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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

May 31, 2010

Beginning Endurance LD's

Just in case the woman I met stops by the blog here I wanted to share some beginning lessons on your first LD (please don't ask me to explain staying on trail *LOL*).


Pretty much any horse will do if your mentality and desire is to just finish. A horse with a leaner, racier body type will usually handle the distance better than the heavy breeds. That said I've seen percheron crosses, quarter horses, mules, mixed breeds, gaited breeds, all participating in the sport. If cumulative mileage is your goal, enjoy the horse you have, go slow, and just do it. If on the other hand you want to be competitive, a purebred arabian, an anglo-arabian, throughbred, or a half-arabian are your best bet.

Your horse needs to be well saddle broke, accustomed to rugged trail work, and easily handled by the veterinarian who will be checking pulses, handling the horse's mouth, legs, eyes and such. So work on these issues prior to launching into the vet checks (voice of experience of the wrong kind here).

Training and Conditioning

If you have been trail riding your horse for a season or two you can probably attempt a slow LD with about 8 weeks of serious conditioning. You will just gradually increase your horse's speed on trail until you can average about 6-6.5 mph over various terrain. Incorporate plenty of slow hill work into that training. If your horse can trot consistently over the flats, and you are conservative on your uphills you will be able to finish an LD. Just trot, trot, and trot some more. Figure about 25 miles of training/ conditioning a week split up over three or four days. Ride faster on the short mileage days, ride slower on the long mileage days. If your horse is out of condition you will need about 12 weeks to get the horse ready. But when your horse can consistently trot out for miles at a time, and you have been able to do 20 miles in four hours, you can feel assured that your horse will be able to finish a 25 mile LD. The horse should finish looking bright eyed and ready for more.

If you've never ridden one of these rides it is good to find a mentor to ride with you for your first ride or two, but if you are really trail savy and used to riding independently, you can just as well finish one alone if that is your preference.

To begin, equipment you have just needs to fit without chafing, or rubbing. So if what you have works, use it. If you become more serious about the sport you can chunk down a lot of money on various stuff... Talk to other riders about the equipment that is working for them, and it will save you unecessary and wasteful purchases. A few things that you will want starting out:

A large sponge for cooling your horse at water stops, or a cut down bleach jug on a string.

Water bottle holders for the saddle. Snug pax and others make these and you can find them at the Distance Depot, TSC farm stores, Rural King, and most suppliers like Valley Vet, will have some variation of these.

Several water buckets and a large tote for the hold. A small cooler and some ice packs will keep your lunch fit to eat.

A fold up camp chair to sit in at the hold.

Horse trailer to get you there, and basic camping equipment or living quarters in your trailer.


Entry fees for an LD are about $55 (prepaid) to $65 for each day you ride.

Fuel to get there, and some extra cash on hand in case you require the services of a vet, which are unlikely, but can happen.

Those are the bare bones of it if you just want to give it a whirl, and see what happens. If you decide you like the sport and want to do it a lot you will want to invest in a biothane bridle set, biothane or beta breastcollar, a non-chafing girth, and a really good saddle pad (Skito pad, Woolback pad, Coolback pad, or HAF pad for example). You may want to change to a good fitting english endurance saddle, or light weight western endurance saddle. The lighter weight, and less surface area will help the horse's back stay cool and not build heat.

If you are ready for a 50 mile ride....that is completely out of my rhelm, and off my knowledge radar as I'm still trying to get a better result at 25 miles. For longer distances you can check the AERC website and get information there, or make contacts at a ride, or volunteer to help at a ride where you can learn all kinds of stuff. There are also plenty of endurance related websites that will have information on conditioning your horse, your first ride, and moving up to longer distances. ~E.G.


  1. Don't forget about standardbreds and standie-crosses for endurance! In the past 5 years, TWO standie crosses have been named AERC Horse of the Year (Pandora's Pixie and CH Catch Me if You Can). There aren't many of them competing right now, but those participating are doing very well--and they tend to have MUCH better feet than TB's and TB-crosses.

    I recommend spending two-three YEARS legging up a horse before considering it ready for serious speed or distance. You don't have to ride 25 miles a week for two years, obviously--just put in some trail time, maybe move cattle around, maybe spend a season working over low jumps or do a CTR or two. You can certainly do competitions too, especially LD's or slow 50's, but to preserve the longevity of the horse, I see that most of the long-miles horses are started slowly with two years or more of trail riding, dressage lessons, and gradual increases in distances before kicking into longer, faster rides.

    It depends on your goals, of course. If you want to win a few LD's and then go onto some other discipline, the legging up can be shorter, because small injuries won't usually impact the horse in the first few rides. If your goal is the "Decade Club" (ten years of competing in rides of 50+ miles each year) slower is generally better.

    JMO, and YMMV.

  2. Hi there! I've recently started following your blog. I am getting started with a young TB gelding and will be doing a short ride (20km (~12-13miles) in a few months. I appreciate this information - it's a great starting place to guide my training.
    I was wondering though, how do you check your horse's heart rate? You mentioned in a previous post that you watch her heart rate for recovery in your interval rides, and wasn't sure if you get off and just do a manual check with stethoscope, or if you have some fancy HR monitor for your horse?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Andrea,

    I'm using a heart rate monitor from Polar. You can use a stethoscope for your post ride recoveries, or you can check the pulse under the jaw (big juicy vein under there). In my case I'm not getting off, just watching my electronic read out for the drop before repeating an interval. You can pick up a low end handheld heart rate monitor for as low as $70 at Heart Rate Monitors USA.

    If your horse has a good year or two base of slow miles it is probably alright to do some intervals. Don't do them however if the horse has not had that long slow work to condition bone and joint.

  5. Blackwood Lady, good idea to do the "intro" ride! I'm reading Horsecentric's suspenseful blog account of her first endurance adventure, and it's wonderful to read about the excitement of the intro ride. I'm a huge fan of "long" rides that are shorter than 25 miles, and entered my young mare in several of them before taking her out on her first LD!

  6. E.G.

    It was nice to meet you last Sunday. Thank you for the getting started information. By the way... what is a "hold."

    I am interested in learning more about the sport of Endurance Riding. So, I plan to explore your site & links and then see where it goes.

    I am looking more for a venue to enjoy the company of my horse rather than the competition aspect. Fun is a most for both of us (me & Max) as life is mostly way too serious.

    The Salamonie Sizzler ride looks promising.

  7. A hold is the mandatory rest time that your horse has to stay put after the halfway vet in.

    Let me start over a little bit.

    First step is to arrive and sign in with ride management, pay your fee, get your vet card, and letter for your horse (which is applied in grease pencil).

    Next you will present your horse to the vet for the preride check. Your horse will be checked for pulse, respiration, muscle tone, capillary refill, gait abnormality, and color of mucous membranes. You should point out any scrapes, lumps, or bumps at this time. You will receive scores on these areas. The vet gives the score card back to you and it goes with you on your ride and you will next present it at the halfway (between 10 or 15 miles most rides).

    You present to the intimer when you come in for the halfway and yell out to them your identifying letter (that was the B on my horse's hip you saw).

    Next stop is the pulse gate, where they check to see if your horse is at criteria (usually 60 beats per minute or less). You get your "time" then, and hold is figured from that time. (So if you came to pulse at 1:00 p.m. and the hold is 40 minutes you will leave again at 1:40.) Now back to the vet.

    The vet will again check out all those areas on your horse and also feel for muscle soreness that I forgot above. You will get scored again, and if fit to continue you will then have your mandatory hold time. When your hold is up you will present to the out timer, give them your identifying letter, and proceed on the second half of the ride (10 or 15 miles). When you come in for the finish you will give your letter to the intimer, get the pulse check and time for your finish, and present your horse to the vet for the final check. If you are given the green light of completion you are all done, and can collect your award at the ride meeting that evening (usually a t-shirt unless you are in the top five to place).

    The most fun I've had on a ride has been going slow, much less to worry over if you are just out to enjoy the day...

    Questions? Input from others?



    During this time you will sponge your horse with cool water, encourage the horse to drink from your pre-filled water bucket, offer your horse yummy hay to eat, hit the porta-potty yourself, and eat and drink something so you are good to go on the next leg of the ride. You will also be looking for your horse to pee, and noting the color of the urine which should be normal yellow horse pee (if not, go grab a veterinarian and report it to them for advice). As rider you are the person who knows your horse best. If you think something is not right, bring it to the attention of the vet. If your horse is eating, drinking, and bright eyed, relax and get ready to ride your second half of the LD.

  9. Sorry, I am going to show my extreme newbie-ness off here and take you back even one more step. You said you come in and get a heart rate check *THEN* hold? Does this mean you are expected to arrive at the vet check with a low heart rate? Or do you arrive, take as long as you want to bring the heart rate down, then get the vet check and then STILL hold the horse?

  10. When riding LD you do not get your in time recorded until your horse pulses down to 60 bpm.

    Here's an example: You come in to in timer and they get your letter that records you came in. Then your horse goes to pulse gate next (you can wait and cool your horse first if you like but the clock is ticking...) At the pulse gate they will put a heart rate monitor on your horse (a simple handheld device) and check the pulse. If the horse hasn't dropped they will tell you to cool your horse down some more, and come back in a few minutes. If the horse has dropped to criteria, you will head to the vet.

    Now if you want, and you have plenty of time in your estimation to finish the ride, you can stay longer for your hold (I've stayed an extra 20 minutes before just to get my horse eating well and drinking).

    So the answer is YES you can take up to 30 minutes to get your horse's pulse down and go to the pulse gate if you like. But if the horse doesn't pulse down in that time frame your horse will be pulled by the vet as not fit to continue(your ride is then over). (More experienced please comment if I get off track anywhere).

    Ideally, with LD the rider often dismounts a half mile or so from return to camp and leads the horse in to help the horse to pulse down quickly.

    It all sounds rather complicated, but after you do it a few times, it won't seem difficult.