Northwest NEWS

June 26, 2000

Sports

Endurance riding is test of skill for horses and riders

endurance riding

Wendy and Mike Woldman ride Shava and Dane in a local endurance competition.

by Becky Nixon, staff reporter

   The phrase, "Let's go for a horseback ride," takes on a whole new meaning when the ride is a competitive endurance race over 100 miles in a 24-hour time frame.

   While an aching backside and weary trail horse come to mind for many, endurance rider Mike Woldman, 1999 Northwest Regional Middleweight point award winner, likens it to a marathon with a conditioned horse and rider.

   "An endurance ride is against the clock, against other riders, but most of all, against the trail," said Woldman. "The rider and his partner, the horse, pace themselves to compete in the allotted time in the best possible condition. The motto of endurance riders is 'To finish is to win.' But the emphasis is on safety, rather than speed, and skill, rather than recklessness."

   Unlike the Omak Suicide Race, endurance racing does not endanger the horse.

   "Taking an untrained horse and racing it downhill can end up in tragedy for the horse. After a horse is five years old, a good three years of training and conditioning creates a skilled partner," explained Woldman.

   Time allotted for an endurance race is 6 hours for a 25-mile race, 12 hours for a 50-mile race, 18 hours for a 75-mile race, and 24 hours for a 100-mile race. Horses and riders travel different terrain, trails, weather, and distance.

   "My hardest race was 100 miles on all uphill terrain in 104 degrees," recalls Woldman.

   The three horses Woldman uses on endurance rides have mostly Arabian and Egyptian blood. He believes the metabolic makeup of these horses are perfect for the sport. Dane is 11 years old and just completed 1,000 miles as of the last race. Shava is 19 years old and came in 70 out of 300 riders in the toughest endurance ride, the Trevis, a race from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to Auburn, California in July. And 20-year-old Shadow, Woldman's first horse, still enjoys a good race.

   "It's all about heart with a horse. I compete in endurance racing because it gives me a reason to ride," said Woldman.

   The sport is not new, and Woldman began about 12-13 years ago. Mike rides with his wife, Wendy. The couple takes turns riding and babysitting the children.

   The Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders have approximately 30 rides between April and October involving anywhere from 150-300 riders locally. Nationally, 3,000-5,000 riders are involved, and recently, the Middle Eastern countries have shown great interest in the sport. There is even talk of an event in future Olympic Games.

   For more information, check out websites from the American Endurance Riders Conference and the Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders.