Updated: Nov 22
My first year in Endurance is coming to a close and I have to say I’m completely hooked! This year I’ve completed one 50-mile ride, two 25-mile rides, and one 30-mile ride. I have learned more about myself and my horse this year in this sport than any other year. So, allow me to share with you 5 things that I wish I knew before I dove in.
My very first ride this year was a 50 mile ride that my mentor and friend invited me on. I competed on one of her experienced horses. My next three rides were done on my Grade Quarter Horse mare, Sandra-Dee. These last three were technically Limited Distance (LD) races which are shorter distances than true Endurance races. Even so, I learned SO MUCH while doing these races. And now with the leg-work done I can share with you 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering the World of Endurance Riding.
CAUTION: I would NOT recommend doing a 50 as your first ride if you are not an experienced rider. It was an amazing experience for me but I feel it would have been extremely difficult had I not had a background of lots of long and hard miles under my belt beforehand.
1. Breeches are an Absolute Must
I know this sounds silly, but it’s more important than you think. I will be releasing a post later with the full story of my breeches mishap, so, I’ll just give you the highlights. I made the mistake of believing that all my conditioning/practice miles in my jeans and cheap leggings had toughened me up. Surely, that was the case! News flash, that was not the case. I was kicking myself something fierce after about 20 miles in. Learn from my mistake, wear good riding breeches.
2. Get a Mentor
I don’t know about you, but as I embark on something new I like to learn all I can about that thing. I read and researched about Endurance Riding for years before I actually embarked on my first ride. I had done so much research in conditioning and prepping for rides but found that there was nothing that could replace a real expert. My mentor has become a very good friend and is an unceasing fountain of knowledge about this subject. I have learned so much from her that I could not have learned on my own. Get yourself a Mentor. As the saying goes: It’s dangerous to go alone, so bring a friend!
You can find a directory of mentors Here. (You may have to be a paying AERC member to access this)
3. Research then Practice
Did I mention, you need to research and practice?! You really can’t do enough when it comes to getting your horse ready for this sport. Here are things you should research/know about your horse. Start practicing now!
You should know what their normal resting heart rate is.
You should be able to check their heart rate via stethoscope and by feel.
You should know how long it takes for their heart rate to come down to 60 bpm after exercise.
You should know what your horse’s gut sounds sound like on a normal basis
Seriously you need to know what their poop and urination look like, smell like and how often they do it.
Know how hard they normally breathe, do they make weird sounds, what tends to change their breathing pattern, etc.
How they look and feel
What does their coat look like
How do their legs feel before and after a ride
How do their muscles feel before and after a ride
Let me just say this: most of what I had heard about LD rides went something like this “any horse can do these”, “you don’t need to condition hardly at all for a 25” and the like. BUT I’m so glad I did condition, and I conditioned religiously before going into my first 25. Sandra-Dee wasn’t out of shape by any means before we started but there is no way she would have ended an LD in good condition had I not really done my homework and the work of conditioning her. And with that prep we were able to finish 2 of our 3 rides in the top 10!
All of these will be so important for you to know and are what will be checked at the vet checks during your ride, and knowing if your horse normally takes a little longer to come down to 60 bpm or if that is unusual for them could save your horse in the long run.
4. Focus on Your Fitness
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what to know for your horse let’s talk about the things YOU need! Your health and conditioning matter just as much as your horses’. If you do not have the strength or endurance to ride well at higher mileage you are doing your horse a disservice.
As stated above you need to have both the strength and endurance to keep up with your horse and to stay out of their way during your rides.
This can look different for everyone but my rule of thumb is you should be resistance training at least 2-3 times a week and include 1-2+ cardio sessions into your week to prep and stay in riding shape. Again this will depend on where your level of fitness is now and what your lifestyle is like but in general starting here is a good idea.
If you have no idea where to start, this is what I do for a living! Just click Here to schedule a FREE discovery call with me and I’d be more than happy to help you get on the right track!
This is a HUGE overlooked piece that can make the difference between you finishing feeling just a little tired and sore and you barely being able to walk after your ride and feeling like crap for the whole next week.
When I talk nutrition I’m talking more than just the food you eat but also the supplements and water you need to be taking to prepare your body for the ride ahead.
To keep this as short as possible I’m giving you FREE access to my Horsewoman Health Roadmap that will help you get started with both your nutrition and fitness! Just click Here to download!
5. Proper Riding Technique
This is something I’m constantly perfecting and learning about. But here are a few things that have really improved my ability to stay comfortable in the saddle and to keep my feet from falling off halfway through the ride.
Propper heel placement (Hint: Heels Down is NOT correct!)
My co-host and I did a thorough podcast episode on The Horsewoman Project, you HAVE to listen to. "Myth busting: Heels down"
Proper leg positioning
I’ve done a couple of videos on this that I’m happy to share with you!
And your FITNESS
Anything is better than nothing, but If you don’t know where to start click Here!
This year’s journey has been such a blast and an incredible learning experience for me. I know there is still so much more for me to learn and to experience in this sport and I’m excited to share that with you as I go! Make sure to Subscribe to our newsletter to get exclusive tips, tricks, and recipes made for Horsewomen. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Part 2!