Endurance riders hit trail in fast growing equine sport

All breeds of horses or even ponies can be great distance mounts. Here Milo and rider Laura Savatski ride the beautiful trails of the Kettle Moraine completing a 25 mile competitive trail ride.

The world’s fastest growing equine sport, endurance riding, combines the appreciation for nature of a trail ride with the athleticism of endurance sports.

This Oct. 4, 5 and 6, riders will be hauling their trailers from miles around to the Horserider’s Campground in the stunning Southern Kettle Moraine State Forrest for the first running of the DRAW Festivus Ride. DRAW, the Distance Riding Association of Wisconsin, sponsors several distance trail rides each year. Riders will choose distances of 15, 25, 50 or a 2-day 100 mile event. The 15-mile ride for novice horses or riders is approximately three hours with the 25-mile course generally taking four to five hours to complete. 

The night before the ride, horses will be examined by a ride veterinarian, and then during the event, there will be checks during the ride and again during a final veterinarian examination shortly after the finish.  Each 25-mile ride has one mandatory rest period and, 50-mile rides have at least two mandatory rest periods. 

This year’s Festivus theme will have the traditional airing of grievances and feats of strength. Friday night will have live music around the campfire and Saturday night is everyone’s favorite, potluck. New riders and those curious about the sport are welcome.  

Safety of horse and rider, fun, and helping fellow teams are stressed in this sport where the motto is “To finish is to win.”

“It is not as much of a race as one would think, especially for a new rider or horse.  We start walking the first few blocks to get out of camp safely. We trot where we can, walk when we must, and only canter when we have to. Some prefer to ride in a group and others like to go solo. It’s all about having fun together and learning ways to deepen your partnership and understanding of your horse” says Competitive Trail Champion, Laura Savatski. “I love to see the variety of horses and riders on the trail. Anything from an 8 to 80 year old rider, a stout pony to a svelt saddlebred, a newbie to an seasoned endurance mentor. It is exciting to watch people and horses progress.”

The public is invited to come out to cheer on the riders and their horses. Volunteer positions are also open. 

For those interested in finding out more about endurance riding, a turn as a veterinarian’s assistant or timer is a great way to learn about the sport. 

DRAW is hosting three of the ten distance rides in Wisconsin in 2019: Northern Highland, Aug. 24-25 near Conover; Colorama Classic, Sept 14-15 in the North Kettle Moraine near New Prospect; DRAW Festivus, Oct 4-6 in the South Kettle Moraine at Horseriders Campground in Palmyra.

The DRAW Festivus Ride is sanctioned by state, regional and national organizations.  DRAW who hosts the ride is the Wisconsin state distance riding group.  UMECRA, the Upper Midwest Endurance and Competitive Rider Association sanctions the ride as well as the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), the national governing body for endurance riding. 

Members can choose their level of competitiveness—while many riders choose to shoot for steady pacing, others are highly competitive and may aim for competing internationally in this growing sport. DRAW, UMECRA and AERC have awards programs based on mileage achievements for horses and riders as well as an annual award program, with honors given out at their annual conventions.