Getting Started

What is endurance riding?

If you are looking at this site you probably are generally aware that Endurance riding involves riding over relatively long distances, maybe at a speed more than a normal hack. You may have the idea that it’s just for those mad speed merchants with Arabs. At the top level of competition, indeed most people do ride Arabs (partly due to historical precedent, and partly due to Arabs reputation for stamina and physiology), and indeed do ride at a speed (over a distance) which most normal everyday riders would think of as challenging!  Be reassured – at the novice level its much less daunting (and you don’t need an arab!).  But it is still more than a normal hack…

 A typical ride will take you over varied terrain, mainly off-road on bridleways and private land; often through beautiful scenery; and often along private tracks where riding isn’t normally permitted. Rides differ enormously in character: there may be rivers to ford, gates to open and difficult hilly terrain to negotiate – as in the famous Golden Horseshoe ride – or miles of  relatively level grassy and sandy  tracks offering scope for long canters though woods or over heathland.  As you gain experience, you and your horse will undoubtedly start to find out what sort of rides you both enjoy.  One thing that all rides offer is the opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships and maybe riding partnerships – by and large endurance riders and crew are a very friendly bunch who all help and support each other.

Endurance GB, the “official” organisation for endurance riding for England and Wales, runs a progressive scheme of rides of various types, distances and levels of experience (see EGB website for full details). Basically these can be grouped into:

 

·        Pleasure Rides (PR) –  rides  typically between 16km (10 miles) and 32km (20 miles) which are classed as “non competitive”: ie you do them for the pleasure and/or experience but they do not count in any competitive record.  However, they are a good introduction, as (unlike comparable pleasure or sponsored rides run by local organisations) they require you to complete the distance within specific time parameters (the same as for novice competitive rides) and may, if run alongside competitive rides, also introduce you to EGB vetting procedures (see below). You do not need to be a member or have a registered horse to enter.

 

·        Graded Endurance Rides (GER) – rides of between 32km (20 miles) and 80km (50 miles). These are primarily aimed at novice and open riders, and also involve you in completing the ride within specific time parameters ( ie, minimum and maximum speed) as well as passing a pre- and post- ride (and for rides above 50km, mid-ride) vetting.  They are open to members of EGB with registered horses, and results from these rides are entered into your competitive record with EGB.  To allow the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’, non-members can enter novice competitive classes up to and including 40km.

 

·        Competitive Endurance Rides (CER) of between 80k (50 miles) and 160k (100 miles). These only have a minimum speed (no maximum) – the aim being to get round as fast as possible, taking account of terrain and conditions, and successfully pass all vet checks. CERs are only for advanced riders and horses, and some are run as international rides under FEI regulations.  There are lots of things to learn about CERs (beyond the scope of this section of the website to give all the details!). Come and watch or help at a CER to see what’s involved (see below).

 

How do I start?

Most people start by doing pleasure rides to “test the water” and introduce themselves and their horses to riding at the speeds required for Endurance rides (8-12 kph for novice horses and riders) as well as to vet check procedures (if the ride offers this). However, there is nothing to stop you starting off by entering a novice level competitive ride – the only real difference between pleasure and competitive rides being the vet check procedures. 

 

EnduranceGB Full Membership

Joining details will be found on the main EnduranceGB Website.  If you are live in South East England, you will automatically be assigned to the South East group unless you elected to join another Group. You can also choose to join our group if you live outside this area.

 

EnduranceGB Associate Membership Scheme

The Associate Membership Scheme is an ideal way to get started for a very reasonable price.  An Associate Member is entitled to enter Group Pleasure Rides (listed in the centre pages of the SE Region Newsletter) and events at Members rates, Associates need to pay the supplementary Temporary Day Membership £8 (like non-members) for Pleasure Rides linked to Endurance Rides in the National Schedule.

 

 

Don’t be afraid to make it known to everyone that you and your horse are novices (a green ribbon in your horse’s tail signifies this for your horse) – people are generally very helpful and accommodating and more than willing to answer questions and give advice.

Don’t be tempted to set off fast at the beginning, or to keep up with riders who are riding faster than you intended: they may well be in a different class and riding at faster speeds. If you have done your preparation well, you will know roughly what pace you need to go at to complete the ride within the time parameters allowed for novices, so try to stick to this pace (if your horse doesn’t think otherwise!).

Remember general ride etiquette – ask people if you want to pass them, and go past slowly (especially if they are on an excitable or novice horse), be polite at gates and don’t rush off whilst others are still going through them – ditto if horses are stopping to drink at streams or puddles.   Be very polite to stewards (e.g. at road crossings) and follow their instructions; remember to ensure your number is taken at checkpoints, and always remember that stewards are unpaid helpers who are there for your safety.

TOP TIPS

Get involved

Volunteer to help out at local rides- it’s a great way of finding out what happens! Ride organisers are always grateful for help and as long as you are willing to do anything from being a car park steward; spending the day manning a road crossing; or (if you are lucky to get one of the favourite jobs!) Vet writing, you will learn a lot. By observing what’s going on and talking to people you can get a great insight into the sport, and make excellent contacts – for example for future pleasure and riding partners.

Offer to crew

Offer to help an experienced rider by crewing on a ride (or preferably more than one!). Its quite an eye-opener, and an excellent way to learn about how to manage a horse to ensure optimum performance.  By helping to prepare for the ride, learning what to do at vet checks, learning how to help a horse recover in the quickest possible time, and sharing in the pleasure of a success – or pain of a failure – you gain a great insight into the sport.  Not to mention chatting to other crews at crewing points – not only a good social experience, but also an opportunity to learn – don’t be afraid to ask questions and find out how others do it (and don’t be offended if they don’t tell you!).

Find a training partner or mentor

More experienced riders are often happy to come and do a couple of pleasure rides with you (or for you to go and ride with them) – it can give them an opportunity to ride somewhere different.  This can help you and your horse understand what sort of pace and attitude is required to do a ride; and, provided your “mentor” is willing, gives you an opportunity to ask lots of questions away from the competitive pressure of a real ride.  You can also practice post ride procedures including cooling etc., and learn how to check your horse’s rate of recovery.  This can be the start of great riding and training partnerships.  

Study the route and plan your ride

When you enter a ride, you will get a rider’s pack – typically 5-7 days before the ride. This will include a map of the ride and may include a “talk round” (verbal description of the ride route), and may include further instructions on  how to get to the venue, specific restrictions etc.  Make sure you read this information, and in particular check out the route carefully – ideally on an OS map of the area. Whilst most rides are very thoroughly marked, it is not unknown for “marker vandals” to switch route marking signs on the day.  So, being prepared by having studied the route on an OS map can reap big dividends!

 

When you are studying the route, its worth making mental (or real!) notes on difficult and easy sections and trying to work out what  times you would expect to get to various points on the ride, at minimum and maximum speed. This means that, on the day, you will be able to work out whether you need to speed up or slow down to do the ride within the set time parameters.

Enjoy yourself!

Those of us who participate in endurance riding have learned very quickly that it is one of the most enjoyable equestrian sports both for us and our horses, not to mention the lasting bonds of friendship with other riders developed through sharing rides, laughter (and occasionally tears).   

But perhaps most importantly, riding for long distances across glorious, and often remote and peaceful, countryside in the company of our horses is, for many of us, a very special experience.  The hours spent together – often alone – in training and riding develops a deep bond between us and our horses, and perhaps takes us on a journey away from everyday modern life back towards something deeper and more meaningful.

Further Reading

If you are interested in reading more about endurance riding, several books are available:

·        Endurance: Start to Finish; Marcy Pavord; J.A.Allen & Co Ltd; 1996

·        Endurance Riding: from first steps to 100 miles. Clare Wilde; Kenilworth Press Ltd; 1996 (paperback 2006)

·        The Complete Guide to Endurance Riding and Competition; Donna Snyder-Smith; Howell Book House Inc.,U.S.; 1998

·        Go the Distance: Complete Resource for Endurance Riding; Nancy Loving; Kenilworth Press Ltd; 2006 (latest edition)

·        The Endurance Horse: Anne Hyland; ; J.A.Allen & Co Ltd; 1988

 

 

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