Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Heraldic: Silver Medal Winner at Pan Am Games

[Disclosure: I recently read in a newspaper article that a blog post should be no more than 500 words. And when I was alerted to the Capital story on Heraldic (having been out of town when it appeared), I anticipated writing only a short piece about the ceremony honoring the Pam Am Games silver medal winner. But, you can't write a short essay without understanding as much of the background as possible. And as I began looking into the subject, I became increasingly drawn down various by-ways and side paths that have made 500 words an impossible limit. I'll try to do the 'who-what-when-where-why' up front before digressing down those paths; readers who want to take a different journey are of course free to move on at any point.]

Pan Am Games -- 2011

Heraldic is a handsome bay Arabian gelding who was honored by the Maryland Horse Industry Board on November 15th with its "Touch of Class" Award. The ceremony, held at the Maryland Department of Agriculture building in Annapolis, followed Heraldic's return from Chile, where he and his rider, John Crandell III, won two silver medals in the Pan Am Games endurance ride. [Although the larger competition took place this year in Mexico, the endurance ride was held in Santo Domingo, Chile on October 22.]

Heraldic is owned by John Jr. and Linda Crandell, parents of John III and owners of Long Run Farm in West River. John III, trainer and rider of Heraldic, and his family live on a farm in Star Tannery, VA adjoining the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, where Heraldic's endurance training takes place. Training in horsemanship and other skills, including schooling, basic dressage education, and behavioral work, all critical to success in endurance riding, takes place at Long Run Farm here in Anne Arundel County as well as in Virginia. The Crandell family has also operated the marine construction firm E.A. and J.O. Crandell Inc. in Annapolis since 1948.

Pan Am Games -- 2011

The endurance ride in Chile, covering a distance of 120 kilometers (74.6 miles), crossed both flat terrain and rough, mountainous areas in five loops of varying length. The U.S. team of three horses and riders won a silver medal with a combined time of 19:05:19, just 1 minute and 47 seconds behind the gold medal finish of the Uruguayan team. Crandell and Heraldic finished the course in 6:03:38 to win the individual silver medal; a U.S. pair also took the individual bronze medal, giving the U.S. team a total of three -- the largest number of medals ever won by a U.S. endurance team in international competition.

The margin of victory for the individual medal might well have been narrower or the finish order different had Heraldic not tripped a mile from the finish line. Crandell skinned his knee landing on the ground, but remounted to finish the ride, only four minutes behind the first place rider and horse.

Although the medals won in the Pan Am Games (one of the largest international competitions other than the Olympics) provided the immediate occasion for Heraldic's award, the horse and his rider have a long list of accomplishments that makes them deserving recipients of an honor reserved for "horses and people who represent the highest standards of excellence in Maryland's equine community." [MHIB press release, 11/10/11]

Pan Am Games -- 2011

Governor Martin O'Malley declared November 15th "Heraldic and Crandell Family Day," adding that "We look forward to the continued success of Heraldic and the Crandells as they represent Maryland and the United States at the World Championship next year.” But November 15th must have been a bittersweet day for the Crandells, as Jewell Ardella Bladen Crandell, 98, of Churchton, mother of John Jr. and grandmother of John III, died that same day.

Touch of Class
Through its name, the "Touch of Class" award honors the Maryland-bred Thoroughbred mare, Touch of Class, who won individual and team gold medals in show jumping at the 1984 summer Olympics, making her only the fourth horse in history to win two show-jumping gold medals. Touch of Class posted the first double clear rounds in Olympic history, and cleared all but 1 of 91 jumps. In recognition of her performance, the USOC committee named Touch of Class the first non-human USOC Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year.

Heraldic and the Crandells
John Crandell Jr. bought the two-year-old Heraldic from Asgard Arabians in Sinks Grove, W.Va. in c.2000. When John Jr. broke his hip and was unable to ride for several years, he passed Heraldic's competitive riding on to his son, John III. The latter's description of the trip to West Virginia that resulted in the purchase of Heraldic gives some indication of the training required to turn an independent, untamed horse into a champion racer.

The listing of Heraldic's rides begins in May 2005 with a 9th place finish in a 50-mile competition, followed in December with medals for first place finish and best condition in a 100-mile competition. In 2006, Heraldic and Crandell became the first horse and rider pair to win endurance riding's Triple Crown, capturing the Old Dominion 100 in June in Virginia, the Tevis Cup trophy in August in Placer County, California, and the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) championship in Virginia in October. All rides covered 100 miles, and Heraldic took the medal for best condition in two of them. The pair's stellar year earned John Crandell III the title of horseman of the year from Chronicle of the Horse magazine.

AERC 2007

In 2007, Heraldic took medals for first place finish and best condition at the AHA National ride in Montana in June and for first place in the AERC championship ride in Idaho in August. November found Heraldic in Malaysia, where he and Crandell finished fifth in the Sultan's Cup Terengganu Endurance Challenge 2007 (now the Sultan Mizan Cup), the first ever endurance challenge held in Malaysia with international participants, including the world's best riders. The challenge also served as the trial run for Malaysia to host the 12th FEI World Endurance Championship in 2008.

Heraldic was to have been a member of the U.S. team competing in that 2008 FEI championship ride until the horse suffered a potentially career-ending injury. Heraldic was by then already in training for the championship in Malaysia and soon to be moved to a training camp in Florida. But one morning in August 2008 Crandell found the horse, in the small meadow pasture where he was being kept, with a cut on his left hind leg, described by John Crandell as "a 2.5 inch diameter open wound medial on the stifle [the equine equivalent of a knee]; Grade 5 lame."

After a period of five or six months, when Heraldic's leg could again bear weight and move freely, another year and half were spent in the therapy and retraining that enabled Heraldic to compete again. As Crandell said on Heraldic's website "Heraldic came out of the ordeal re-educated, more disciplined, and better prepared to train for fitness than ever."

Photo by Potato Richardson --The Equestrian News, 10/15/2011

The 2010 season of competition attested to Crandell's assessment of Heraldic's condition when horse and rider captured two of the three rides that make up the Triple Crown. Heraldic won both the Old Dominion 100 and the Tevis Cup, also taking the medal for best condition in the Virginia ride. By the last stretch of the Tevis Cup course, Heraldic had outpaced the rest of the field to such an extent that instead of sprinting for home, Crandell took time to spruce up his mount for the finish line photographs. An unlucky step into what proved to be a sub-surface hole cost Heraldic his chance for victory in the AERC championship, third of the year's three major rides.

Victory in the Pan Am Games endurance ride in 2011 capped another year of three major victories, the other two coming in March at the Fun In The Sun ride in Williston, FL (FITS), another 100 mile test, and in the 75 mile Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA) event in Canada, where Heraldic also won the medal for best condition.

To appreciate fully the severity of Heraldic's injury and the work that the horse and his extensive support team devoted to bringing him back into competitive form, read the account posted on Heraldic's website: And to keep with up Heraldic's current activities, you can visit his Facebook page:

Endurance riding has been a multi-generation Crandell family enterprise for over forty years. John III began his involvement as a teenager in 1976 and has been a professional farrier and trainer since 1983. In those capacities he has served as a shoeing and training consultant worldwide. Since 1986 he has participated as a rider or staff member for the U.S. and U.A.E. endurance teams for both world championships and other major international competitions.

Photo by Paul W. Gillespie -- The Capital

Crandell's second Old Dominion 100 win with Heraldic in 2007 was his sixth winning ride in that competition, the other four preceding his partnership with Heraldic. In the 2007 ride, Ann Crandell, John's wife, won the bronze medal. Other Crandell family members actively engaged in riding and training include John's parents, John Crandell Jr. and Linda Crandell, and his brothers.

Because of the physicial demands of training and competition, horses generally compete in no more than three 100 miles rides during a given year. Riders compete more often, however, on different mounts. John III finished third in the FITS 100 in 2007, second in the Tevis Cup in 2007, and third at the Greenway Gallivant 100 in 2008, riding HH Saba Shams in all of those races, and in 2010 finished in the top ten of the Goethe 75 on LR Bold Greyson.

Crandell and Heraldic will lead the U.S. Team in the World Endurance Championship to be held in England in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics.

Endurance Riding
So, what is endurance riding? The Old Dominion Endurance Rides, Inc. website provides a succinct answer (as well as being one of the best sources of general information about the sport): "An Endurance ride is a timed test against the clock of an individual horse/rider team’s ability to traverse a marked, measured cross-county “trail” over natural terrain consisting of a distance of 50 to 100 miles in one day."

The definition of 'day' varies according to the length of the course and the difficulty of the terrain. For the Tevis Cup ride, the 'day' is a 24-hour period, from 5:15 a.m. one day to 5:15 a.m. the following day. This means that all horses cover at least a portion of the course in the dark.

Tevis Cup -- 2010

Things get more complicated beyond that generic description. Trails vary considerably. The Tevis Cup covers a unidirectional course from the start just outside Truckee, CA, near Lake Tahoe to the finish in Auburn, CA, with over 15,000 feet of altitude changes. The Pan Am Games ride took place at the Brisas de Santo Domingo resort, located along the Pacific coast in the middle of Chile. The ride began by the sea but the five-loop course climbed to a lake-filled plateau with a variety of flora and fauna. In the 2010 Old Dominion 100 competition, teams had to contend with morning temperatures in the low 90s and humidity near 100 percent as well as rough terrain. In Dubai, the sandy course can be a hard-packed surface in some areas and soft footing in others.

Regardless of the temperatures encountered or the terrain, every ride has a specific starting and ending time, and all horse/rider teams must remain on the trail for the duration of the ride. Although the expectation is that riders will ride, rules permit them to lead or follow the horse instead, as circumstances dictate. Winning riding times vary between 6.5 and 13 hours, depending on the terrain. [Heraldic has been a particularly versatile athlete, having won on both the fastest and the most challenging courses in America.]

Endurance riding began in the early 1900s as a test for horses used by cavalry units: a 5-day, 300 mile (483 km) ride with a weight load of at least 200 lbs. In the early 1950s, endurance riding became a civilian sport, with time and distance reduced to a maxium of a one-day, 100-mile ride.

In 1978 the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for World and Olympic equestrian events, recognized endurance riding as an international sport. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has the responsibility of overseeing all U.S. teams taking part in international FEI competitions. More than 300 annual FEI-sanctioned competitions are held in Europe, Asia, and the American continents.

The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) is the official national governing body for endurance riding in North America. The AERC sanctions more than 700 rides each year throughout the United States and Canada. The two oldest and most prestigious sanctioned races are the 100 Mile Western States Trail Ride (for the Tevis Cup trophy) in California and the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride in Virginia.

Any horse competing in a sanctioned endurance ride must pass a thorough examination by a licensed veterinarian before being allowed to start. Every course has additional mandatory vet examinations at check-points during the ride. Veterinarians have specific guidelines for judging a horse's ability to continue the ride. They monitor respiratory and heart rates, examine feet and legs for potential problems that could cause lameness, and look for signs of dehydration. Any horse showing lameness or failure to meet specified metabolic parameters is immediately eliminated. Horses undergo a final exam within 1 hour after the ride is completed and can still be eliminated if deemed unable "to continue." The awarding of a separate medal for best condition to a horse finishing among the top ten underscores the commitment to the welfare of the equine competitors.

The great majority of horses competing successfully in endurance rides are Arabians (whether full-blooded, one-half, or one-quarter), like Heraldic. Linda Crandell, in an interview with Equinews in October 2002, explained why Arabian horses are particularly well-suited to endurance competition. “These horses have large nostrils and lung capacities that allow for greater oxygen intake. Arabians have veins that are close to the skin surface, which help in cooling the blood and allowing for quicker recovery times. They are a slighter horse with lighter muscling that makes it easier for them to carry themselves and their riders over longer distances.”

Tevis Cup -- 2006

The Western States Trail Ride, the oldest modern day endurance competition, began in 1955, with the first Tevis Cup trophy awarded to the winner in 1959. The course follows the Western States Trail, a narrow mountain track shared with hikers, runners, other riders, and occasionally off-road vehicles. Temperatures during the 24-hour day can range from 40 degrees to 120 degrees Farhenheit. The course has two mandatory 60-minute rest stops, at 30 mile and 70 mile marks. This challenging ride is one of those usually dominated by Arabians because of their stamina and the physical characteristics identified by Linda Crandell. The average completion rate for the competition is 50 percent. Heraldic won in 2006 at age 8 in a time of 15:08; returning to the competition in 2010 after recovering from his 2008 injury, he finished first at age 12 in 14:59.

If you've read all the way through these meanderings, you now know about as much as I do about endurance riding. I hope you've found it as interesting a journey of discovery as I have. My thanks to Heraldic and the Crandells for leading the way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Horses in Times of War

The book The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies, 1760-1785, by Don Cook (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995), looks at the Revolutionary War, and the lead-up to it, from the other side of the Atlantic. For those whose interest is in military history, much of what Cook has to say about the conduct of the war by the British may be old news. But for someone whose time line of colonial history stops no later than the end of the Seven Years' War, Cook's narrative contains much that was new, and some of it pertained to the use of horses during the war. Some of his details are even relevant to Anne Arundel County.

Much has been written about the difficulties Washington faced in retaining soldiers in his army, particularly over the winter months when enlistments had expired, and of the difficulties in provisioning the troops. The British faced their own logistical problems, however. When soldiers were killed or wounded in battle, replacement awaited the arrival of fresh troops from Britain. The third of a ton of food needed per man per year came from shipments across the ocean of bread, flour, rice, salt, butter, salted beef, and pork. The option armies frequently used, of living off the countryside, would alienate the colonists whom the British hoped to persuade to lay down arms and resume being loyal subjects of king and parliament.

It wasn't just men and their rations that had to be imported from Britain -- horses and their feed also had to cross the Atlantic. Storms and unpredictable winds complicated the task of supplying the army's needs. In 1776, for example, 950 horses were shipped to the army in New York but nearly half -- 400 -- were lost en route.

When General William Howe decided in 1777 to leave New York in favor of occupying Philadelphia, he made a secondary decision to transport the army by ship rather than move overland to avoid the danger of flank attacks by Washington and the American forces. A dubious decision at best, as it left General John Burgoyne with no support in the event of difficulties in his Fort Ticonderoga campaign, it proved to be a disastrous one for the horses and men involved.

Howe determined on Philadelphia as his objective in the spring of 1777, but it was early July before the force of 19,000 troops and their supplies -- cannon, gunpowder, food, horses, and fodder -- began loading about the fleet of 250 transports and warships that his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, had assembled in New York. Becalmed for days, the fleet did not set sail until 23 July.

When the fleet arrived at Delaware Bay, a British patrol frigate informed the admiral that the river approaches to Philadelphia were heavily defended (an overstatement of the situation). The Howes decided to sail up the Chesapeake Bay instead and then to march overland from the head of the Elk River to Philadelphia.

As a result of this decision, as well as the delay in leaving New York, men and horses spent seven weeks on board ship during sweltering summer weather that light breezes did little to alleviate. They had left New York with a four-week supply of food and animal fodder. Starving, dying horses had to be thrown overboard as the fleet moved slowly up the bay, some undoubtedly washed ashore along Anne Arundel's shoreline or observed by county residents monitoring the fleet's progress from the shore.

When the army came arrived at Head of Elk on 25 August, it was nearly 70 miles from Philadelphia -- almost as far away as it had been when in New York.

Horses fared no better when another British commander, General Henry Clinton, moved the army out of New York by sea in December 1779, this time for Charleston, South Carolina. Clinton's fleet carrying 8,000 men plus their horses and equipment was not the first, nor the last, to experience first-hand the perils of the North Atlantic in winter. Men and horses alike suffered through a month of storms and gales, snow and icy rain, broken masts, ripped sails, and rigging torn away. Even if the transports had adequate stalls with slings for all of the horses, the extreme pitching of the vessels in heavy seas resulted in broken legs -- more horses that had to be destroyed and thrown overboard. Others were lost when transports sank.

When the fleet finally limped into the Savannah River at the end of January, preparations for the land campaign that eventually ended in Yorktown in October 1781, included buying or seizing fresh horses to replace the hundreds lost at sea.