Endurance riding can be a demanding and challenging sport for both horse and rider. This FEI recognised discipline is an internationally participated event. There are two main types of long-distance riding, competitive trail riding and endurance rides. These events can run for a single day but there are others that can last for more than just a day. The race usually covers a trail of 50 to 150 miles with various challenging terrains to traverse. Before the race, horses are assessed by the veterinarian to check if they are suitable to join in the competition. The health status of both rider and horse should be considered during the race. The goal in an endurance ride is for the winning horse to be the first one to cross the finish line while stopping periodically to pass a veterinary check that deems the animal in good health and fit to continue
Riding horses over long distances has existed since the domestication of the horse. The equine physique was built to endure the grueling demands of traversing different types of terrain for long distances. The concept of Endurance riding that started in the United States was based on European cavalry and breeding program tests requiring the ability to carry 300 lb (140 kg) over 100 miles (160 km) in one day. As a formal sport endurance riding began in 1955 when Wendell Robie and some fellow equestrians rode from the Lake Tahoe area across the Sierra Nevada Range to Auburn in under 24 hours. Now known as the Tevis Cup this ride remains the most difficult ride due to the extreme terrain and high altitude and severe temperatures. The emergence of endurance riding in Europe happened in the 1960s with the rest of the world following over following decades. Endurance became a recognized FEI discipline in 1982, and the international organization has since set down rules with the welfare of the horse as top priority.
How to Prepare Your Horse for Its First Endurance Ride
The choice of horse to compete in an endurance competition is very important. Any breed of horse can compete, but the Arabian usually dominates the top levels because of this breed’s stamina and natural endurance abilities. The main requirement for any horse to compete in such a grueling event is optimum fitness and perfect health. The training regime for horses preparing to compete in an endurance event is very intense that requires daily exercising long rides that extend in distance incrementally each week. Conditioning your horse months prior to an event is recommended by taking him on different types of trails and exposing him to the different types of terrain and changes in the environment. It is not just the physical fitness you need to condition. Your horse’s mental strength is paramount in training for this demanding discipline.
Preparing Yourself for the Ride
Endurance riding has real demands not only for the horse but also from the rider. As the rider, you should also do some exercises of your own and condition your mind and body for the rigors of such a demanding event. Basically, it’s living healthy, eating right and getting enough rest. A rider must always wear comfortable riding clothes. Appropriate tack can also be a good secret to maintaining a comfortable riding position all throughout the ride. Make sure you know how to pick your apparel in order to stay comfortable. A safety kit will also come in handy for this type of event and should include a knife, duct tape, among others.
A rider must also be familiar with his or her horse’s behavior. Be sensitive to the horse’s needs and be sharp enough to figure out the signs that he’s sending you, especially those of tiredness and being uncomfortable. It would be ideal to have an assistant look after your horse for the duration of the entire event.
Important Things to Keep in Mind about Endurance Riding
All equine breeds can participate in endurance riding but they must be at least 5 years old to compete. Four-year olds can compete but only for limited distances. Participants should be carefully trained to meet the grueling demands of this event. Any horse can qualify for an endurance event if the time and effort has been put into a training and preparation program.
Water is an essential part of this competition. Make sure your horse has been adequately hydrated before setting out to race. It is also important for horses to have a water break along the ride. As mentioned earlier, horses should be inspected by the veterinarian and participants must pass the assessment before they can join in. During the ride, veterinarians are also present at certain check-points to assess the status of the horse any horse deemed unfit to continue (due to lameness or excessive fatigue, for example) is eliminated from further competition.
Famous Endurance Horse
Monk set North American Record for the 160km (100 miles) in 6 hours and 53 minutes. Endurance riding is challenging to both horse and rider but is also a wonderful opportunity for both to enjoy an extended time together in the great outdoors.
Read more about Monk’s success with Abler