This year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ may seem a long distance away, but it’s much further for some riders than others.
Endurance riders and their horses take on courses of up to 160km in one day, and they’ll be putting in the miles in the lead up to Tryon and during the North Carolina event in September itself.
One of the stars of the discipline is Cheryl Van Deusen, a professor at the University of North Florida who began in Endurance in 2000 after years competing Arabian show horses, and at 60 years of age, still going strong!
We spoke to Cheryl about this fascinating discipline and Hoover The Mover, one of the incredible horses that she partners with in these epic long-distance races...
"Hoover has been special since birth"
Endurance makes perfect sense for Cheryl.
She knows a thing or two about time management and strategic planning as she has a Ph.D. in International Business and Strategy and worked extensively in the hospitality and resort industry. She is currently a university professor of strategic and international business at the University of North Florida.
She is certainly among the top in the class when it comes to Endurance. She is currently ranked No.2 in Open Riders World Endurance Ranking, just behind Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri of the UAE.
She competes in approximately 3,000km of Endurance rides each season, and shows her Arabians at the regional and national level in the sport horse and dressage divisions.
Cheryl has 35 horses at home; once they join her herd they have a home for life. Two mares are over 30, and several retirees are in their 20s.
Her current FEI horses include world No.10 Hoover the Mover and Spotless Summer Magic. Cheryl bred and raised all of her FEI horses, although she recently bought SA Majestic Shiraz from Jan Worthington and Grace Ramsey.
Hoover, a grey Arabian gelding who was foaled in 2004, has 34 starts and four wins, including a team gold with Taylor White in 2013 at the 4* Continental/Regional Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. He was the No.1 FEI Open World Endurance Horse in 2017 along with his half sister Spotless Summer Magic (#3) and his ‘niece’ Precious Beaunita (#5).
“Hoover has been special since birth,” Cheryl says. “He has over 4,500 endurance miles in national rides including completions in 14 of 15 entered 100 mile/160 km events. He has also earned six best condition awards.
"He is just now maturing to the point where I’m putting speed into the formula. In December 2017, we went to the Texas High Roller FEI rides just to compete using the Boudtheib formula. Hoover finished four minutes behind the winner, nailing the pulse and speed goals all day. Under these criteria, the horse must be at 56 within 10 minutes.
"Hoover was at 48 in two minutes the first phase, 52 in two minutes the second phase, 52 in three minutes on the third phase, and 56 in 10 minutes at the finish. We were really proud to win the BECA award, organised by Emmett Ross and Dwight Hooten.”
Cheryl competed on Nazeefs Flashy Rose at last week's WEG Test Event at Tryon International Equestrian Center as part of the USA squad, but was eliminated. Heavy rain early in the week caused slick conditions on the trails, and Cheryl and Nazeefs Flashy Rose were overtime at Gate 4.
She had international athletes on eight of her other horses. Hoover The Mover finished 11th with Tom MacGuinness of Ireland. In 14th was Snake Eyes Leroy with Saleh Al Balushi of Oman. Spotless Summer Magic was 15th with Adil Al Balushi of Oman. In 16th was SA Majestic Shiraz with Romain LaPorte of France.
Cheryl also gives back to the Endurance and the equine industry. She develops young riders in Endurance, and has been a driving force behind many of the recent riders and teams from the USA. She manages four FEI events a year, four national rides, and two Arabian horse shows.
A winning strategy
For Cheryl, the key to Endurance is strategy. She rides in teams with her horses and fellow riders, and rides to the skills of the least competitive horse for that particular day.
She believes in the AERC motto, To Finish Is To Win. These finishes have kept Cheryl high in the rankings of FEI riders for years, and it will be exciting to watch the rest of her season unfold as thoughts turn to Tryon.
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Text by Stacey Stearns
Images by Favio Lorenz