Ermelo ECWC Endurance 2021

The History of the Endurance Sport | Part Four

Geschiedenis van de endurancesport EKWK Endurance 2021

Geschreven door Jacob Melissen

Een verantwoording waarom de Endurance sport met paarden ten opzichte van het paard nog steeds een volledig te accepteren discipline is binnen de kaders van welzijn en welbevinden van het paard. 

Part four - The 'raid' Brussels - Ostend

In this final part of “The History of the Endurance Sport” we bring you along to the competition day of the Raid from Brussels to Ostend in 1902.

Jan-Willems preparation for the Raid

Here we let the main character speak for himself: ‘Five weeks before the raid I bought Mascotte, partbred mare, 6 years old, with the intention of participating in the ride; up to that time the mare had been trained in harness and ridden exceptionally well. The time that remained was too short for any sensible training, and I tried above all to keep her a little fat until the day of departure; by demanding from her only that work which I actually did not yet consider sufficient to undertake such a long distance ride. The first week I rode at a walk for five hours, interrupted by a half hour at a trot; the second week I considerably increased the time of this last gait, and only after fourteen days did I begin the canter at large intervals of walk. Then I completed a 132 kilometre ride with my three horses: Congo, Mascotte and Cyrano; the first two were ridden twice for 26 kilometres each, while I only rode the latter once. The times I achieved were the following: 1˚ Congo, 26 kilometres in 55 minutes; 2˚ Mascot, 26 kilometres in 1 hour and 3 minutes; 3 ˚ Cyrano, 26 kilometres in 1 hour; 4˚ Congo, 22 kilometres in 55 minutes; 5˚ Mascotte, 26 kilometres in 1 hour and 6 minutes. I was very pleased with myself, who felt almost no fatigue from this ride, and with Mascotte, who had absolutely not suffered from the two quick reprises I had requested from her. She ate extremely well; starting with 8 pounds of clover, I had increased her ration to substantial portions. From that moment on I extended the canter periods and had my horse complete a ride of 140 kilometres in 14 ½ hours, of which half an hour rest, after which I reduced the work until the departure for Brussels. I myself followed a special ‘training’, which consisted of: 100 kilometres with my three horses; two half-hour swims against the current, two times gymnastics on the rings, and finally I managed to run for several kilometres without getting tired and jump on and off the horse without changing gait.

Drama and triumph

On August 27, 1902, the raid from Brussels to the hippodrome [horse racing track] Wellington in Ostend will be held. From 7 am riders will start in groups of five; a group every five minutes, in order of the draw that had taken place before. Despite the rain that has fallen all night as well as the days before, resulting in extremely bad terrain, there is a huge crowd under umbrellas. Countless curious people line the route like a ribbon. At 7 o’clock the first group flies away. No problems at the first check point; at the second check point, the Norwegian captain Smith-Kielland and the Belgian Lieutenant Joostens are in the lead (2 hours 14 minutes) with the dizzying speed of 27 km/h. At the third check point (100km), the first crossing in 4 hours 28 minutes and then record holder in the 100km, Smith-Kielland, at 4 hours 21 minutes. From the first checkpoint, the passage and the riding time of Smith-Kielland are transmitted to the international Commission. However, this committee, en route to Ostend by special train, believes that there must be an error in the telegraphic message; 26 km/h over unimaginably bad terrain and that by an unknown Norwegian captain. The general astonishment at the performance of the Norwegian officer is great. From 1pm the news spreads and a turbulent crowd of more than 20.000 people gathers in the stands of Ostend. However, no rider to be seen at 2pm! One wonders in vain where the ‘record men’ are. Finally the first rider appears and the crowd rushes onto the arena. The winner, French Lieutenant Madamet, finishes in the time of 6h51 minutes. How was this possible after the excellent times at the third check? Horrible incidents turn out to be the cause. Three horsemen, who enter the racecourse on foot, tell of the tragic death of their horses.

Moments later, Lieutenant Silfverswärd  arrives, lamenting the loss of his good horse Gold. Reports, sent by telegraph, tell of the stopping due to exhaustion of numerous participants, while two horses still drop dead after arriving In Ostend. Of the 60 riders who started, only 29 make it through the finish. Jan-Willem Godin de Beaufort finishes sixth in a time of 7 hours 57 minutes and the last to reach the finish took 10 hours 50 minutes.’

Report of the winner Lieutenant Madamet, 13th Dragoon Regiment (France)

The ‘Raid’ Brussels – Ostend


‘I had no special intentions regarding the riding style to follow. Fearing the jostling, because of my horse that gets excited quickly, I walked a little at first to get out of the crowd; I then adjusted the speed – trot and canter – to the terrain and conditions. My gaits have always been fast, my horse trots exactly at 21.5km/h and gallops at 26 km/h. I have always left him free in his gaits and as soon as I noticed a bit of fatigue I switched to a walk, often walking beside my horse. Several times I rested for a few minutes, but outside the checkpoints, where a stifling crowd thonged. After Koolskamp, because my horse was fresh, I wanted to chase Bausil. I was pretty much catching up on his 15 minute lead when I suddenly found him totally exhausted. From that moment on I had only one thought: arriving fit in Ostend and sacrificing my first place that I wasn’t sure of for the pleasure of finishing. I have reduced my speed to 16km/h, often walking next to my horse between the 2500 meter canter reprises and it is not, in contrary to what has been said in the Echo de Paris, because my horse no longer wanted to go forward, that I calmed down but only because, now that I no longer had any information about my standings after the meeting with Bausil, I wanted to arrive in Ostend at all costs. Every time I’ve been able to let my horse go into a competitor’s slipstream without throwing him out of rhythm, I’ve taken advantage of that opportunity.

I’ve stopped every time I felt my horse needed to urinate, even a few hundred yards from a checkpoint, and I don’t think I lost any time doing that.

The heat wave we had to endure towards the end was, in my opinion, fatal for many. It was just when everyone was planning to demand an extra effort from their horse that the temperature became very unfavourable and required a slower pace. Between 11:30am and 12:30 pm most horses got into trouble. I have seen horsemen who wanted to finish their pre-made program exactly and rushed their horses when a moment of rest would have restored them and who worked up a sweat with this unnecessary effort. There is nothing more tiring for a horse than to walk in line or be forced to stay in place. I’ve stopped every time I felt my horse needed to urinate, even a few hundred yards from a checkpoint, and I don’t think I lost any time doing that.’

Report by Jr. J.W. Godin de Beaufort, 2nd Lieutenant of the 1st Hussar Regiment

‘Although I was forced to ride on a 4 pound steeple-saddle and almost completely naked under my uniform with very light race boots, my weight still exceeded that of the other participants by eight kilos, which is very unfortunate in such a long distance. As the road was rather bad at first, I trotted on the cobblestones for the first 45 km, almost always at a steady pace next to my horse, only an occasional canter when the berms allowed; I only reached a speed of 17km/h until the Scheldt. Then as the terrain improved, we cantered more to Torhout, alternating with a walk, walking next to my horse, and my speed reached 21km/h on that section. I had sent my sitter to Torhout to help me massage my horse and to prepare whatever we might need. I soon left, but after passing Wijnendaele, Mascotte showed a bit of fatigue; the last 22 kilometres separating me from the finish line I ran alongside her, with a single interval of walking. I have found that the horses get less tired when they trot on the paved road (if they don’t have hoof problems and if they are used to it) than when they go fast through the mud and that, contrary to what was common, one had to choose the best parts of the road with care. Never canter uphill, descend at a trot and walk next to his horse whenever possible. In other words: the winner will be the one who has walked as little as possible. One should always stay ‘under the pace of his horse’, letting him slipstream if possible, provided one does not get carried away in a faster gait. In my opinion, the length of the trail had nothing to do with the significant number of deaths; these are only due to the insane speed of a few riders who, through lack of training and their own fatigue, put additional strain on their horses. Mascotte is in excellent condition and has in no way suffered from the Raid Brussels-Ostend.’

One should always stay ‘under the pace of his horse’, letting him slipstream if possible, provided one does not get carried away in a faster gait.

After completing the raid, for which he received a certificate, Jan-Willen wrote: ‘Already then the plan was conceived by me to complete a long distance ride over a much longer distance and to try to get my horse to the finish in good condition and also to make myself as suitable as possible for such a ride by systematic training.’