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Endurance Riding: What Is It All About?
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Endurance Riding: What Is It All About?

A horse.  A rider.  A trail. 

That’s the essence of endurance riding. 

The trail might run through the desert, meadows, mountains, cropland, or even on city streets. 

The weather might be cold—or hot.  

You might have rain, snow, sun—and sometimes all of these on the same day.  

You might ride with old friends, new friends—or go solo to enjoy the day with your horse.

Want to know more?

Endurance riding is a kind of “Iditarod” for equestrians.  Horses and riders leave camp early in the morning to face 25, 50, 75, or even 100 miles of trail in a single day.  Some events also offer a 10-15 mile novice ride.

Many competitors choose Arabian or part-Arabian horses, but the sport is open to all types of equines, including horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and even zebras!  Gaited horses are increasingly popular.

You won’t need a specific saddle or bridle.  Whatever fits you and your horse best is a good choice. 

You don’t need a specific outfit, either!  At many events, it would be possible to show up wearing nothing but a smile (but I strongly recommend a helmet and some sunscreen at the very least).

Can kids participate? 

You bet.  Some riders are as young as 5 or 6 years old.  Junior riders (under age 16) are required to wear helmets and must ride with a “sponsor”—a responsible adult over age 18.  Endurance rides are a great opportunity for inter-generational riding.

What about older riders? 

Absolutely.  Riders might be cancer survivors, heart transplant recipients, or even amputees.  In my region, the “golden years” riders are the ones who have more time to train without time constraints of child-raising and commuting to a job, and they are a powerful contingent of strong competitors.

Is it safe? 

Veterinarians at checkpoints throughout the event evaluate horse health and wellness.  Horses are “pulled” from the competition if the vet or the rider perceives lameness or metabolic distress.  The checkpoints also offer horses and riders a chance to eat, drink, and rest before continuing down the trail.

Are there valuable prizes? 

Nope.  All horse and rider teams that finish the course in the time allowed with passing vet scores are given some kind of prize, often a t-shirt, a bucket, or some other useful object.  Even the team that finishes dead last gets a prize. Those who finish in the “top ten” might receive an extra small prize—or a long-sleeved t-shirt! Cash prizes are not encouraged in the American version of endurance riding. 

Is it friendly?

The endurance community is renowned for the friendly attitude towards both experienced competitors and “green bean teams”, and for ongoing interest in improving the health and soundness of horses over many years of competition.

How do I get started?

The best way to learn more about the sport—and learn how to train your horse for a long-distance challenge—is to volunteer at a ride. Come for a few hours on ride day, or camp out for the weekend to learn some new skills. 

You can also connect with riders via social media.  Look for “green bean” groups in your region on Facebook or Instagram.

There are several valuable books about endurance riding.  I wrote one of them—you can find it via Amazon.com, or ask for it at your public library.

There’s something magical about spending hours each week in training, and hours on competition day with your friends and your horse on trails that may leave you hungry, thirsty, tired, cranky, chilly (or sunburnt)…and almost always, grinning from ear-to-ear. 

If you want that grin for yourself, come and join us on the endurance trail.  

photo by Monica Bretherton, used with permission

Some useful links:

American Endurance Ride Conference - The national governing body for endurance riding

Equine Distance Riding Association – Promotes safe competitive equine distance riding events 

Green Bean Endurance – One of many social media groups for new endurance riders

Endurance 101 – This book offers information and advice about riding long distance

photo by Monica Bretherton/Triangle Ranch Communications, used with permission

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