Endurance Riding For the Beginner
What gear/tack is used for the endurance horse?
Although there are endurance saddles, you can use your saddle of choice. The main aspect of an endurance saddle is that it is lightweight. There are different styles/types in respect to your fenders, pommel, cantle, custom fit tree, and treeless. The classic “endurance saddle” is lightweight and has wide, cushioned stirrups for a broader weightbearing surface for the rider’s foot for long hours of endurance riding, which lessens foot tingling and numbness as well as knee soreness. There are endurance saddles made of leather as well as synthetic material. Some endurance saddles have built-in cushioned seat and most riders choose to attach a cushion that is attached by tying to D-rings on the saddle. These cushions are very comfortable and make a big difference in comfort. You can use whichever tack you desire, but it is wise to use a synthetic type of material such as biothane since it does holds up to the rigorous demands the trail and endurance can throw at you such as water, mud, sweat, etc.
You will need to have a sponge that attaches to your saddle for dunking in water/ponds and cooling your horse. An important note is that you should not dunk a sponge in trough water that horses drink out of as it contaminates the water. Some ride will offer a separate sponging bucket for this purpose or you can carry a container for dunking out of troughs.
There are pommel bags and cantle bags for carrying things such as water for the rider and certain essentials you may want to carry with you on trail, such as a hoof pick, ride card, carrots, electrolytes, syringe, chapstick, etc.
What gear do I need?
There are no written rules on the endurance rider’s attire. The more comfortable you are, the better!! Riding tights are the most comfortable as they do not have seams that can irritate your skin over many hours of endurance riding.
How often do I feed my horse during an endurance ride?
When you arrive at camp, it is a good idea to offer your horse a “snack” (small portion of your usual grain and beet pulp) to encourage gut motility as well as hay and, of course, fresh water. You can then resume your usual feeding schedule that evening and the next morning. During the endurance ride itself, you need to offer your horse feed every time you come into camp for a hold time in-between loops. You should offer hay as well as feed. Beet pulp is a great source of fiber for the endurance horse and keeps gut peristalsis/motility going in addition to helping the horse stay hydrated (water needs to be added to the beet pulp) – please see ‘Feeding the Endurance Horse.’
While your horse is going to receive the most benefit from what he ate in the previous 48 hours, it is important that your horse continues to eat roughage to keep his gut motility healthy.
How often do I electrolyte my horse?
You should start electrolyting before leaving home for a ride. I like to start giving an electrolyte in the feed two nights prior to leaving; I do not feel it is long enough to start this on the night before leaving in the morning. So, when planning to leave on a Friday morning, I will give electrolytes Wednesday and Thursday evening in the feed. I will also put a dose in the “snack” that I feed when I arrive in camp, as well as the feed the evening before the ride.
I use two different types of electrolytes (this is explained further under ‘Electrolytes’ ); one is given in the feed and the other is mixed with other supplements and given via oral syringe. If my horse does not want to eat the day before the ride (often common in an excited horse in a new camp full of horses), I will then syringe orally that evening.
On the morning of the ride, I give my pre-mixed electrolytes via oral syringe.
After completing a loop and after your hold time, you need to give another dose of electrolytes prior to leaving on your next loop.
You will need to carry electrolytes with you during your loop in case 1) the loop takes an extra long time (you should give some electrolytes every 1-2 hours’ worth of work) or if the conditions are extraneous such as in hot and humid weather. This can be in pre-mixed form or your own mixed recipe.
When finished, you will need to give one more dose of electrolytes. If you horse will eat the electrolyte mixed in the feed, that is best and easiest.
So a breakdown of when and how often to give electrolytes:
1. 1-2 nights before leaving for camp.
2. When you arrive at camp and the evening before the ride.
3. The morning before the ride.
4. Before leaving camp on each loop.
5. After the ride.
**NOTE: Some horses refuse to eat or drink after being given electrolytes via oral syringe, so it is important to time this after they eat/drink before leaving camp. If given on trail, it is wise to time this after they have had a chance to get a good drink of water.