Endurance GB launches first ‘virtual’ endurance ride

Endurance GB is to stage what is believed to be the first ‘virtual’ endurance ride with a Model Horse Marathon set to take place on Sunday 26th April providing an online competition for both members and supporters of the sport in a bid to beat ‘lockdown boredom’.

Endurance GB’s actual ride calendar is currently axed until mid-June but the board is monitoring the situation closely and asking all ride organisers to look at options until the end of the year, with contingency planning including a possible extension to the season and earlier start to 2021 with options for locally-based shorter distance pleasure rides which can be run safely in accordance with any social distancing measures in place at the time.

Esther Young, Operations Director who, with Dave Hull from the Endurance GB Nottinghamshire Group, came up with the plan for an online endurance competition said: “The endurance community is a close-knit one and we have all derived a great deal of support from each other via social media in recent weeks.  Several of our members are feeling very isolated and next weekend’s Model Horse Marathon gives us a chance to bring the sport online and have a bit of fun together. The model horses will be required to complete a series of tests as the competition unfolds on the day of the kind riders and crews might expect to encounter at an actual ride.”

Within hours of being launched, entries for the Model Horse Marathon flooded in. The competition is open to both Endurance GB members and non-members and £5 from the entry fee of £12 will go to the NHS Charities Together Urgent Covid-19 appeal. All that is needed to enter is a model horse and rider, the ‘whackier’ the better according to the organisers. Full details of the competition and how to enter are posted on the home page of the Endurance GB website. West End Photography, who are longstanding supporters of Endurance GB, have donated a canvas print of a photo of the winner’s choice as a prize.

Esther Young said that there had been a surge of interest in the competition when it was launched on Endurance GB’s Facebook page and that members had got behind the idea of the virtual competition with the ‘pioneering spirit’ typical of the sport: “By its very nature endurance riding attracts riders with a good sense of humour and adventure as on an actual ride much of the appeal is that you, your horse and your crew are heading off into the unknown. We will be looking to replicate that spirit during the Model Horse Marathon, which is a chance for riders to show their creative and fun sides. Some of the entrants have already been sharing photographs of their pre ‘ride’ preparation, which is brilliant.

“So far the feedback has been that people want to share in the amusement and take part in something that even in a small way celebrates the sport they love and the fact that they are doing so to raise funds for NHS Charities Together is a bonus.”

Commenting on prospects for an ‘actual’ season, Endurance GB Chair Phil Nunnerley said: “We have cancelled all rides until the middle of June, which is when the original twelve-week quarantine period for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ ends. The Government are currently reviewing the lockdown criteria but the fact is that we just don’t know what restrictions will continue to be in place and for how long when lockdown starts to ease. It is likely that some form of restrictions (such as social distancing and travel restrictions) will continue to be in place for the medium term, potentially on a fluctuating basis depending on further disease spikes until such a time as a vaccine becomes available. This of course makes it very difficult to plan and we will need to be very flexible and reactive. Endurance GB’s Finance Director Chris Wray has drawn up a very robust business interruption contingency plan together with the Board and we are confident that with some prudent financial decisions Endurance GB is resilient enough to weather the storm even in the worst case scenario model.

“In the meantime we are working on a programme of fun and more serious activities to keep everyone in touch with each other during these difficult times.”