In this first article, we will talk about what endurance riding is, the very basic rules and information.
IntroductionWell, let's start with what endurance riding is NOT. It is not schlepping to some remote spot, having your groom saddle your horse, riding as fast as you can from one point to the other, jumping off and then throwing your reigns to the groom to see to your horse while you sit back to enjoy a long cool drink. It is not about such fierce competition between riders that they don't greet each other. It is not about egos; or snobbishness; or what label you have on your saddle or clothing.
It is about a partnership with your horse like no other partnership. It is about knowing your horse so well that you can tell if he has a problem long before the vet can pick it up. It is also about long, long hours in the saddle, not only at a ride, but those conditioning miles at home. Make no mistake, it can be a very lonely sport, where you would be the odd one out at the stables, being the one that rides in the rain or the heat of the day, with people shaking their heads in sympathy at your madness. You will be the one with the "funny saddle" or hard hat and who rides with a halter. You will own more and bigger water buckets and sponges than is deemed "normal" by others.
But most of all, it is about finishing that distance you set out on with a healthy, sound horse. Feeling like a winner when you receive your completion certificate with your placing shown as 43rd of 50 riders - it's like no other feeling on earth. The motto of endurance riding the world over is, "To Finish is to Win", and each rider has that "winning" feeling when they know they have finished and yet is "fit to continue".
When you get "hooked" on endurance, you'll learn to take your horse's pulse; check his breathing; listen to his gut sounds; take his temperature; tell if he is lame in either his front or back at a glance. You will learn more about nutrition and energy requirements than anybody else; you will be able to tell the difference between a tied up horse and a horse that is merely cold and shivering. You will be able to chat to your farrier about hoof angles, length of the bar on shoes and whether pads should be worn or not. You will also become a seasoned camper, learning to travel light yet pack everything you'll need in the back of a bakkie for you and your horse for a week. You will also get to know what fatigue and pain is and how to deal with it.
At your first ride, you will know that you're welcomed by total strangers and that you an approach anybody for help or information and they'll go out of their way to assist you. I've even seen total strangers sharing their feed and tack! You'll get to know the veterans and realise that no matter how good they are or how long they've been in the sport, that they'll go out of their way to share their experience and knowledge with you.
If you're still reading this, you may have become hooked already, so sit back, enjoy the feeling - the next part will be the "Getting Started" section.