Riding with the best

Levermann represents Canada at premier equestrian competition

Local rider Katya Levermann

Local rider Katya Levermann

The most memorable thing about Lexington, Kentucky for Katya Levermann was representing Canada and galloping across the finish line in fourth spot, following a 120-kilometre endurance race along the rolling hills of bluegrass country.

The local rider was pleased with both her own and her horse’s performance at the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, a premier international equestrian event for young riders, July 15-20.

The horse she rode is a 14-year-old grey Arabian gelding named TEF Sunflash, or “Flash,” owned by Pennsylvania breeder Tracy Reynolds.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better horse,” says Levermann. “Tracy did an incredible job preparing him for this event. We were a team all the way through the race and I rode him to the best of my ability. We had a great time blasting across the finish line and only later did we find out the third place horse was only 52 seconds in front of us.”

Endurance riding is based on controlled long-distance races with periodic veterinary checks for the animal. Levermann was fourth of 11 riders that registered times in Kentucky, while three riders were pulled from the race. Levermann finished the race in 6 hours 45 minutes 20 seconds. The winning time was 6 hours 14 minutes 23 seconds. Nine riders finished within the six hour window, while the last two finished past the nine and 10 hour marks.

The riders completed a number of 15 to 25-km loops around the Horse Park grounds and after every loop the horses were looked over by a veterinarian.

“The horse’s heart rate has to be lower than 64 beats per minute and the vet determines if your horse is fit to continue,” Levermann explains. “Flash didn’t have any trouble at the vet checks, nor did he have any difficulties with pulsing down. He is a wonderful horse with a strong heart and a lot of willpower.”

Levermann says the most important thing in endurance racing is reading your horse well.

“I need to see whether he’s tired or still has a lot of energy left. I need to be able to feel when something is wrong. Endurance is a team sport between you and your horse and it can only be done if the rider and the horse are in-sync.”

As one would expect, there’s a lot of work, travel and physical training involved, for both the horse and rider, especially if you’re aiming for a championship of this calibre.

“I ride my own horses several times a week to condition them. And as my horse gets fit from me riding him, I get fit by riding my horse. We are usually competing on our own horses here in British Columbia and in the western United States. [We do] a lot of mountain riding. When the trail gets too steep we often dismount and run beside our horses.”

The Levermann family has a ranch near 100 Mile House. Levermann’s next big goal is to compete in the 2015 Pan American Games in Ontario.

Levermann’s younger sister, Anya, is also a competitive rider.

“We are a team with our horses and we have helped each other through many difficult times on the trail,” Levermann says. “It cannot be done alone and it takes a team of people working together to get someone to the international level of riding.”