Did you know?
The first endurance ride in South Africa was in held in 1964 following a debate in a local magazine as to which breed of horse had the best endurance capability.
Picture it: horse riders flying across wintry Free State grasslands; 400 horses encamped with their riders, support teams and spectators, numbering in the thousands, gathering round fires each night to discuss the glories and tragedies of the day; and riders getting up at midnight in freezing conditions to check on their horses.
This is the legendary Fauresmith endurance ride, the highlight of the South African endurance horse-riding calendar.
Every year in July, endurance horse riders descend on the Free State town of Fauresmith for this 201km marathon, known as the Fauresmith 200. Not for the faint-hearted, this race through the veld (grasslands) personifies excitement, adrenaline and achievement. And for many of the riders, it is the realisation of a life’s dream.
Fit and fed to run fast and hard, the horses are ready to race. While the nights are freezing, the days can get extremely warm, and the health of the horses is closely monitored over the three days. Their heart rate and muscles are checked every 25km by registered veterinarians (when the riders let their horses rest for 20 minutes), and any over-strained horses are disqualified.
The race is a veritable obstacle course through the veld, with plenty of pitfalls, including rocks and loose stones, eroded gullies, holes, and fence posts concealed by the grass. Experienced Fauresmith riders caution all newcomers to pace themselves and their horses carefully if they wish to complete the three days. 'Keep a level head and keep in control,' is the motto of this race.
Many are the tales of camaraderie and sportsmanship in this highly competitive event, in which top riders have been known to stop and dismount to help a fellow rider in trouble.
The spectators, on the other hand, feed off the collective nervous energy and excitement to cheer on the riders as they cross the finishing line to the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire.
Fauresmith and the surrounding areas are spectator- and tourist-friendly, and once the race is run, take a few days to explore the Free State's hospitality and adventure offerings.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Endurance Ride Association of South Africa
Brand Pretorius (marketing and liaison)
Tel +27 (0)83 459 4945
Tel: +27 (0)51 723 0020
Bob and Laura Seegers (endurance-horse and Fauresmith experts)
How to get here
Fauresmith is about 130km south-west of Bloemfontein. It is on the R704 road, which can be accessed from the R706.
Best time to visit
The annual Fauresmith endurance ride takes place in July.
Around the area
Take the back roads to the surrounding towns of Philippolis, Trompsburg, Edenburg, Petrusburg, Koffiefontein and Luckhoff, each with its own lost-in-time charm. Fauresmith is also popular with train enthusiasts as it is the only town in South Africa, and one of a handful in the world, where the railway line runs down the centre of the main road.
Self-drive is the best option.
What will it cost
The closer you leave it to the event to book, the more likely it is to be more expensive. Expect to pay about R500 to R1000 per person per night for bed and breakfast.
Length of stay
The ride takes place over three days, but it's recommended that you take two more days to explore the surrounding area.
What to pack
Sleeping bags/blankets and clothes for extremely cold weather, including walking boots, woollen socks, windcheaters, caps and gloves, as well as clothes for outdoor sunny weather.
Where to stay
The town of Fauresmith offers various guest houses and B&Bs. The surrounding area also has a choice of farm stays. See the listed website for more information.
What to eat
Most of the B&Bs and guest houses in Fauresmith offer meals. If you are participating in the race or are a spectator, you will also want to have a healthy choice of your own snacks, drinks and meals. Take your own or purchase from Fauresmith’s butcheries, stores and supermarkets.
The annual Fauresmith endurance ride takes place in July. Bear in mind this is mid-winter in South Africa, when the nights in the Free State are very cold, but the days are generally sunny and warm.