More than two months of training in Thailand paid handsome dividends for Lon Sopheaktra as he emerged as the fourth Cambodian rider to qualify for the men’s endurance event at the SEA Games in Malaysia later this year.
Competing at the President’s Cup at the Thai Polo Equestrian Club in the beach town of Pattaya on Saturday, Sopheaktra finished fifth among 16 riders astride the aptly named grey Significance in his second 80km event, thereby securing the novice endurance qualification mark for the August’s biennial games where the Kingdom will be hoping to win its first equestrian medal.
Sopheaktra completed the National line-up of four riders, with Ly Sovanachandara, Moeung Sochea and Phay Visal meeting the competition standards in the recently concluded pre-SEA games event in Kuala Lumpur.
With the team of four riders and their mounts now having a settled look, the Cambodian Equestrian Federation is well poised to initiate a regular and intensive training programme for the national riders while pursuing its efforts to get two more riders and their horses up to the grade before next month’s deadline.
“We are hopeful of adding two more names to the list sometime this month, meeting our target of sending a six-man endurance team for the SEA Games for the first time ever,” the president of the CEF, Mona Tep, told The Post yesterday.
“This training camp that we are organising would not have been possible without the generous support of Harald Link, the president of the South East Asian Equestrian Federation and his company BGrimm, which supported the Cambodia team to participate in previous editions. They will be with us in endurance [at the SEA Games] for the first time this year in Malaysia,” she said.
“Endurance is a unique discipline. It requires more than just a rider and his mount. A technical and support team is vital to both the qualification and the safety element.”
Stressing the importance of vets accompanying the riders and their horses wherever and whenever they compete, Tep said the support team was equally crucial in taking care of the horses during breaks and cooling them off to get them ready for the next ride.
Endurance, unlike other equestrian events, is based on controlled distance racing. Before the race, the horses are inspected by an approved veterinarian to determine their health and fitness. Riders get a map that will define the course and the ride is divided into various sections.
After each section, every competing horse will be put through what is called the “vet gate”, a check on their physical durability and dehydration based on their pulse and respiration.
For a horse to continue from one section to the next, it is mandatory for it to record a heartrate below the specified level for the event.
The riders’ time keeps running until their horses reach the required target, so it is important that the horses recover as quickly as possible. Horses found lame are automatically eliminated from the competition.
As for the riders, they are free to choose their own pace during the competition, adjusting to the terrain and their mount’s condition. Therefore, they must have a great knowledge of pace, knowing when to slow down or speed up during the ride, as well as a great knowledge of their horse’s condition and signs of distress.