I've been giving a lot of personal thought to this topic lately. If anyone should ask me, the answer would be: "THAT DEPENDS"
First and foremost folks if they think of endurance riding think of it as a race. It can be, or cannot be depending on who is involved. You have a class of rider who is highly competitive. Call them what you will, they are chasing points, or they are after the win. They may be competing for a local club win (in our area OAATS or IAHC Distance Program ), they may be competing against a weight division for an overall year end score, they may be after the win for points on a regional or national level, or all of the above! These competitors take the trail fast with the oversight of multiple veterinary checks in distances of 50, 75, or 100 miles. The maximum time allowed is 6 hours per 25 miles, with no minimum time, this time including your checks and hold times. First horse across the finish wins (if he is fit to continue per the vet). Based on my non-official, non-scientific look at winning ride times in Indiana if you want to seriously compete at this level your horse is going to need to average 9-11 mph, sometimes faster on the flats. Keep in mind that heat, humidity, and trail conditions all effect your ride on any given day. Average speed is NOT A FORMULA, it is a guideline, and good sense must govern any ride on any particular day. Riding at this level is not for green horses, or green riders. A lot of preparation and veterinary management goes into a horse that is this atheletic.
There are the competitors who prefer to compete against the trail. They may be oblivious to what the other riders are doing, and be interested in bettering their time, or bettering the horse's finishing condition when weighted against a previous ride. A better performance for this rider is a win, even if they happen to finish dead last. This may also be a rider that enjoys competition on the local level for year end awards. These riders may be just as happy finishing on time or finishing somewhere mid-pack. Based on my calulations of Indiana rides average speed would need to be just about 7.6 mph.
Some competitors are interested in mileage for their horses. There are awards for certain mileage milestones through AERC and some of the breed registries. These competitors are out to enjoy the trail for the day, accumulating the mileage for goals of a 100, 500, or a 1000 or more miles. Their mantra, is for sure "To Finish is to Win". A rider here can average at or a little above 6.5 mph and finish fine.
Really, what is so exciting about Endurance riding, and Limited Distance (Distances usually 25-30 miles) is that you can make it what you want it to be.
Do you love to ride the trail? Well a slow finish and a good days ride may be all the award you need. Train your horse for a nice little trot, easy on the down hills, and condition for hills. You will complete, enjoy the trail, and pick up mileage.
Are you competitive? There will likely be others there to truly compete against. Your horse needs to be well under control at speed, with the ability to move out at an extended trot, and canter on the flats, build the horse for the hills, and ride to your horse's individual strengths. Your horse should be prepared mentally to handle the speed, and to respect your aids.
Are you building your horse and undecided? Limited Distance may be a great starting place to see where the trail may take you. The rules for limited distance are a little different, in that the first horse to cross the finish line is not necessarily the winner, as you get your finish time when your horse pulses down to a predetermined criteria. So if you and someone else came in at the same time, but your horse pulsed down to criteria first, you would place above the other person. This is one aspect about Limited Distance that I really like. It makes a person have to work really hard at conditioning the horse for a fast recovery, which if you move up to Endurance will serve your horse well! Spend a year or two in Limited Distance to prepare you and your horse for longer mileage.
The one thing I want people to know is that Endurance is in no way taking an unprepared horse out and just running them until they drop. In fact...endurance circles don't want that type of person at their ride, nor do the ride veterinarians who would quickly pull that horse from competition if it was deemed to be over ridden. It is expected that a competitor has spent many months if not years preparing the horse, building bone, building tendons, preparing the horse physically and mentally for the rigors of competition.
If you think you might have an interest in riding endurance or limited distance visit the AERC's website at aerc.org You will find a link at the top of the page under favorite links. ~Endurance Granny
Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association