Endurance rides have been held at the Biltmore Estate since 1994 and were suspended for COVID last year.

Next month, the property will mark the event’s return as the Biltmore Fall Endurance Ride to Benefit Hope for Horses will get underway on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25.

The event, to be held at the Biltmore Equestrian Center, will be staged as a fundraiser for Hope for Horses, whose farms are located in Buncombe County while the executive office is located in downtown Waynesville. Five different races are scheduled for the two-day event, ranging from 25- and 30-mile limited-distance races to 50- and 75-mile endurance runs.

Approximately 150 equestrians are expected to participate. Typically, some riders enter both limited-distance events or mix the distances.

“While speed is a factor and these are timed events, it is not the only factor,” said Gina Zachary-Doan, director of Hope for Horses.

Endurance rides operate on a series of veterinary checks for the horses and each horse must be deemed fit to continue before proceeding in the race, including completion at the finish.

“Typically, the rides consist of 15- to 20-mile loops. When the riders come back through camp their time doesn’t stop until their horse’s pulse returns to a resting heart rate (usually 64 bpm). The horse must then be presented to one of the veterinary judges who evaluates the horse on a variety of measures, including soundness, hydration, digestive health (gut sounds), and pulse recovery. If the horse passes the vet check, they start a mandatory hold of 30 to 50 minutes during which the horse and rider rest, eat and rehydrate before starting the next trail loop,” Zachary-Doan explained.

A Test of Skills

Endurance racing is a competitive sport, challenging for both the horse and the rider.

As American Endurance Ride Hall of Fame member and Candler, North Carolina, resident Cheryl Newman said, “Endurance racing really pits the skills, fitness and partnership of you and your horse as a team against the trail. And, to a lesser degree, against your competitors. Horses learn the skills by participating; humans learn similarly by participating. I have not yet been in a ride that I have not learned something. Sometimes about me, sometimes about my horse, or how smart he is about conveying his needs to me. And I learn from my fellow competitors, who frequently number among them folks who have been there, done that and offer help freely and generously.”

And Newman has been participating in the sport beginning with crewing at events that her husband and fellow Hall of Fame member Stagg Newman rode in, for some 40 years.

“That evolved over several decades from crewing to riding up through one-day, 100-mile competitions to international level competitions to managing competitions to officiating at competitions,” Newman said.

In total, she has participated in over 100 events as a rider, probably an equal amount as a crew member or manager, using business skills she acquired as a telecom engineer and project manager.

“Given the scope of the 2021 fall ride — 25-mile and 50-mile rides on Sept. 24; 30-mile, 50-mile and 75-mile rides on Sept. 25, with likely over 200 rider-starts, including changes of horse, rider, crew, food, volunteers, all of which needs to be tracked — on site supervision seems appropriate,” Newman said. “I do not plan on riding myself, but one or two of my horses will be ridden by friends.”

Newman will participate as secretary for this fall’s event.

Memory-making Experience

On the other hand, Stagg Newman plans to ride his horse Tanka in the 50-mile competition on Sept. 24.

Stagg Newman has focused on 100-mile endurance distance competitions, having completed over 60 100s with more than 20 wins and Best Conditions.

Stagg Newman served as President of the American Endurance Conference from 2005 to 2007, and has served as trail manager for the Biltmore Challenge and the Fall Ride at Biltmore for many years. He loves to introduce people to the sport.

“Once upon a time (decades ago), my primary motivation was to enjoy trails in different environments, bonding with my horse/s,” he said.

“Over the years, many deep friendships have evolved,” Newman said. “This is a heady brew and a strong motivator to participate in the sport in whatever way seems to be right for that timeframe and event. Over such a long span, I have lots of special memories. Perhaps one of the best was with Strut as we were both finishing our first one-day 100 — the Swanton Pacific — in California. We had travelled through redwoods, along Pacific Ocean headlands, into canyon land and, finally, as the moon was over the Pacific Ocean in the distance, we came over the last hill onto an old logging flume line bed. We were going to complete, and top 10, what a high.”

“Another favorite memory is that last 100 I did, the Old Dominion 100, one of the two toughest rides in the country,” Newman said. “My husband on his horse Winston and myself on O’Ryan came in together about 1 a.m. in the morning after we started, tied for first. Endurance riding makes for enduring partnerships.”

“For someone who has a horse that they trust on trails, and has a hankering to see some new places and in ways that few manage in this over-homogenized age, endurance riding can be a wonderful way to meet great people, see new places, and bond with your horse. Come join us,” Newman said.

A version of the fall ride has been held each year since 2013, except 2020, as a fund raiser for Hope for Horses, which managed the fall event from 2013 to 2017 at the Biltmore venue. In 2018, Biltmore hosted the AERC National Championship, and while the ride still functioned as a benefit for Hope for Horses, it was managed by Biltmore Equestrian Activities, LLC. Beginning in 2019, BEA took over the management of the ride, but continued to work in a close partnership with Hope for Horses, and the ride continues to raise funds for them.

Hope for Horses has a fund-raising goal of $10,000 for the weekend event. Information about sponsoring this fall’s events can be found online at biltmoreendurance.com. Hope for Horses is a 501©3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.

The deadline to enter the race is Sept. 17. The entry form and fee structure can be found on the website. Note that a copy of a negative Coggins test current to Sept. 26 for each horse must be submitted with the application.

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