June 16, 2006 -- Susan Summers, riding Mags Motivator, finished first in a ride time of 9:54:59 at the CEI*** 100-mile endurance ride in Ashland, Mont., on June 11. Her average ride time of 10.48 miles per hour put her four minutes ahead of second-place finisher, Heather Stevens, riding RSA Count Laquen.
Forty riders took the trail in the 4:30 a.m. eastern Montana dawn. The trail would take them over ranch land and through the Custer National Forest. Twenty-six Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) riders began this third and last observation ride, hoping to land one of the coveted slots on the U.S. Endurance Team that will compete at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, Germany, in August. A total of 16 riders finished the combined AERC Open, Arabian Horse Association (AHA) Region 6 Championship, and FEI/CEI*** ride, including 11 riding the FEI division.
Summers rode much of the trail in the company of her husband, Dennis, who was eliminated after the fourth loop. "I had a plan," she said. "I wanted to finish in 10 or 10.5 hours with my horse looking good, eating and being sound. I had all the confidence in the world in my horse to do the speed that I asked of him today." Summers also won the Region 6 AHA Championship, as well as a Kanavy saddle for best condition, which was awarded after the final inspection on June 12.
Summers was happy with the team coaching and support she's gotten as a member of the National Training Squad. "They are people that can appreciate what we're doing and will consider our ideas," Summers said. "We've had good farrier help this year."
"We always enjoy sharing our part of the country with other riders," said Ride Manager Jan Stevens. "We had riders from Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, Texas, Canada and the Middle East. It was well attended, and the weather cooperated for the most part." She thought the 40 percent completion rate was partly due to the weather. "We had cool days leading up the ride but the heat the day of the ride was more than we anticipated."
National Chef d'Equipe Tom Johnson wants the entire experience to be a positive one for the National Training Squad.
"In general all of the nominated riders who presented at the three Observation Trials were very well prepared for the challenge," Johnson said. "Many of the teams have been working toward this goal since last year [via participation in the selection rides in 2005, and participation in the training clinics], and that preparation showed. I believe that we have the deepest pool of talented teams from which to pick that we have ever had--the selectors will be facing some tough choices to select the best from these best. While it will be a challenge, having so many good teams from which to choose is a very good problem to have."
Jennifer Niehaus of California won the first observation ride on her nominated horse, Cheyenne XII, in a ride time of 9:49:39 on May 20 in Oreana, Idaho. Joe Mattingley of Illinois won the second ride on May 27 in Rapid River, Mich., aboard SA Laribou in a ride time of 9:15:53.
The National Team selection process will narrow the competitors to a pool of 12 horse/rider combinations and six ranked alternates. This short list of riders will attend one of two training events on July 1 and July 8. The team of riders selected to represent the United States will be named following the training events and will depart for Aachen, Germany, the first week of August. The 100-mile world endurance championship will be held August 21. Watch for coverage of the championship on EquiSearch.com.
The United States Equestrian Federation is the governing body of U.S. endurance competition at the international level. The American Endurance Ride Conference is the national affiliate of endurance in the U.S. and governs the sport at the national level.