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Endurance Riding

Many Miles and A lot of Fun

  • Author: canpubco
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Endurance Riding


            Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long distance races. There are two main types of long-distance riding: Competitive trail riding and endurance rides. In a competitive trail ride, riders cover a marked trail for a distance usually between 15 and 40 miles per day. The event can go up to 3 days in total. There are many factors involved, such as speed, setting a pace, ride behavior, and the horse’s performance and mannerism throughout the ride. Endurance rides are all about what horse is the first to cross the finish line, while stopping occasionally for veterinary checks. Within the United States, most endurance rides are between 50-100 miles. In order to train for these distances, riders can partake in shorter rides known as Limited Distance rides (LD). Within endurance riding competition, any breed can compete but the Arabian has been proven to dominate due to the breed’s level of stamina.

            Organized endurance riding began in 1955 as a formal sport. That year marked the famous Tevis Cup ride, which goes from the Lake Tahoe region to the Sierra Nevada Range to Auburn. The winner of the first-ever Tevis Cup was Wendell Robie, who went on to win the 1956, 1957, and 1958 Tevis Cups. This trail remains the most difficult 100-mile ride in the world due to the terrain, altitude levels, and extremely hot temperatures. In 2016, the winner of the Tevis Cup was Karen Donley with her Arabian horse Royal Patron, with a time of 14 hours and 33 minutes.

            An endurance ride is divided into sections. After each section, horses must stop and receive a veterinary inspection where they are checked for soundness and any hint of dehydration. The horse must pass the exam in order to continue the ride. Any horse unfit to continue is eliminated. After the inspection, the horse goes through a hold time, typically 40-60 minutes, where the horse is watered and fed. The riders are free to choose their pace during the competition, while they take into consideration the terrain and horse’s condition. It is essential the rider have knowledge of pace.

            To determine the winner of an endurance ride, the first horse to cross the line and pass the vet check is the winner. Additional awards are typically given to best-conditioned (BC) horses who finish in the top 10.

            Equipment for endurance riding includes a saddle that is lightweight, but comfortable, for the horse and rider. They are specific saddles for endurance riding, since they accommodate the lengthy hours riding. Bridles for the horses may use a variety of bits and hackamores. Riders can choose to add a breastcollar to keep the saddle in place when traveling through tough terrain.

            To compete in endurance riding, one must look into different organizations. The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) was founded in 1972 as a governing body for long-distance riding. One strict rule is that there are time limits for each distance ridden. A 50-mile ride must be completed within 12 hours. A 100-mile ride must be completed in 24 hours. The 50-mile ride is the more common event, and occasionally 2-day 100-mile rides are offered. Endurance riding became a recognized discipline in the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) in 1978. In the US, endurance rides are sanctioned by the FEI and the AERC. The two famous American 100-mile rides are the Tevis Cup in California and the Old Dominion in Virginia.

            There are also the World Equestrian Games, the Endurance World Championships, and regional championships such as the Pan-Am Games and the European Endurance Championships. The World Championships provided a boost to the sport and by 2005 there were 353 international competitions. In 2016, the current high performance endurance riders for the US are Kelsey Russell, Heather Reynolds, Jeremy Reynolds, Jeremy Olson, Ellen Olson, Margaret Sleeper, and Valerie Kanavy.


1 comments on article "Endurance Riding"

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Sue Mayo Smith

10/28/2016 4:12 PM

Great write up on competitive trail riding and endurance rides.

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