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Wednesday July 30 2008 - North American Young Riders Endurance Ride - Opening Ceremonies

Ten Juniors and Young Riders - all girls - from around the US descended upon the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado July 29 - August 1, 2008, for the FEI CEI*** 75-mile North American Junior/Young Riders Endurance Ride. Held for the first time in conjunction with the 2008 North American Junior/Young Riders Championships, it was to be a demonstration event alongside the other disciplines of Dressage, Eventing, Jumping, and Reining.

With views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, at an elevation of around 5900 feet, the 75 miles of trails would carry riders mostly over Douglas County Open Space parks, through meadows, up on a mesa, and along a creek. It would be hot: today tied the record for consecutive days over 95* (18 days), and there was no relief in sight. It did cause some concern for parents and crews, since they would not be allowed to crew for their girls anywhere along the trail, except at the vet checks.

Jan Stevens, from Ashland, Montana, was the 'ride manager,' though she was quick to give much credit to many other people, including locals Cindy and Tom Lempp of Calhan, Colorado, who during the year put on a local endurance ride out of the Colorado Horse Park, and trail markers Susie Schomburg of Wyoming, and Holly Ulyate of nearby Larkspur, who also served as Stewards for the ride. You could always spot Jan Stevens - pointing here with one hand, cell phone in the other hand, water buckets and sponges in the other hand, crewing for her two daughters.

On Wednesday morning, John Crandell III hosted an APEX (A Partnership for Endurance Xcellence) clinic, where he spoke of his training techniques and achievements throughout his successful endurance years. The Ride Veterinarians and Vonita Bowers - Technical Delegate and USEF representative - also offered their input and advice to the young riders. After the clinic, the vetting in of the horses took place.

Opening Ceremonies for the big 4-day event began around 6:30 PM. Led by four riders on horseback bearing the Canadian, Mexican, and USA flags, (representing the countries of the competitors) and the Colorado flag, and by a fine ragtime band, the Regional competitors marched with their banners into the big arena by the "Berm" - a raised area between arenas. Last of all came Vonita Bowers and the 10 girls in the Endurance competition, looking smart in their red shirts and khaki pants behind their Endurance banner.

I don't think too many of the competitors in the other disciplines knew all that much about endurance... and the announcer probably didn't clear that up too much when he said the girls would be riding 50 miles, instead of 75 miles. Well, at least they got the "Endurance" right... As one of the girls said, "We're the Black Sheep of the competition!"

A Welcome Party was held after the brief ceremonies: barbecue dinner for all in attendance, and music for dancing - piles of horse-loving teenagers danced into the dark.

The endurance riders faded out early because they had a much earlier morning than any other discipline: with the start scheduled for 5:30 AM, the girls would be up by 4:30 AM.

Merri