Discipline: Competitive & Endurance Riding
Endurance riding has been with us for centuries, from the Beduoins and their Arabians, crossing long expanses of desert. In modern times, the Cavalry and Pony Express trained horses for long distances, working on preparing their horses for maximum speed for extended periods of time. The modern endurance horse must travel at least 50 miles a day in competition, while maintaining optimum health and condition. Horses are examined by Veterinarians check points throughout the course, and again at the finish, for heart rate, soundness, and dehydration. Courses may include any kind of terrain, from mountains to desert spaces. The goal is to arrive at the finish line first, with your horse in excellent condition. The motto of the endurance rider is “to finish is to win”, as no minimum time is established. While traditionally, Arabs and horses of Arabian cross are at the top of this Sport, American Saddlebreds are great partners, and horses such as Squeezable (Squeeze Play-Wild Loveliness), owned by Mary E. McDevitt, have had great achievements.
Kinds of Rides
- 5, 10, 15, 20 miles per day at 3-5 mph.
- If a Judged Pleasure Ride, manners and condition of horse and horsemanship of the rider are judged.
- This is the first level in trail riding.
- 25-40 miles per day at 6 mph.
- Speed is not a factor.
- Distance and time are set by ride management or the sponsoring organization.
- The horse whose condition changes least from beginning to end is the winner.
- You need to know how to take your horse’s pulse and respiration.
- 50 miles in 12 hours, 100 miles in 24 hours.
- Minimum speed is 4.1 mph, but top speed is 10 mph (average).
- This is a race, the first horse in that is able to go on is the winner.
Walk = 20 minutes per mile = 3 mph
Slow/moderate trot = 9 minutes per mile = 6 ½ mph
Fast trot = 6 minutes per mile = 10 mph
The condition of the horse is of paramount importance!! Horses must be at least 4 years old, and many organizations require 5 years of age at the time of the ride. Provided that you walk, almost any healthy horse can do a 5 mile ride (1 ¾ hours). A horse that is ridden in the ring for at least an hour a day, 5-6 days a week should be able to do a 10 mile Pleasure ride, at the walk, easily.
For longer or faster rides the horse and rider needs at least some specific conditioning. * (see conditioning) 6-8 weeks of serious conditioning (5miles per day, 5-6 days per week) will get you and your horse into condition for a 20 mile pleasure ride and or an easy competitive ride.
If you plan to compete seriously, plan to spend two riding seasons getting your horse in condition for competitive rides and 1-2 seasons of serious competing in competitive rides before you try endurance.
It takes at least two months to get an average horse into condition for an easy 25 mile ride. The following is a suggested conditioning program. Each horse is an individual and conditioning needs should be determined bearing this in mind. A green horse, for example, may be approached in a different way than the veteran campaigner. Many factors will affect your time schedule, but you won’t melt in the rain and you both might as well get use to the heat. Rides/drives are held rain or shine.
This is a sample conditioning schedule, one hour a day minimum, 5-6 days per week.
Week one: Three to five miles each day at a brisk walk.
Week two: Five miles a day, gradually increasing to a trot.
Week three: Five miles a day with one 10 mile day.
Week four: Five miles a day with one 10 mile day in 2 hours.
Week five: Five miles a day with one 15 mile day in 2 ½ hours.
Week six: Five miles a day with one 20 mile day.
Week seven: Five miles a day with one 20 mile day in 3 hours.
Week eight: Five miles a day, with the day before the ride off.
This schedule will condition a horse for any 25 – 40 mile Competitive Ride.
The distances need to be accurate. If you use roads, measure with the car speedometer. If you are using trails, use an ORV or at the very least use a ruler and a topographic map.
Remember if you are going to enjoy the ride, you must be in as good condition as your horse. This means you ride every conditioning mile.
As of 2001 Wing Tempo had the most miles of any horse in the North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC). His total miles at that time were 18,510, about 3,000 miles ahead of second place. I think he was in his late 20’s at that time and still going.