Castelsagrat Equine Endurance
If you like all things equestrian, you’ll love Castelsagrat in May.
Every year the village plays host to horses and riders from across France, as well as from further afield, when they arrive to compete in a series of equine endurance races held over a long weekend in early May.
For three years’ running, including last year, the Castelsagrat event has also hosted the French National Championships in Endurance riding. This year was strictly an amateur occasion, but even so, riders from thirteen nations took part, with around 120 horses competing on each of the three days. Flags flying at the event from competing countries included those of Brazil, Qatar, Spain, Germany and Finland.
Races range in distance from 20km, for beginners and young horses, right up to the elite 160km race. Horses complete ‘loops’ of each course, and on completing each loop must undergo a veterinary examination before they are allowed to continue. The welfare of horses is very important in endurance racing. During the 160km race, for example, each horse will be thoroughly checked by a vet no less than 10 times to ensure its wellbeing. The clock carries on ticking as horses are cooled down as quickly as possible with buckets of cool water thrown over them when they arrive back from completing a loop of perhaps up to 30km. Vets then check that the horse is sound enough to continue, and that its heartbeat has settled to below a pre-defined rate. Therefore the fitness and stamina of the horses competing is paramount, and by far the preferred breed for this type of equestrian sport is the beautiful fine-boned Arab, as slim and spare as a Kenyan marathon runner. After successfully passing through the vet gate, horses are left to rest for between 40 minutes to one hour before starting off on the next loop of the course.
The course will usually take competitors along the lane right outside the château, so guests do not have to go far to enjoy some of the action. However, it really is worth making the short walk across the village square and down the hill past the little village school to endurance event base camp to witness the goings-on at first-hand. For one weekend in May Castelsagrat’s recreation ground and its surroundings are covered with rows and rows of temporary stables, vet gates and trotting lanes, water-soaked grooming ring, Start and Finish line, restaurant and refreshment tent, and equine merchandising stalls. Plus of course lots and lots of horses, riders and their large entourages rushing about importantly. The excitement really is quite infectious.
For those who would like to know more about this sport, which is gaining in popularity around the world, you can visit the FEI (International Equine Federation) website www.fei.org/fei/disc/endurance
If you are a horse-owner and this has whetted your appetite to take part, Chateau Plombis is perfectly situated within walking distance of the event and has plenty of room for you, your family and friends to stay in comfort.
News about the Castelsagrat event, considered one of the top three in France in terms of organisation, riding country and conviviality, can be found on the organisers’ (french) website castelsagrat-endurance.org and on the event’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CastelsagratEnduranceEquestre where there are lots of photos, videos and news reports from both this year and previous years.