Congratulations to Robert “Bob” Gielen of Flesherton, ON, and his Arabian gelding, Morebangforyourbuck (Doran x Forty Thieves), aka “Bang”! With the completion of the Fun in the Sun (FITS) CEI 3* 160km endurance ride in Williston, FL, on March 12, 2021, Bob retained his FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale) Elite Athlete Status.

Robert Gielen Secures Coveted Elite Athlete Status

Robert Gielen, a veteran of the Canadian Endurance Team from Flesherton, ON, has reached the impressive milestone of FEI Elite Athlete Status.
Photo Credit: Becky Siler Pearman

Bob, 70, started endurance riding in 1995. In those fifteen years he, with some exceptional horses, has racked up a respectable 18,624 competitive kilometres. Bob has been a team member representing Canada in several World Championships: the 2008 Malaysia World Endurance Championships; the Lexington 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG); the 2013 North American Endurance Championships (NAEC) in Florida; and the 2016 NAEC in Millbrook, ON. In 2018, he rode in both the WEG test event and WEG in Tryon, NC.

The Elite Athlete Status Bob received demonstrates to foreign officials that he has the skill to guide a leased horse safety and expertly over a 160km course. To attain this designation, a rider must successfully complete a minimum of 10 CEI 3* or 4* 160km events. To retain Elite Athlete Status, they must complete same level ride within every successive 24 months; however, the timeline was extended to 33 months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even with the extension, the past two years hasn’t made this easy. In 2018 the ride at WEG was disrupted and the next year, COVID-19 frustrated everyone’s plans. So, with only one shot left, Bob completed this 160km ride at FITS within 33 months as required.

Bob is described as dedicated, methodical and disciplined. It would seem those qualities would be like paving stones ensuring the road to success but he has had occasional setbacks that most people would consider serious.

As Bob told it, “I had a knee replaced in the summer of 2017, then I did a 120km ride in November of that year. I had my second knee replacement in September, right after WEG 2018, and was back competing in the winter of 2019. I was apprehensive right after the operations because if there was any sideways blow before the bone had a chance to recover, there might have been serious damage. Now both knees are generally trouble-free as far as riding is concerned but I run like a duck.”

Bob is quick to credit his partner, 12-year-old Bang. Bang is from an Arabian racing barn in Michigan. Bob likes ex-racehorses because they are bred for athleticism and they have a good base of conditioning. 

Robert Gielen Secures Coveted Elite Athlete Status

Bob and Morebangforyourbuck at the Tryon 2018 World Equestrian Games.
Photo Credit: ©EC/Caroline Soble

“Bang was just a skinny, spooky four-year-old when I got him, but he always ate well and took care of himself.” Bob said.

The third element of Bob’s success is his rock-solid support. Misha Green and Dina Riddick, his partner, have been Bob’s crew for 11 and three years, respectively.

Misha said, “Dina and I are Bob’s main crew people for international rides. I have been crewing for Bob since I met him in 2009. I couldn’t go FITS this year because of COVID. In fact, this was the first 160 km he did without me since I started. But I was crewing from home on my phone!”

She added, “Bob is great to crew for. The key to our relationship on the field of play is familiarity. I know both Bob and Bang very well and because of our experience and history, it’s easy for me to anticipate things they need when coming into a hold. For example, Bang doesn’t like to mix his beet pulp with his grain. Bob likes a freshly made sandwich and a Coke halfway through his ride and a beer at the end.”

Dina revealed, “I come from a background in long-format eventing and for a brief time in dressage and hunt rings. Misha willingly shared with me how to crew for endurance. That gave me a huge jump to be a helpful addition to the team. Both Bob and Bang have a tremendous focus and a game-day attitude.”

Although Bob has augmented his riding career with the Elite Athlete Status recognition that most FEI riders envy, he looks at his successes in more personal way. “I prefer to earn the right to compete on my own horses. Finishing any 160km is always paramount in my goal; the ‘Elite’ thing is not my main goal.”

Elite Athlete Status is a gauge of achievement for Bob but it’s not often we meet someone with a well-rounded resume that shows he is ready for a Canadian Endurance Team championship event at any time. Focused values, exceptional horses and a committed crew – that’s what it takes to be successful.

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