The Elements of Endurance Riding
Endurance riding is the true test of fitness, conditioning and physical durability for both horse and rider. The term endurance riding brings to mind images of Hidalgo and long, grueling rides. A true endurance ride is 50, 75 or 100 miles, but there are also limited distance (LD) rides and “fun” rides offered at endurance competitions. A limited distance ride is usually 25 miles with a maximum of 6 hours to complete the ride. Fun rides are generally around 10 miles, and riders can go at whatever pace suits them.
While Arabians dominate the sport of endurance, other breeds can do well. Recently two BLM adopted mustangs finished in the top ten for the famed Tevis Cup endurance ride. This 100-mile rugged challenge takes riders from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, California in one day.
Endurance riding begins with either a controlled or shotgun start. After that, it is up to the rider to determine the appropriate pace for their mount to ensure completion of the ride. To “complete” in endurance, the horse must vet out with no significant health issues and must pulse down within the required time frame.
Endurance riding requires that a horse receive the best care possible. This includes proper footwear (for horse and human), excellent feed, frequent water intake and possibly electrolytes. Properly fitting tack is an absolute necessity to ensure comfort for the horse and rider and to avoid back soreness.
Endurance rides require that each horse is examined by a veterinarian before the ride, during the ride, and at the ride completion. The number of vet checks during the ride depends on the ride distance. The horse must pass these checks in order to continue. The veterinarian will check for hydration, gut sounds, soundness and back soreness.
At each checkpoint, the horses must pulse down to a certain mark (often 60 beats per minute for the final leg of a race) within a given time frame, usually 30 minutes. Once pulsed down, the horse and rider are allowed to continue after the hold time is over. If a horse does not pulse down within the hold time, it is likely due to extreme stress and the rider will be asked to withdraw from the ride.
Endurance Riding and Camping
Endurance riding involves camping with your horse, so be prepared to take the following items for your horses care:
- Hay and other feed. Always take more than you think you will need. Your horse will be standing around a lot, and it is good to have extra hay to keep them busy.
- Water buckets and feed pans.
- Any necessary supplements and medications. Formula 707 Fresh Packs are great for events. Just grab the number of packets you need and put them in the trailer – no need to take big buckets of supplements. For my most recent competition, I took Formula 707 Digestive Health + Daily Essentials Fresh Packs.
- I use Formula 707 Restore Paste. The molasses flavor makes it more tolerable for horses, and it is the perfect blend of amino acid chelates and electrolytes.
- Some type of pen for your horse – portable panels or electric fence work well.
- First aid products, a manure fork, poultice powder, leg wraps, vet wrap, a fly mask and fly repellent products.
- Water from home (most rides provide plenty of horse water, but it is good to have your own if your horse is a finicky drinker).
- A body sheet or blanket for cool
I recently hit the road for my first endurance ride in 11 years. I hauled my grade mare, Rockin’ Ruby, to a stunning location south of La Veta, Colorado for the Spanish Peaks Pioneer ride. The riding camp was picturesque with the Spanish Peaks looming over the camp. I parked on lush green grass,
and the views across the flatlands below went on for miles. Ruby had never been to any event before, and this was her first endurance challenge.
After the first 20 miles of extended trotting, Ruby started drinking significant amounts of water. In my pommel bags, I had stashed a tube of Formula 707 Performance Paste. In just minutes I administered it on the back of her tongue. Formula 707 Performance Paste is a powerful, potassium and magnesium energy supplement that encourages peak performance. It provided Ruby with a moderate dose of electrolytes as well as vitamins and essential amino acids.
Most importantly it was absorbed quickly into her system. We completed the limited distance 30-mile ride and finished in the top ten. Ruby normally does not sweat excessively, but on this day she was completely wet, and sweat was dripping onto her hooves. Several hours after the ride, and after more water intake, I gave her half a tube of Formula 707 Restore Paste to replenish the electrolytes in her system.
If you have heard about endurance riding but have been intimidated by the idea of long, fast-moving distance riding, I would encourage you to attend an endurance ride and start with the fun ride. Participating in this ride will help you understand the entire cycle of a ride, start to finish. Then you can decide if perhaps an LD ride can be your next goal. For those within driving range of southeast Colorado, I would suggest checking out SOCO Endurance, www.socoendurance.com. The wonderful folks near La Veta, Colorado put on multi-day rides twice a summer. It is pleasant camping, great food and outstanding views of the surrounding country. If you stay Saturday night, be ready to enjoy a great meal including an authentic whole pig roast and live music. For a nationwide schedule of rides go to www.aerc.org.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions you can contact us. Happy trails from southwest Colorado!