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An Introduction to Endurance Riding

Learn About the Sport of Long Distance Endurance Riding

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An Introduction to Endurance Riding

Keeping your horse hydrated is very important. Offer water frequently.

2005 K. Blocksdorf

What is Endurance Riding?

Endurance Rides are races over a trail of 50 to 150 miles. Terrain can be varied and challenging. The events are commonly held over one to three days. Horses are checked by qualified veterinarians and judges before, during and after the ride.

Every caution is taken to ensure the safety and health of the horses. To win you must maintain a fast past of over 10 miles an hour, but many people ride just to finish.

What is the Goal?

If you are riding to win, you'll have to learn to condition your horse so that it can maintain a high speed over long distances. The first horse across the finish line is the winner. For many the goal is to ride the distance and have their horse finish sound and healthy. The mantra for long distance riders is "to finish is to win."

What You Will Need

Almost any horse, except the heaviest draft breeds are suitable for endurance riding. Horses with heavy muscles, and ponies may be suitable as long as they aren't pushed to travel too fast. Arabians tend to be the most suitable.

  • Any saddle that is comfortable and fits both horse and rider.

  • A bridle. A bitless bridle or endurance bridle makes it easier for the horse to eat or drink on trail.

  • Halter

  • Lead rope

  • Sponges

  • Buckets

  • Comfortable clothes and approved helmet.

  • Extra saddle pads or girth to replace sweat soaked or muddy ones.

  • Feed for your horse.

  • Coolers, rain sheets and blankets according to the weather. Be prepared for any weather.

  • Comfortable clothing, including approved helmet. Be prepared for any weather.

  • Grooming tools.

  • Electrolytes-a salt/sugar solution that helps keep your horse hydrated.

  • Your horse will need to be shod. If the terrain is rocky you may want to use pads and caulks.

What to Expect

When you arrive at the ride site, make your horse comfortable. Participants often camp over night as starts are often in the early morning hours. At the entry desk you'll receive your ride package containing a number and score sheet as well as other information.

You'll take your horse to the vets and judges for a thorough examination. They record information such as pulse, respiration, temperature and hydration. You'll be asked to trot your horse out on a loose lead so they can assess its soundness and attitude.

After the vet check you'll bed down for the night. Picket lines or portable stalls are common ways of containing horses overnight. You'll want to pre-load your horse with an electrolyte solution and make sure he is eating and drinking.

Early in the morning you'll start out on trail. All competitors start at the same time. These mass starts can be exciting. Some people like to wait at their trailers until the dust settles.

You'll want to give your horse every opportunity to drink and eat along the trail. Veterinary checks along the way make sure your horse is healthy and sound. Your horse will be checked very thoroughly again at the end. Awards and prizes are handed out after the majority of horses have finished.

Preparing Your Horse

Your horse should be in good health, and perfectly sound. If your horse is overweight or very unfit, start very slowly. Begin by riding 4 to 6 days a week, five miles per workout, at a pace of 4-6 miles per hour. Gradually increase your time, distance and speed. Start conditioning at least 8 to 12 weeks before the event.

Before attempting an endurance ride, you may want to participate in some competitive trail rides or mileage rides where you can learn to pace your horse over slightly shorter distances. Ride over varied terrain including steep climbs. Teach your horse to be calm around highway and off road vehicles.

Preparing Yourself

Endurance riding demands a high level of fitness of horse and rider. In addition to riding consider doing some cardio building exercise. Eat properly, and try to go into the event rested. A tired rider is harder for a horse to carry. (Compare carrying a sleeping child, to one that is awake.)

Dress comfortably and bring a change of clothing. Know your horse and learn to recognize signs that he may be tired, uncomfortable or lame. You'll want to recruit a support crew to help look after your horse and you during the ride. Learn how to give your horse electrolytes.

At the End of The Day

This is a challenging sport. Your goal won't be to win your first endurance ride. Many riders ride just to finish. Riding a horse over a trail of 50 miles or more is an achievement whether you place first or last. You'll get fit, make friends and learn more with each mile.

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