April 11 2007
A month wasn't nearly enough time to get to know New Zealand endurance intimately, but I thoroughly enjoyed all the people, places and horses I met. A month was way too short! These are just my opinions and observations of the small slice of New Zealand endurance that I saw along the way.
Since New Zealand decided to go with all FEI rules 10 yrs ago, that means everybody who rides endurance in NZ goes by the FEI rules. This means to all members higher fees and more rules to follow. Some people I talked to are completely for it, because the higher fees take care of the necessary insurance and the rules (should) keep everything and everybody on a level playing field - they are (should be) the same rules followed by other countries. Of course, this does not stop the rare or occasional lame horse from winning or completing a ride (depending on the importance of the rider), but this can happen anywhere, not just New Zealand, and not just FEI or non-FEI. On the other hand, having to follow every single rule all of the time can seem a bit ridiculous at times - especially when a blind eye might be turned on one or two but not another.
For those not wanting their sport to be at the FEI level, they felt the fees were just too expensive, and it put more pressure on what could just be a fun sport. They don't have a choice, like America or Australia has. As an option, there are the training rides, (which don't count toward qualifying horse and rider) so they don't have to worry about competing, though they still must be club members.
Whereas in the States we can look up on the AERC website the records of any horse and rider, that is not available in New Zealand (yet). Here in New Zealand all endurance horses have log books, which record every ride they've done, with the results of each vet check recorded. These are quite convenient in that you can look back and see from ride to ride over the years the horse's recovery parameters, the lag times (how long it takes the horse to come down to criteria - where the riding strategy and strapping techniques come into play), comments and results on gut sounds or soundness or soreness. The book always accompanies the horse - if the horse is sold, the book goes with it. If the horse is sold without the book, he doesn't do endurance anymore.
One thing I am absolutely astounded at is the fact that the minutes of the Board meetings are not readily available to anyone. I did hear some murmurings of disgruntlement about different situations from several people at the rides and yet they only had conflicting rumors of decisions made. (It's surprising what wandering ears will randomly pick up.) If an individual wants the minutes, they can go through the process of requesting the information on that particular subject, which they will eventually probably get, perhaps with persistance, but only on that subject requested. It begs the question, Why would the board not want their members to be involved enough to know what exactly is going on and everything that was discussed, and who voted for what? American endurance riders have some of the same diasgreements or discontent with things that are decided, but the minutes of every meeting are published in the AERC magazine all members receive and are readily available on line. I sure want to know what my board members voted on, and who voted how, since I elect these individuals. And I certainly expect my board members to be approachable about any subject.
Nearly all horses in the rides wear shoes, and some wear pads on some rides. The barefoot trend is starting to catch on a little bit here. I did see one barefoot horse in a shorter race, but so far a barefoot horse has not completed a 160-km ride, and really, what would be the point?
As to feeding, most hay that is fed is meadow hay. It it isn't very green, and it doesn't look nutritious, but it is. Little alfalfa is fed because it's expensive, and chaffage is cheaper and easier and provides the same nutrients. Beet pulp appears to be common, as are vitamin supplements and electrolytes. Electrolytes appear to have pretty heavy use for the longer rides, in the horse feed and syringed before going out on every loop.
If my observations are off base, I'm sure that's because I did not spend enough time in New Zealand. In fact I'm sure I didn't - I must return!
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