Endurance riding as a recreational rider – is that possible?

Endurance riding as a recreational rider – is
is that possible?

A rough distinction between trail and endurance riding is:
trail riders cover long distances rather comfortably, often over several days, with luggage and without competition, endurance riders ride long distances mainly in one day for time and in competition with each other.

Endurance riding is one of the most original forms of horsemanship and dates back to mail and dispatch riders. These have been around the world ever since horses were ridden.

The “Pony Express” in the USA, for example, is legendary. Up to 400 ponies carried mail between Missouri and San Francisco over a distance of 3145 kilometers in ten days.

Early competitions in Europe often went over several 100 kilometers and claimed many victims among the participating horses.

Endurance riding today

First of all, I’ll clear up a prejudice: Endurance riding is not only something for thoroughbred horses.

Any horse that is ridden several times a week at different gaits and is healthy can theoretically participate in an endurance ride. Small horses such as Icelanders, Connemaras or Haflingersalso often cut a very good figure on longer distances.

In the competitions, distances of approximately 25 to 160 km per day are ridden for time. They are divided into short, introductory, medium and long distances. Depending on the competition, the riders will ride with or without a time limit. Time limit means that there is a guideline time in km per minute for each distance, which the rider must not fall below.

A close-meshed control system by veterinarians protects the participating horses as far as possible from overstraining and damage to their health.

Training plan for four-legged beginners

Rule of thumb for a beginner distance of 25 km is that the rider should cover the distance in one week added up, which he wants to complete as a distance in the competition.

So only ride or move 5k five days a week? That’s what most people do anyway. Those who do not should work accordingly for at least three months to prepare. Then, about six weeks before the competition, it is enough to ride once the complete distance at a brisk pace and on the other days normally.

The main gait on endurance rides is the trot. A healthy horse worked in this way should be able to sustain a one-way distance of 25 km at T (pace) 10 – 10 minutes time for one kilometer – well.

Once the rider has chosen an event, it is important to gather information about the type of course. Is it hill country, sandy roads or farmland? If the terrain is more challenging than the home training environment, he should also complete training sessions in similar terrain in advance.

Those wishing to participate in longer endurance rides should arrive at least one day before the start and must have a final vet check the day after the ride.

That is, endurance riding is often camping, at least for the horses. Boxes or permanent paddocks are sometimes available, but rarely for all participants. It is therefore sensible to accustom a horse to temporary accommodation in a light paddock surrounded by other horses in the run-up to a competition.

Training for the rider

And what about the rider? Assuming that he rides his horse himself several times a week, he should also have a certain basic level of fitness. It is helpful for distance beginners to go running regularly. So runs of five kilometers three times a week and ten kilometers now and then help to keep up a brisk beginner’s distance with good body tension or to be able to jog a few hundred meters beside the horse to relieve it.

Training the back muscles is also useful, I am thinking of long light trotting and cantering in a light seat. Physical fitness makes it easier for the rider to concentrate on his horse and the trail. Because you can also get lost…

VET Check

Rule No. 1: The rider must keep an eye on the horse’s condition. The prerequisite for this is that the rider knows his horse very well and can interpret its behavior in different situations. Constitution checks before, during and after the competition ensure that only fit quadrupeds remain in the tournament.

During VET checks, a veterinarian takes the horse’s pulse, listens to the abdomen, checks the body for swelling as well as external injuries, and checks the gait by pre-trotting in hand. Only when the veterinarian has measured a pulse of no more than 64 beats per minute is the horse allowed back on the track.

At the end of a ride, the horse must return to the required pulse value within a certain time window, depending on the distance ridden. For control purposes, it is advisable to practice taking the pulse on the horse yourself. This works well on the facial artery on the underside of the ganache. Just count the heartbeats for 15 seconds and then take times four.

The suitable equipment for endurance riding

Endurance rides can be ridden in any saddle that fits horse and rider well. Under the English or leisure saddle, a good saddle pad provides pressure relief and ventilation of the saddle area. Special distance saddles are particularly light and thus also make it easier for the horse. Saddle pads for distance saddles are also lightweight, shock absorbent and thermoregulating.

The following applies to endurance harnesses: Especially on longer rides at a brisk pace, it is important that the harness does not constrict the horse and hinder its breathing. With the expansive movements of trotting and cantering, it also happens quickly that straight cut girths impede the elbow, so a girth in an anatomical cut is a good choice.

Important for snaffle bridles: The inflation zone of the nostrils must remain free, buckles must not press on the sensitive horse head. In many cases it is useful to put on a light kidney blanket, in some rides it is even obligatory.

Endurance riding is teamwork

The most important member of an endurance team besides the horse is a Trosser (= biped). The good spirit who reliably awaits horse and rider at every break with water, snacks and warm blankets, carries the saddle behind and patiently endures all the excitement of horse and rider.

The one who gets up at four in the morning before the ride to feed the horse, while the rider is still allowed to sleep until half past six, and stands in line for hours at the faucet to fill dozens of containers with water – beware, such trotters must be treated almost as well as the horses!

His equipment includes water canisters with a filling capacity of about two liters, which he can pass to the rider opened, so that he can pour it over the horse’s neck to cool him down on the last meters before the break.

Practical Tip:
Plastic rinsed-out fabric softener bottles with large handy handles have proven effective for this purpose.

You can find a lot of information about endurance riding, competition participation, qualifications, announcements and further education on the homepage of the VDD, the Association of German Endurance Riders and Drivers e.V.(vdd-aktuell.de).


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