As its name implies, the discipline of endurance tests a horse’s
fitness and stamina, and a rider’s horsemanship skills, in a
long-distance competitive format where the condition of the
horse is paramount. Recognized endurance competitions can be
50-, 75- or 100-miles long, and all are held in a 24-hour period.
Courses are cross-country and can include natural obstacles
such as ditches, creeks, and thickly forested hillsides. Strict
controls and rules are in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing
of competing horses. Competitions can be divided by weight divisions (rider plus
tack) to ensure a level playing field, and veterinary check-points are placed at various locations
throughout a course to ensure that the horses are sound and fit enough to continue to the next stage.
Since the primary
objective of an endurance ride is its completion, all competitors
crossing the finish line are awarded. Additional ranked placings
are earned by the horse and rider teams finishing the course in
the best times, and there are usually awards given to
the best conditioned horses. Endurance rides are held all over
the United States and in exotic locales all across the world.
The discipline gained international recognition by the Fédération
Equestre Internationale (FEI) in 1978, and the first World
Championship event was held in 1986.
Rather than celebrating
its heritage by simply looking into the past, endurance riding
in the United States routinely revisits its history with many
of its competitions taking place on historic trails, such as the
Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and
the Lewis and Clark Trail. In addition to providing a challenging
athletic endeavor for both recreational riders and those with
international competitive aspirations, endurance rides promote
the importance of open-space preservation for future generations
and a continuing appreciation for our American heritage.
To learn more about the discipline of endurance, visit the American
Endurance Ride Conference at aerc.org.