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Fitness before the ride
These are guide lines as every horse is different. On average a horse walks around 6 miles per day in its field. If you are planning a 10/15 mile pleasure ride then gentle hacking 3 times per week will create adequate fitness for you to achieve this.
For competitive rides, which start at 20 miles, a greater level of fitness is required. The fitter your horse the better your result will be.
At higher levels of endurance, competition horses have many days of rest in between rides as a horse needs time to recover.
Pace & speed
Endurance riding is about pace and a partnership between you and your horse and not about speed.
This should not be confused with race riding. When competing at 20 miles and above you are looking to ride at a steady pace mainly trot with some canters, think of this as a marathon and not a sprint. This way your horse’s heart rate will remain steady.
The speed of a medium trot for almost all breeds of horses and ponies is approximately 7mph
Approximate Speeds of Gaits:
3.7 to 4 mph
Use the following link to help work out the minimum and maximum time allowed for your distance and class.
Distance - Speed - Time calculator full
Distance - Speed - Time calculator max min
Keeping both your horse and yourself hydrated during the ride is extremely important. This is not only about drinking but keeping both of you cool especially in the warm weather - sloshing your horse over its neck brings instant refreshment. You don’t have to have a crew as you yourself and place water at designated spots around the course, however if you can have your own crew or team up with another riders crew this can be an advantage. As a rider it’s your responsibility to provide an appropriate level of care for your horse.
This method is only a suggestion as you will find what works best for you and your horse.
As soon as you have untacked, liberally apply cold water to all parts of the body. (There is some debate about whether to apply directly to the quarters as there are suggestions that this may cause tying up (Azoturia) however this is where most of the large muscles used for movement are located and so is an area that gets particularly hot. (Many riders do not apply water over the hind quarters)
Concentrate on applying water (sloshing) to the neck, belly and inside the hind legs (this is where large veins are close to the skin surface so aids cooling rapidly). Walking between applications is also important as the movement promotes blood flow to the skin and cools by convection and the movement of air cools by evaporation.
Allow and certainly encourage your horse to drink, this could be sugar beet water or “Horsequencher” but you must provide clean plain water. Continue for however long it takes for your horse to cool, the water running off the belly should run cool/cold. By cooling your horse will help its heart rate reduce, however over cooling can have the adverse reaction should your horse shiver the heart rate will rise.