Going the distance – selecting an endurance prospect

The sport of endurance is highly competitive and requires a specific type of horse to excel. EQUINE SOUTH AFRICA spoke to Arkab Stud to find out more about selecting a good quality endurance prospect.

ESA: Please provide a little information on your stud, your horses and your many accolades with this breed?
ARKAB: The Arkab Stud originated purely for endurance riding purposes. We sourced mares with proven endurance records as gleaned from the database kept by ERASA of the horses that completed Fauresmith 200km, 160km in one day and other shorter rides that were available since 1964. We purchased an old stallion that was top producer of endurance horses for three years and started our stud in 1985. Since then we have produced several horses that took their riders to National team levels, too many to name here. We won the Breeder of the Year award seven out of the nine times it was awarded. The horses from our stud that have been exported to the UAE have done well and continue to do very well there in both the 120km and 160km events.

ESA: How would you describe the nature and abilities of the Arabian (and/or SA Boerperd) as a riding horse?
ARKAB: In any breed you get all the different temperaments of horses. In our stud we have been concentrating on honest, straight-forward temperaments, calm in hand and eager under saddle. Some are quite spooky to start with, especially the horses that are very aware of their environment. To my mind it is not an impossible trait as we give our horses confidence until they manage their environment. Most of my horses, however, have been bred to be relatively calm and self-assured on the trail. As to the abilities, the Arabian is by far the top endurance horse and basis for endurance horses. Sometimes the Arabian X SA Boerperd just gives that little more size and substance needed for the bigger SA riders. The SA Boerperd goes under the same comments, it all depends what the breeder was aiming for in selecting breed animals. We also select, in both breeds, for a high level of trainability and adaptability for Endurance and Western Mounted Games and for the disciplines of Jumping and Dressage.

ESA: What should a buyer look for when choosing an Endurance prospect?
ARKAB: The most important thing to consider is your own ambitions and abilities. The second consideration is where the prospective horse was bred and raised, together with a known Endurance pedigree. Go into the history of the horse and its family to ascertain whether they are prone to injuries and colic and what kind of injuries.

ESA: Is there a difference between Arabians destined for Endurance, Showing and Hacking homes?
ARKAB: There are really no differences in endurance and hacking prospects except in the pricing. Retired endurance horses make super hacking horses due to their experience in riding out. Show horses are an altogether different prospect as they are bred for “showing off” and a steady temperament may be a hindrance. A beautiful head and topline is essential, with straight legs and straight movement not so important. In an endurance prospect, straight legs and straight leg movement is paramount with head and topline secondary to that. An unflappable temperament, not driven by nervous energy but a calm desire to travel forward, is also very desirable

ESA: What should buyers in each of these areas seek out - or avoid?
ARKAB: If you look for a show prospect remember that pretty is paramount, head, topline, build, hide and showy temperament.
In an endurance prospect you look for calmness in hand and eager but not excited under saddle, good proven bloodlines and straight legs. Do not let a pretty horse lure you into buying an unsuitable horse. Not that there are not very beautiful horses doing endurance rides!!

ESA: What would you consider to be a fair price for horses within these different spheres?
ARKAB: This is a very wide open question with intricate answers. From hacking to top endurance can range from R10,000.00 to R500,000.00 – all depending on the abilities, size and saleability to overseas buyers. A showing breeder would be better equipped to answer this question regarding showing prospects.

ESA: What advice would you give to an Arabian lover who has had these horses in their lives and now wishes to take things to the 'next level' e.g., purchasing an exceptional horse for competition?
ARKAB: The most important rule is to contact a proven stud of either show or endurance horses. Attend a couple of meetings, for endurance it helps a lot to attend a couple of endurance courses. E.g. my most successful riders/horses are/were ridden by riders who attended Arkab Stud’s endurance courses.

ESA: How do you think local Arabians compare with horses from the international market?
ARKAB: South Africa has been very fortunate in having excellent horsemen importing outstanding quality horses into South Africa since early in the last century and still doing it now. We have some of the best bloodlines available here. Outstanding “outside” blood is always welcome but to have an internationally top horse you can find many in South Africa. Just follow the Endurance horse sport in UAE and you will see how exceptionally well our horses perform against the world’s best.

ESA: Is it worth looking abroad for a good prospect or does South Africa have enough good horses to meet the local demand?
ARKAB: No need to look overseas for a top endurance horse. South Africa has enough horses to meet the local demand and are a favourite of overseas buyers looking for top endurance prospects. The only reason breeders use overseas horses is for improving or rather enhancing the horses we already have in South Africa.
Looking for an endurance prospect? Check out EquineSA.com’s dedicated page, Endurance Horses...

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