An elite rider, Anya Levermann has competed across North America, riding both her own and others’ horses in endurance events — a sport designed to test both a rider’s and horse’s teamwork, knowledge, skill and endurance.
On Sept. 23, the 16-year-old will be joining 0ver 150 athletes from 34 countries in Verona, Italy to ride at the Young Rider’s World Endurance Championships.
Levermann will be the only rider representing Canada at the event. She’ll be riding a 120 km track on Kataki, a 10-year-old Arabian mare from Bratislava.
While Levermann has her own horses that she competes with that live on her family’s property north of 100 Mile House, she also regularly rides other horses at events throughout the United States and Canada.
Endurance riding puts horses and riders on tracks of anywhere from 50 to 100 miles in distance. At regular intervals, the horses are examined by veterinarians for both a recoveries check, in terms of heart rate, and a physical check. If the horse doesn’t meet the requirements they are disqualified, or the rider can disqualify themselves if they feel something is off with the horse.
As a result, the events test the rider’s horsemanship — riders must effectively use pacing and the knowledge of their horse against the difficulties of the course.
The World Championship requires that riders complete the 120 km track in under nine hours and 50 minutes.
The track in Verona is mostly flat, says Levermann, which allows riders to ride faster. She’ll be heading to Italy a week ahead of time to do some touring, as well as to familiarize herself with the horse.
Levermann started riding endurance when she was six.
“I did my very first ride because my mom did it, and me and my sister wanted to do it too. It was something we could do with our mom.”
As a junior competitor, Levermann earned the national 100 Mile Award. Given to an American or Canadian rider under 16, the award is for the most 100 mile rides completed in a year.
Levermann had ridden eight, breaking the previous record of five.
To qualify for the world championships, Leverman had to do ten 120 km races without being disqualified.
“It’s something different. Not many people know about it. The challenge — it’s always different, it’s not always the same thing and you can do it anywhere in the world. You get to see so much, you get to experience things other people don’t.”
Training for an endurance ride is similar to training for long distance running. Horses have their distances increased in increments, and Levermann herself trains through riding regularly, running daily and playing hockey.
During an endurance ride, she says it’s nerve-wracking.
“I get stressed. I worry about the horse. If it’s my own horse I know what they are capable of. It takes a few miles for the horse to settle down because they want to go. They love doing it.”
Kataki’s owner wants Levermann to set a specific pace during the championship, other than that her goal is to finish and finish strongly.
“There’s going to be a high disqualification rate because some people just take off and go extremely fast. I just want to finish and have a healthy horse at the end.”
While she has been on rides that have been quite stressful on the body — where the terrain or track are difficult or where she needs to get off and run beside her horse — normally she finishes feeling a very little amount of soreness, she says.
Still, she’s just excited for the championships and the love of riding in general.
“It’s getting to spend all day with horses because I love them — and getting to see so much.”