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New Army endurance team sets sights on national championship

Army riders are coming together with the aim of forming a team to compete at this year’s Riding Club Endurance Championships at the British Horse Feeds’ British Riding Clubs Endurance Team event.

The team is the brainchild of Major Shelley Bates, currently based in Glasgow (but soon to move to Aldershot), herself an Advanced endurance rider on Maggie Pattinson’s horse Sadhira who is hoping to make the step up to FEI this year. She first conceived the idea after talking to Army friends and colleagues who had expressed an interest in the sport but don’t own their own horses.

In a bid to find the emerging Army team some horse power, she floated the idea on Facebook and was amazed at the response.

She said: “Due to the nature of the job there are very few Army riders with their own horses and those that do tend to be show jumping or eventing orientated. Therefore, I thought I would see if there was anyone out there who would consider taking an Army rider under their wing and lending them a horse to take part in up to three endurance rides - two qualifiers and hopefully the Riding Club Championship Final!”

Since posting her request on Facebook, Shelley has been inundated with offers of help not only from riders offering horses but also with training from endurance supporters based near to military barracks.

Taking part in the Riding Club Championships involves two qualifying rides of between 30-40km before the final which takes in 32km at the showpiece Red Dragon Ride in Wales in October. Although military working horses would be more than fit enough for the challenge, Shelley explained that they are in such demand for other competitive sports outside their working schedule that she decided to approach the endurance community itself for help.

She said: “I posted the idea of borrowing horses just to gauge whether there is any interest in helping or whether I needed to go back to the drawing board and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people. I really didn’t think there would be so many offering to help by loaning our Army riders their precious horses.”
Military riders will have to be serving regular or reserve soldiers or officers to be part of the Army team.

Shelley said: “I will look to match riders up with locations where horses are being offered. Owners can be involved as much or as little as they like in helping the team. I was initially hoping just to get four team riders but now, given the response, perhaps there will be more! As so many people say this is what Endurance is about to me...teamwork.”

John Hudson, Endurance GB organiser of the British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance, said: “It is wonderful that the endurance community has rallied to support Army riders participating in the sport and bidding for a place at the Riding Club finals. It goes without saying that endurance, as a sport with both technical and fitness challenges, should appeal to Army riders. This is a competition pitched to bring the best teams from over six months of qualifiers to one of the most spectacular and exhilarating endurance rides in the calendar and we wish the Army team all the best in getting there.”

Qualifiers for the British Horse Feeds' BRC Endurance Team Event take place across the country from March to September. Riding Club Teams which consist of between three and six riders will be able to compete at any Endurance GB (EGB) ride and Scottish Endurance Riding Club (SERC) with a qualifying class of between 30 and 42km in distance.

A score for teams who are successful at one or more of these classes (called Qualifiers) will be entered in a League Table for their Region. The top team in each of the ten Regional League Tables will go forward to compete in the Final. In addition, the top ten from all the remaining teams will go forward to the Final. Some wild card places may also be awarded by the national organisers.

The final is on Sunday 6th October 2019 at the British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance, at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys, LD2 3SY where up to twenty teams will compete against other for the championship.

Picture caption 1: Major Shelley Bates trots up Sadhira at The Golden Horseshoe Ride Picture credit: Annie Joppe
Picture caption 2: Major Shelley Bates weights in military style at the Arab Horse Society Marathon at Newmarket
Picture Caption 3: Major Shelley Bates competing with Sadhira at The AHS Marathon at Newmarket Picture credit: West End Photography
Picture credit: West End Photography