Endurance / Limited Distance
An endurance ride is a test of a horse and rider team over challenging terrain over distances of 50 to 100 miles in one day, 150 miles over three days using one horse, and multi day rides of 200 to 300 miles where each day is actually a separate ride and multiple horses may be used. There is no minimum time for a ride. The maximum time is 12 hours per 50 miles or 24 hours for 100 miles. The winner of an endurance ride is the first person to cross the official finish line having followed the prescribed trail with a horse that is fit to continue on. Failure to meet veterinary criteria at any point in the ride including the finish, will result in no completion. All riders are held with strict veterinary controls to ensure the protection of our equine partners. The motto of endurance riders worldwide is "To Finish Is To Win."
ACTRA ride managers can host endurance type rides of less than 50 miles. These Limited Distance Rides are sanctioned by the Atlantic Canada Trail Riding Association following the AERC general rules. The Limited Distance Ride is between 25 and 35 miles in length. The Limited Distance Ride managers must provide a specific amount of time which will include all stops and holds, and within which competitors must complete the ride to qualify for placing or completion. At the finish, the competitor's ride time continues until a preset judging criteria of 60 heartbeats per minute or less is met. While AERC rules determine that a Limited Distance Ride must be held in conjunction with an Endurance ride event, ACTRA does not. An ACTRA sanctioned Limited Distance Ride can be held on its own. To learn more but Limited Distance Ride rules a link to the AERC Rules & Regulations is provided here.The rules specific to Limited Distance are currently on page 12.
Do not try to be first to finish on your first ride. It takes at least two years of conditioning before a horse is ready to compete seriously in an endurance ride without undue risk of breakdown. It is a good idea to start a new horse (or a new rider) on short rides before attempting to do an endurance ride.
You may use any kind of saddle and bridle that you wish. It should fit both the horse and rider well. The lighter the tack, the better.
Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid new clothes or rough materials. Many riders (including males) wear panty horse or other undergarments, chaps and half chaps to avoid chaffing. Many riders wear running shoes or other soft shoes to assist in occasionally running with their horses, leading, tailing, or beside them depending on terrain.
Yield the trail to overtaking riders when asked, and ask for the trail when passing. Since dehydration can be a major problem, encourage your horse to drink on the trail whenever water is available. If other riders are with you, do not ride on until all the other horses have finished drinking. When riders leave early, the other horses will not drink since they will want to leave as well. Leaving when others are trying to get their horses to drink is a serious breach of trail etiquette.
Carry a plastic scoop and/or sponge on a string to cool your horse and yourself at water holes.
Ask for advice from other riders and pit crews if you are uncertain about any aspect of the ride. Take an opportunity to ride along with more experienced riders if your horses pace matches theirs. People love to talk on the trail and you will learn a great deal. Tell the veterinarians and ride management you are a new rider. They will be glad to help you out and provide advice. However, you are responsible for your own horse and for setting a pace that will allow your horse to finish the ride in good condition.
Arrive at the ride site the day before the Endurance Ride. Set up your camp and get your horse settled. Get your horse vetted early. After the vet check, your time is your own until the ride briefing. Take the map that was given to you when you registered and mark down any information from the ride briefing that you think will help you on the ride. Mark any danger points on the ride such as bogs and soft spots, and places where you can water your horse. After the Briefing, make sure your horse has plenty of food and water for the night. Many riders provide free choice hay. Most endurance riders "preload" electrolytes before the ride. Go to bed early and get a good sleep.
Be tacked up early and warm up your horse for 15 to 30 minutes before the start time. Depending on the time of year, it can be very cold, requiring a slow warm up. Walk your horse for five to ten minutes. Then do some slow trotting, then go back to walking and settle in for the start.
The start of some endurance rides can be quite scary the first time out. Some riders start slowly, others start in a confused rush. Start your first ride slowly. It gets the fast and hyped up horses out of your way. Everyone should ride their own race. Ignore the competition, don't worry if people pass you. Your goal is to finish and learn the capabilities of your horse.
If your horse is thirsty when you arrive at a vet check, then the horse should be allowed to drink before going to the pulse and respiration check. (Horses will cool down and their pulse will drop more quickly if they drink so you may actually save time at the vet check by allowing your horse to drink before trying to get the pulse down.) After you have met the pulse criteria and other vet criteria, you should ensure your horse has plenty of food and water available. Many endurance horses like a sloppy grain mix with bran, carrots, apples, beet pulp etc. (Remember - soak beet pulp for 24 hours before feeding.) Also have a good quality hay available.
Any time on the trail that you could walk as fast as your horse, get off and walk. There are several benefits to this, IT will give your horse a break. If you have a heart monitor, you will notice the difference. Secondly, it will give you a break and a chance to use different muscles and bet a stretch. You and your horse will be less tired and stressed as a result. Leading and jogging down hills and tailing up hills is of great benefit to your horse. Remember, downhill is harder on the horse's muscles, bones and tendons than going uphill.
Congratulations you made it. Remember the motto of endurance riding, "To Finish Is To Win."
There is normally a vet check within one hour after you finish the ride. When you come in at the finish line, have your horse's pulse checked as soon as you think the ride parameters have been reached. Once this is down, prepare the horse for the post ride vet check. If the horse was ridden hard, do lots of walking to cool the horse out. Let the horse graze and get lots of water and sloppy grain mix in. Groom the horse and check for any anomalies. Ice the legs if appropriate, blanket the big muscles to avoid cramping, massage the big muscles, make your horse comfortable. After the vet check, tie him up and provide free choice hay, water and grain. Let your horse rest but keep a close check on your horse after the ride to make sure there are no problems. Your horse may have worked hard on the ride. IF so, and you have a long way to go, it is wise to let your horse rest overnight before packing up and trailering home.
To see A You Tube Video of Endurance Riding Click Here
An excellent article on understanding the Best of Condition scoring on an Endurance can be found Here.
To Learn more, visit the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Website
Inspiring video on endurance riding.