Brangman looking to go the distance
When Marvin Brangman first heard about endurance riding, he thought it was a sport for “crazy” people.
Brangman, who has a background in dressage and showjumping, has always been passionate about horses, but had little interest in spending long hours in the saddle negotiating all types of terrain.
After much persuading from a friend who competes in the discipline, Brangman agreed to a 25-mile race in 2015 — a gentle distance by endurance standards — and immediately fell in love with it.
He won his second ride of 75 miles in Alabama several months later and from there started the two-year process to qualify for the World Equestrian Games.
Brangman took nine attempts to complete the six distances required to qualify — one 50 miles, four 75 and one 100. He will be the first Bermudian to compete in endurance at the Games, which will be held in Tyron, North Carolina, from September 11 to 23.
“In 2012, I met an endurance rider [Christo Dinkelmann] who had 30 Arabian horses and needed help training them,” said Brangman, who has lived in LaGrange, Georgia, for 18 years.
“He told me about endurance riding, which I’d never heard of, and I was like, ‘You do what?’ I thought he was nuts doing long-distance races on Arabs.
“I hadn’t been on an Arab for years because I do dressage and showjumping. Arabs are kind of taboo — they’re hot, crazy and high spirited.
“Eventually I was convinced to do a race in the mountains of Georgia, and it wasn’t that bad. I fell in love with it.”
Brangman, 51, has only been riding MM Godiva Chokalat since March. He describes the horse as being “incredible” but extremely temperamental.
“If she’s doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you — she’s thrown people off,” said Brangman, whose previous horse Frangelico was forced to withdraw from a qualification race in South Carolina in January.
“She’s crazy but it makes for a perfect 100-mile horse. You need that craziness and energy to take you 100 miles.”
Although endurance rides are timed, the emphasis is on finishing in a good condition rather than coming first, with the horses having to pass a veterinarian inspection after each section of the race.
Any horse deemed unfit to continue after being checked for soundness and dehydration is eliminated from further competition.
“I’ve done a whole 75 miles and got pulled because the horse is sore,” said Brangman, a product of Warwick Riding School.
“The first loop may be 20 miles and the horse then has to pass an inspection. Once the vet clears you, you go and rest for 15 minutes and then start your second loop, which might be 15 miles.
“You have horses going all over the place, all day — it’s so cool. You can go as fast as you can, but you run the risk of burning your horse out. It’s like doing a marathon on a horse. You have to use wisdom.”
Ranked 142nd in the world, Brangman said his expectations at the Games are realistic, although insists he is not merely looking to complete the 100-mile race.
“The slogan in endurance is ‘To finish is to win’,” said Brangman, an ordained minister at the Fellowship Christian Centre International of Newman, Georgia.
“I want to finish, but I want to finish well. I don’t just want to finish 150th.
“My coach, Laurie Shifflett, who trains and owns the horse, believes we can do very well. She’s been doing this for years.”
Since earning his Certificate of Capability to qualify for the Games by winning an 160-kilometre ride at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, Brangman has stepped up his fitness regimen.
“I decided, ‘OK, this is huge; I’ve got to be in the best condition I can’,” said Brangman, who first represented Bermuda in showjumping aged 16 in Oakville, Ontario. “I went to the gym, consulted with a trainer, and told him what I did. He gave me a programme based on the muscle groups I use to ride. I focus on cardio and legs, mostly.”
Next month’s Games are just the start of Brangman’s ambitions in the sport. He aims to become an elite-level rider so he can lease a horse to compete at the 2020 World Endurance Championships in San Rossore, Pisa.
“I need to do nine more 100-mile rides to become an elite rider, which will enable me to go to Italy and lease a horse to ride on,” Brangman said. “At the moment I’m a four-star rider, which means I must ride the horse on which I qualified. That can be expensive when you compete overseas.”