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Re: [RC] [Endurance Tracks] France requests change to 2008->2009 - Richard ALLEN

On 22 Feb 2009, at 18:44, Diane Trefethen wrote:

1) Most French rides are *not* FEI sanctioned,

?2) There is a French equivalent of the North American AERC,

?3) Most French rides are sanctioned by this French equivalent,

?4) French rides that are not FEI have an atmosphere very similar to

? ? AERC rides with most riders focusing on enjoying the ride and their

? ? horses.

?5) Many but nowhere near "most" French riders are "professional".

You describe it better than I could! Except for (2); there's no national body dedicated to endurance. It's all run by the Federation Francaise d'Equitation, which is responsible for all other equestrian activities as well. Rides are the responsibility of regional committees and the rules are standardised across the country.

I thought I'd describe what I think of as a typical French ride. Pont d'Ouilly is a small town in Normandy laid out on both sides of a river. It's in an area known as "Suisse Normande" because said river has carved the landscape into a series of gorges. There's a lot of rock-climbing and canoeing.

The equestrian centre is up on the top and is blasted by northerly winds in the winter. It's run by Karine (30-ish - I'm too much of a gent to ask) and her dad Jackie (60-ish). They have the sort of mixture of neddies you'd expect at any small local riding club; also an indeterminate number of dogs, a couple of stable cats. There's a cosy clubhouse where Jackie does the cooking.

Karine and Jackie both compete in endurance to as high a level as they can. Karine gets paid every now and then to train a horse for someone else, so in that respect I guess you'd say she's a professional. She's definitely a professional in her approach to the horses in her care, which is all that matters, really.

Pont d'Ouilly is one of the few places you can compete through the winter which, given the prevailing climate, is something of a mixed blessing. They put on rides at the beginning of December, January and February. It's all climbing, sometimes in snow, often in wind so strong you can't hear your horse's feet on the few bits of tarmac you have to cross.

This January they offered 6 classes; a 20k, a 30k, two 40's and two 60's (the duplicate classes were to do with the French licence system, which is too stupefying to go into here). All these distances are set speed rides - there's a minimum and a maximum speed. There is ranking at the end, which is determined by the application of "the French Formula": (speedx2 minus minimum speed for the class x 100) divided by (heartrate taken 30 minutes after finishing).

In January there were only 13 competitors overall not counting the Club members, who aren't listed on the internet results page (see above re stupefying licence situation). ?One of the 30km classes - the one I picked at random - was "won" at a speed of 14.94 kmph (maximum speed for that class is 15), by a horse whose final cardiac was 32bpm. In second place was a horse who also did the distance at 14.94, but whose cardiac was 40 bpm. So you can see that with the formula, a low pulse trumps a high speed. Fitness is rewarded. It's possible to win even if you went slower than A.N.Otherhorse; it should also be clear that the word "win"here isn't going to describe teeth-bared, red-mist going for it. The only prize is a plastic plaque thing bearing the logo of the equestrian centre and the pleasure of spending an hour or two in the clubhouse eating Jackie's food while waiting for the results to be calculated. Everyone cheers everyone else at the prize-giving, although if you have to leave early, it's cool.?No-one gets big-headed because they 'won", or slams the bedroom door because they didn't.?

There are lots of folk who have no desire to go further than these classes. The second-placed horse I mentioned was ridden by a 57 year-old primary school teacher whose other horse is a 90k race specialist, but she's a specialist at that distance only because the rider isn't interested in going further, not because the horse couldn't. Once the winter hiatus is over these scenes will be replicated all over France, and if as is possible you find yourself riding next to the French trainer for some big stables, or an ex-FEI World champion, well they really don't helicopter in with mouths full of caviar and barge everyone out of the way. It's just not like that.?


Richard Allen

Re: [RC] [Endurance Tracks] France requests change to 2008->2009, Chrystal Woodhouse
Re: [RC] [Endurance Tracks] France requests change to 2008->2009, Richard ALLEN
Re: [RC] [Endurance Tracks] France requests change to 2008->2009, Diane Trefethen