What is Endurance?
The FEI defines Endurance as:
"Endurance is a long-distance competition against the clock testing the speed and endurance of a horse and challenging the rider over their effective use of pace, thorough knowledge of their horse’s capabilities and ability to cross all kinds of terrain. Although the rides are timed, the emphasis is on finishing in good condition rather than coming in first".
But Endurance is so much more than that.
It's about partnership. The bond created between horse and rider that allows them both to work as a whole.
Endurance is long-distance riding not racing.
More than any other equine sport, endurance riding requires horses to perform in a way that is going to be extremely challenging for their metabolism, most particularly the demands placed on their digestive system, their joints and general muscle systems, as they are unable to eat for hours at a time, and have to carry a rider, often over quite concussive natural terrain.
It is therefore crucial that a rider has a thorough knowledge of how their horse 'works'. They need to understand when something doesn't feel right, even if a thorough vet check is all clear. They need to be good riders, to simply make the work easier for their horse. Most importantly, they need to acknowledge that their horse's wellbeing must come first and foremost.
Endurance can be ridden in groups or individually. Horses can be bitted or bitless. No special tack is required. Riders tend to ride in clothes that are practical, colourful and comfortable. Many riders choose to wear trainers - with caged stirrups - so they can get off and run with their horses if the terrain is difficult to ride over.
Endurance rides are done in loops, between each loop the horse is examined by a vet to ensure it is fit to continue. After this check, the horse has time to rest and eat before going out onto the next loop.
Each loop is marked so that horse and rider can follow the correct tracks.
The challenge is to complete the ride with your horse in peak condition and not "on its last legs".