by Tamara Baysinger
What is endurance riding?
Endurance riding, or endurance racing, is an equestrian sport in which horse-and-rider teams complete a marked trail course of 50 miles or more in a single day. All horses must pass periodic veterinary evaluations to ensure they are “fit to continue.” All equine breeds are welcome, and riders of all ages and genders participate together.
What is limited distance?
Most endurance events also offer shorter rides of about 25 miles. These “limited distance” or “LD” rides follow slightly different rules than those that apply to endurance. They offer an opportunity for horses and riders to prepare both mentally and physically for longer rides.
Limited distance also provides an opportunity for ongoing participation by horses and riders that, for various reasons, can’t or don’t wish to do longer rides.
What are introductory rides?
Many endurance events offer “intro” rides alongside the endurance and limited distance rides. These are non-competitive trail rides that allow participants to enjoy a marked course (usually of about 10-15 miles) and observe ride camp and vet checks in action. Most ride vets are happy to give intro riders the experience of a full vet check, as long as they aren’t swamped with endurance and LD riders.
Attending an intro ride is a great way to meet people. Just take a camp chair and hang around the timing desk, which will be near the vet check area, to chat. You'll also be able to observe how your horse responds to the ride camp environment, which will be useful down the road.
Is endurance a competitive event?
Yes and no. Technically, endurance races are just that – races. The first one across the finish line (with a healthy horse) wins.
However, many people prefer the term endurance riding, rather than endurance racing, because it is more reflective of the predominant attitude that “to finish is to win.” The majority of endurance riders are out there for fun and individual challenge. They are riding, not racing, and a mid-pack or back-of-pack finish is totally fine.
Think of it like a human marathon. It’s a race that a small percentage of participants is actually trying to win. Most entrants are there to challenge themselves, have a great time, and complete the miles.
Are limited distance rides competitive?
Again, yes and no, for all the same reasons. Some riders focus on conditioning their horses to race LD, but most use these short riders for training and conditioning. Personally, I think there are some good reasons to “lose."
How can I get started?
There are many ways to get started in endurance – even if you don’t have the perfect horse, or any horse at all. Here are some ideas:
Why You Should Lose Your First LD
The Sweaty Equestrian