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.
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.
In honor of our new partnership with Green Bean Endurance, Two Horse Tack is continuing a series of endurance-themed posts here on our blog, which are aimed specifically at those who aren’t currently endurance riders. Enjoy!
There’s no doubt about it–endurance riders and their horses are tough. Anyone who’s willing to saddle up, knowing they’ll be achey, hot, and tired before they’re halfway through the journey has got to be pretty determined. If you’ve ever gotten to the 20-mile marker in a beginner’s endurance ride and wondered, ‘Who in the world came up with this idea??’ well, we’ve got answers for you.
Eventers are proud of their sport’s heritage as a test of bravery and athletics for cavalry horses, but did you know that endurance riding also got its start in the cavalry? It began in the early 1900s with tests that spanned over 5 days and 300 miles, with horses carrying at least 200 pounds. That’s a lot to ask, especially when you consider that the average cavalry horse probably wasn’t a full-blooded Arabian, which are popular amongst high-level endurance riders today because of their propensity for long distance.
But lest you think of endurance riding as dominated by Arabians–the Morgan Horse Club actually helped stimulate the sport’s development in the early 1900s, starting its own endurance rides as a means of demonstrating the breed’s suitability for the cavalry. Those rides, too, went up to 300 miles.
Of course, speaking theoretically, people have been doing some sort of endurance riding for hundreds, if not thousands of years, since the domestication of the horse was largely based on the animal’s ability to carry people and objects great distances. The sport didn’t expand to include civilians until the 1950s. In 1955, the heralded Tevis Cup was organized, when Wendell Robie and a group of friends wanted to learn whether horses of that era could traverse the Western States Trail, from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, California. The Tevis Cup has been held annually ever since (excepting 2008, when it was cancelled due to wildfire activity).
The American Endurance Ride Conference was established several years later in the early 1970s and is now the body responsible for tracking points, making rules for certified competitions, and promoting the sport. Endurance riding is part of the FEI World Equestrian Games and is part of the U.S. Equestrian Team.
Endurance riders love our beta biothane tack because it’s light, gentle on sensitive skin, and waterproof! We’ll be announcing special products for endurance riders soon, but in the meantime, check out our existing line of halter bridles, which are especially popular with the endurance set.
We are so very excited to announce a new partnership we’re beginning this year with Green Bean Endurance!
If you’re not familiar with Green Bean, it’s a group of volunteers who organize a sort of “competition within a competition” for newcomers to endurance riding. Green Bean’s goal is to help connect endurance newbies and encourage them in their goals as they begin the sport. Green Bean assigns point values to the competitions its riders are already in, and gives out awards based on those point values; they also help assemble interested riders into teams, where individual point values are averaged. If you’d rather not join a team, they will also track individual points (although the team option is the most popular). It’s a great way to have fun, meet fellow riders, and share resources, which is a big help if you and your horse are getting started in a new discipline.
One of the many things Green Bean Endurance does to keep things fun for its members is the occasional product giveaway, which is one of many areas that we realized we could help this great organization. We’ll also be designing a tack line specifically for Green Bean participants, which is pretty exciting! Look for more details on those items, the sale of which will benefit Green Bean Endurance, here on our blog or on our Facebook page.
In honor of this new partnership, we’ll be posting a series on endurance riding over the coming weeks, and will also point you to some great content on the Green Bean site for those interested in conditioning their horses, whether it’s for an endurance ride or for another equestrian sport.
Many of us adult amateur riders can’t help but long for the bygone days of Pony Club every time we see a Welsh cross go jogging by at the barn or at a horse show. You may not be able to turn back the clock, but you can still join in some of the fun by hooking up with your local mounted games club. Why should you dabble in a completely foreign discipline? We’re glad you asked.
- Adults welcome Mounted games are not just “kid stuff.” Most local competitions have adult divisions too, and there’s no need to have participated in mounted games before.
- Tall horse? No problem It’s also a myth that you have to have a 13-hand Shetland to be able to enjoy yourself. Although it does help to have a lower center of gravity, the beginner divisions designed for adults don’t require you to pick items up of the ground or do those running dismounts/remounts you may have seen younger riders doing.
- Come as you are There’s no special tack or equipment required to compete in mounted games. Many people ride in English saddles, but there are usually a few sets of Western or trail tack in the group, too. If you want to practice at home, you can usually set up the obstacles with items you have on hand, especially if you have a few traffic cones lying around.
- Color coordinate! Of course, if you’re looking for an excuse to buy new tack, mounted games are an opportunity to have some fun with color. Many teams dress up their bridles, breastcollars, reins, saddle pads, polos, and anything else you can think of with their favorite color combination.
- It’s cheaper than a clinic Horses participating in the games have to get used to a lot of weird stuff going on around them. You have the chance to teach them to let you carry small flags, ride them around barrels, and even pop balloons within earshot. In many ways, it’s not that different from a desensitization clinic, at a lower price. And don’t worry—you can start slow and simple and work your way up if your horse needs some help adjusting.
- Cross training for your horse Even if mounted games aren’t the full-time gig for you and your horse, there are a lot of skills he will develop that cross over to other disciplines. Mounted games horses develop a keen sense of the rider’s weight and with some practice, become very good at moving “off the seat,” with slight signals from your legs and hands. Western riders find the games are a good chance to develop or brush up on the horse’s neck-reining. Also for Western riders, there are even elements of the games that may show up in a trail class like precisely-timed transitions and navigating around a small area or obstacle, similar to opening a gate.Regardless of what type of riding you do outside mounted games, horses learn a greater sense of “tuning in” to their riders, as many games require them to both trot or canter quickly and to stand perfectly still, depending upon the rider’s request. It’s like fine-tuning the “on/off” switch in the horse; many sports just ask them to be “on” as they move forward to jump or ride a pattern, but mounted games will remind them when to ‘turn it off,’ too.
- Work those muscles Mounted games are good for developing your mind and body, too. You’ll learn to be both physically flexible in the saddle and to be confident enough about your seat and balance to lean out of the tack. This is especially beneficial for beginning riders, who can learn to develop their balance even though they’re not n the midst of a lesson.
- Newfound bravery When it comes down to it, it’s pretty cool to be able to say you and your horse can weave in and out of barrels while carrying a fluttering flag. Conquering new territory can give you both a confidence boost.
- Team spirit! Mounted games are one of very few true team activities you can do on horseback, besides team penning. It’s fun to cheer your friends on at competition, but wouldn’t it be more fun face the challenge of the egg-and-spoon race together? It’s also a great chance to make new friends, if you’re looking to join a team.
Long lining is a great training tool for horses of all breeds and disciplines, especially young horses or those training for a new career. It’s also a great option for horses who are recovering from an injury and need some exercise but can’t yet carry a rider.
Long lining basically refers to driving a horse from the ground. Before beginning, it’s important the horse be accustomed to carrying a saddle or surcingle and recognize a verbal command to move forward.
Two lines of around eight or ten feet in length each run from the horse’s bit through a surcingle or saddle to the driver behind the horse. The driver can teach the horse to respond to the feeling of the lines on its sides and begin to encourage him to bend to the right and to the left when moving through turns and circles.
Being exposed to long lining before riding can give young horses a better sense of brakes and steering before carrying a rider. For dressage riders, it’s also a great time to begin to introduce some lateral exercises before climbing in the saddle.
Long lining can give riders a stronger sense of how their hands relate to the horse’s mouth, often encouraging them to be gentler.
We sell long lines in a variety of lengths, colors, and styles at our online shop. Our beta biothane long reins are excellent for use in the arena, where they may get wet or sandy–beta comes clean when rinsed in soapy water, and if you send it through the washing machine, it’s good as new! Best of all, our long reins are just as strong as nylon alternatives without being rough on your hands.
If you’re trying to decide between our two varieties of halter bridles, our four-legged friend Sue has a few suggestions for you. Sue was kind enough to model both our traditional halter bridle and our quick change halter bridle. Both options obviously switch between bridles and halters, but they do so differently.
The purple and black halter bridle is our traditional variety, which has bit hangers which clip onto the cheekpieces. As Sue is showing us, it takes a couple of quick seconds to switch between turnout and trail ride. This style, as the name implies, does have a more traditional look (it comes in single-color varieties as well, in addition to bling and reflective varieties).
The orange item that Sue is wearing is the quick-change style halter bridle. Just unsnap the browband and lift the headstall and bit off the horse. As you can see, you’re left with a Western headstall and a turnout halter. When the pieces fit together, you have a halter bridle. The quick change style comes in all the same color, bling, reflective, and even camo options as the traditional style.
The quick change option is great for Western riders because it includes the headstall, but ultimately it comes down to which style works best for you and your horse. We can assure you that both are great, and equally maintenance-free! Just wash any of our beta pieces in soap and water to get them looking as good as new, no conditioner required.
You may have seen straps extending across a horse’s rump from time, especially horses in harness and wondered what’s going on there. Is it just to keep a horse’s tail raised in a showy manner?
Nope. Those are probably cruppers, and they have a real safety purpose. Cruppers (or croupers) consist of a loop that fits under the horse’s tailhead, and an adjustable strap which fastens onto a saddle or harness. The crupper’s primary function is to keep the saddle or harness from sliding forward, where they might fit more loosely. The portion that fits under the tail was once made of leather but these days is usually a smooth tube stuffed with linseed to keep it from becoming hard and irritating. Cruppers may be single or double forked across the croup.
Cruppers should be adjusted so that they’re snug but not so tight that they cause irritation to the skin under the tail. Like many other safety devices, they’re meant to engage only when needed, so the horse shouldn’t feel pressure on the tail unless the harness or pack saddle actually begins to move. They’re especially helpful for horses with low withers or narrow shoulders, whose conformation makes equipment more likely to slip.
You’ll most often see cruppers being used with harness, but when they are used with saddles you’ll find them in endurance riding, trail riding, or patrol work.
We sell cruppers in a variety of colors and styles in both beta biothane and leather. They’re priced so affordably that it’s worth picking one up if you think it could help you and your equipment stay safe.
Finally, we’ve found a good solution for those pesky rubber bell boots.
Bell boots are a great way to protect your horse from overreaching if he strides out with his back legs and tends to grab his front heels with his hind toes. The most common type of bell boot is the rubber pull-on, and those can be tricky to get on and off.
Just flip the boot upside down while it’s on the horse’s leg, spray the inside of the boot with WD-40, and off it pops. The spray shouldn’t do harm to the horse’s hoof, but if you’re concerned, try rinsing his feet and ankles after you pull the boot off.
You’ve had those days where you’re sitting at your desk, or in a meeting and realize that your late night out has caught up with you. Suddenly, just passing out onto the desk or conference table seems like a great idea.
Turns out, horses can have the same problem.
We’re big fans of Equus magazine, which is a great resource for horse owners and riders of all disciplines. Recently, the Equus team caught up with a horse who had been suddenly dropping to the ground in the middle of lessons or time in the stall. Vets were called, tests were run, and the conclusion was that the horse wasn’t sick…he was just sleep-deprived.
How can you be sure your horse is getting enough z’s? The keys lie in identifying mental, social, and physical stress.
Check out the full article for more info!
Researchers in the UK are making progress in determining what contributes to gut upset in horses. Scientists at Aberystwyth University discovered that a horse’s hind gut has a basic colony of bacteria which is made up by many uncommon types of bacteria.
This could explain why the equine gut is so vulnerable to diet and other changes that veterinarians have often warned could lead to colic or laminitis–if the balance of those few uncommon bacteria gets off balance, it may be harder than originally thought to set them right again.
Study authors also hope that by identifying those core bacteria, it will be easier to learn which ones are related to which disorders.
Read more about the research from our friends over at HorseTalk New Zealand