How do you go about preparing for one of the equestrian world’s most fulfilling events? Local endurance rider Claire Fowler explains.
Endurance riding is a sport in which most horses and riders can take part. If you enjoy spending a few hours in the saddle and would take pleasure in riding over different terrain, then why not give endurance riding a try?
Endurance GB is the sport’s governing body in England and Wales – it runs classes from 16km (10 mile) pleasure rides to 160km (100 mile) competitive rides.
To get a taste for the sport, riders can enter the non-competitive Pleasure Rides or sign up for a ‘Try Before You Buy’ scheme, which permits entry in up to two Novice Graded (affiliated) classes of between 20km and 40km.
Can my horse participate?
While pure and part-bred Arabs dominate the longer distances of endurance, any fit healthy horse can compete easily up to 65km and beyond. There are many horse breeds and types currently competing in endurance very successfully.
Most horses in regular work will be fit enough to complete a 30km ride within the required speed and heartbeat parameters. Before moving up the levels, horses will require a variety of slow and fast work, schooling and rest periods to build the correct stamina and fitness.
Safety and comfort of both horse and rider is paramount. Correct saddle fit is essential, and balanced riding makes it much easier for the horse to carry a level load. Riders also need to consider their own fitness. Safety hats to current standards are required.
Horse welfare is obviously key to endurance riding; at Graded (affiliated) rides pre- and post- ride vet inspections are administered to ensure that all horses competing are fit and sound to do so. At pre-ride, the horse will be briefly examined, have its heart rate noted (must be 64bpm or less) and trotted up to assess soundness. The post-ride check follows the same pattern.
There is also a farrier check which is done during the pre-ride inspection just before presenting to the vet. This is to ensure the hooves and footwear are satisfactory for the ride distance entered. Horses can be shod, barefoot or hoof-booted.
For Graded rides, grades are awarded based on speed and final heart rate. Fit horses who complete at good speeds and have low heart rates at the final vetting will be rewarded with higher grades.
In Novice competitions the minimum speed is 8kph. Completing three Novice rides enables a horse to upgrade to Open level, where the minimum speed rises to 9kph. Placings in graded rides are also given based on a formula derived from the speed and final heart rate.
A collaborative sport
What is great about this sport is riders can involve family and friends to be part of their crew team; handing out cooling water for the horse, refreshments for both horse and rider at designated crew points on the ride route and of course lots of moral support along the way! Endurance riding is a great opportunity for developing a partnership between horse and rider. It offers access to beautiful countryside, and chances to win titles at all distances and levels of competition.