Endurance Rider during a ride in Oreana, Idaho. Photo courtesy of the American Endurance Ride Conference official Facebook page.
Spending time away from horses always seems to give me more time to think about them. As the weather grows warmer, it seems I am surrounded by reminders of those long spring days in the barn: dusting off saddles and throwing open the barn doors to let the fresh breezes flood the barn aisles, watching house finches bask in fresh sunlight and flit exuberantly between the rafters, causing an occasional spook among the horses. Though the image that really drives the nostalgia home isn’t the birds flitting about or even the arrival of the fleeting heat of the afternoon sun. It’s the acres of gently rolling hills off a ridge near my home. As I’m driving by, I can’t help picture riding for miles over rolling hillsides, right into the sunset. Quite a picture, isn’t it?
There’s something unique to riding in the outdoors. It strips away the fuss and frills that often accompany arena riding and training for competition. It boils down to man, beast, and nature. The whimsy of the whole ordeal is undoubtedly contagious. Watch any fantasy movie, Lord of the Rings, for example, and you’ll see the breathtaking panoramas of horses and their riders scaling bluffs, traversing hillsides, and sidling ridges. Watch any Western movie and you’ll see horsemen and women tackle miles of baking badlands in order to chase down bandits. Point being that trail riding, no matter the purpose or grandeur of the landscape, contains a whimsy and sense of adventure that has yearned to be harvested through firsthand experience for generations.
Here in the United States, we now have a discipline that aims to bring these first-hand encounters with the outdoors to all varieties of equestrians. Endurance Riding is a riding discipline that works to unite equestrians and their mounts with the outdoors in a disciplined and organized manner. From what I can glean from acting as a fly on the wall in the American Endurance Rider’s Conference Facebook group, Endurance Riding combines the same wistful, breathtaking scenery that we observe in movies and books with a competitive spirit, and the timeless bond between man and beast. That’s not to say that Endurance Riding is always a blissful experience, but from the words of AERC members themselves, always a worthwhile one.
In order to get a more personal insight into the discipline of Endurance Riding, I posted a questionnaire available only to AERC members. The results of that questionnaire are featured below. I personally hope that by examining what these riders have to say, the Endurance discipline can be cultivated and strengthened throughout the United States so that horses and riders can capture (or rather, recapture) the love of America's landscape. Give it a look!
Q1 : How did you become involved in endurance riding?
What do you enjoy about endurance riding?
The camaraderie with like minded people, the partnership with my horse, the challenge of dealing with extremes of weather and terrain, and the satisfaction of a job well done when completing the course.
Endurance Riding isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Like every discipline, it has it’s setbacks. Read below to find out what peeves these riders:
Q3: Is there anything about the endurance discipline that you would like to change; anything you don't like about it?
No, not here in the States. But, I would like to either see the abolition of endurance or huge changes in region for the welfare of the horses. Besides needing stricter rules, I’d like to see them compete on trails instead of flat track racing for 100 miles
Q4: What advice would you offer to someone interested in becoming an endurance rider?
Read everything you can on the AERC website, volunteer at rides, and volunteer to crew for another rider. If possible, get a mentor
Q5: What are some steps we can take, as horse men and women, to grow the endurance riding discipline within the States?
Q6: The Fun Part: Please share any fun stories, tips, tricks, other advice, or any other information you would like to offer up to be used in the blog post. Have fun with this!
Start with what you have and go from there. Slowly increase distance, speed, or terrain difficulty, but only one thing at a time. Find a mentor through AERC or other resources. Have fun!
Gunnar Frank was in first place but he stopped and got off his horse to help another rider in distress. This is typical of the good sportsmanship demonstrated by most endurance riders.
If after reading, you'd like to become more involved in Endurance Riding or learn more about the discipline, please visit the sites below.
American Endurance Riders Conference:
Organized Endurance Ride Search:
Horse Forum on Endurance Riding:
P.S. Don't be afraid to reach out to individuals knowledgeable on the subject - that's how the equestrian sports thrive!