RIDERS interested in endurance are being offered a free introduction to the sport in the North East.
The Intro to Endurance evening in Stannington, next month, will cover everything from pleasure rides to the low-distance competitive endurance, crewing and a look at competing abroad. The main speaker on the night will be Angela Hall, the founder of the Equine Massage Academy (North East).
The event is being organised by the Northumberland & Tyneside Endurance GB group, which has 39 members and organises eight rides in the region annually.
Viv Knight from the group has been involved in endurance for 16 years and now her whole family are part of the team.
She said: “It is the safest, healthiest – for the horse – most sociable, family-friendly, lowest cost competitive sport for those with horses.
“My daughter, Lee-Anne, started riding in endurance when she was 14 years old. When she went to university and qualified as a vet – she now works for ScottMitchell Associates, Hexham – I took over the reins. Apologies for the pun!
“The whole family has been involved as my husband Graham and son Darrell have crewed for us.”
Haltwhistle-based Mrs Knight has two Arabs, a gelding called Ashraaf, who is 22 and now retired, and a 10-year-old mare called Sun Diva GFA, who is known as Geri.
“I bought her when she was a rising two-year-old,” said Mrs Knight.
“My daughter started to ride her when Geri was four in pleasure rides, but then as work and family commitments took over, we approached a friend, who in fact first backed Geri – Andrew Richardson, a point to point jockey and trainer who lives in Hexham.
“He now trains and rides her in the competitive season. We now concentrate on the endurance rides (races) of 50 miles and above.
“Their greatest achievements together have been in 2010, where they came first at the Hexhamshire Trophy Ride in August and first at the Red Dragon, Builth Wells in October out of a very high standard of riders of 22.
“We also came away with the Best Condition award for our class in that event.
“I am hoping that this year we will do even better, as she has matured and her whole body has strengthened.”
Mrs Knight is heavily involved in Geri’s diet and training programme and crews at events with her husband.
But she says it’s a myth that you need an Arab to do well at endurance.
“Many people have to wrong idea about needing an Arab horse, indeed one of our top horses in the North East is a trotter cross,” said Mrs Knight.
“Any type of horse can do endurance. They all become fit with time and the limitations are often due to the amount of time the owner can provide, as with most sports.”
In addition to the eight events put on the Northumberland & Tyneside group, there are also active endurance groups in Durham, Cumbria and the Scottish Borders that organised events of up to 65km.
The Intro to Endurance event takes place from 7pm on February 24 at Stannington Village Hall near Morpeth.