Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Around the world on horseback

Kamas endurance rider returns from Malaysia

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff
Posted: 05/05/2009

Over the past decade, Beverly Gray has traveled to Spain, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and, most recently, Malaysia. No, she's not a U.S. ambassador, international businesswoman or employee of National Geographic. Gray is a U.S. Equestrian Team endurance rider and endurance horse trainer, and her career has led her to places that most people only dream of visiting.

Gray moved to Park City in her early twenties, bought a horse and began to participate in Ride and Tie races, which involve teams of two runners and one horse that alternate running and riding the horse. One person rides the horse a mile or so, then he or she ties it to a tree and takes off running while the other person catches up to the horse, unties it and rides past the teammate, and so on.

The races whetted Gray's appetite for endurance events, and during lulls in the Ride and Tie circuit she entered endurance races to keep her horse in shape. Eventually she got hooked and made endurance racing her full-time passion.

Endurance racing has been around the United States for more than 50 years, but its global popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. "It's become one of the fastest-growing equestrian sports in the world," says Gray.

Endurance races range from 25 to more than 100 miles, and can last from a couple of hours to a few days. The primary focus is on the horses' welfare, and veterinarians are present at checkpoints along the way. "They're very strict with the horse, and you have to meet certain criteria including hydration, pulse, respiration and lameness evaluations," Gray explains.

In her 30 years of competing, Gray has entered 287 races, completed more than 16,900 race miles and captured 82 wins. In 2002, she qualified to compete with the United States Equestrian Team at the World Equestrian Games in Spain, and she joined the team again in 2005 in Dubai.

In addition to competing in exotic locations all over the world, Gray also has had the opportunity to ride historic trails in the U.S. including the original Pony Express Trail and some of the Gold Rush routes.

Gray, who moved from Park City to Kamas four years ago, currently owns four Arabian horses, which are preferred for endurance racing because of their natural stamina. "I've had more than one once-in-a-lifetime horse," she says. "They've helped me achieve a lot of my goals."

Last month, Gray returned from Melaka, Malaysia, where she competed in the second annual Melaka Grand Invitational Endurance Race. Melaka is a historic city located about two hours outside of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Upon arriving in Melaka, Gray met her partner for the 120-kilometer race (approximately 75 miles), an Anglo Arabian gelding from Singapore named Max. The pair joined a pool of competitors from all around Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

She also rubbed shoulders with the King of Malaysia, who is an avid endurance racer. "He's very enthusiastic about endurance racing. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with him," she says. "That was the highlight of the trip."

Although Gray and Max were disqualified at the 80-kilometer checkpoint due to the horse's shoe causing some irritation, Gray is grateful for the opportunity to compete and explore the city of Melaka. "Each phase of the race trail meandered through little villages, dense forests of date palms, rubber trees and vegetation of numerous varieties and fragrances," she wrote in a recount of the trip.

Gray says the sport is something she plans to continue for years to come. "It's a sport for all ages, and the whole family can get involved," she says. Gray's husband helps with the training, and her sister, a local photographer, sometimes tags along to document her adventures.

To read more about Gray's accomplishments and to find out about upcoming races, visit

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