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A Capital Pair

Endurance Racers John Crandell and Heraldic

Touch of Class, a Marylander, was the first non-human female equestrian honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee as Athlete of the Year. In 1984, this Hall of Fame horse won two Gold Medals for the United States, clearing 90 of 91 jumps in show jumping Olympic competition.
    Her achievement inspired a new award to honor horses and people who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in Maryland’s horse industry.
    The first winner was Maryland horse trainer Graham Motion, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby with thoroughbred Animal Kingdom.
    The latest winners, honored in November, are a team: John Crandell III and his famous Arabian Heraldic, both of Anne Arundel County. The pair won a silver medal in this year’s Pan Am games, one of the largest international sporting events outside the Olympics.
    For these two, awards are nothing new. In 2006, Heraldic became the only horse to win the Triple Crown of endurance racing.
    Endurance races run 50 to 100 miles over natural terrain. The races evolved from World War I, when the U.S. Calvary needed to develop mounts that could carry 300 pounds over 100 miles a day. What started as a military test developed by 1965 into an American-initiated sport.
    The most difficult of the 100-mile rides, the Historic Western States Trail from Lake Tahoe over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, combines rugged terrain, high altitudes and unpredictable weather for the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Old Dominion 100-mile race, the second leg, winds through Virginia’s George Washington National Forest in the Shenandoah. The American Endurance Ride Conference National Championships is the third leg of the Triple Crown. Heraldic won them all — and the American Endurance Ride twice.
    By all accounts, Heraldic and John Crandell’s silver win in this year’s Pan Am’s is a miracle. Attacked by coyotes or wild dogs in 2008, Heraldic’s racing days seemed over so badly was his leg injured. Two years of therapy — building muscle and bone strength and training for endurance — put John back in Heraldic’ saddle again.
    The Crandell family has a long history in horse training and endurance riding. Linda Crandell, John’s mother, became fascinated by the sport 30 years ago. She has won the Old Dominion 100-mile Endurance ride two times. Her husband, also John, has won it once; John III has won it six times.
    Endurance riding is a race against the clock. The first horse over the finish line wins. The average speed is 7.8 miles an hour, about comparable to a moderate trot. Riders can dismount and walk with the horse. All along the route are mandatory veterinarian stops. Horses are tested for pulse rate, watered and fed — and some eliminated by the veterinarians. Riders are not tested.
    Endurance racehorses must be five or older. Heraldic is a 13-year-old Russian Arabian gelding. Stamina and natural endurance are common to Arabians; they are the strongest competitors. The breed originated in Russia and along the Barberry Coast, but endurance training began — and excels — in America.
    Ten Arabians are now in endurance training on the Crandells’ West River farm. They are routinely exercised in six- and seven-mile rides on the flat. The Crandells’ 40 acres — though now subject to new restrictive county regulations on horses — gives them that. But hill and mountainous training is essential to condition muscles and bone for endurance, and Anne Arundel County is not known for its mountains.
    We are known, however, for our horses. American-trained horses compete in endurance races around the globe. Among them are Anne Arundel County’s John Crandell and his famed Arabian, now following the circuit here and in England, and bringing back more awards to Maryland.