Many of the best horse-and-rider teams in the world are making their way to the new Mount Adams Horse Camp near Trout Lake for the 2003 Pan American Endurance Championship. The event takes place Saturday-Sunday on the southern flanks of Mt. Adams.
The event, organized by the Trout Lake-based Mount Adams Endurance Riders, has been sanctioned by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the governing body of equestrian sports.
Because it will feature top-ranked endurance riders from North and South America, this year's race has been designated as the Pan American Championship (PAC) -- marking the first time the Mount Adams Endurance Riders have hosted an event of this caliber, according to PAC spokesman Jan Mansfield.
It also will serve as a United States Equestrian Team (USET) selection trial for the 2004 World Endurance Championship.
"The Pan American Endurance Championship provides the only North American opportunity for U.S. endurance riders to gain valuable FEI championship experience," explained Mary Lutz, director of Endurance Activities for USET.
This weekend's race also will help the USET selection committee decide who will represent the team at the 2004 world championship.
"This (race) will enable the selectors to have a unique opportunity to observe how well horses and riders function under the same types of conditions they will encounter at a world championship," Lutz noted.
That's because top horse-and-rider teams from Denmark, Germany, Greece, Japan, and New Zealand, among others, also have been invited to enter the competition, giving the race a distinct international flavor.
Riders hit the trail at 5 a.m. Saturday and will have 24 hours to complete the 100-mile (160-kilometer) course through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and private timberlands.
Most competitors, with their horses and support crews in tow, began arriving Monday to set up camp, acclimate their horses and pass them through the mandatory pre-ride veterinary checks.
The event, which is open to the public, officially kicks off at 4 p.m. Thursday with a Parade of Nations and opening ceremony at the Mount Adams Horse Camp, which also will serve as race headquarters and site of a trade show.
According to Mansfield, first riders will cross the finish line Saturday evening, though all riders have until 5 a.m. Sunday to complete the course.
Awards and closing ceremonies will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday.
(Spectator advisory: Please leave your horses at home because this event is by selection only, and only horses with proper vaccinations and FEI documentation will be allowed in camp.)