South Africa

Wildest horse race in the world ends in thrilling fashion

2018-10-22 15:04
Rosie Riall (Supplied)
Rosie Riall (Supplied)

Cape Town - Young UK-based rider Rosie Riall triumphed in the second-ever Race the Wild Coast endurance horse race, crossing the finish line at the Kei Mouth ahead of 13 other international competitors.

RESULTS: 2018 Race the Wild Coast

Race the Wild Coast, which is sponsored by international apparel brand KTC and supported by Striped Horse craft beer, is a new breed of long-distance horse racing set along the aptly named Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

The race was organised by South African company Rockethorse Racing, which launched its first event in 2016. This complex, multi-stage race covers 350km of untamed wilderness and includes river and estuary crossings, narrow cliff-top tracks, rocky paths, beach runs, and often adverse weather conditions - earning it the moniker of “the wildest horse race in the world”. From a technical perspective, it is certainly one of the most challenging endurance races in existence.

Says race organiser and co-founder Barry Armitage of Rockethorse Racing: “This year’s race was certainly tough and it’s an achievement just to finish. We congratulate all our riders who traversed the rugged paradise that is South Africa’s Wild Coast. And we take our racing cap off to the winner. It was a tight finish, but Rosie pipped her mate Anna Boden to the line due to strategy, determination, sheer grit and excellent horsemanship!”

For the first time in the race’s history, other intrepid adventure sports enthusiasts from different disciplines were welcomed onto the field. Legendary endurance trail runner Steve Black and adventure canoeist Clyde Barendse pitted their skills against those of the riders and raced the horses to the finish line, with Black running the trail and Barendse paddling across rivers and breakers. Future editions of the event will see other forms of endurance sport such as Mountain Biking also included in Race the Wild Coast.

Taking part in the 2018 edition were 14 riders in total: Anna Boden (UK), Daisy Soames (UK), Jamey Altman (USA), Katy Willings (UK), Iain Paterson (UK), Francisco Schnaas (MX), Courtney Kizer (USA), Catriona Paterson (CAN), Melissa Montgomery (USA), Chetta Crowley (AUS), Rosie Riall (UK), Hanna Bartnick (USA), Julie Eldridge (USA), and Mohammed Nasser (UAE).

No South Africans took part in this edition, but the 2016 race was won by South Africa’s own Monde Khanyana who beat an international field that comprised a high number of Mongol Derby veterans, including the 2014 Mongol Derby winner, Australian Sam Jones, who came second in the 2016 South African race.

During Race the Wild Coast 2018, the constantly changing conditions due to rain and wind on the first two days resulted in frequent alterations to the leader positions. Horse and rider had to work together to overcome obstacles.

At times riders grouped together as teams, with the trailing pack working together to catch up to the leaders. Melissa Montgomery (USA) impressed fans on Day 2 by catching up with the leading pack after a tough river crossing despite a fractured left wrist. Other riders were not so fortunate, with Hanna Bartnick withdrawing on Day 3 after an injured ankle affected her ability to ride. Mohammed Nasser withdrew on Day 4 due to an injured knee. Julie Eldridge was unfortunate to have her third horse (the riders change mounts at various stages) vetted out at the Bulungula vet check but continued the race as a non-competitor after mounting a spare horse.

Covering 80km per day, the race took place over 12 stages. At the end of each stage, horses were thoroughly checked by Rockethorse Racing’s own head vet as well as SPCA vets to ensure that the animals remained in top condition. The horses’s health is paramount and time penalties are incurred for overworking the horses, which can seriously impact the leaderboard.

The horses were sourced from local endurance stud Moolmanshoek run by Wiesman Nel. The mounts included three types: pure bred Arabian horses for speed, Arabians crossbred with local Boerperde for their hardiness and temperament, and pure Boerperde suited to the tough conditions of the Wild Coast.

The terrain of the race varies. It spans hard sand on beaches with outgoing tides; coastal hills cut by ravines that often require leading the horses; tight forested tracks; and soft sand where haste could result in tendon injuries. Not to mention several river swims…

While thrilling, this arduous enterprise forces riders to keep a steady pace while reading the immediate landscape for the fastest or most efficient route - never knowing what might come next. It is not known as the “wild” coast for nothing...

Endurance horse racing is a growing genre of adventure racing internationally, and South Africans are no strangers to the sport. Armitage himself won the Mongol Derby in 2017. Race the Wild Coast blends the spirit of the frontiersman and the modern horseback adventurer – a test of endurance, horsemanship, survival and navigational skills across an iconic wilderness - and is making its mark as a global sporting classic.

To find out more or enter the next race, visit http://rockethorseracing.co.za/

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