long-distance riding events can enthuse the whole community

Gulf News

While the UAE flat racing season is briskly moving through the gears, it’s encouraging to see that the endurance calendar is also flowing into a pattern with a regular series of rides.

I guess if you love horse-related sports, you can’t but be attracted to the sport that has charmed almost every aspiring horseman and woman.

But have you ever wondered what makes these long, arduous rides on horseback so appealing?

It is something that people ask me all the time, and I’m afraid it’s a question that I have never been able to answer well enough. It’s not that I myself am not convinced of the sport’s merits, as endurance riding is not something to be taken lightly — it requires meticulous and demanding preparation and dedication.

The thing I like about the sport is that it is infectious and can be a lot of fun. Every time a ride takes place, you can feel the buzz and the whole endurance site become a hub of activity. Everybody gets involved — the trainers, helpers, officials, medics. It’s like a community thing and something that you don’t really see in other sports. The emotions that flow from one individual to another are quite amazing.

I remember going to one of my first endurance events back in the 1990s, which took place in the charming county town of Wicklow in Ireland. It was truly an amazing experience and helped solidify my fondness for the sport. The course took the competitors through the historic Wicklow Hills, which are steeped in 2,000 years of myth, legend and stories that have been passed on from generation to generation.

I remember buying an album the next day by Christy Moore, one of contemporary Irish music’s best singer-songwriters, called Ride On that featured a delightful song titled Among the Wicklow Hills.

I can go on and on when it comes to music, but for the moment let’s get back to back to endurance. Once the ride began in the early hours of the morning, hundreds of locals took a special interest in the event that was being held in their city. Many people had positioned themselves along the route to cheer the riders on their long journey — it was an amazing experience to see the enthusiasm and excitement all around me.

It reminded me of something that Emil Zatopek, the great Czech runner and winner of four Olympic gold medals, once said about the marathon: “We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run the 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

The same could be said of the sport of endurance.

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