The hilly, verdant land around the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C. is the setting for this year’s Adequan/American Endurance Ride Conference National Championships. Top U.S. endurance riders and their horses are competing for national titles in the 100-mile and 50-mile distances.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, the 50-mile contenders will take to the course, which loops around the historic Biltmore Equestrian Center with competitors returning to a central area for the required vet checks. The hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains promise a scenic but challenging ride.
During the competition, Dr. Meg Sleeper, a competitive endurance rider and professor at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine, will be conducting a study of heart rate variability (variation in the heart rhythm) in endurance horses. Riders who volunteer for the study will have their horses wear a heart rate monitor during the pre-ride vet check and after completing the ride. The study is the first of its kind on endurance horses.
On Sept. 23 and 24, the Arabian Horse Association’s Competitive Trail Ride (CTR) championship will take place on the grounds. This 70-mile competition is open only to Arabians and half-Arabians that have qualified through results at earlier regional or national CTRs. An open CTR will also be held in conjunction with this ride that will allow riders of all breeds to compete.
CTRs differ from endurance riding in that they are not a race. In endurance, the first horse-and-rider team to cross the finish line is the winner, provided the horse passes the final vet check. In CTR, competitors must finish between the minimum and maximum time, and they are judged on the horse’s manners and the rider’s horsemanship. Horses may be checked at any point on the ride (rather than at set vet checks at certain mileage as is done in endurance) and riders may be asked to demonstrate skills such as mounting, sidepassing and backing at any point along the ride. Competitors are even judged on their stabling and campsite areas.
Learn more about this year’s AERC National Championship at aercatbiltmore.com