From Endurance to Dressage
In my circle of friends, the dressage at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) was the big draw. I had several friends who managed to fly out to North Carolina for the event. While I love catching the occasional dressage tests on TV, I am not one for live streaming. I am just too busy doing other stuff to watch.
Instead of watching, I read about the USA's silver medal and that the Freestyle was rescheduled (and then cancelled). More than all of that though, I was pretty shocked at the endurance news. What a disaster that turned out to be.
There were a few things about that 160 km (99.4 miles) race that raised my eyebrows. The first eye-rolling blooper was that many riders were sent off course. Speaking from a lot of years of experience, going off course is a rider's worst nightmare, especially while doing a hundred mile event.
When a horse and rider team start their distance at the crack of dawn, the rider is doing her best to focus on the course that has been laid out. Management has gone over the course the night before, and every turn is usually marked to help riders and horses navigate the hundred miles that lay before them. Going off course means that your horse has to travel even farther than planned. Realizing that you've gone off course for even a mile can wrack a rider with guilt.
In all the years that I competed, I only went off course a few times, and only once did a volunteer misdirect the riders. It created a massive backlog on the trail as riders realized that the volunteer was in error, but since the trail was so narrow, no one could turn around as more and more riders were being sent behind us. Later in the day, management corrected the error by shortening a later loop. I would have expected better of the staff at the WEG.
Cancelling the race after riders had completed more than two-thirds of the course is also shocking. The FEI cited weather as the reason. Every endurance rider in the world, especially those competing at the FEI level at WEG, are more than familiar with races that happen during bad weather. Every endurance rider on the planet has competed under less than ideal weather conditions. The sport is called Endurance for a reason.
During my 16 years as an endurance rider, I competed in all sorts of less than ideal weather. There were rides where the wind blew so strongly in the horses' faces that you could feel them being lifted off their front feet. We rode in blinding sleet, scorching heat, and humidity that was so high that water dripped off our tack and helmets. We always knew the weather was going to be a factor. The competitors at this year's WEG knew it too.
FEI officials claimed that the race was stopped because too many horses needed treatment because of the weather. That may well be true, but there were many other horse and rider teams who were successfully passing each and every vet check - horse and rider teams that were either better prepared or better managing their race. Penalizing them for the ineptitude or bad luck of others goes against the whole idea of competition.
Do I feel sorry for the New Zealand horse who had to be euthanized for kidney damage? Of course, but that doesn't mean the entire race should have been cancelled while horses were still on course, still going strong.
I am more than a bit disappointed in the FEI, and I can guarantee that those riders who took excellent care of their horses are more than a little disappointed too.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: