This weekend is the B.C. equestrian endurance championships on the Telemark Cross-Country Ski Club’s trails in West Kelowna.

“Endurance is a long-distance competition against the clock, testing the speed and endurance of a horse, and challenging the rider who must safely manage the horse’s stamina and fitness,” explained championships co-manager Daphne Richard.

“Endurance involves a set course of up to 100 miles (160 kilometres) to be completed within a 24-hour period. Riders want to finish the course as quickly as possible with a sound, healthy horse. Welfare of the horse is paramount. There are multiple veterinary checks along each course at which horses receive a soundness exam to ensure that they are fit to continue.”

The origins of endurance in North America relate back to the time when the U.S. Cavalry tested its horses on a five-day, 483 kilometre ride, each carrying more than 91 kilograms. It became a competitive sport when Wendell Robie traced the Pony Express route from Nevada to California in less than 24 hours.

In 1982, when the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) approved endurance riding as one of the eight official equine disciplines, there were only four international rides.

Today, there are well over 400 FEI endurance events held annually world-wide making it the fastest growing of the equestrian sports.

In B.C. this year, there are 14 competitions in every corner of the province, culminating in the inaugural B.C. Endurance Championships hosted by the Endurance Riders’ Association of B.C. (ERABC), which will include: 40-kilometre, 80-km and 120-km championship and open events as well as a shorter introductory ride. In addition to attracting riders from across this province, competitors are expected from the northwestern U.S. and Alberta, said Richard.

“The B.C. championships are seen as a vital link in preparing and qualifying our athletes who have dreams of competing on the world stage,” she said.

Already, ERABC members have their sights set on becoming an elite member of the Canadian Equestrian Team, and competing in the annual North American Junior Young Rider Championships in Kentucky; the 2015 Pan American Endurance Championships in Ontario; the European Senior and Junior Championships; and the ultimate goal, the World Equestrian Games in 2018 in Canada. “The journey begins now,” she added.

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If you like riding on many horses, the Kelowna and District Safety Council has three Learn to Ride courses left in its 2014 motorcycle training schedule with start dates of Sept. 19, Oct. 3, and 17.

“We’ve had a really busy year,” said the council’s executive director, Tania Meyer.

“People may think about riding more in the spring and summer, but fall is a great time to learn to ride as well: class sizes are smaller, traffic isn’t as busy and students don’t have to battle the heat of the summer.”

KDSC’s two-weekend Ride Safe program at $705 consists of eight hours of classroom theory, more than 10 hours of skills training in a parking lot, the Motorcycle Skills Assessment, and 12 hours of in-traffic training.

KDSC provides the motorcycle, full-face helmet, jacket and gloves for all training, and for the ICBC road test.

And to help fend against colder weather, KDSC has a supply of heated vests which make shoulder season courses much more comfortable and enjoyable.

While group training is still the most popular option for people, KDSC also offers individual training.

“Customized, one-on-one training has increased in popularity as so many people work shift work, work out-of-town or out-of-province, or just have really busy lives,” said Meyer.

“With customized training, we can build a schedule that works for that student and it allows our instructors to really design and pace a program that’s individual to each student’s learning style and experience.

“Although it costs a bit more, students love the flexibility which accounts for the 50-per-cent increase we’ve seen in this type of training this year.”

KDSC also operates a driver training school and offers individual driving lessons, discounted packages for new drivers, and the full 32-hour Graduated Licensing Program (GLP).

Driving assessments and road test preps for seniors who have been called in for ICBC or Drive Able re-exams also keep KDSC’s three driving instructors busy as well as Defensive Driving Courses for corporate clients.

KDSC has been offering professional rider and driver safety training since 1980. ‘’As a non-profit organization that also operates the Little Travellers’ Safety Village for children, KDSC aims to make the Okanagan safer one person at a time,’’ said Meyer.

Call 250-765-3163 or go online to: kdsc.bc.ca to learn more about all of KDSC’s programs.

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Great news this week with the announcement the Regional District of the Central Okanagan will protect a significant portion of Goat’s Peak in West Kelowna.

The regional district has purchased a 52-hectare property along the environmentally important West Kelowna shoreline to establish a new regional park. The property includes almost 900 metres of waterfront which has extremely high spawning habitat value for Okanagan Lake kokanee salmon.

The $5-million purchase comes from contributions of local governments to the Regional Parks Legacy Fund and Park Land Reserve Fund.

Several years ago, the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen hiked the area with John Reddick, president of the Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society, in advance of the annual March for Parks fundraiser.

It’s a wonderful wilderness area right next to the urban-rural environment of West Kelowna.

“For many years, residents and various community groups have called on local governments to protect the important waterfront and upland ecosystem of the Goat’s Peak area,’’ said regional board chair Robert Hobson.

“The purchase of this property for the new regional park fills a significant gap in the Okanagan Trail 2000 vision for a continuous recreational trail between the Bennett Bridge and Peachland (GBTAPS’s vision). It, along with the existing Kalamoir and Gellatly Nut Farm regional parks, will remain in their natural state which helps to preserve accessible areas along the Okanagan Lake shoreline for the enjoyment of all Central Okanagan residents.”

The new park will remain closed until at least next summer as the regional district prepares a management plan, and develops trails and signage.

In 2008, the regional board unanimously agreed to establish a special tax requisition over five years to build the Parks Legacy Fund in order to leverage the purchase and protection of important properties for the regional park system. In total, $14.2 million in property purchases have been funded, adding more than 91 hectares to the regional park system.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Central Okanagan regional park system.

Since it began in the fall of 1974 and with the purchase of the almost four-hectare Kaloya Regional Park in Lake Country in early 1975, it’s grown to protect more than 1,400 hectares of land in 30 regional parks.

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The Interior Running Association’s Peak to Beak 2014 race is in Kelowna on Sept. 21. The 18-km event is the 11th race in the Interior Road Race Series.

Registration is now open for this “beautifully scenic and challenging’’ road race hosted by the Kelowna Running Club which starts at Knox Mountain Park and finishes at Quails Gate Winery in West Kelowna. Refreshments, awards and draw prizes will follow the race.

Runners can register online at: zone4.ca. It’s $30 until 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 and $10 extra on race day.

Until Sept. 17, the first 100 registrants will receive a free bottle of wine.

The Kelowna club is also currently looking for a few more volunteers. Contact Trevor Haaheim at 250-863-5884.

J.P. Squire, a.k.a. the hiking, biking, kayaking and horseback riding Sheriff, is an avid outdoors enthusiast. His column appears every weekend.

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