Lots of valid questions by riders unfamiliar with endurance riding. Lots of us understand endurance sports, xc skiing, long distance running, marathons, ultras and Tour de France, all examples of human long distance sports. Well, horses can do the same long distance running with proper preparation and conditioning.
Because Arabian horses do have more red blood cells and thus have more oxygen carrying capacity, they are more suitable for endurance. However, any horse breed can engage in the sport of distance. Distance riding means, riding a horse from 25 miles up to 100 miles during a single day. The trails are mostly cross country, over mountains, through creeks and rivers, through all kinds of terrain. The riders should be fit enough to stay anywhere from 4 to 20 hours in the saddle.
On average, every 15 to 20 miles there are vet checks in place where horses are being evaluated by veterinarians to make sure they are still capable of continuing. Horses need to have a pulse of 64 beats per minute or lower to be allowed to continue. They also are being checked for soundness and hydration as well as gut sounds. All veterinarians, ride managers, staff and riders, care deeply about the welfare and well being of their horses, and all want to make sure their horses are well and happy during their competition.
To achieve this feat, it is good to have an endurance saddle which is somewhat lighter in weight but gives the rider comfort and support for various terrain. Nutrition for endurance horses is also of importance. Besides hay and certain grains, endurance horses also need protein and fat in their diet to be able to travel long distances at a walk, trot and canter. Because endurance horses do sweat, and that is a good thing, because sweating cools the horse, but it also makes the horse lose valuable electrolytes and salts in their blood and muscle cells. Therefore the administering of electrolytes is of utmost importance especially during the warmer months and the longer distances horses are competing in.
There are clinics and webinars available for riders new to the sport. AERC is offering webinars, Global Endurance Training Center is offering hands on clinics on getting started in Endurance riding. There are mentors available for all interested riders in endurance. Just contact any WDRA or AERC Boardmember to guide you and help you out.
At WDRA we want to educate new riders on how to be successful in endurance and we shall continue with more info about it in the future. What kind of information are you all interested in? We want to be interactive, so let anyone of us know what topics you want us to dive in to. Click here to ask a question!