Army riders to bid for glory on borrowed horses

The endurance community has come out in force to help soldiers compete in this year’s British Horse Feeds’ British Riding Clubs endurance team event.

A Facebook appeal to find horsepower for army riders wanting to take on the challenge had an “amazing” response, according to organiser Major Shelley Bates.

The army team is the brainchild of Major Bates (pictured), an advanced endurance rider with Maggie Pattinson’s hore Sadhira, with whom she hopes to make the step up to FEI level this year.

After talking to colleagues about the sport, she found that many were interested but did not own horses to take part.

“Due to the nature of the job there are very few army riders with their own horses and those that do tend to be showjumping or eventing-orientated,” she said.

“I thought I would see if there was anyone out there who would consider taking an army rider under their wing and lending them a horse to take part in up to three endurance rides — two qualifiers and hopefully the riding club championship final.”

After posting on Facebook, Major Bates said she was “inundated” with offers of help, both from those willing to lend horses and endurance riders located near military bases who were happy to provide training.

“I posted the idea of borrowing horses just to gauge whether there is any interest in helping or whether I needed to go back to the drawing board and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people. I really didn’t think there would be so many offering to help by loaning our army riders their precious horses,” she said.

“I will look to match riders up with locations where horses are being offered. Owners can be involved as much or as little as they like in helping the team. I was initially hoping just to get four team riders but now, given the response, perhaps there will be more!”

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Military riders will have to be serving regular or reserve soldiers or officers to be part of the army team and to qualify for the championships, they will need to complete two qualifying rides of between 30km and 40km. The final will take place at the Red Dragon Ride in Wales on 6 October.

John Hudson, Endurance GB organiser of the British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance, said: “It is wonderful that the endurance community has rallied to support army riders participating in the sport and bidding for a place at the Riding Club finals. It goes without saying that endurance, as a sport with both technical and fitness challenges, should appeal to Army riders.

“This is a competition pitched to bring the best teams from over six months of qualifiers to one of the most spectacular and exhilarating endurance rides in the calendar and we wish the Army team all the best in getting there.”

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