Fauresmith has two Endurance Riding events:
The first endurance ride was held as a consequence of an argument in the magazine "Landbou Weekblad" about which horse breed has the best endurance ability. In 1964 Landbou Weekblad organised a race to settle the issue. An endurance ride was held from Hanover to De Aar to Richmond and back to Hanover. In those years there were no veterinary surgeons to check the horses, as is compulsory today. The ride was a huge success, with the Arabian breed emerging victorious.
In 1965 disaster struck when, after the ride, most of the horses appeared to have been poisoned by persons who were opposed to the competition. Approximately sixty of the participating horses died.
The first ride after 1965 was in 1973 in Fauresmith. The area and temperature lends it to endurance riding. During the 1973 race seventeen riders competed. The number has since grown to between 250 and 300 entries each year.
After every 25 km has been completed, the riders have 20 minutes to cool down their horses. They are then checked by veterinary surgeons. Heart rate and muscles are checked, and all overstrained horses are disqualified.
The cameraderie and sportmanship between riders were probably best illustrated in 2003 when Laura Woods, then a Junior Springbok rider stopped halfway through the race to assist another competitor that fell.
The Fauresmith International Endurance Ride is considered one of the toughest in the world. It is not the toughest because of the distance, but because riders must complete long distances over three consecutive days. Riders have been known to get up every hour during the freezing nights to check on their horses.
Veteran riders such as Ami de Wet, Claire Amm and Chris Thiel returns year after year to compete in this gruelling race.
The Louise Botha Stride Memorial Challenge is a full-fledged International Ride. It has been approved and is held under the auspices of ERASA and the FEI. FEI is the abbreviation for Federation Equestre Internasionale, and is based in Switzerland. It is the governing body for all equestrian sport in the world.
The results of the Louise Botha are published on the world rankings. Riders and horses are ranked according to results. The Louise Botha is one of the higher grade rides because it is a 160km competition. It is therefore a 3* ride.
The ride originated while Louise was still alive. She was a member of the Koffiefontein Endurance Riding Club and she has always felt that Fauresmith should have a pre-ride in addition the the National Championships. In 2002 a group of riders planned the Randjiesveld Ride, in which 25 horses competed.
The next year, Louise was diagnosed with cancer, and the name was changed to the "Louise Botha Challenge". The ride was registered as a FEI 3* ride. After Louise passed away Stride joined as the main sponsor, and the name of the ride was changed to the "Louise Botha Stride Memorial Challenge". Since 2007, the ride is also the Free State Endurance Riding Championships.
In addition to the International Ride, an ERASA division is also held where horses can progress from one level to the next without the stresses of participating competitively.
To ensure the success of such an endeavour, the help and assistance of the community is essential, and the Fauresmith community have always given endurance riding their full support. The course must be planned and measured, accommodation arranged and catering must be organised. There are also a host of other matters that needs to receive attention. The popularity of the ride can squarely be placed on the shoulders of the farmers, business people and institutions of Fauresmith. Everyone’s efforts and sacrifices are truly appreciated.
The ride has grown from a humble beginning with 25 horses to the entry of 200 horses (of which 130 started) in 2010.
The town is unique and is already known as the "Endurance Riding Town" in equestrian circles. The town is fortunate to have two big competitions to draw participants.
Louise Botha was a daughter of Fauresmith. She was part of the group that started the Fauresmith 200, and also the Louise Botha Stride Memorial Challenge. She deserves to be remembered.
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