AN outstanding performance from Irish endurance rider Tom MacGuinness saw him win his first ever international endurance race at the weekend, after he led from start to finish to take victory in the CEI2* 120kms race at Olot in Catalunya, Spain.
MacGuinness (66), Ireland’s top-ranked endurance athlete, is founder and CEO of Irish company Horseware Ireland which employs over 172 people in Dundalk, 47 staff at Kinston in North Carolina, and 514 people in their factories in China and Cambodia.
Having previously enjoyed success in eventing, show jumping and polo, MacGuinness took up the demanding sport of endurance racing in 2013, aged 60 and has since recorded impressive results at venues all over the globe.
Endurance is a long-distance competition against the clocktesting the speed and endurance of a horse and challenging the rider over their effective use of pace, thorough knowledge of their horse’s capabilities and ability to cross all kinds of terrain. Although the rides are timed, the emphasis is on finishing in good condition as much as coming in first.
The weekend’s win in Spain came with MacGuinness riding Horseware Sasha D’Aillais, a 10-year-old chesnut gelding. They completed the demanding 120kms course at an average speed of 18.5 KPH average speed, in a total time of 6 hours 27 minutes.
Speaking afterwards, MacGuinness was delighted with how his horse Horseware Sasha D’Aillais performed and very much has his sights set on this years World Equestrian Games which take place at Tryon in the USA.
“It was an amazing race. Actually the incline and decline was more steep than what there will be in Tryon (at the World Equestrian Games) or in Biltmore (North Carolina USA) for that matter. A very similar course to what we will be doing at WEG. The plan was to run in a fast 120 and then to leave him until the actual race to see what he had in the tank and he certainly had plenty at the end – we did the last loop in 30km per hour. I think by the time WEG comes he will be in magnificent shape, he is a very sound horse. I have had very a good month. I was 11th in Tryon (test event for WEG) out of 80 starters and third at Biltmore out of 45,” he said.
Endurance started as a sport in the United States, where the US cavalry tested its horses on a five-day, 300-mile (483km) ride, with each horse carrying over 200lbs (91kg). It did not become a competitive sport until the 1950s, when Wendell Robie traced the Pony Express route from Nevada to California in under 24 hours.
Each rider must safely manage the stamina and fitness of their horse and each course is divided into phases – in principle at least every 40kms – with a compulsory halt for a veterinary inspection, or ‘vet gate’, after each. Each horse must be presented for inspection within a set time of reaching each ‘vet gate’, which determines whether it is fit to continue.