Dynamic duo races through endurance rides


Napa Valley, Calif. - By the time she was 6 years old, Dr. Linday Graham already had her sights set on being a veterinarian.

Napa Valley, Calif. — By the time she was 6 years old, Dr. Lindsay Graham already had her sights set on being a veterinarian.

Now, the 2010 University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine graduate spends her days at the Napa Valley Veterinary Hospital, where horses are her specialty, or out in the field, visiting her four-legged patients.

Endurance: Dr. Lindsay Graham has displayed the trait in more ways than one.

"I grew up with horses," Graham says while driving home from work. "My mom sat me on a horse as a baby, and I started taking lessons when I was five. I have always been around horses."

And despite her busy schedule, Graham still found time to shatter the North American record for 100-mile endurance horse riding this past July at the Patriot's Day Endurance Rides at Lake Almanor with a time of six hours and 53 minutes.

"I didn't know what the record was," she says. "I never looked it up, and it never crossed my mind. Someone said to me at the end of the ride, 'I think you may have broken the world record.' I was busy with my horse, so I wasn't really paying attention."

While the world record still stands, Graham did break the previous North American record by at least 30 minutes. The second place finisher was only one minute behind her.

"The race became so fast because we just kept going faster and faster, and both horses were happy to go that speed," she says. "We just finished that quick. I knew we were going fast, but I had no idea."

The other half of the winning team is Monk, a 9-year-old Arabian, owned by Chris Martin of Penn Valley, Calif.

"As a youngster he had a very good work ethic and you could never get him tired," Martin says. "He just wanted to go and go."

Martin takes care of most of Monk's training, Graham says. "The horse gets a 20-mile hard workout every 10 days and then stretches in between," she adds. "Otherwise he's just running around being a horse."

A friend recommended Graham to Martin.

"I met Lindsay's mom, Susie, many years ago at an endurance ride. She had a very famous horse named Phoenix Affair," Martin says. "I knew of Lindsay by following Phoenix's career, but had never officially met her."

Martin says Graham's concern for Monk's well-being is overwhelming and comforting.

"Lindsay was always there when I needed her, and she loves my horse. She is competitive but kept our goal in focus and rode Monk well within his limits."

Graham says she has to ride to stay in shape.

"I try to ride Monk once or twice before an event. I pay close attention to equitation and make sure I'm a balanced rider so the horse doesn't get sore."

She was also quick to point out that the endurance races are well regulated by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC).

"The AERC puts together the endurance rides and establishes rules and regulations," she says.

While most endurance rides are 50 miles, Graham says they can also be 25, 75 or 100 miles, and occasionally they are 35 or 65 miles.

"It's a really fun sport," she says. "You go on a Friday and check your horse in. There is a vet inspection to make sure the horse is metabolically sound enough to compete in the ride."

Then both horse and rider camp out overnight. The ride begins early the next morning with mandatory stops throughout the day for the vet to inspect the horse.

"It's a highly regulated sport," Graham says. "Sometimes you are traveling steep trails, while other times you are on jeep roads. Most of it is out in the middle of nowhere. You definitely see parts of the country you would never see otherwise."

While most endurance rides are AERC rides, some competitions, like the World Equestrian Games, are Federation Equestre International (FEI) events.

Graham's goal for the Lake Almanor ride was to finish first among the FEI riders to get the highest amount of points possible.

"When trying to go to the World Games, they look at the points you have," she says. "More points put me higher on the ranking."

Despite training and weekend endurance events, Graham manages to balance her hobby around work.

"It would be difficult if I didn't have the most amazing bosses in the world," she says. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to do it. They encourage me to do it, and they're some of my biggest supporters."

As for future events, Graham is making sure to choose wisely.

"There are rides all the time," she says. "With AERC, I'm just going out to have fun. With Monk, I want to try to go to the world endurance championships, an FEI-sponsored event, next August in Great Britain."

Martin also hopes Monk and Graham can represent the United States in other international rides.

"You have not heard the last of this dynamic duo," he says.

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