Wednesday, September 15, 2010

70-year-old World Equestrian Games rider for U.S. already is endurance winner

To Jan Worthington, riding a horse 100 miles during a Malaysian monsoon or unloading more than a ton of hay is just another day.

She's that tough.

She also might be the oldest competitor in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that begin this month at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington.

Worthington, a mother of three and grandmother of four, is 70. She's on the 10-rider “short list” to compete for the United States in the Sept. 26 WEG endurance event, which involves riding a horse over a total of 100 miles in one day.

If she makes the cut for the five-member U.S. endurance team, Worthington will be America's oldest competitor in any of the eight equine disciplines at the games, which run Sept.25 through Oct. 10. And though final entries aren't due until Sept. 21, she'd very likely be the oldest of any team member, WEG publicists said.

Worthington is an icon in the endurance world and has been involved with the sport for 38 years.

“Jan is the person we all want to be like when we grow up,” said Kathy Hart, the U.S. team's coach-manager, called a chef d'equip. “She's amazing. She can do twice what a normal person can do.”

Legend has it Worthington and her horse Golden Lightning were struck by lightning while competing in the World Endurance Championships two years ago in Malaysia. That's not quite true, she says.

Amid torrential rain she saw a flash of lightning strike the ground yards away. She said she believes her horse, nicknamed Leon, felt the charge through his metal shoes.

“Leon went crazy,” she said — leaping twice and throwing her off, though she held onto her reins.

“And he dragged me.” she said. “All this is going through my mind so quickly, ‘You can't be drug any more. You've got to let go of the rein.' And then in the next instant my thought was, ‘You've come too far. Hang on.' He finally stopped.

“I opened my eyes,” she said — and found herself on her back under the spooked horse's belly.

...full story at

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