When one thinks of world class endurance, there are only 3 venues which spring to mind, Tevis, Quilty & Florac. So it was a huge privilege to combine the philosophy of the Boudheib Initiative (BI) with this year’s Florac CEI/CEN*** 160km. Event organiser, Jean-Paul Boudon’s vision to invite Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nayhan’s BI protocol strengthening the focus of the welfare of the endurance horse has been widely applauded. The oldest 160km endurance ride in Europe & steeped in equestrian history, Florac, based in the heart of Persikland in the beautiful Cevennes region of Southern France, celebrated its 42nd year at the helm of international endurance this weekend and the crowds and participants were not disappointed! 54 competitors and their trusted horses set off at 4.30 am on Saturday morning to tackle the immensely challenging 160km 5 loop course set amongst some of the most spectacular scenery France has to offer, climbing and descending enormous hills and valleys – the weather also proved challenging with temperatures around 11 degrees and rain settling in around late morning. Fortunately conditions improved for most of the afternoon and 29 competitors (more than 50% completion rate) arrived home safely to enormous cheers, and some tears of joy as the atmosphere at Florac is exceptionally moving – to complete this course reveals the necessity for strong partnerships between horses & their riders.
Competitors from 9 countries from as far afield as Australia, Colombia, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, & the UAE. together with 5 entries representing the Royal Cavalry of Oman set out to win the coveted prize at Florac, but the overall winner with an average speed of 16.288 kph was Spain’s Robert Diez Noguera riding 9 year old Sunit Du Colombier. Huge respect and many congratulations go to Robert & Sunit Du Colombier who also won Florac’s 160km together in 2016, a wonderful role model for sustainable endurance.
66 year old Daniel Ollivier and Pot Made led the way throughout the first 4 loops and were only beaten during the last 23km leg to come home 2nd with an average speed of 16.029 kph in Daniel’s first participation at Florac – Daniel was delighted though to win the Boudheib Initiative’s BECA (Best Endurance Challenge Award) 1st prize and received a cheque for 2,000 euros together with a Gaston Mercier endurance saddle & handsome trophy. BECA’s 2nd place went to French rider Virginie Atger with her lovely grey Tonik Armor in an average speed of 15.130kph and in BECA’s 3rd position was Ali Hassan Yousaf Al Farsi riding Khandjar Du Boulve from the Royal
Cavalry of Oman who also took 3rd place in the CEI3* event.
Not only is the Florac 160km race a resounding endurance success but was also an exceptional result for descendants of the famous horse Persik with the 1st four home all being Persik descendants:-
1st place – Sunit Du Colombier (Persik dam lines)
2nd place – Pot Made (Persik sire lines)
3rd place – Khandjar Du Boulve (Persik sire lines)
4th place – Papillon Du Parc (Persik dam lines)
Many great achievements are made in Florac but one of the most incredible tests of sustainable endurance has to be the continuing participation of Frenchman Denis Pesce who has taken part for the last 30 years and won Florac’s formidable 160km eight times with five different horses and is still competing this year with his wife, Marilyn Lemoine, riding Ultimatum Mirbel.
The Boudheib Initiative is delighted to be part of Florac 2017 and offers very many congratulations to all who completed and we hope to see you all again next year. Many thanks go to Jean-Paul Boudon and his team for the excellent event organisation and to the highly professional team of veterinary staff and ground jury who all helped to ensure Florac 2017 was a huge success.
Article & Article photos by Leigh Young