Endurance Riding: A Growing Sport
Endurance riding doesn’t require an expensive horse with fabulous gaits or jumping ability: people with ‘ordinary’ equines can participate.
But success in this sport does rely heavily on fitness training. This demands a lot of time working with your horse and forms part of the appeal for many riders.
What Is Involved?
Endurance trails cover varied and sometimes challenging terrain. Depending on the level of difficulty, they can include rugged land, and long climbs with correspondingly steep downhill slopes.
There are three categories of endurance competition, including one for those starting out.
At least 50 miles are ridden in one day, with a maximum allowed distance of 150 miles to be completed in three days.
Limited Distance Rides
These are between 25 and 35 miles long. Allowed times are 6 hours for 25 miles and 8 ½ hours for 35 miles.
Less than 22.4 miles, and held in conjunction with official endurance rides hosted by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC ). These rides don’t count towards points or miles with the AERC.
The maximum allowed time for completing any of the above distances includes en route and post-ride vet exams. Within 30 minutes of stopping, the horse’s heart beats per minutes must be down to around 60 bpm.
What Kind of Horse Do I Need?
Rule No. 3 of the AERC Rules & Regulations states that “any breed or type of equine” must be allowed to participate.
Breed & Conformation
The AERC Endurance Riders Handbook, American Endurance Riders Conference (Chapter Three) gives a helpful overview of suitable endurance horse types. Certain breeds naturally have speed and stamina, especially the Arab and many Arab crosses, including the Araloosa (Arab/Appaloosa cross). Pure-bred Appaloosas rate highly, too, as do Standardbreds.
Regardless of breed, good confirmation is essential: the grueling conditions will exacerbate any weaknesses in the horse’s build.
Strong hooves are another must, to withstand the demanding terrain.
“Equines entered in the full distances must be at least 60 months old at the time of the ride” (Rule 3.1) and in Limited Distance Rides they must be at least four years old (Rule L2.1).
The animal’s actual date of birth is used to determine eligibility. If the horse has no papers, the control judge uses discretion in assessing age.
Who Can Take Part in Endurance Riding?
There are two riding divisions: Senior and Junior.
Seniors have four weight divisions (Rule 8.5.2): Heavyweight, Middleweight, Lightweight and Featherweight.
Under Rule 10.1, “A Junior is a rider who was under the age of 16 as of the first day of the ride season in which the ride is held” and must be accompanied by a “competent adult (21 years or older) sponsor throughout the competition.”
This fun and fast-growing sport develops stamina and staying power in both horse and human. The months and years of training together create a close bond between them, and every partnership to successfully cross the finish line of an endurance race is a winner.
Resources & Further Reading
‘Classic’Events and Ride Calendars