Park City racer looks ahead to World Equestrian Games
Not too many people can say they’ve been a guest of the sheik of the United Arab Emirates and the king of Malaysia.
Beverly Gray, on the other hand, has been there, done that multiple times.
Gray and her 8-year-old Arabian gelding, Jolly Sickle, have traveled the world, racing more than 750 miles this past summer alone, and earning worldwide recognition and multiple awards along the way.
Her success has given her the opportunity to ride through the jungles with the king of Malaysia and the desert heat of the UAE.
Gray and Jolly Sickle are endurance racers, with Gray riding and Jolly Sickle running in races that range from 50 to 250 miles and sometimes span multiple days.
Jolly Sickle’s transformation from a sprinter into an endurance racer was anything but easy, Gray said.
"Converting him over from a racetrack horse was quite a challenge," she said. "He was used to going as fast as you can around a track. We don’t do that in 50-or 100-mile races."
But he seems to be comfortable with the longer distances now, winning nine of his 14 races this past summer and earning 11 awards for best conditioning.
"It was a great summer," Gray said. "I’ve been training him for the past three years."
Gray, who was a member of the 2002 United States Equestrian Team, isn’t resting on prior successes. The new year will see Gray and Jolly Sickle training for the World Equestrian Games, which will take place in 2014 in Normandy, France.
"If I’m going to qualify him for the U.S. Equestrian Team, I’ll have to attend several qualifying races hosted by the team in 2013," she said. "I’d love to be on the team. It’s not too soon to plan and train for it."
She added that Jolly Sickle should be entering his prime just in time for the Games.
"He’s young for eight years old," she said. "(Endurance horses) don’t reach their prime until about 10 or 11 years old."
Based on what she’s seen so far, Gray believes Jolly Sickle has the potential to do great things during his career. She said he could be the best horse she’s ever had, even better than Omner, a champion endurance horse that was voted one of the top 10 endurance horses of the millennium.
"(Jolly Sickle)’s showing the propensity to be quite the athletic champion," she said. "He’s finished every race he’s started."
Gray is looking forward to new challenges in 2013, including taking Jolly Sickle overseas.
"I haven’t put him up against any international countries yet," she said.
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.