The race must go on, even under cloudy skies and during a pandemic.
More than 60 horses and riders from across B.C. and Alberta competed in the Titanium Gold Pioneer Endurance Race last weekend at Spruce Hills Resort. The three-day event - a combination of the Titanium and the Cariboo Gold Rush - featured a timed loop of 20 miles followed by two 15-mile loops.
“We kind of got together to have an event or it would have been cancelled,” ride manager Tara MacLeod said Monday. “It’s gone very well. We’ve had a couple of pulls but that’s normal. It’s challenging and rocky in places so horses have to take care, and ride strategically.”
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. After each loop, horses are cooled down and examined by a vet - in this case, Winnipeg’s Glenn Sinclair - for everything from a pulse check to muscle tone, pre-existing wounds and their gate and energy levels before taking rest and recharging for the next round.
“They have to be considered fit to continue,” said Sinclair, the vet for the Canadian Endurance Team. “We’re giving them a thorough look to make sure they are okay to carry on. It’s amazing. A lot of the horses, at the end of the day, look like a million bucks.”
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Riders have 12 hours to complete the timed loops per day, Sinclair said, or 24 hours for 100 miles. About four horses had been disqualified as of Monday morning due to lameness.
Jaylene and Christy Janzen were among the first to complete the first loop on Monday morning. “We’re on our third day so we’ve done 125 miles,” Jaylene said as she cooled down Rae, her Canadian-Arabian. “We have 30 to go. It’s not too hot so things are good.”
Sinclair was brought in at the last minute after the original veterinarian from Pennsylvania was unable to make it due to COVID-19 border restrictions. He got involved in Endurance racing in 1999 when Manitoba was hosting the Pan-Am Games. At the time, there were no FEI-accredited vets so he trained up, little realizing that he would be a hot commodity.
“Once I got my foot through that door, you’re on a list and people want you,” he said. “I was reluctant to do three days because I tell it like it is and I was afraid I’d lose my bedside manner.”
After watching Jaylene put Rae through the paces, then checked the horse over, awarding an A for the next round.
“Dr. Glenn is one of our international vets so we’re very lucky when he comes to one of these events,” Christy Janzen said. An endurance rider for decades, Christy said she got involved when they bought a piece of property in Edmonton and someone wanted to hold an event in their backyard. She agreed, as long as they could participate.
Her top horse, who is 19, right now has 4,700 miles. “Anyone can do it on any horse as long as you ride to the horse’s ability,” she said, noting her Arabian Bronx is built to race. “They’re like marathon runners. At the end of the day, he’ll be happy to be done.”