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Alexandria Kirkland and Izahr's red, white and blue tack below. Follow the links for details.

 
   

 

 

Deluxe Add-On with the 2 halter buckle option 

Breastplate - Style D 

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 2009 World Endurance Championships

I came into these World Championships in Hungary knowing that only one other American young rider had ever finished. So my goal from the start was to improve upon America’s past performance. I rode a leased horse from France named Izahr, with my mom and my friend as crew. We passed our first inspection the day before the ride, and French crew people came over to admire our tack and crisp USA uniforms!

On the morning before the ride, we woke up at 5 am because the start was scheduled for 7 am. All night the rain and thunder had pounded our little hotel room, and it was still coming down in buckets when we walked out of our hotel. The Organizing Committee decided to push the start back to 8 am in hopes of letting the trail dry a bit. They completely changed the trail to avoid the wettest parts. About ten minutes after I had explained to my crew all of the trail and subsequent pit crew changes, the Organizing Committee changed the loop order again - so tons of scratch outs on all of the maps and papers. I waited around a while and walked my horse a bit, and then saddled up. At the start I tucked Izahr behind the South African team, and Izahr was a complete professional - not a toe out of line throughout the crazy warm up or start. Izahr did not spend a single drop of energy fighting me or misbehaving, and in the excitement of the field of horses, he
certainly had the opportunity.

I started at the back of the pack and throughout the first loop weaved my way up the pack. I rode with South Africa, Norway, Finland – all over the world! It was raining and very cold (well, for me!) through most of the first loop, which helped us cool down a bit at the vet gate. Izahr was unsaddled and pulsed down within a minute and a half and we were through the vet gate easily, having passed several people who had galloped in. So, we were already through the first 20 miles of our race.

 

The speed and drama of the first loop made the trail difficult to see, but on the second loop the mud was clearly visible. There were two long sections of mud on all the trails: one midway through the loops, and one coming into camp. I picked through the mud a little more carefully on the second loop, and kept Izahr in his 20 km (13 mph) canter, his preferred gait. At the crew point, Izahr sucked down water from every bucket, and was quite tolerant with the water bullets my crew was throwing at us. Our pace for this loop was about 17.35 kilometers/hour, though I had no idea where I was in relation to the pack.

I pulled my speed back a bit on the third loop - not by slowing down on the trail, but simply letting him drink as much as he wanted. He even grabbed a few mouthfuls of grass, that horse was one great eater and drinker. He knows how to take care of himself during a ride, sure made my job a lot less stressful! There was a mandatory recheck after this loop, and Izahr again passed with flying colors. Our speed for the third loop was about 15 km/hour, though everyone was going a bit faster than what they printed because it was slightly longer than 35 km, more like 37.2 or so.

With only 15 miles to go, I decided to let the last loop rip - they did the count down for my fourth loop, and we went out like a racehorse. I figured while we were at the World Championships, we might as well put on a show; Izahr enthusiastically agreed with my line of thinking. My GPS had us going 23-24 km/hour (about 15 miles per hour) for that entire last loop, and with the four water stops, the final pace for this loop was about 18.4 km/hour.
I was extremely careful about our finish line check, letting Izahr walk and drink more than normal. My crew told me there had been several pulls at the finish line, so I made sure that Izahr’s pulse was well under criteria and that everything was looking good. Of course, just like all of the other vet checks, Izahr passed easily and all of team USA, and various other teams and spectators, cheered wildly and snapped photographs.

Our average speed for the whole 75 race was about 17 kilometers an hour, which is about 10.6 miles an hour. We placed 54th out of 95 pre-race entries, of course well ahead of the American speed record – so we achieved our goal; we improved upon America’s last performance. And I sincerely hope that my new speed record gets broken by a team of American Young Riders four years from now at the next YR World Endurance Championship!

Alexandria Kirkland

 

 
Alexandria and Izahr coming from first loop. Alexandria and Izahr midway through the loop, at about 30 miles.

 

 
Stacy Anderson, Alexandria Kirkland and Deborah Kirkland (Alexandria's mom). Right after the competition. The vet congratulating Alexandria after her completion.

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