Endurance as its name suggests, is a gruelling long-distance race where horse and rider put their endurance ability, speed and stamina to the test. The emphasis of this sport is for the horse and rider to complete the distance in the fastest possible time, without compromising the condition of the horse. The horse is required to pass a number of compulsory vet checks throughout the race, where a veterinarian will ensure that the horse is fit and sound to continue. We recently spoke to professional endurance rider, Gillese De Villiers about her passion, dedication and achievements within the sport.
CV: When did you start riding?
Gillese: I have been riding since the age of 6 and bought my first horse when I was 18 — she is still with me today, more than 25 years later.
CV: What sparked your interest in endurance?
Gillese: As a student at Stellenbosch we were a bunch of horsey friends who trained together and went to bridle path and endurance rides. We all rode Arabian or part -Arab horses and they thrive on endurance based activities.
CV: Does your family share your love of horses?
Gillese: My parents and siblings certainly never did and believed until quite recently that it is a phase that I would one day out grow. My husband is an excellent horseman and both my sons are keen riders.
CV: Who helps you and what do they do?
Gillese: My husband is the greatest help and I can’t imagine my competitive career without him. He is a training partner, farrier, helps with difficult youngsters and he pays the vet bills. Clive Cesroe is my groom and work rider. He is a good horseman and passionate about the welfare of our horses. Competing at international level would also be impossible without my sponsors – GCS-Max (Cipla Vet), Nutri-H feeds and Sommer Saddles.
CV: What makes a good endurance horse?
Gillese: Good legs, an excellent heart and a rider with patience.
CV: What’s the hardest part of an endurance ride?
Gillese: The evening before the race. After the pre-race inspection there is usually too much to do — getting everything ready for the race and crewing, getting excited horses to settle and rest and catching up with dear friends you only see once a month at the rides.
CV: Which is your favourite endurance ride to compete in, and why?
Gillese: Darling, it isn’t too far to travel, and the course is really horse-friendly.
CV: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Gillese: Successfully competing at the World Endurance Championships in Malaysia 2008 with my own horse and bringing him home afterwards. These days such a venture would be impossible because of the AHS protocol.
CV: How many horses do you currently have in training?
CV: Can you describe a typical endurance ride?
Gillese: An Endurance ride is a timed test against the clock of an individual horse/rider team’s ability to traverse a marked, measured cross-county “trail” over natural terrain consisting of a distance of 30 to 160km in one day.
CV: What is your secret to success?
Gillese: The 5 P’s — perfect preparation prevents poor performance
CV: What’s your training schedule like?
Gillese: Our horses go in the walker early morning and then do 60-90 mins of ridden work. We also try and do longer training rides of up to 25km at least every 2 weeks. I ride 2 or 3 horses most days.
CV: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of taking up the sport?
Gillese: Go onto the website www.erasa.co.za and find a club in your area. Contact them to get in touch with riders from your area, go to a ride as a spectator or even take your horse for a 30km ride. You will instantly know if this sport is for you once you are out on the course.
CV: How do you make sure that your horse is in top condition?
Gillese: I try and keep it as simple as possible — good hay and a little Nutri H after their training. But because DJD is the most common ailment in endurance horses, I routinely add a maintenance dose of GCS-Max Gold to their feed as prevention.
CV: What do you look for in a joint supplements product?
Gillese: A product that is easy to use, safe and very effective. Both my senior horses have done close to 5000km in competition and are still sound and happy because of good joint care.
We look forward to many more successful competitive miles for Gillese and her horses, we are privileged to be associated with Gillese since 2009.