Going the distance at Lake Taupo
More than a hundred horses, including a handful of standardbreds, will compete at this weekend’s national distance riding championships.
The Pro-Dosa Boost Championships are a two-day event with horse and rider completing between 20 and 160 kilometres on a looped course at Kuratau on the western side of Lake Taupo.
“It’s a stunning station, and very scenic,” says Distance Racing New Zealand (DRNZ) committee member Stuart Hine, "it’s not extreme, it’s gentle and flowing.”
Hine, from Taranaki, will ride his horse Bim Bom Bay, one of a few standardbreds in the event.
The Ambro Invasion – Sunny Ilsa trotter won four from 66, for trainers Robert Anderson and Willie Fleming before being retired in 2018.
“He’s very tall 17.2 hands and very narrow,” says Hine, “he’s just a brilliant horse.”
Last year they were voted “most improved combination” in their division and will return for the 80 kilometre Enduro race this weekend.
Enduro is where riders follow a marked course where the first across the line wins (as long as they pass the final vet check) while the other event, the Ride to Time (RTT) is a “race” where riders follow a marked trail with the goal of completing the course as close to the time they’ve been allocated.
“Arabian horses dominate numbers-wise but there are a few standardbreds and they suit a lot of riders …they are usually pretty relaxed.”
To ensure animal welfare horses are regularly checked.
“After each loop they have 20 minutes to get their heart rate down to 64 – there are also skinfold tests for dehydration and tests for lameness that they have to pass before they are allowed to continue,” says Hine.
The premier event for the weekend is the 120 kilometre Enduro, with horses and riders having to meet qualifying conditions to compete at this distance.
The event starts at midnight and finishes later in the afternoon.
“The horses usually go around 10-12 kilometres an hour.”
This is the fourth running of the event, and they have high hopes for its future.
“We want to grow this championship event and for it to be the iconic distance riding event in New Zealand and Australasia.”