This month, we are thrilled to feature our interview with Jessica Cunze, an extraordinary and highly accomplished Endurance rider based in the Western Cape.

The interview focuses on an individual's experiences and passion for endurance riding. The interviewee discusses their journey into endurance riding, their approach to horse well-being during long rides, memorable experiences, the bond with their horses, and their training regime. They also share insights into race strategies, their future goals in the sport, and their favorite competition division. 


Q. Tell me about your endurance riding experience and could you explain to our readers the different types of events you’ve participated in. 

A. I've been passionate about endurance riding since a young age. It all began with an invitation to a "long outride" and quickly grew into a lifelong passion. I've competed in endurance events across different provinces in South Africa, gradually increasing the distances I took on. The notable ones are our three big rides every season, Fauresmith 200km, Walvisbay & SAIC. 

The bond formed with your horse as you navigate tough terrain and spend countless hours training and competing is truly invaluable. My journey in endurance riding has been nothing short of a rewarding experience filled with lots of lessons along the way.


Q. How do you ensure the well-being of your horse during long rides and maintain your own fitness? 

A. Ensuring the well-being of our horses during long rides is a top priority. I strongly believe in the principle of the 5 P's: “Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”. This philosophy emphasizes the importance of ensuring the horses are well-prepared, nourished, and properly conditioned for the distances they'll take part in. They need to pass a series of "Fit to Continue" vet checks, which occur before the ride begins, after each loop, and at the conclusion of the race. These checks are conducted by experienced veterinarians who meticulously assess various factors, including vitals and soundness. Additionally, we place great emphasis on post-race recovery to really appreciate the longevity of our horses.  As for my personal fitness, while maintaining a general level of physical well-being is important, it's time spent in the saddle that truly counts. 


Q. Can you share a challenging experience during an endurance ride and how you handled it? 

A. Endurance riding is filled with a multitude of challenges for both the horse and rider. Horses are incredibly fit and energetic, while riders often battle nerves and pressure. It's difficult to single out one specific challenging experience, as the sport constantly tests our resilience and adaptability.

In endurance riding, unforeseen circumstances are common, and I've learned that it's not about what happens but how we respond. While we've all had moments of imperfect reactions in the heat of competition, I strive to maintain a clear and proactive approach.

One memorable incident was a mass start involving 300 horses, I've also faced challenging falls and encountered runaway horses. Throughout these trials, I've come to appreciate that perseverance is the key. 


Q. How do you establish and maintain a strong bond with your horse and handle issues during a ride?

A. Whether it involves riding, grooming, playful or simply spending time in their company, these moments are fundamental to building and sustaining a strong bond. This bond is not just an essential component of endurance riding.

It's crucial to recognize that our connection with our horses extends far beyond the realm of competition. It's comforting to us as individuals, but more importantly, it is our responsibility to be their voice and their safe space, and it is our duty to consistently strive to be the best we can be for them. 


Q. Share a memorable and rewarding experience you’ve had in endurance riding.

A. I've been fortunate to partake in numerous notable endurance riding experiences, but a few standout moments include competing in prestigious events such as Fauresmith, Walvisbay, SAIC, and races in the UAE. Achieving podium positions or even crossing the finish line first in these races has been incredibly memorable.

However, amidst these exhilarating memories, the most rewarding experiences in endurance riding often come from the journey with a young and promising horse. It's an incredible feeling to witness their growth and development as we train together, culminating in those extraordinary moments when we complete a ride in our personal best time or position.

What truly brings the greatest satisfaction, though, is seeing a happy and healthy horse after a ride. Winning, while a meaningful milestone, can't compare to the sense of accomplishment when the diligent efforts of training lead to a fantastic result and a happy, healthy equine companion at the end of the ride.


Q. What inspired you to get into endurance riding and what do you enjoy most about it? 

A. I'm drawn to the lifestyle of hitching up the trailer with family and friends and heading to breathtaking farms for competition. The supportive and fun community is a huge draw and when the competition gets intense, I find solace in my best friend, my horse, accompanying me on the long journey. It's the perfect blend of competition and companionship that keeps me passionate about endurance riding.


Q. Describe your training regime for both you and your horse to prepare for endurance rides.

A. In preparing for endurance rides, I try to tailor my training to each horse's needs, whether it's distance and speed training or strength-building. The key is to strike a balance between effective training (including distance and consistency) and vital rest. 


Q. How do you plan your strategies for a race, including pacing and rest stops?

A. In endurance riding, our strategy centers on maintaining a consistent pace by closely monitoring our average speed and keeping in mind the distance remaining. We combine this with a deep understanding of the track and our competitors. Equally important is knowing our horses inside out – their abilities, temperament, and how they react under pressure.

However, endurance is unpredictable. To succeed, we need to be flexible in our approach, ready to adjust as circumstances demand and as the vets may suggest. This mix of preparation and adaptability defines our racing strategy.


Q. What are your goals for the future for both you and your horse? 

A. In the coming years, my primary focus is to continue my journey in endurance riding, with the hope of ensuring a lasting and fulfilling career for both my horses and myself. Winning the South African International Championship (SAIC) would be a significant personal achievement as it is something I have yet to do.

On a broader scale, I hold a humble aspiration of seeing a South African team return to the Endurance World Equestrian Games as it is where idols have competed and the best of the best come together, it would be an honor to be part of that team. These ambitions fuel my passion for the sport and keep me motivated for the future.


Q. Which event is your favorite to compete in? 

A. Endurance riding offers various distances, ranging from 40km to 160km. My favorite has become the 120km division, striking a balance between speed & distance. I've also grown to appreciate the ultimate challenge of endurance in the 160km event.


Q. Lastly what is your favorite product in our range and why? 

A. I'm absolutely hooked on The Marvellous Range UV Shirts. What I adore about them is the high-quality fabric and that clever side vent. It's super breathable and ideal for those long hours in the sun. These shirts have that perfect blend of athletic functionality and a classy touch, and you'll catch me wearing mine whenever I can. 


We'd like to thank Jessica for taking the time to be part of this months segment, to follow her Journey with her 2 horses FS Allouette and Leyhla Titanium (Owned by Leyhla Arabians) see the links below.


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