Did you know former Olympic Equestrian champions, and other riders from near and far, come to this neck of the Sandhills to race horses?
In fact, there were more than 100 competing equestrians at the H. Cooper Black Jr. Memorial Field Trial and Recreation Area near Cheraw, just a couple of weeks ago, for the Spring Fling segment of the American Equestrian Endurance Conference. For this competition, riders embark on their choice of a 30, 50, or 75 mile trail through the Sandhills.
Ruth Sturley, of Canada, was among this year’s competitors. She is an Olympic veteran, having competed in Germany in 2006, and again in 2008. Sturley also ran the Kentucky Derby in 2009 and 2010, with her horse RBF Super Sport. Sturley now lives in the Southern Pines region of North Carolina, and has been coming to this event for years. “I love it down here,” she said.
Super Sport, who has won 39 of the last 52 events the two have entered, is getting to be “quite the old man,” said Sturley. “He’s 20.” Super Sport may have a few years on him, but he’s still feisty. Feisty enough, according to Buddy Driggers, director of the H. Cooper Black Recreational Facility, that he has to wear a red “flag” on his tail.
“He’s a biter,” said Driggers. “The red flag indicates he has been known to bite.” That doesn’t necessarily mean he, or any other horse that is red flagged, will bite people, said Driggers. “Sometimes they will bite other horses.”
Rooster, as the man with the nice, long grey beard from the Blue Ridge Mountains is called, is the official greeter and “go to” man as Camp Host during the weekend event. Everybody here loves what they’re doing, said Rooster, and that makes it fun.
Rooster didn’t say whether or not anyone enjoyed carrying water, but they certainly did a lot of it. Not only are water buckets — of nearly every size, color and description — scattered underneath the trees along the starting line, they also are strategically placed throughout each of the trails.
Keeping the horses hydrated is extremely important, said Driggers. Veterinarians are on hand for each event, making sure the horses are physically fit. “Their heart rate can be no higher than 64 to start the race,” said Driggers. Some of the water, he said, is used to cool the body of the horses, helping lower their heart rate.
Driggers said the Spring Fling Endurance Race highlights the park’s programs each year. “We’re busy with one event or another from September to May. It’s only in the summer months, when it’s so hot, that things slow down a bit around here.”
The H. Cooper Black Jr. area is a state park located at 279 Sporting Dog Trail, Cheraw.
The campgrounds are equipped with running water and electricity. Other events throughout the year, such as the national championship dog trials, are hosted there as well. For more information, call 843-378-1555 or send email to email@example.com.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.