For the first time, the World Equestrian Games, or WEG, will be take place on United States soil. A culminating endurance riding competition will take place in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sept. 26, and one local rider, Charisse Glenn, is going for the gold on behalf of the USA. To defray costs, a fundraiser will take place this Sunday in Agoura Hills.
“It’s [the WEG] the equivalent of the World Cup or the Olympics, held in different countries every year,” Glenn said. “This is the highest level that a rider can compete at.”
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. In America, most endurance rides span 50 or 100 miles. The first horse to cross the finish line wins.
Endurance riding has an avid following throughout Europe, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, which Glenn called “a huge contributor to developing the sport worldwide. It is the largest growing equestrian sport in the world. It’s on the bubble of becoming the next sport to watch.
“The U.S. started the sport of endurance,” she continued, “and was number one for many years until about 10 years ago, when the rest of the world caught up with us. Now we’re ranked somewhere between 20th and 25th in the world. Part of the reason that the U.S. has slipped at a sport it created is because it’s easier to participate abroad. In France, there are 30 or 40 sanctioned [competitions]. So they can qualify many more horses at less time and less expense than in the U.S.”
Riders progress through a ladder system and advance to a star system. In the U.S., there are only seven to nine internationally sanctioned rides annually.
“The sport has changed to a faster, flatter course,” Glenn said. “It originated as a hillier technical course. Mainly, because of financing, we as riders must travel around the country to qualify.”
While endurance riding may have originated in this country, Glenn explained, “The U.S. has not really supported its own riders to this level. All the riders have had to finance their own expenses.”
As America is geographically much bigger than, say, France, traveling from competition to competition can get expensive. Last year, Glenn trekked to Oriana, Idaho, Fort Howes, Mont., Brothers, Ore., Inyokern, Calif., and Lexington to compete.
Hence, the fundraiser. Glenn told the Times that she hopes to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 in donations that will help offset the cost of transportation, lodging and food across eight weeks for her two horses – an Arabian named Bogart VF, and Steel Patriot, an Arabian cross – and a crew of six people, including her husband of 12 years, Carl Mergenthaler.
“He’ll mainly help in the crewing,” Glenn said of Mergenthaler. “It’s like a NASCAR pit stop. He was a horse trainer. That’s how we met.” They’ve lived in the Malibu mountains since 1999.
A casting agent by day, Glenn has been training in endurance since 1995. On July 27, she and her crew will travel to Danville, Ill., to prepare for the first cut on Aug. 10. If she succeeds there, she will compete against 10 other riders in the penultimate cut in Lexington on Sept. 2. From there, she will go for the ultimate prize on Sept. 26, beginning at Kentucky Horse Park and riding across various residential properties and plantations.
“It’s really amazing,” Glenn said. “You’re cantering down these long driveways. You think that you’re in ‘Gone With the Wind!'”
While ostensibly this fundraiser is to support Glenn’s quest for international equestrian gold, the veteran rider said the fundraiser’s mission is much bigger.
“This will be the first annual event for riders in our area,” Glenn said. “This fundraiser is going to be a way for our community to support our participants in the U.S. So this will help the sport in general, not just me as an individual rider.”
Tamara Friend will host the benefit.
“She has a tack and feed store called Hold Your Horses in Agoura Hills,” Glenn said. “She used to be a Malibu resident. I was her first horse trainer and I helped her get her first horse. She got completely bitten by the horse bug.”
The fundraiser will take place this Sunday, July 25, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 6350 Chesebro Rd. in Old Agoura.
There will be live musical acts, dance lessons, food and drinks.
Those who cannot make the fundraiser but would like to support Glenn’s endeavor can send donations to “Malibu Endurance” at 6063 Fairview Place, Agoura, CA 91301.
More information on the event and endurance riding, can be obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at malibuendurance.com and alltechfeigames.com. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10.