GPS Keeps Endurance Horses On Track at European Championship

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A new technical development premiered on the world stage at the 2007 European Championships, held last week in Portugal. Horses taking part were fitted with a GPS chip on their bridles to keep track of their progress.

"This is the first time that a GPS system has been used in a major endurance championship and this has been done at the initiative of the Portuguese Equestrian Federation," said Hallvard Sommerseth, the Foreign Technical Delegate for the championship.

The Norwegian official said that the GPS had been used to help keep track of the horses and riders at various stages of the competition. The move aimed to ensure the welfare of the horses as well as it will give organisers insight into how the competitors were faring.

The results were unanimously well received. Appeal committee president Bo Kjellgren of Sweden said: "The use of transponders for the time-keeping for the first time worked perfectly."

Kjellgren was less convinced by the use of a display system showing the pulse rates of horses in the vet gates which he said would need fine-tuning after certain "technical difficulties".

So who won? France proved invincible over the coastal plains of Portugal and won both the European team and individual championships. UAE rider Mubarak Khalifa Al Shafya became the new Open European Champion; he crossed the line on the 11-year-old gelding Zakah Zahara one minute ahead of Jean Phillipe Frances, who won the European title with Hanaba Du Bois.

Spain's Jaume Punti Dachs and Maria Alverez Ponton created a unique milestsone: they are the first husband and wife team to stand on the same medal podium. Jaume won the European silver medal and Maria won the bronze.

Thanks to the FEI for assistance with this post; photo is by Jacques Toffi.

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