Jenny Chandler had pottered about for years in the usual equestrian pursuits. Some eventing here, a bit of showjumping there, going back to getting her first pony at 10.

She'd heard about endurance riding but figured she wouldn't have the time to take it seriously. But on Tuesday she and teammates Debby Worsfold and Alison Higgins are off to Kentucky as New Zealand's team for the 160km endurance race at the world equestrian games.

"I've now discovered the riding I most enjoy doing - hacking down the road, which used to be called skiving because you should be doing more important things - is called training," she quipped. At the Masters Games in Hamilton six years ago, Chandler, who farms near Pirongia, close to Te Awamutu, and works at Waikato University's animal psychology lab, was encouraged to enter and had a standardbred who wasn't much good for anything else.

"So I took him in. It was 20km, which seemed an awfully long way. We won it and I was hooked." Chandler bought her world games mount, Lace and Fineness, in December 2005. "I found her on Trade Me, she was stuck out the back of Ngatea."

And the satisfaction in spending anything up to eight hours in the saddle is ... "It's really challenging. You really get to know your horse."

New Zealand's team manager is Madonna Harris, double summer and winter Olympian, who stopped riding competitively about four years ago and is now focused on "organising people, trying to encourage them to believe they can be world class and provide opportunities and systems to make them step up to the mark".

The event is a mass start of about 120 horses and riders. The aim is to be in the top 40 per cent about halfway.

A statistician will be with the management group to assess the best strategies when the horses and riders are in their 40-minute holding period between each of the six loops.

The Arab horses, smaller than showjumpers, can run long and fast, then, on stopping, can drop heart rates smartly. That is important when the vet check is done at each break. "They're not heavy boned, not particularly big muscled horses, more like marathon athletes vs 400m runners," Harris said. The horses canter at between 18 to 28km/h. Nations can enter five riders, four of whom form a team. The best three performances to count. All riders contest the individual medals.

And New Zealand's prospects for the September 27 event? They're one down on the optimum number for a team event, so no one can have an off day.

"We're aiming for three in the top 20," Harris said. That should equate to a solid team result.

Riding the Distance
* New Zealand's team for the 160km endurance race at the world equestrian games is Te Awamutu's Jenny Chandler and Lace and Fineness; Nelson's Alison Higgins and Twynham El Omar; and Rangiora's Debby Worsfold and Northwinds Bradley McGregor.

* The courses consists of six loops of distances varying between 20 and 40km.