The World’s Largest Horse Race
~by James Moore
As with any sports lover, I am constantly trying to discover a new sport that I have never heard of and want to learn more about. So…when I came across a sport that literally pits Man against Beast (or, more specific, Man against Man ON Beast), I needed to shout it from the rooftops and have everyone jump in the saddle to explore this extremely interesting battle.
This is not a test of strength or power, believe it or not – it is a test of stamina. The location is a Welsh town called, Llanwrtyd Wells; the event is annual and called, Man Vs. Horse. Yes, the sport is exactly what the name states: Human beings are athletes in the event, and they must compete to win a foot/hoof race against other athletes who are mounted on their horses.
This is one sporting event that has a hysterical back-story. What began as a race in 1980, actually came about because of a landlord (Gordon Green, owner of a pub called, Neuadd Arms) who heard two men debating about whether or not a man could beat a horse when they were set beside each other in a cross country race.
One person spoke about the harshness that long distances could bring to any species, man or animal, which means that the man had just as much of a chance to win as the equine. Thus…a challenge was born and the very first event was scheduled.
Now, make sure to take the word ‘man’ not as a literal but as a general term. Because the female brigade was definitely a part of the race over the years. Slightly less in length than a traditional marathon, this event goes over much harder terrain than, say, paved city blocks. And the rules changed over time, to allow many people to enter. It was in 1985 that cyclists also competed. And in 1989, the first horse was actually beaten by three whole minutes by a British cyclist named, Tim Gould.
Cyclists aside, there have been very real moments in time when a human on foot beat the horse. It was in 2004, when Huw Lobb, ran to victory and finally won the cash prize that had been growing since the race’s first run – just waiting for a person on foot to actually have the stamina and speed to make the horse wonder what had just happened.
This is no small race, by the way. The ‘buzz’ has gotten about in various countries and in various groups – through racers, cyclists, as well as the lovers of the equine realm. And in 2007, the highest number of competitors ever (500 runners and 40 horses), came to pass. And in this year yet another human athlete beat the first horse…this time, by eleven minutes.
As always, there was debate regarding this event. Controversy occurred when all ‘vet checks’ were deducted from the horses’ time. But when that rule was protested by pretty much all the athletes in the event, the 2010 race went back to the beginning rules and regs, but a horse was the triumphant one, winning by 10 minutes.
2011is referred to as the ‘Year of the Horse’ where this competition is concerned. The hard turf and rough, wet terrain was actually far easier for the horse that year.
Over the years various issues have come into play with this event. 2013 actually had to deal with ‘real life’ forestry processes that made the route of the race have to be redesigned, bringing about a 24 mile competition.
And whether you are a Triple Crown fan, or just in love with a certain racetrack out there in America, you should know that with 65 horses (44 completing the course), this small Welsh town can claim “the world’s largest horse race.” Take that, Churchill Downs. Not only does Llanwrtyd Wells bring the equine families in droves, but it also has a unique history that can not be beat.
You have got to check this one out!