Endurance Education: A Dash of Tevis, A Smidgen of Dubai and Big Bolts of Excitement Surround This Sport

When the Boston Marathon comes around each spring, there is a solid line of people on both sides of the street for 26.2 miles, the length of the race. So it is with the Tour de France bicycle race. And when the World Equestrian Games Endurance Championship canters through Lexington’s back roads and wooded paths, I hope people will be there to see these great horses and riders from so many nations pass by.

The sport of endurance may have been born and raised in America, but it has been recently been sent to finishing school in a number of countries who have put their individual spins and styles and powers and dollars to it, in an attempt to dominate the world stage. We’ll see the power struggle unfold next month, as the Games draw nearer and final teams are announced and horses ship in to start training in this climate and terrain.

Everything about this sport sets it apart from the others. The horses are different–Arabians, not Warmbloods or Thoroughbreds. The clothes are different–stretchy high-tech racy looks are in, no starch or collars or polish or ratcatchers. The tack is different–synthetic and lightweight and martingales designed for horses built like no others. And the cultures behind each of the teams are so focused on winning, you’d better stand back when they canter by. And they will canter by. Without losing a beat, ever.

Americans will have a chance to get to know endurance at the end of August when Horse Racing TV will broadcast their documentary on this year’s Tevis Cup in California. Granted, the WEG endurance competition will be nothing like the Tevis Cup, which is an excruciating one-day 100 miles up and down over vertical rocky terrain in the high Sierras, but if anything can get you hooked on American endurance, that race can. That documentary will be the perfect introduction to WEG!

And if anything can get you ready for the culture shock that is coming to Lexington for the endurance days of WEG, it’s this little video from the United Arab Emirates. Do you remember that at the 2008 World Championships, the medals went to UAE, Qatar and Bahrain? It is true that you will surely see men riding in the WEG endurance for those and most other Middle Eastern countries, and a mix of men and women riding for other nations.

But things are changing in the Emirates, and there is now a women’s endurance league in Dubai, and the riders you see in this video may be in the crowd or even in the crews at the Kentucky Horse Park…and one day they may even be in the saddle at the future World Equestrian Games.

Let’s hope the endurance teams come to town early and create some buzz about this sport. There’s a lot to learn if you really want to understand what’s going on, and there’s plenty of background information for you here on discoverhorses.com.

The USA team, by the way, has not been named yet.

You’re reading a story from DiscoverWEG with Fran Jurga, a blog about the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which will be held September 25 to October 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park outside Lexington, Kentucky. The direct address for this blog is www.discoverweg.com. You can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed by clicking on the icon at the top right of this page; headlines are also posted on Facebook at the DiscoverHorses.com Page. DiscoverWEG is just one component of the Discover Horses support web site for the Games. Make Discoverhorses.com your go-to WEG destination site!

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