Getting there first isn’t the greatest accomplishment in life or in endurance long-distance horse races. Rockford junior Maddie Anderson knows this lesson – and it has taken her to the number one national spot in the youth category in this challenging sport.
As a participant in the American Endurance Rider Conference (AERC), winners are those whose horses complete the 25 to 100-mile courses not only in good time, but in the best condition. Maddie and her Arabian, JJ, out-traveled fellow riders by over 200 miles, finishing the seasons’ races at 505 miles. The runner up barely passed the 300 mile mark.
Horses in this sport are tested regularly during competition for metabolics – heart rate, hydration, respiration – and even attitude.
Participants race in two, three, or four-day races that can range up to 100 miles. The courses are challenging – wooded or bouldered paths through national forests in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Maddie took first in her division before moving up to the national level. A rider since an early age, she is dedicated to her horse and to keeping him fit and well, just as a human athlete should be.
An endurance effort in fact as well as by name, the AERC races can be a trial for the human half of the two-part team. In a recent four-day race Maddie was one of only two riders who completed the course. The other was a 50-year-old woman with a seasoned horse.
Maddie competes locally with the Great Lakes Distance Riding Association (gldrmi.org). She and her mother often ride together, and Maddie is out every other weekend putting in miles. In one week last fall she and JJ put in 125 miles, in another week, 175 miles.
The sport is good for the mind as well as the body. “She’s learned empathy. She’s learned to set goals – how much work and conditioning it takes to get the horse to this level,” another rider said of Maddie. “It takes consistency and work to get to your goals. She’s the one who rode her horse smart.”