Thursday, January 15, 2009

Learning Endurance: Tips and Techniques Please!

Okay, so since embarking on the journey into endurance riding, I have discovered I am not so smart about horses as I once believed myself to be. Sure, I know good bit about proper turnout for a horse in the show ring, how to ride a western pleasure jog (there’s more to it than you think!), the proper way to hold the reins and whip while you are reversing in the arena in a saddle-type class…..but really most of this does NOT transfer over to riding trails at 5-15 mph in the woods!

I have found great resources for conditioning, and camping with horses, and equipment choices on the web. I am sure there is more out there I haven’t found. But I still have questions.

  • Once you buy all this equipment, how do you apply it to your horse? Proper breastcollar fit, when/when not to use a crupper and it’s proper adjustment, which direction do you hang the stirrups when you’re using “directional” endurance style stirrups with cages (you can’t just hang those things on any old way as with traditional irons!), special blankets, electrolytes, and so on!
  • Riding Technique: Beyond making sure I can mount the horse from both sides, what is the best position for preventing both rider and equine fatigue? Posting, sitting, 2-point? Leaning forward, backward, straight up on the hills? I especially am curious about how to ride the hills. I have some knowledge about correct jumping form, but no CLUE how to properly (ie safely and securely with the most balance) ride a hill!
  • Horse specifics: Is it beneficial to ride with a certain head/neck carriage? Or is it best to allow the horse to carry their body however they want? Any automatic red flags to watch for?
  • Ride entry requirements: Health documents? Registration papers? Association memberships? What if you’re only planning on riding 2 rides, is it worth it to pay for a full year membership?

There are probably more questions I haven’t even learned enough about the sport to know to ask yet. It’s amazing the more you learn, the more you discover you don’t know.

So, I am asking – what resources are out there for a person to learn these things? Is there an endurance riding “bible” out there? I mean, in home canning our fruits and vegetables, there’s the Ball Blue Book of Canning it’s got everything you’d ever want to know about canning. In life, there’s….well, there’s the Bible! So, how about great all-inclusive endurance books?

I really appreciate any hints anyone can give about where to find this info! Thanks!


Endurance Granny said...

Distance Organizations:
If you are only planning on a couple of rides a year the membership fees would only save you $30 but would cost you close about $80. Not a good value unless you plan on doing this long term and want to get the ride record on your horse for resale purposes, or just "because".
If you decide to ride each year and "compete" you can join AERC to compete on the National and Regional level or join a local distance club such as IAHC and compete on just a local level for year end awards (again, you would want to compete more than a couple rides to make the monetary outlay make sense. If you just want to ride a couple each year for your own satisfaction, no memberships are required. Ride, have fun!

As long as you ride in Indiana you probably will not be required to Coggin's test. But check out the ride with ride management to be sure prior to entry. If you leave the state, you will be required to have a health certificate/ coggins test. Again check with ride management.
Primary: AERC
Secondary: IAHC
If you would like to do the slower pace of CTR's: OAATS to compete in CTR's you would need to travel to Ohio. You can find all of these links on Endurance Granny under links and on the side bar.

Hills: On a hill give yourself a slightly forward position with your butt off the horse's back to free up the hind quarters and keep gravity in your favor. On the downhills, keep horse pointed straight down, walk or shimmy down, do not trot the steep downhills, and in training don't trot downhill period except to make sure your horse can safely navigate a downhill in the first place. The downhills put a lot of wear and stress on the joints.

Equipment: Proper fit is your primary concern, after that function, and after that pretty if your pocket can take it!

Endurance stirrups: When you hang these from your leathers or fender the "hole" for your foot faces outward, and the cage inward. Looks weird when you are out of the saddle but that is how it works. Trust me, I've hung them backwards! Not so good!!!

Breast collar: You want a deep Y with the ring well down into the center of the chest so the horse can drink and grab grass without discomfort. Though I don't have one that fits my perference in a breast collar is the type that has the strap going over the withers and then attachements to saddle.

Crupper: Only really necessary if you have a downhill horse, meaning saddle wants to slip forward when you go down steep hills. Otherwise it just helps to stabalize the saddle. So personal choice on that one.

Riding position: Balanced (I'm not though I'm trying hard), two point, or posting at the trot. I even two point at times at the canter...won't offer advice on how right or wrong that one is *LOL*

Frame: Best if the horse carry's itself in a collected frame. But many many ride on a totally loose rein and "float the head" in the feeling that the horse over long distance will not fatigue themselves in a natural frame with a balanced rider.

Book: Go the Distance, by Nancy Loving.
The Complete Guide to Endurance Riding by Donna Snyder Smith.

Horse not interested lack of energy
Poor capillary refill
Skin Tenting
Pulse that does not come down in 10 minutes post exercise.
Gait abnormality.
Horse not eating, drinking, peeing, or pooping. You need to know your horse. A vet can and will check areas, but you will KNOW your horse's normals. If there is a deviation from what you know to be your happy healthy horse, start wagging your own red flag!

Nicole, if you happen to go to any ride that I'm attending you are "welcome" to share camp with me. This would keep your "initiation" expense down to a minimum. All you would need is your horse and your gear and chow. I don't have a living quarters, but what some people do is clean out the back of one trailer, and set up "camp" in there. I do have two nice thick sleeping mats and would be happy to share with you.

My ride strategy may be different than yours so we'd have to discuss that. I will basically be riding as fast as I CAN STAND which by endurance standards is not all that competitive but likely faster than a finish is to win, but then again....maybe not *LOL*!

Hope this helps. Follow some of the links on Endurance Granny, there is a wealth of information there for newbies.


Nicole said...

Wow, Jacke - thank you for all the info! Who needs a book! :-)

I really have no clue right now what my ride strategy/competitiveness may end up being. It's been so dang cold that I haven't ridden this week except Monday, so that trotting conditioning has been put on hold.....UNLESS shivering is aerobic exercise???? haha

I think I'll have a better idea what kind of trail rider I am once I get to ride with you guys a few times to see how I stack up. I'm afraid I will be so slow and ultra-un-competitive that I'll just want to walk the whole way....but I have a feeling Arabee won't share that sentiment!

Thank you thank you thank you for your input!

Endurance Granny said...


Your first few rides really should be with thought to "finish is to win" even if you are over time. It gives you a safe start to the sport, for both you and your horse. A chance to soak up what is happening around you get some nice slow miles on your horse. Once you get a year or two base on your horse, let loose and go! In honesty my goal at this point is to develop a constant 7-8 mph at all times (except dangerous downhills). Phebes is quite capable at this point but I AM NOT FIT. I'm about to go outside and carry warm water out to the horse in below zero wind chills, maybe your shivering factor will kick in and condtion me *LOL*.

Let's make a ride date to go to the park and do some interval training soon as temps warm up? We could decide to meet for my second loop, and we can pace that for your riding style. Just let me know when you are ready. K?


Caren.Stauffer said...

Nicole... there is a lot of information on have some great questions, E.G. knows some stuff! If ever in the South, hook up with us...South Eastern Distance Riders Assn. I hope its OK to place your blog on our site, would love to hear what your doing!

Nicole said...

Caren -
Thanks for visiting and for the link! I'll be sure to check it out.

How far South is "south"? :-)

I'm glad to have you post my blog on the site, no problem!

South East Distance Riders Assn - SEDRA said...

Our group co-sanctions with AERC rides in FL, GA, AL and the Carolinas, we are also involved in Competitive Trail Riding and Drives in FL. Our ride season starts runs mostly in the winter time, folks as far North as Canada and out Texas way come and ride!