Double click to show an excerpt from Hidalgo movie.
You have the option of putting a second bridle in your crew bag and changing it at the vet check.
My Standardbred/Arab has huge side-to-side movement and was getting friction rubs until we got a treeless saddle and used a crupper 100% of the time.
“There is no such thing as bad riding weather, just inappropriate gear!” Famous quote from The Duck
Distance Riding 101
You Can Do This!
Almost all distance riders came to the sport from a
Almost all of them started with the horse they
“happened to own at the time”
Nearly all found it more than a little intimidating at
AND NOW THEY ARE COMPLETELY
The variety of horses (and mules) and
riders will amaze you!
Photo courtesy Lynne Glazer Imagery
Hall of Fame Icelandic
Over 10,000 miles and
twenty years of competition and STILL going at 28
Other gaited breeds include Peruvians, Foxtrotters, Rocky
Mtn horses, Standardbreds, Saddlebreds…
Julie Suhr, 92 years
old, has finished the
Tevis Cup 100 mile
ride 22 times
Lynne Glazer Imagery
Richard and Patti Stedman
Troy and the AERC Office
Members of ECTRA
The photos used are for educational purposes and are not to be copied or
Started the sport from some other riding discipline:
Fundamental horsemanship and riding skills are
critical in the sport
◦ Balanced riding
◦ Ability to handle on-trail obstacles
◦ Help and not hinder the horse (and you!)
◦ Good judgment and common sense
◦ A top endurance rider succeeds not by riding
“fast” but by riding SMART
Riding is a life-long skill that needs to be honed
Everyone needs a set of “eyes on the ground.”
Even the world-class riders!
Assymetries or old injuries – a crooked
ride=crooked horse=sore horse
Look for instructors that teach BALANCE, not just
show ring “pretty”
From Riding Light TM
White = heat. Same horse, same saddle, two
Walk, trot (maybe canter) alone or in group
Ride your own ride!
Deal with obstacles and “scary stuff”.
Help and not hinder your horse for a long time.
Demonstrate good ground manners, etiquette and
SAFETY in areas with lots of other people and
This is the key to improving your riding and
If you need help, get it:
◦ From a mentor
◦ From a riding instructor or trainer
◦ From your riding partners
Developing these skills is important to your horse
and important to having FUN on distance rides.
Bridle (leather or biothane)
Fits well and doesn’t rub
NOTE: You may not recognize the evil twin horse who
shows up on ride day and needs more brakes than you
Bosal, not seen often
Halter/bridle combo w/elevator bit
Bridle with S-hackamore
Hackamore Halter/bridle combo with standard English bit
Some Bridle Options
◦ Endless varieties and combinations
Billets or rigging
Girth or cinch
Tree integrity (for treed saddles)
Bridle and reins
Help prevent saddle movement, especially on
rides with elevation
Breast collars are an excellent safety device if you
have a girth/cinch/rigging failure
◦ Recommended for every ride
Cruppers may be needed by some horses with
some saddle set-ups
◦ Practice, practice, practice!
Many rides recommend hoof protection due to
Some rides suitable for barefoot horses, but most
trails are more comfortable for your horse with hoof
Huge variety of shoeing/booting combos
Use what works for you and your horse
Easy Boots in many styles, also glue-ons
Some horses interfere despite best efforts
◦ May be due to conditioning, conformation,
If you use leg protection, make sure it:
◦ Stays in place
◦ Does not rub
◦ Does not cause excessive heat buildup
◦ Does not get filled with sand/dirt as you ride
You will see a
of rigs at camp
Or hitch a ride
with a friend!
Nothing that rubs or binds – if it bothers you on a short
ride, it will be unbearable on a long ride
Most riders opt for:
Riding tights (even the guys)
Riding boots or running shoes (with a stirrup cage)
Helmet (required for juniors and STRONGLY recommended for
Be ready for unexpected weather
“There is no bad riding weather, just inappropriate riding gear.”
This ain’t the
show ring. If it
works, it’s fine.
◦ Stethoscope and/or a
heart rate monitor
◦ Hay nets/bags
(depending on your
camping set up)
◦ Feed pans
◦ Basic grooming stuff
◦ Rump cover (for
cold ride starts –
practice so your
horse isn’t spooked
◦ Sponge(s) or scoops, sweat scraper
◦ Cooler sheet and blankets, even if you don’t blanket
at home. Warm muscles are happy muscles.
Warm, dry clothes and bedding
Place to store food and drinks
Potty (most rides provide porta-potties)
Place to keep/secure your horse
◦ More on that later…
that riders complicate
long before they have to!
Keep It Simple!
Free choice, good quality
◦ Orchard, timothy, bermuda,
+/- alfalfa (never
more than 50% of diet)
Enough calories to keep
good body condition
◦ Many commercial formulas
on the market
◦ Usually better +/- cheaper than home recipes
Choose ONE high quality
◦ OR feed a supplement with vit-
min premix included
Resist the urge to buy
another bucket “just
◦ “It’s the beginning of ride
◦ “It’s the end of ride season...”
◦ “It’s breeding season…”
Free choice salt at all times
Endurance horses lose as much as an ounce of
electrolytes through sweat loss per mile of trail
◦ Doesn’t have to be “designer” salt
◦ Salt is the ONLY mineral that horses will develop a
specific appetite for
◦ Loose or block?
◦ Trace minerals?
TM blocks are formulated for livestock, and not really a
significant source of anything other than salt
Clean, fresh water
◦ Nutrient most commonly
◦ In the sun? Dirty?
◦ Horses will drink 10%
more water if their eyes
don’t go below the brim of
Pasture/fresh grass is
“green magic” if you can
Even a few minutes of
hand grazing during rides
Teach your horse the
“snatch and go” trick on
Your horse does not need to be
“skinny” to compete in this sport
(this horse is too thin). =>
Body Condition Score of 5 is
◦ Can feel but not see the ribs
Too thin = higher risk of
metabolic problems and non-
Too fat = insulating layer, more
core heat to dissipate
LOTS of hay!!!
No last minute
changes or additions
Feed any grain or
concentrates so that
they are consumed
no later than midnight the
No 4 a.m. grain or
Why not? Don’t they
need the extra
Does the Space
Hay or grass far more
beneficial than concentrates
Wet is ALWAYS better
than dry, including hay
Carrots always good but not
STILL LOTS of hay!!!
Neighbor’s feed pan
with permission okay as a “bite”
but beware making an entire
meal of it!
None – perfectly
acceptable if horse
and you’re riding
(be careful not to get
too creative with “extra”
ingredients), like No Salt
Formulas that horses readily
eat (probably not doing
Pre-loaded e’lyte syringes
(e.g. Lyte Now, EnduraMax)
Load-your-own syringes with
powdered electrolytes (many
brands) and some “carrier”
(e.g. applesauce, water,
As soon as you get up
After first good drink
Every 12-15 miles or so
(usually at the vet checks
Don’t use as a “treatment”
for not drinking
Smaller doses more
frequently better than
one or two mega-doses
Think salt shaker, not
The best thing
you can give
during a ride
is hay, water
The rest is just
Age, stabling situation, conditioning and training
◦ Fitness base
◦ Training base
Evaluate your schedule. How much time can you
realistically give your horse?
What are your short term and long term goals?
Plan a weekly schedule
A systematic approach to
◦ Hardening the horse’s connective tissue,
◦ Developing appropriate musculature to do the job, and
◦ Ensuring adequate cardio-vascular fitness
It involves work and REST!
Gradual increase of the work load:
◦ Distance, difficulty (hills, sand, concussion), speed
Never more than one on the same day
Don’t increase each stressor by more than 10% per
week to avoid chronic injury
Train at the pace you intend
Don’t condition at 6 mph
and then decide to be
THIS IS THE MOST
NEW RIDERS MAKE
Don’t confuse “adrenaline”
with “ability” and don’t be a “one season wonder”
The horse’s appearance does not change at all (i.e.
horse does not lose weight if overweight, does not
gain muscle, does not “tighten up”)
The horse never appears to be challenged by the
The horse’s heart rate is at or below 60 by the time
you dismount (when you did not have an extended
cool down period)
The horse is sour, reluctant to work
Avoidance behavior---bucking, unbalanced movement, runaway
Won’t change diagonals, bend, change gaits
Difficulty keeping weight on the horse; lack of appetite (may
indicate gastric ulcers); dull eye and hair coat
Back, girth area
Legs (filling in legs, other signs of strain, lameness, stiff at the start of a
ride, or avoidance behavior)
Stiff and sore, “ouchy”
Poor heart rate recoveries (more than 10 minutes to reach 60
bpm, and more than 20 minutes to recover to resting heart rate)
25 mile ÷6 hours = 4.1 mph
average speed to complete
Subtract 1 hour of holds =>
25 miles ÷ 5 hrs = 5 mph
Subtract another hour at water
stops, adjusting tack…
25 miles ÷ 4 hrs = 6.25 mph
average speed to complete
Learn what 5, 6, 7, 10 mph looks like
GPS technology is very helpful, but not req’d.
This doesn’t mean you never
travel at any other speed—
Ride the trail in front of you-
Walk uphills and difficult footing
Get off and walk/jog down hills
Make time when conditions
allow you to move out
Never go faster just because
your horse says, “Let’s GO!!”
“Race brain” affects both horses and riders!
This is how you create a “one-season wonder”
Does great for a few rides and then disappears because of chronic
Short “wind sprints” of
10-30 seconds, rest, repeat
◦ Increase time and repetitions
as fitness increases
Doesn’t have to be flat-out
◦ Hill training?
◦ Be creative but always mindful of not overloading bone,
tendon, muscle systems too soon
Appropriate time spent developing your horse’s
Cardiovascular develops in 6 months
Tendons and ligaments 12 months
Bone up to 24 months
Many experienced riders believe that a good prospect
with an ‘active’ work background can be taken to a
conservative LD ride with little additional conditioning
Many also believe it takes about three years to build a
fully developed, potential 100-mile horse
You should have PRACTICED the skills you will
need to have fun and be safe
◦ Remember that “training the brain” and “conditioning
the body” are two different things
Be able to keep at least a 6 mph pace
Your long conditioning rides are approximately
1/2 – 2/3rds the distance of the planned event
Ride flyer/web site
Past ride results
◦ Of the starting riders,
how many finished?
Good completion rate
= a “doable”, well-managed ride
Was the winning time an hour ahead of cutoff?
more than one or two Overtime pulls?
Hint = TOUGH RIDE!
Know what tack works for your horse
Know what clothes work for you
Pre-pack your crew bag.
Watch the educational videos on
YouTube’s AERC Educational Video
Familiarize yourself with the rules
Make a goal to
COMPLETE with a
horse and rider and
make it happen!
Look at AERC YouTube Channels for videos on
camping and setting up (really).
Getting good directions is CRITICAL!
Consider buying a US Rider membership
Plan a route that work for you – interstates? Two
Beware of following GPS directions without checking
Some ride managers give better directions to their
rides than others
Plan to leave early enough to give yourself time to
settle in, relax, and deal with any delays
And be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw
your way on ride weekend!
You may need to check in with the Ride Manager or
Ask where various things, like the vetting area, will
be set up, so you can find a parking spot that will
work for you
◦ Access to water, potties
As soon as
your horse off
and give him
a drink, a
chance to eat, urinate, roll, and stretch his legs
If you need help, always ASK!
No, this horse doesn’t actually travel like this.
Set up your camp with horse comfort as top priority
Be a good neighbor – say hello and make sure you’re
not crowding others
Don’t forget to take care of you – rest, hydrate
Find out the times/locations for:
◦ Vetting in
◦ Pre-ride meeting
◦ Meals (if provided)
Be a social butterfly! Take your horse for a walk
around camp and say hello – be sure to tell people
you’re new to the sport!
If you’re lucky enough to have crew, make sure
you’re organized and they are set up to have what
you need, when you need it
If you’re on your own, it also pays to be organized
Make a list, set up your crewing area/crew bags
What To Expect?
(We have a video for you on AERC YouTube Channel on this topic, too.)
Repeat after me, “But
he never does this at
Novice trot-outs are
◦ May need a do-over
Worried horse? Wait
until less crowded
Bringing a buddy
horse is okay for
Parameters for dehydration
Check heart rate and rhythm for ‘progressive recovery’
Check of saddle/girth area for soreness, rubs
Gut sounds – indicator of excessive
Muscle tone for stiffness, fatigue
A straight out and back trot out
Loose lead line
Prompt and under control.
Trampling the vet is Rude.
Misbehavior can get the horse disqualified
Horses must meet
pulse criteria (usually
60-64 beats per min)
within 30 minutes
Ride staff will take this initial pulse
The control judge (vet) will recheck for ‘progressive
recovery’ and to check heart sounds for arrhythmias,
NO gut sounds may mean pending colic
Vets pay close attention to this
Learn what your horse sounds like at home so you know
when Dis Ain’t Right.
Never seen by itself,
always part of a bigger picture of fatigue.
Your horse should tolerate this without kicking,
Horse moves out promptly
Trots nicely so handler can
keep lead line loose (why
STRAIGHT away from the
vet, turns quietly around,
then travels STRAIGHT
toward the vet
The horse stops quietly and
stands for the rest of the
Sit where you can hear
Take notes if you need,
to but mostly just pay
How to follow the trail
Any hazards on trail
The logistics of the ride,
where to be and when
Many rides hold a new
riders’ briefing –
Be sure to attend it and
don’t be shy about asking
Allow yourself PLENTY of time to get ready
Having all of your tack and crew items set up the night
before is very helpful.
Make sure both you and your horse have a good meal
◦ No “breakfast” for the horse, just free-choice hay at all times.
Carrots are okay, no grain.
◦ E-lyte dose if you plan on using them
◦ For you, whatever sits well on your tummy
◦ DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST!!
It’s more important to
have a GOOD start
than an ON TIME start
Excited horses? Wait
for few minutes before
It’s polite to let ride
management know if
you’re starting late.
REGARDLESS of fitness,
weather, age or breed, it
takes 25-30 minutes for all
the “machinery” of muscles
to reach full operating
Ride accordingly, plenty of
easy warm-up. You have
lots of miles in front of you.
Be prepared for your
horse to insist he is
suddenly capable of
running up front.
Use good judgment,
not “race brain”!
If you need to adjust
tack, get off the trail to
do so safely.
horses are not FAST.
They are CONSISTENT.
Find your all-day pace
for the footing and
Never waste time.
Learn to multi-task, i.e., eat and drink
in the saddle without changing your
the horse in front.
They are not your
You should be able
to see all four heels of
the horse in front
Announce/ask for trail when passing, then keep
moving out. Don’t pass and then slow down.
If your horse kicks,
hang a red ribbon on
If you cannot
control your horse,
GO TO THE BACK!!!
If you pass a dismounted rider, ask if it’s okay to keep
If someone else opens a gate, go through and then
WAIT for them to remount.
Remember that multi-
tasking thing? Now’s
your chance for a potty
Don’t shove in if
there’s a crowd.
Wait your turn.
Arrive and depart
slowly and calmly.
If your horse is
considerate and move your horse out of the way. You
can try again in a few minutes.
Don’t interfere with
horse. If your
horse cannot be
move to one side
until they have
Move out of the
way before you
adjust tack, syringe,etc.
Don’t sponge or scoop out of tanks unless ride
management has said it’s okay to do so!
Find the in-timer
◦ They may want your
vet card, or will hand
you a slip of paper
Time to let your horse
cool down and pulse
◦ Coming in to the in-gate, slower is smarter
◦ Politely ask for “pulse” when your horse’s pulse is at or
below parameter (often 60 or 64 beats per minute)
faster if their
saddle a bit,
and hand walks
them in as a
“cue” that it’s
time to relax.
On a hot day, pull the saddle
Water left on the
horse more than 30
seconds or so becomes
an insulating layer
to trap heat.
Lead your horse to the pulsing area with your vet
card or pulse slip in hand
Be aware of other horses around you.
Encourage him to stand quietly and relax
Don’t let your horse rub his head on volunteers,
crowd other horses or create a disturbance in the
Don’t get your pulse taken and then walk your horse away
from a ‘buddy’ in the pulse area – that horse’s pulse rate
will jump up when your horse walks away
Be sure to tell the vet if there are concerns you have
about your horse – they are there to help you get
through the ride safely!
Safety first-- Pay attention!
Listen to what the vet tells you about what they are
seeing and any concerns they have
◦ They know what they are doing. If they advise slowing
down or doing some different, DO IT.
Many veterinarians will routinely conduct a CRI
The veterinarian takes the horse’s heart rate
The horse trots 125 feet out and then back.
After one minute from the first heart rate, the heart rate is
Horses who are recovering well will have a second heart
rate the same or lower than the first
A second heart rate that is higher might be a sign of:
Your hold time begins when your horse gets their pulse time
Time for you to:
Get your horse to eat/drink/rest
Hit the potty
You can always take more time at the hold; just remember
that it eats into your on-trail time
If your horse is not EDPP (eating, drinking, peeing, pooping)
or seems NQR (“not quite right”) talk to the vet or your
mentor about what to do
Urine should be no darker than straw-colored, with
plenty of volume
Some horses are fussy about where they will urinate
and will “hold” it
You may be able to teach your horse to urinate by
whistling every time he urinates (or your horse may
teach you to whistle by urinating!)
Warning signs – NO urinating, very DARK urine (e.g.
dark tea or coffee), or lack of volume
Inform the vet if they posture to pee, but don’t.
You are ready for a cold beverage,
grub and some Advil!
But not just yet … You’ve got a horse to take
You are not “finished” with a LD ride until your horse
has reached pulse criteria
A horse that comes in behind you, but pulses in
sooner, finishes ahead of you
This is a strategic moment if you care about placing.
All horses MUST reach pulse criteria within 30
minutes to be eligible for a completion. No
All LD horses must pass a vet completion check
within 30 minutes and be judged “fit to continue” to
receive a completion.
If the LD is offering Best Condition (BC) judging, the
Top Ten horses to finish and pulse down will be
eligible to show for BC
◦ BC judging is one hour after reaching pulse criteria.
◦ Don’t forget to weigh in before you leave finish line area!
Your ‘placing’ is in the order you cross the finish line,
not who reaches criteria first.
You have 30 minutes to reach pulse criteria after
crossing the finish line
◦ New 2015 rules, but allows flexibility for finish lines that are
a significant distance out from base camp.
Top ten to cross line are eligible to show for BC one
◦ DON’T BE LATE!!!!
Can present for completion check any time within one
No disappearing inside for a shower…
While untacking, look for rubs, sensitive spots,
abnormal sweat patterns or lack of.
Check OFTEN that he is EDPP and comfortable.
This means overnight as well.
Ask the vet for an opinion if you’re unsure
PLENTY of forage and clean water.
Monitor body temp to cool out gradually without
◦ Core body temp can take HOURS to dissipate
Some horses love a good clean up and brushing;
others want to be left alone to eat and drink. Know
Finding a nice sandy spot to roll is usually highly
Take him for a ten minute walk a few hours later,
before bed and the next morning.
◦ Check for stiffness, attitude, appetite
◦ Don’t forget to check for lots of poop and urine.
Most rides have an Awards Ceremony – try to stay if
you can. It’s a good time for you to celebrate and
Unless you live less than two hours away, strongly
consider staying overnight to let your horse rest.
(Hauling is stressful!)
In AERC LD and Endurance rides, there are completion
awards and often awards for other milestones
Usually there is a meal associated with the Awards
Ceremony – you will be hungry!
NOW you can relax and
You’ll want to
be sure your
has plenty of
hay and water
to recharge his
You’ll both be less stiff if you go for a ten minute walk
several times that evening and in the morning. This is a
good time to evaluate how you both really feel.