Self-confessed horse-fanatic a champion endurance rider

Endurance riding champ Jenny Champion with horse Barack Obama.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/STUFF

Endurance riding champ Jenny Champion with horse Barack Obama.

Fancy getting up at midnight to ride 160 kilometres on horseback? Not many would, but for some people, it's just the ticket.

Wairarapa's Jenny Champion is one of them, recently winning the Equestrian Sports NZ Endurance Championship Series for 2017 and her 10th and 11th endurance riding commemorative buckles.

Champion said she was a bit of a horse fanatic but some people could not get their heads around endurance riding.

Champion has eleven endurance buckles in all, eight won with Freckles the mare and three with Barack Obama, pictured are ...
ILLYA MCLELLAN/STUFF

Champion has eleven endurance buckles in all, eight won with Freckles the mare and three with Barack Obama, pictured are two she won most recently with Barack Obama.

"You tell people you are going to start riding at 1am and travelling 160 km on horseback and they look at you like you're crazy. It can take between 8½ to 17 hours to complete.

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"My last time was 11 hours, so it's a long time riding. You have to look after your horse and adjust the way you ride to your horse's strengths to make the distance."

Anglo-Arab horses love distance riding and seem to thrive on pushing themselves to the limit, says Jenny Champion.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/STUFF

Anglo-Arab horses love distance riding and seem to thrive on pushing themselves to the limit, says Jenny Champion.

The riders do six loops of about 34 km and get a 40-minute rest per loop where they and their horses replenish themselves and the horses are checked by a veterinarian.

The recovery ability of the horse was key because its heart rate needed to drop below 64 bpm before it could be checked by the vet. Whichever horse gets checked by the vet first is first starter on the next loop, which was an obvious advantage, Champion said. 

"After a loop I take in a lot of fluids and have a sandwich. Barack will eat oats, baleage, and have a specially formulated horse-hydrating shot called a B-boost to guarantee he is well rested and ready.

"The sorest muscles I get are my calves and thighs, though Barack is a strong horse who loves a gallop so I spend a lot of time holding him back which takes a toll on my shoulders too. 

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After 22 years in the sport Champion has amassed an enviable record and credits her horses Freckles and Barack Obama for giving her the edge to compete so well.

"I won two championships with Freckles, in 2006 and 2008 and eight  buckles [buckles are awarded on the completion of a 160 kilometre ride]. The horse has now retired to the farm and is a brood mare.

"My new horse Barack Obama is actually owned by my friend Mark Round and is 20 years old in a few months, which is getting up there for a horse competing at this level. He's an Anglo-Arabian and very fit. He  doesn't act or look as old as he is and has a fantastic heart rate.

"I'm hoping to be able to fundraise the money to compete with him in the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina next year."

Equestrian Sports NZ chair of endurance board Alison Higgins said Champion was a real icon of the sport in New Zealand and she and partner Shane Dougan did a lot for the sport.

"She and Freckles were together for 17 years and considering she only started with Barack Obama in 2014 it is a great effort to win the 2017 endurance series."

Wairarapa Endurance & CTR Club have their first ride for the season at Clareville on 3rd September, riding distances will be 34ks, 17ks and 10ks.  New riders are more than welcome to attend. Check the club's Facebook page for more details. 

 - Stuff

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