Don't know where to begin?
Hey everyone! I am super interested in endurance riding. I didn't even know people did that until 2 months ago, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I have one 13 year old Arabian and one half Arab that is 10 and just now being trained. The thirteen year old is nervous and spooky, but he is improving immensely. He was beaten into submission by the people that trained him so we are working through that together. Some days he is still nervous and other days he is perfect. I think the more he sees me as his leader and trusts me the more he will improve. He is a complete doll though. He is soooooo sweet.
Point is, neither of them have seen a trail in their life. I just want to know if it's a realistic goal to aim for, maybe with my 13 year old doing an endurance ride at the end of this coming summer, and the summer after that with my 10 year old? I think I read somewhere that it takes three months to condition them, which is not a problem because I'm already working on that. The thing I am worried about is getting them used to trails and things. What methods did you guys use to get your horses ready mentally for trails first, and then the endurance? I am thinking about clearing a short trail in the woods beside my house to go on, but it would be SUPER short. Like a 5 minute walk. I'm not sure that that is even worth it, or will translate to an endurance type ride.
Also what was your first endurance ride like?
It's an ambitious plan but it just might be doable. Endurance is a wonderful world and one I'm trying to get more into aswell. I've been to a few rides over the last few years and am trying to work my way up to a 50.
I suggest you start exposing your horses to EVERYTHING. Rides in my areas can be threw parks, along roads, through creeks etc. Last ride I went on was through a busy park... Rollerbladers, umbrellas, blowing plastic bags, dogs, deer, traffic, a polo competition and more. It's wonderful that your gelding is becoming less nervous but there is a reason these types don't do well. A horse that is naturally easy going and accepting goes a long way.
You'll need a trail much longer than 5 minutes. I train inside when I have too but spend hours riding the backroads when I can- and go miles. You should also practice passing other horses and being passed if possible. Another important thing is getting your horse used to being poked and proded for vet checks. Get your trot out down pat- keeping the horse far enough from you not to interfere with his movement. Get him used to having his mouth looked at. Thermometers being inserted. Download a vet check paper so you can learn what to check for after each ride, what is normal for him, and see how he progresses.
I wouldn't worry about age too much. I've ridden with riders (who did much better than I did lol) on mounts nearing their 20s. 3 months is a doable time frame to condition for a 25 mile ride and there are some great conditioning guides to be found online.
I would recommend you attend a few competitive trail rides before going endurance. I liken it to hunter jumper and showjumping... CTR to endurance. One is about finesse, form and and is judged- the other is about speed and getting the job done. In CTR you have an allotted time in which to reach the finish line and a slighlty shorter distance. You travel in small groups (much safer for someone new) and winning horses are chosen based on their vet checks. The horse that is best conditioned, mannered, and comes in within 10 minutes of their allowed time wins. It's excellent prep for endurance and you usually get to chat with some great people while learning to pace your horse and maybe earn a few ribbons :)
Good luck to you and your horses.
I am definitely going to start exposing my older guy to new things as soon as possible. Yeah, the five minute trail would definitely be just to see how he acts and get him used to new things. Once I think he is ready we will have to do something else because a 5 minute trail is not worth anything except to expose him to blowing leaves and logs. He also isn't naturally super nervous. I know most of his nerves come from his past trainer that never really trained him well. He was forced to tuck his head in and because of that whenever he got nervous that he'd made a mistake his head would tuck in to the extreme. He has stopped doing that though, and his nervous speedy trot has stopped as well, so I think he is capable of becoming more confident and adjusting to new surroundings. It's also not imperative that I do an endurance ride by the end of the summer. If he's not ready then I wouldn't care a bit. I'm just laying out some general goals so that I know what I am aiming for. Whether that takes months or a couple of years I don't really care. If he isn't going to enjoy it than I will have to pass. And it may end up that I just use my other guy for this (or at least try it) because he is very brave, and I don't think blowing plastic bags will scare him.
I will post an update on here when I get the guys home in 2 weeks. Currently they are at my trainers place.
I think you need to break your goal down into manageable bites. If your goal is to complete a LD ride (to start) there are many smaller milestones you need to achieve on your way, and breaking them down can make it all seem much more manageable. In short, yes, you could do an endurance ride by the end of next summer. Whether that timeline will work out best for you and your horses is an open question and depends on so many things.
There are some good sites that have info for beginners, including this site, which was a fabulous resource for me when I was still in the thinking about it/planning phase: Endurance Riding I also really like the book Endurance 101.
I might suggest that step 1 will be getting your horses to trail-horse level before worrying too much about the endurance side of the house. So have them well trained (w/t/c and whoa at least), used to those scary blowing leaves, logs, crossing water, mud, cars, bikes, four-wheelers, kids, dogs, cows, horse trailers (loading and unloading well too) and crazy human things like BBQs and picnic umbrellas.
Once they're okay with that stuff out on the trail (most of the time at least, we all have 'off' days), then start focusing on adding more time and miles in the saddle each ride. Unless you're in fabulous shape already, this conditioning will be huge for you too. Good luck! Their age should be no issue at all, they're pretty much in the prime of their life to go for whatever you want them to, so just make sure to be reasonable and not push too hard too fast and overcondition or injure them. The heart and lungs can adapt to exercise in a couple of weeks, the muscles in 4-6 weeks, but the bones, tendons, and ligaments take months, and are the most likely to cause permanent issues if you try to do too much too quickly.
Please share pictures of your boys when you get them home!
Thanks for the advice everyone!! :) I am definitely making smaller goals (like going on trail rides) and luckily they are very used to loud vehicles since their pasture is right beside a country road (perfect for roaring dirt bikes, etc). It is the trail experience that is lacking, but once the ridiculous rain and mud clears somewhat and the babies are home we will begin our work.
Here are some pictures of the guys. :) The lighter bay is Oinky and the darker one is Aurelius. Aurelius loves channeling his inner donkey, as seen below.
The nervous and spooky one sounds like my gelding. He was abused pretty bad when he was younger and when I got him I could not even try to put my foot in the stirrup without him bolting to get away from me. I got him back in March of this year and November 15, 2013 he finished his 1st 50 mile endurance ride. You have to make the decision on when he is ready for a ride. You know him. :wink: Anyways just take it slow and make sure you let your horse enjoy being on the trail. When I first started taking my gelding out he was so nervous so we just went out for 3 to 5 miles and we would walk with a little trotting and once he started to calm down I started doing more trotting and once he could trot 5 miles and not get worked up or seem tired I upped the mileage to 10 miles. I wish you the best of luck! :D
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