Iola teen to compete in Italy
Suskey qualifies for endurance team
By Holly Neumann
Ainsley Suskey is heading to Italy to ride horses.
The Iola-Scandinavia High School junior has qualified for the U.S. Equestrian Endurance Team that will compete in Verona, Italy, this September for the 2017 FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders and Juniors.
“I have been competing in endurance riding since I was 6 years old,” Suskey said. “Qualifying for this proves to everyone, including myself, that this sport is opening doors and that all of my hard work has paid off.”
Suskey loves the horses she gets to ride.
“My mom (Pam Cotton) started endurance racing when I was 2 years old,” she said. “Ever since I can remember, we were always going to the races.”
As soon as she was old enough, Suskey wanted to race as well.
“I love being out in nature, just me and the horse working as one to complete the race,” she said.
Endurance riding is long-distance horse racing that can range from 25 to 100 miles in one day.
“One can compare endurance riding to that of a marathon,” said Kristen Brett, the U.S. team’s director of endurance. “It is a long-distance sport covering variations in altitude, terrain and weather that tests the fitness and stamina of the horse as well as the athlete’s discipline and horsemanship skills.”
Periodic checkpoints occur throughout the competition to ensure the health and fitness of the horse and athlete.
“In endurance riding, the equine and rider are a team,” Cotton said. “The challenge is to complete the course with a horse that is fit to continue. A panel of control judges supervises the equines, each of which must pass a pre-ride examination in order to start the event.”
Each ride includes set hold times.
“They vary in duration from a simple gate-and-go to one-hour rest holds,” Cotton said. “During these holds, the equine’s physical and metabolic parameters are checked. The horse must pass the exam in order to continue on the course. Each horse must also pass a post-ride exam in order to receive credit for completing the course.”
While in Italy, Suskey will compete with four other U.S. teammates.
“There are 42 nations invited to attend the championship and each is allowed to send up to five athlete/horse combinations to compete,” Brett said. “The competition consists of four phases or loops of varying distance and terrain.”
Suskey qualified by competing at FEI Young Rider 2 events in the United States and also participated in mandatory training events that included educational and riding sessions.
“Ainsley is a smart rider,” Brett said. “She is able to assess and articulate her needs, but most importantly, her horse’s needs. Her assessment and riding skills, as well as the demands of the endurance sport, have allowed her to become an effective and well-rounded horsewoman.”
Suskey is excited about the opportunity.
“It is an honor to be representing the United States of America,” she said. “I cannot think of a better way to show my love and appreciation for this country then to represent it at one of the biggest competitions of my career.”
The cost of shipping a horse to Italy and back is $16,000. The process of shipping will take about month, including quarantines. Each U.S. rider is responsible for shipping their own horse.
Anyone wishing to help with Suskey’s travel expenses can visit www.freefunder.com/campaign/ainsley-and-princess-to-italy.
Cotton is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments.
“I’m really proud of Ainsley,” she said. “To be one of only five girls selected from the United States is quite an honor and I do believe she is capable of managing the pressure that comes along with competing at the international level.”