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Endurance.Net Home 2008 Le Pertre CEI** 119km

Endurance is big business in France. The best horses each year are sold abroad, to various Gulf countries, where the French breeding programme is held in justifiably high esteem. Every year there are two rides where you have the optimum chance of selling your young horse on the finishing line for a sizeable amount more than it cost you to breed the beast. The first is towards the end of August, at Compiegne just north of Paris, where the leading 7 and 8 year olds battle it out over 120 kilometres and the other is Uzes, way down south and host to the 6yr old championships where they compete over 90k, divided into three 30k loops.

Endurance can equally be a family affair, with non-professional riders whose horse is not one of a string and who wouldn’t consider parting with their best friend, whatever the offer.

On Saturday October 11th whilst 180 six year olds gave their all for their riders who were hoping to attract the attention of the champagne and seafood - guzzling agents and all talk at Uzes was rumours of who held the open cheque books there was another major ride 600 miles due north. Named after the nearby village of Le Pertre (which sounds like the French for ‘the loss’) this ride has been in existence for six years and offers one of the last chances of the year to qualify your horse at 120k. You cannot enter a 160k (100 mile) 3* ride unless you’ve completed 120k in the previous 12 months so to qualify this late in the season eases the pressure for the following year.

Your trusty reporters had enjoyed Uzes, especially the catering, last year (see archives) but petrol prices have risen and Le Pertre is only an hour away….

There were 82 starters, 64 in the amateur class and 18 professionals. The only difference between the two being the amount their license cost them and the colour of their bibs; in all other respects they run the same race with the same rules but there are two podiums at the end and two sets of results. So, a dilemma for the rider whose amateur horse is right up there with the ‘professional’ one – do you race for the line for personal satisfaction or cross slowly knowing that you’ve won your class anyway?

Le Pertre is described as ‘technical’. Is there a growing tendency to describe any ride not held on perfect, flat racetrack turf as ‘technical’? Maybe. In the case of Le Pertre ‘technical’ means the conditions underfoot are constantly changing, from stony farm tracks to muddy byways, overgrown forest paths to tarmac; rarely pleasant, and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm.

The riders had been warned that a cool misty morning would turn into a hot day and that those horses who didn’t take the first 5k carefully would pay for it later. The race started at 8.00 and it was immediately obvious who was there for a safe completion and who had been aiming their entire season to culminate in a podium position. A clover leaf course with a new, improved trot up (a previous cause for the odd grumble) which was flat, firm and unforgiving.

If only organisers would put on rides with journalists in mind! This year’s French rule changes haven’t helped in the constant battle to make endurance reporting anything other than deeply dull. As far as the competitors are concerned, certainly in the first two circuits, the colour of the other rider’s bib is immaterial – you are riding your ride at the speed you choose regardless of your position in the field, either overall or that within class. But for the reporter – and reader – it’s a tiresome matter that, instead of simply being able to state who was in front at which point, one constantly has to make adjustment for which class they were in.

Saturday’s ride featured no big stars (they were all at Uzes) except for Maurice Saint, who, at the age of 74 and having been French champion in 2006 maybe feels that to campaign a young horse would be optimistic, so had made the journey north with 9 yr old Leydie de Charretis – only to retire at vetgate 2.

The venue, which occupied the stables, loos and last 200 metres of the small local steeplechase course, was bathed as promised in 25 degree sunshine by midday and the local church steeple, invisible earlier in the fog, frowned down upon the crews waiting with water in the vetgate. The morning mist had been replaced by barbecue smoke, oysters can’t compare with a sausage bagette when you’ve been up since six and are hungry as, errm, a horse.

By vetgate 3, there were still 60 horses left in the race, albeit with an hour and a half separating first from last, and they’d covered 94k. The leaders in both classes, Regine Bollon in the pros (white bib number 2 and with 25 years of experience in endurance), and 17 yr old Arnaud Garreau in the ams, dressed all in red and wearing bib number 127, were averaging 18kph and came in a good five minutes ahead of the rest of the field. However, Arnaud’s day finished here when Juan de Scevolles, his large 11 yr old Shagya Arab untypically trotted up lame. This vetgate, with its two presentations, proved the undoing for 16 horses altogether and Regine, riding the 10 yr old Anglo Arab gelding Glen Rogers, set off for the last 26k twelve minutes ahead of her nearest rival, never to be headed.

Crossing the line first in a French endurance race tends to be an anticlimactic moment for exhibitionists. You’ve ridden a textbook ride for 6hrs and 20minutes (and only spent a total of 10 minutes recovery time) and there’s nobody there to applaud you except your crew who are too busy grabbing a) the horse or b) the slip of paper which states your entry time; every other bugger is still out on course.

The winner of the amateur class, Samantha Jeniff Bodros riding Ira Salou, a 12 yr old saddle horse, wearing bib no. 107, had also ridden a textbook race, coming into the first vg in 8th position then 5th at the second. After Garreau was vetted out she went into the lead and remained there, crossing the line 22 minutes ahead of the next horse in her class. To be accurate she was actually third over the line but first in her class…

The attrition rate was higher for the pros ( only 7 finishers from 18 starters) than the ams (29/64) but only just higher than at Uzes where the horses had one less loop and therefore one less vetgate to contend with but still managed only a 50 percent pass rate. Still, every horse at Le Pertre went home in good health with its owner (or trainer) - which counts for a lot in this part of France.

Nicola Freud and Richard Allen


1BOLLON RegineGlen Roger's18,83
2PLASSARD DominiqueImbe De Derrom18,47
3SIRUGUE PhilippeKa Danse18,325
4NICAISE ChristelleAkhesa El Arami17,383
5BERNARD SIMPERE AgnesLewis De Cosnelle15,933
6BONY SarahZize Des Agatchols15,526
7OLLIVIER PierreLidylle Armor14,907

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