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Caroline Grahm rides the "Champagne War Horse" in the hills behind Estepona.
A late-blooming passion leads to a call-up for the regional team

A late-blooming passion leads to a call-up for the regional team

A 47-year-old British woman has achieved one of her horse riding dreams after being selected to represent Andalucía in endurance riding

Daryl Finch

Friday, 2 November 2018, 12:48

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At 47 years of age, Caroline Grahm will be one of the oldest competitors on the course when she takes part in Raid Interautonomías - a 60-kilometre endurance horse race - this Saturday.

However, in this case, with age does not come experience. This is the first time that Caroline will represent Andalucía in these inter-regional games for a sport traditionally dominated by teenagers and young people because of their weight.

Caroline, who has lived in Estepona for 20 years and runs Ranch Siesta Los Rubios riding stables which looks after in excess of 25 horses, only started competing in the sport four years ago when she was introduced to it by friend and fellow competitor Tracy Lewis from Manilva.

A young person's sport

"I have ridden since I was four years old but had never heard of endurance racing. It wasn't big in Lancashire!" says Caroline. "It's a sport that's predominantly for younger people and not that many women compete but I thought I'd give it a go for fun and started in a 40-kilometre race. I worked up to 80-kilometre distances, won the Andalucía league title for best horse and then became addicted."

The single mum of four will compete in the 60-kilometre race on Saturday 3 November on her nine-year-old Anglo-Arab horse, Bambina RC. They will be going up against regional teams from the whole of Spain and two of her children will be on hand as supporting "crew" to help at the breaks, water stops and vet checks.

"I bought Bambina in Seville last year after seeing her online. She had never done an endurance race before but there was just something about her I liked," Caroline explains. "People have nicknamed her the Champagne War Horse because she is totally fearless."

Endurance riding started officially as a sport in the USA in 1955. This equestrian discipline, dominated by the Arab horse which for centuries has been bred for both speed and stamina over any terrain, has been rapidly growing in popularity across Europe in recent years.

Aside from the mental fitness and stamina required of both horse and rider over a five-and-a-half-hour race, Caroline attributes a lot of their success to where they live: "We have hundreds of kilometres of steep mountain trails on our doorstep in the Sierra Bermeja natural park behind Estepona. It's beautiful, challenging and superb fitness training for us both."

Travel costs

However, like in any amateur sport, endurance riding success does come at a cost. While a number of other riders have sponsors, Caroline does it on her own and pays all of her own travel costs.

Saturday's race is in Badajoz, almost 500 kilometres away, and in order to help out with transport costs for Bambina, friends have set up a Go Fund Me page for anyone who wants to contribute towards this fledgling partnership's maiden run in the colours of Andalucía: "She gives to so many people every day and works so hard for everyone. This is the thing that's just hers and she's fabulous at it. Let's help make that journey easier for her."

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