Doug Swingley from Lincoln, Montana, started endurance riding competition after 50, but when he commits to a sport, he wants to be the best. Swingley, now 58, is one of two riders from the United States that have been invited to participate in the 160k HH President of the UAE Endurance Ride in Abu Dhabi.
With only three weeks advance notice to prepare for the February 11 race, Swingley says the plan is coming together. Once the invitation was received and forwarded by the United States Equestrian Federation, horse passports and flight arrangements for horses and people have been flying back and forth quickly across the internet.
Swingley is a man accustomed to planning a competitive campaign with animals, and hardship is part of the package. Riding on a horse in the sand for 10-15 hours must seem at the other end of the spectrum for a professional dog musher and sled dog driver. And Swingley is one of the best.
A four-time winner of the 1,150+ mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska (1995, 1999, 2000, 20001), he is one of four Iditarod mushers who’ve won four or more championships – the others being Rick Swenson, Susan Butcher and Martin Buser.
In this most grueling of races, a driver will head 12-16 dogs from Anchorage to Nome, over jagged mountain range, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate frozen tundra and windswept coastal areas. The trip will take from 10-17 days in below-zero temperatures, and darkness, frostbite, physical pain and exhaustion are companions on the journey.
Swingley said when he was in his mid-thirties, he followed his brother, who was “infatuated with dogs”, into the sport. His win in 1995 broke two records as he was the first musher from outside of Alaska to win the race and he did it in 9 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes and 19 seconds.
Five years later, he broke his own record, crossing the finish line under the arch on Nome’s Front Street in 9 days, 58 minutes. Buser set a new record in 2002 with 8 days, 22 hours and 46 minutes and John Baker broke that record in the 2011 race, coming in with 8 days, 19 hours and 46 minutes.
A fifth generation Montana native, Swingley lives on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains where he grows timber. As he transitioned to training others for sled dog races, he picked up endurance riding as his new athletic passion.” We had horses my entire life on the ranch,” he said. “100 miles on horseback is nothing compared to almost 1,200 miles in the snow.”
He has two horses in training with Christoph Schork at the Global Endurance Training Center in Moab, Utah.
Pal of Mine (ZT Ali Baba x KTP Miss Patriot x Wiking) came from the US Darley Stud as a five year old and is being prepared to compete in the US Endurance trials that will select the team for the World Endurance Championship in the United Kingdom this coming August.
National Security (Nash) will go to Abu Dhabi. “Nash is a willing, easygoing horse that loves the competition,” said his trainer, Schork. “He is calm and doesn’t get excited in vet checks. His pulse and respiration are very good. He has big bone, big hooves and ground covering gaits. He should be well prepared for the Presidents Cup.”
Never one to let the snow lay under his feet, as Nash is is being trained on the sandy trails in Moab, Swingley was just leaving for a 150 mile overnight dog sled trip with one of his clients.
The horses are expected to ship out of Los Angeles on February 6. Swingley said he is happy to be invited to the Abu Dhabi race. He expects to connect again with many International friends that he has in competitions and through selling horses. “We are excited that they have invited us, ” he said. “We’re going for the experience. We’ll be happy to ride conservatively and try to complete.”