Endurance Riding 101: How Does This Work?

This post is one in our series of endurance-themed blogs celebrating the new partnership between Two Horse Tack and Green Bean Endurance. Want to learn more about the sport? Green Bean has some fantastic resources on its Education page here

Ok, so you’ve read our post about why endurance riding is a great endeavor for riders from other disciplines, but if you’re like us, you may not have the faintest idea how an endurance ride actually works.

If you’re looking to get into endurance riding as a sideline to help condition yourself and your horse, remember that there are short-distance rides available to you. The “turtle” division is usually the best place to start for newbies. The shortest rides recognized by the AERC are 25-mile rides, which you have six hours to complete. Competitors may be ranked both as individuals and as a team for shortest time taken to complete the course and for the horse’s pulse to return to an established threshold. There’s also a separate prize given out for the Best Conditioned horse, and this is greatly coveted among endurance riders because it reflects their preparation for the event and overall horsemanship moreso than their performance on a particular given day, as it’s available to the top ten finishers.

Competitors are separated into weight categories based on the weight of the rider plus their equipment.endurance

You will have several mandatory veterinary checks, of course–one before you begin the ride, and several along the way to ensure equine welfare. Among other things, vets will be looking for the horse’s heart rate to fall in a certain range before the horse is allowed to continue. If the heart rate does not return to the desired range, or if there are any other problems detected, a horse can be pulled from the competition.

Horses are offered water at various points through the ride, too, which is important whether it’s hot outside or not. Horses will usually start the ride at a trot, and their pace/gait from there can vary depending upon the horse/rider pair. Some spend most of the time in trot, while others will pick up the pace or slow things down, depending upon the course. The winner is the horse/rider who cross the finish line first, provided the horse is approved by the veterinarian as healthy and sound.

Newcomers should recognize that even for a short ride like the 25-miler, it can take months for a horse to fully develop not just their aerobic capacity, but their muscles, ligaments, and tendons. A thorough conditioning plan is needed to make sure you’re not asking too much of your horse before a ride like this.

One thing that’s really great about endurance is that, similarly to eventing, just finishing the competition is considered a real accomplishment and point of pride. And, there’s no shame in not finishing; the only really culturally unacceptable thing in the sport is pushing a horse too far, though of course the veterinary guidelines are in place to keep anything from getting out of hand. For that reason, Jacke over at Green Bean let us know that “race” is not a term that’s used in endurance riding; racing would imply a degree of risk to the horse that a well-prepared endurance rider wouldn’t take.

Green Bean is a great place to start for new riders because it awards points only for completion and miles per race, not for placement or speed. No pressure, more fun!

Want to learn more about the sport? Check out Green Bean Endurance’s Education page, or the Resources pages on the American Endurance Ride Conference’s First Ride page.

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Posted on February 10, 2016, in Helpful articles and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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