Riding a horse for thousands of kilometers might have been the norm back in our pre-car days, but it seems that modern life has made endurance riding something of an extreme sport in its own right. While in a car rally or even a motorbike adventure all you need is some preparation, driving experience and a lot of patience to navigate long distances, but doing so on horseback requires a little more preparation.
What is Endurance Riding?
In general, endurance rides trail around 200km and will take a few days to complete. However, there are events, such as the Mongol Derby, which trail 1000 kilometers across varied terrain. Endurance riding is a little more challenging then embarking on a 4×4 rally, since you need to take into account the health of the horse. Most endurance races will have veterinarians check your trusty steed before, during and after the ride.
Tips and Hints for Endurance Riding
You will need to prepare, and that goes from picking your horse to the equipment you will use. It’s also important to take terrain into account. Your horse needs to be shod, but if you’re riding through rocky terrain you might want to consider pads or caulks.
Picking Your Horse
Endurance racing is open to all adult equine breeds over 5 years of age, but the horse you ride must be conditioned to meet the race’s demands. Breeds like the Arabian are great for pounding the long distances and often win competitive races. If you’re riding a smaller breed, like the Mongolian Horse, you need to take care with the distance, and ideally change horses if you’re riding for longer.
Welfare of the Horse
While you might find it optional to give your car a check up before heading off on an epic adventure through Central Asia, doing so with your horse is mandatory. You must get your horse checked by a vet before starting the ride, since the welfare of your horse is crucial. Also, it’s important to get your horse checked at various points during the ride, as well as after. Any horse that shows sign of poor health or lameness must be withdrawn.
Training Your Horse
In the case you’re racing your own horse, and not just attending an endurance race where you show up and ride, it’s important to train your horse as well as yourself. Once you’ve checked your horse is in good health, then there are other factors to account for. If the horse is unfit or even on the heavy side, you will want to start training slowly. Ride 4 to 6 days a week and give it a five mile workout at a slow pace. Increase the time, speed and distance gradually, and start the conditioning process about 8-12 weeks before riding. It’s good to ride over a variety of terrain to get your horse used to steep climbs or rocky roads. It will teach you how your horse handles certain conditions so you are better prepared for it.
It’s not only your horse that needs to be fit and healthy – but you too. You will want to train up with some cardio and eat a healthy diet. If you’re a bit on the heavy side, try to lose a bit of weight, but not only that, a tired rider is also harder for the horse too. You need to build up your endurance to keep up with the horse! Make sure you prepare with comfortable clothing, and bring change. But most importantly, learn how to read your horse so you can tell when it’s tired or uncomfortable.