Endurance riding is open to everyone and involves long distance riding and plenty of time spent in the saddle. Riding is across beautiful countryside and varying terrains and there is everything from pleasure rides to competitive rides so everyone can be involved at the level that suit them.
We asked Jade Edwards also known as alg_but noidea on Instagram, how to get started and here is what she had to say.
Is endurance riding open to everyone?
Endurance riding is one of the most inclusive equestrian sports! Literally everyone is welcome
Do we need a specific type of horse?
Any sound healthy horse can give Endurance riding a go! Most horses LOVE it!
What does endurance involve?
Endurance riding is the sport, there are many different types of classes, a bit like running in some ways which is also a sport although you can choose to jog up the road right up to doing multi-day ultra-marathons!
How fit should a horse be?
The average happy hacker will cope perfectly well at a grass-roots Endurance ride. Literally distances start around 8km (5 miles!) If you get bitten by the bug it is relatively easy to progress a horse’s fitness to climb the levels just by using the training or social ride events and average home hacking.
What about rider fitness?
Any horse, whatever activity it is doing will benefit from a fit rider! It makes sense to be in shape so you’re not a burden to your horse….and again, as you climb the levels, you’ll find you need a higher level of fitness. Swimming/ gym work/ Pilates will all help but nothing beats time in the saddle to get the right muscles in shape.
What equipment will a horse need for endurance riding?
Any well-fitting tack is absolutely fine. It needs to be totally comfortable for both horse and rider. There is specialist Endurance tack available, but it is certainly not requisite.
Endurance horses do tend to be ridden in colourful combo’s with synthetic bridles, specialist numnahs to match, coloured stirrups etc. This helps the backup crews spot their horse when they are approaching and stands up to the wash downs that horses get during a competitive ride.
What equipment and clothing will a rider need?
Again, good fit and comfort is key. There is nothing worse than rubbing and chaffing! To get started, if you are happy in what you are wearing there is no requirement for Endurance specific clothing.
Endurance hats tend to be lightweight and vented….and colourful. Many riders wear trainers and vented half chaps. (Endurance stirrups have a broad footbed and cages!) Good underwear is a total must!
Once you start to ride to specific timed and in vetted classes, a good GPS watch is useful to keep a check on your speed and timing. For the horse, a pulse monitor is a useful bit of kit. This will give you a good insight into your horses’ fitness progression at home and is extremely useful at rides to judge vet presentations.
Weird bits of kit…..slosh bottles! Used to tip water over the horse….at crew points out on course and at the venue to cool the horse out ready for vetting. Most riders use large empty detergent bottles!
At what level does a beginner start at and how do we move up the levels?
Literally, rides start around 8-10km (5-6 miles) Even when there are competitive rides going on, there is nearly always a lower distance ride or rides alongside all the other classes.
There are regional groups who organise low key training (social/fun) rides usually with a choice of distances up to about 30km. There is no speed requirement on these events although it is hoped that riders will ride no slower than around 8kph.
The next level would be pleasure ride, which when run alongside national classes would have a trot up for the horse pre and post ride.
GER’s (Graded Endurance rides) have a speed requirement dependant on the level (Novice, Open or Advanced) and there are set veterinary parameters based on pulse which determine your horses result, with a Grade 1 being the best. There are one or two day and multi day competitions.
CER’s (Competitive Endurance rides) are mass start competitions, starting at 80km, up to 160km in a day, and run over multi days at some events. These classes have a winner, as in fastest, fittest horse, and places. FEI competition is also run in this format at 1, 2, and 3* level. Only advanced horses and riders can compete at this level.
With ALL Endurance rides it is paramount that horse welfare is the top priority and to this end, horses are checked before, during and after the rides by very experienced equine specialised vets. The horses must pass all the criteria at every stage of its competition. Horses and riders must progress through each level before being able to move on to the next stage, and this again is to ensure horse welfare is always number one.
Do you need to be registered with any bodies to do endurance riding?
Endurance GB welcomes participation by non-members at lower levels. It is also possible to join as a supporter, an associate, or pony club or riding club member, so lots of opportunity to make sure that you and your horse are enjoying it! There is also a limited ‘Try before you buy’ scheme so it is possible to try a competitive ride before committing.
Obviously being a member benefits you with discounted entry fees, a bimonthly magazine and extensive public liability insurance. There are junior, young rider, non-riding, and full riding categories of membership.
How should we exercise our horse to train for endurance riding?
Normal hacking 3-4 times a week, varying terrain, paces, and speeds is perfectly fine for anything up to 40km. Schooling is a valuable asset also and it is important that the horse can carry itself in balance in all paces and is obedient to the aids. Fast work isn’t particularly important, it is more about being about to sustain a pace easily, be it trotting or cantering. It should be comfortable for both horse and rider.
Variety is also important to keep the horse happy and interested, so a bit of show jumping, or cross country will always keep things sweet.
Interval work for cardio/vascular fitness will benefit once in competition which will benefit recoveries.
What happens on the day of an endurance ride?
Before the ride, you will already have received your key information, time to arrive, your number and a route map and any other event specific information.
On arrival, you should check in with the secretary, check the notice board for any changes and present to the vet at your allocated time if it is a vetted event. You then tack up and set off (within 30 minutes of your vet time) through a timekeeper and ride your marked route at the designated speeds determined by your class. There are usually radio check points around the route so each rider can be monitored for their progress. The routes are usually very well marked, and easy to follow but it is good to be able to know where you are on your map at any given time just in case of a problem.
Some classes have a midway vet check, usually above 55km when the horse will need to pass its class specific criteria and have a rest period before completing the route. The horse will be encouraged to drink and once vetted, to eat.
Horse’s tack (boots, numnahs, girths etc) are often changed during vet holds to make sure everything is clean, and comfortable and the horses washed down to make sure they are in the best shape to continue
Regardless of class, horses MUST be 100% sound at the start, during any check and at the end. There are no degrees of lameness permitted. In GER’s and CER’s horses must also record a pulse of 64 or less to record a completion.
After a ride what do we need to do?
Proactive crewing for horses (and riders) is a major factor of Endurance. Horses are encouraged to drink and eat during breaks and post vetting. This is especially important over longer distances to ensure the horse is in good condition and has sufficient fuel on board to complete its class. This is also important for the rider. You cannot expect to sustain good performance if you don’t eat or drink for the duration of a six (or more, or less!) hour ride!
It is useful if the horse can be encouraged to wee before vetting, as this can lower the heartrate.
Post vetting, the horse should be encouraged to graze and relax, and given sufficient time to recover before travelling home. This is an added stress that many people overlook, and endurance rides often offer overnight corralling before and after events so horses can properly recover before/after travelling.
Many riders use cool boots and therapy rugs post ride to aid quick recovery. The rider should also take time to relax and recover from their ride.
Are there any extra considerations to consider?
A good relationship with a conscientious farrier is an absolute must. He/she will need to understand what a key role good foot balance will play in a successful Endurance season.
Likewise, regular physio input to make sure everything is good to go at all stages is important.
Good quality feed that supports the requirement of the individual horse is also crucial. There is no ‘Endurance’ magic formula as in any discipline, there is not one solution for all. However, it is massively important that sufficient quality fibre is always available.
It can be helpful to keep a log of baseline statistics, weight / pulse recoveries etc as discrepancies with these may flag up any issues before they become problems.
The time spent together enables riders to gain an in depth understanding of their horse, which undoubtedly strengthens the partnership, and enables them to notice minor changes more readily.
Endurance riding is also a hugely supportive discipline with experienced people readily sharing their knowledge and helping fellow competitors.