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Last update

13 May 2015

Introducing Endurance Riding with the

SCOTTISH ENDURANCE RIDING CLUB

(Updated in 2015 by Ruth Riddell)

The Scottish Endurance Riding Club was founded in 1982 in Inverness as the "Highland Long Distance Riding Club". As the Club grew to cover the whole of Scotland, it was felt appropriate to change the title, with the "Highland" name remaining with the Inverness Branch.

The Club attempts to keep its rules and procedures more or less in line with those of Endurance GB, and with the FEI. Certain differences do exist however where it has been felt that conditions or requirements make this necessary. New members are provided with a rule book and a constitution, but there is no substitute for helpful advice from an experienced rider. Most Endurance Riders are more than happy to talk interminably about their chosen sport! It has been recognised recently that more communication between experienced and novice riders must be actively encouraged, so hopefully it will become easier for the less informed to learn from the more experienced, and the mistakes they made as Novices.

One of the advantages of Endurance Riding as a hobby is that it can be enjoyed at any level. The fitness of an international horse and the expertise of its rider are unsurpassed in any equestrian discipline yet at the other end of the scale any horse or pony which is ridden regularly can take part in the shorter events. However it is hoped that members of the SERC will be more than just weekend trekkers, since the Club tries to promote an interest in "fittening" the horse, with a view to gradually extending its capabilities, and that of its rider. This is encouraged through the Grading System which starts at Bronze Level, progressing through Silver and Gold Series to Platinum and Diamond for both Horses and Riders.

The involvement needed to train and compete an Endurance horse can help to develop a relationship and an understanding which many horse owners are simply not aware of. Even amongst the shortest rides, there is always scope to strive for improvement.

Pleasure Rides. Four types of ride are organised by the Club, often at the same venue on the same day. New members will start by entering Pleasure Rides which are normally between 15 – 25 Km (10 - 15 miles) done at a lower speed of under 11 Km/h (7 mph). There is a compulsory trot-up (for soundness) and the horse's heart rate is taken (it should be below 65 and most will be in the 36-42 at rest), both before and after the rice.  There may be a Tack Inspection, which will include checking the rider's hat (for type and fit) and footwear (which must have a heel or caged stirrup). Tack must be safe (in a good state of repair) and fits the horse property. Riders must also carry a First Aid Kit.

Glasgow Branch member Wendy Kyle has made a simple step-by-step video of what to do at Pleasure rides:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW1H0xxsVNQ

If/when you want to take your horse's own HR, Wendy also made a video of how to take a horse's HR:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYg-LDr-2VU

Because no Veterinary inspections are involved, and many pleasure riders may also be Novices, it is recognised that every effort must be made to establish good riding practice at these events. For instance, horses, especially relatively unfit ones, must not be allowed to maintain excessive speeds, and it is hoped that experienced riders will feel able to offer constructive advice, and that the advice will be accepted with good grace! The Club would prefer not to make rules about everything, but rather to rely on common sense.

Training Rides allow riders to take the step from Pleasure to Competitive without being penalised for mistakes. They are normally 25 – 30 Km (15 - 20 miles), where a speed category is nominated before the ride, and the challenge for horse and rider is then to achieve a speed within that SC with no Vet or Speed Penalties.

The Speed Categories are:

SC1:  13 Km/h (8 mph) and Over

SC2:  11 - 12.99 Km/h (7 - 7.99 mph)

SC3:  9.5 - 10.99 Km/h (6 - 6.99 mph)

Competitive Rides. Some Riders are content to go no further than Pleasure rides but, for the more ambitious, the next step is a Competitive Ride.

This will be against the clock, not against other riders, and the objective is to complete a course of between 30 Km (20 miles) and 80 Km (50 miles) at a speed nominated by the rider before the start. Veterinary Inspections will be held before the start, and within 30 minutes after the finish. During longer rides there will also be further inspections during the ride.

Gated Rides. The ultimate competition in Endurance Riding is the Gated Ride, which may be up to 160 Km (100 miles) in a day, but it is always 60 Km (40 miles) or over. This is a “first past the post” competition open only to qualified riders. Gated Rides involve “Vet Gates” during the ride, where the clock remains running until the horse is presented to the Vet with its pulse at 64 or less. The longer Gated Rides or Endurance Races require tactical expertise as well as supreme fitness.

WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO EXPECT

The Horse. If you can hack your horse out for a couple of hours you should be able to cope with a short pleasure ride. Since no vetting is involved in these rides, it is important that you do not over tax your horse - you will probably not be used to riding on a course with other horses doing different speeds, so you must have the control (brakes) to set your own pace.

Entries. Make sure that you send in your entry before the closing date. This may not seem important for Pleasure Rides, but it does help the organisers. Online entry is via our SERC Clubhouse.  For postal entries - see the Rides tab.

Maps provided are usually colour photocopies. You may prefer to transcribe the route onto a proper OS Landranger Map on which you can property distinguish contours, water etc. This is virtually essential for competitive or race rides where time is important, but you may feel it is not necessary for shorter pleasure rides.

Times. Obviously you must be fully aware of your start time (and Vet time if applicable), but you may also like to work out your riding time throughout the ride, to enable you to maintain your speed category. If you are lucky enough to have a crew (essential at longer rides), you can also use the map, distances and times to work out the best places to meet. You may find it easier to wear a second watch, set to 12:00 as you start, and work on elapsed time, rather than real time.

Travelling. Allow plenty of time, as your horse does not need to be rushed once he arrives at the venue, and you will probably be nervous enough. Make sure that he has a smooth journey, as he may become a bad traveller if he is thrown about.

Arrival. On arrival, check over your horse, then go and collect your number from the ride organiser, and find out if there are any last minute alterations to the route, or other information you should have. Get yourself and your horse to the relevant inspections in good time wearing your number, and with a helper, if available to assist at the vetting.

Packing. Even for a short ride, packing requires a bit of thought, so it helps to establish a routine. Below is a check-list of what you might expect to need, some of which you could do without on short pleasure rides.

Saddle (don't forget the girth) and Numnah. Bridle.

Breastplate and Martingale if used. Spare Numnah and Girth.

Grooming Kit (extra hoof pick for crew). Spare Head collar and Rope.

Haynet, Hay and Feed (particularly Sugar Beet). Electrolytes (longer rides only).

Spare set of shoes already shaped if possible. Easyboot or similar emergency shoe

Sweat Rug, New Zealand/Waterproof plus Woollen Rug, Spare reins and leathers

First Aid Kit in Bumbag for Horse and Rider (see below). Stethoscope.

Water containers and Slosh Bottles. Buckets.

Map Case, Map, Instructions & Times. Watch.

Baler twine and Penknife. Money for Telephone.

Glucose Tablets/Energy Food and Drink for Rider. Food and Drink for Crew

Waterproofs for Rider. Hat, Boots/Riding Trainers and Whip {under 75cm (30")}.

Safety Kit. The Kit comprises:

Triangular Bandage, Whistle, Vet Wrap, Glucose Tablets, Wound Bandage, Rider ID Card, Space Blanket

Rugs. In our climate, it is easy to underestimate the weather and the need for rugs. You may start with a fresh horse in the sunshine, and finish with a sweating horse in freezing rain. Bring plenty.

Tack Inspection. The may be a random tack inspection.  A Tack Inspector may want to check that your tack is safe for you and comfortable for the horse. Stitching should be sound, and all leather and metal parts in good condition. Stirrup leather stitching usually gives the most cause for concern. Tack must fit the horse and be property adjusted. If tack does not come up to standard you will not be allowed to start until it is replaced. Your riding hat must be to current standards, and your footwear have a heel, if not your stirrups must be caged. Riding whip under 75cm (30"). When the tack inspector is satisfied he will sign your vet sheet (or give you the OK on a Pleasure Ride). Remember that he or she is on your side, there for your benefit, and that the way to avoid embarrassment is to check your own tack every time you clean it.

Marking. Routes are marked differently by different people, but as a rule, strips of bright coloured plastic tapes are used. Single markers mean that you carry on, and a double (i.e. two side by side) means a turning. The direction of the turn is indicated by a further single marker.  Letter and arrow signs may also be used.

Riding The Course. You will be timed out onto the course. If you intend to set out at a brisk pace, make sure your horse is well warmed up first, otherwise start off slowly. Make sure you have enough braking power (i.e. a strong enough bit), so that you do not get carted along by horses going at a faster pace than your horse is fit for. This can become a major problem for everybody, not just you. Fingertip control with a strong bit is preferable to hauling all day on a mild bit.

When horses are passing you from behind, make sure that you keep your horse's quarters into the side of the track or road. If you are passing others slow up and trot past at a steady pace. Let the rider know that you are coming past and preferably which side you intend to pass on. Try and be sociable as you pass, you are never in such a hurry that you cannot be polite.

Always allow horses to drink as much and as often as possible. If a horse has stopped to drink, make sure at least one horse stops and waits with it, so that it can continue to drink without getting upset at being left behind. This is most important, as water intake becomes vital at longer rides. Similarly do not ride off and leave one person to shut a gate; unless they are confident of being left alone.

All gates must be left as they are found. It is through the goodwill of landowners that we are able to hold rides at all and if stock gets out or mixed up we will certainly not be invited back.

At a halfway halt or finish, it is much better not to come in as a group, or there will be a queue for vetting. Assuming that you are within your time, try to make an allowance to walk in the last half mile or so. In a competitive ride this will pay dividends at the vetting because the horse will be cool and relaxed, with a good heart recovery rate. If you come in fast, walk your horse quietly in hand for 15 minutes with a rug on his hindquarters.

Much of what follows applies to Competitive rides, where veterinary parameters have to be achieved. However this does not mean that the information is not useful to pleasure riders also.

Post Ride Treatment. Offer the horse a drink. Whether or not you remove the saddle will depend on whether he is prone to pressure bumps. If he is, leave the saddle on for at least 15 minutes (however the solution is a better fitting saddle). In cool weather sponge the horse down with a minimum of water on his neck, belly and between his back legs then towel him dry. A 5 gallon drum filled from the hot tap before you leave for the ride will still be warm when you finish and is less of a shock for the horse. If the weather is warm, you can use cold water and SCRAPE it off otherwise the water acts as an insulator. Water on the large muscles on his rump may cause your horse to stiffen up, so avoid those areas.

Take the pulse rate and then again in five minutes. If it is coming down and below 60, then keep quietly walking your horse around with rugs adequate for the weather. Don't forget how cold it can be at the end of the day for many months of the year in Scotland. If the pulse is still high and the weather is hot, keep sponging cold water on the under side of his neck, and between the top of the inside of the back legs. This is where the arteries are close to the surface, and the objective is to cool the blood. This reduces the temperature, without chilling the horse.

It is advisable not to let the horse eat until after the vetting, as this may put his pulse rate up. He may resent this initially, but will soon get into the routine. Keep him moving gently, so that his muscles do not stiffen up. The art is to balance this need for movement with the seemingly opposing requirement for relaxation and cooling. Gentle massage, movement and warmth in the right places is the secret.

The Vet. Above all the vet is there for the welfare of your horse.  Preferably have a helper to assist you at the vet. If it is cold or your horse is clipped, keep rugs on him until asked to remove them. The Vet will take the horse's heart rate, and check for lumps and bumps. He will then ask you to trot up and back (about 30 metres) with rugs off. You have the opportunity, before the Start, to fill in any existing lumps and bumps on your vet form which the vet will note. He is only interested in new ones which may be affected by the ride e.g. overreach cuts or boot rubs.

Vetting at half way halts now follow the vet gate procedure.  At mid-ride vetting and at the finish, the horse's heart rate will be taken for a second time, after the trot-up, and this is the HR on which any award is based.

The Vet will, quite reasonably, expect your horse to be well mannered. You must encourage him to stand quietly for vetting and be in control of him, in a bridle if necessary. Allowances can be made for inexperienced horses, but your horse must not be a danger to anyone.

The Farrier. If there is a farrier present, he checks the shoes before you present to the Vet. He will check that the shoes and clenches are tight, with sufficient metal to complete the ride. He will also check that your horse is properly and comfortably shod. These farriers should have some specialised knowledge of the demands of Endurance Riding, so please listen to his advice. Do Not Expect Your Horse To Be Shod At The Ride!

The Farrier is not there to re-shoe your horse, unless a previous arrangement can be made that does not interfere with his duties as Ride Farrier. It is up to you to make sure your horse is properly shod before the ride.  Any work that needs to be done, eg replacing a shoe lost on route, must be paid for by the rider.

Once the horse has been vetted. Take him back to your vehicle, rug and bandage as appropriate, give him a haynet and water, with a small feed before you travel home. Don't forget to praise him/her for being such a clever horse!

When you get home. Make him comfortable by quickly brushing off any dried mud or sweat. Give a small feed and if he lives out, turn him out with a rug unless very mild. If stabled, leave him in peace, but come back periodically to check that he has not broken out in a sweat. If he does, then rub his ears with a towel, and take him out for a walk.

Next morning. Give him a thorough check over, paying particular attention to legs for any heat or lumps and bumps. Trot him in hand to see if he is quite sound, then start planning your training for the next competition.

We hope that you have found this information interesting and of use as you progress from Pleasure to Competitive Rides. The information contained in this introduction leaflet is only intended as a “Taster” and if you wish to increase your knowledge there are several excellent books on Endurance Riding, some of those are:

The Endurance Horse                        By Ann Hyland.

Long Distance Riding                         By Marcy Drummond.

Long Distance Riding Explained            By Rachael Kydd.

 

REMEMBER TO COMPLETE IS TO WIN.

 More information is available on "Starter Notes", "FAQ" and "100 Tips to the Top"