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Collective Wisdom for Endurance Riding

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Tips and Hints for Endurance Riding

Entering a ride

It is important to select a ride that is within the ability and fitness level of your horse. The AERC website will list all the rides in your area, along with contact information.

When you have selected a ride that you'd like to enter, contact the ride manager or ride secretary for an entry. Some rides now have their entry forms online for riders to download, making the whole process quicker and easier.

Some rides will require the full entry fee, others require a deposit to hold a space open. The ride dinner, completion award, parking, and complimentary coffee and donuts the morning of the ride are all part of the entry fee. Non-AERC riders will be charged an additional fee for day insurance. Along with your check you must include a copy of your horse's current Coggins test (within one year), and any other information as required.

Some rides will allow post entry for riders who just show up on the day before the ride. But many popular rides now require pre-entry and have a limited number of entries they will accept. So you want to get your entry in as quickly as possible. Many rides will send out postcards or e-mail notification of entry receipt. If not, you can always check with the ride secretary to make sure your entry was received.

Packing for the ride

At least a week before the ride start packing our equipment for both the ride and overnight camping. Only bring tack and clothing that you have trained in and know are comfortable for both you and your horse. Do not change anything within 2 weeks of the ride.

For the rider:

  • Food and drink - Portable, easy to eat for on trail. Your dinners will be provided by the ride, and often breakfast as well. Many riders like to have social meals with friends, however, so pack at least some fun snacks and goodies to share with your camp neighbors.
  • Camping equipment - Horse trailers with living quarters will make your camping experience easy and pleasurable. Your packing job will be easy, limited mostly to food and clothing, and bedding for sleeping. If you are sleeping in a tent, or in the back of your horse trailer, make sure you bring double the blankets you think you will need. You want enough warm bedding to sleep comfortably. If you end up being cold or uncomfortable at night you will risk being sleepy and tired to ride the next day. Air mattresses are nice and portable, but they transmit cold so you will need a polar fleece or wool blanket, or down sleeping bag on top to insulate you from the cold. Also pack a fiber doormat to stand on to keep your feet clean and warm.
  • Riding clothes - should account for all extremes of weather. Have warm jackets, rain gear, and clothing that you have pre-worn and know is both comfortable and will not rub. Bring two pairs of shoes/boots, and one pair of wet weather muck boots. Bring two pairs of britches in case you need to change midway, and plenty of socks to keep your feet warm, clean, and dry.
  • Personal toiletries - should include toilet paper, and a First Aid kit for humans for rider comfort in camp and on the trail. Portable showers and toilets are nice but not really necessary unless you are planning a week long multiday ride.
  • For the horse:

  • Saddle and at least 2 pads to switch over to a dry pad midway through the ride.
  • Bridle and breastplate
  • extra set of reins with snap ends
  • extra lead rope
  • coolers, rugs and rainsheets
  • corral containment
  • Brushes
  • Trail Sponge to attach to the saddle
  • hoof pick to carry on the saddle
  • screw top water buckets
  • feed and (2) feed tubs
  • hay and hay bag
  • electrolytes
  • First Aid kit for equines.

    Take on the trail:

  • stethoscope and/or heart monitor
  • easy boot (to carry on trail if horse loses a shoe)
  • Saddle packs or water bottle holders for carrying supplies
  • trail map or description of trails - stored in a plastic bag

    Extra stuff that is good to have

  • GPS unit
  • MP3 player
  • lightweight digital camera
  • Arrival at the ride - setting up, the pre-ride Vet Check, Ride Briefing, and camping with your horse

    Endurance rides will have their trailer parking/camping generally in a large field adjacent to the vetting area. Parking areas will open the day prior to the ride, or sometimes a few days earlier, so that competitors can arrive early to park and set up camp. For rides that have loops back into camp it is best to arrive early to get a parking spot as close to the vetting area so that you are not having to walk distances to vet your horse.

    First thing you want to do is put up your corral. Do not take up more than double the width of your trailer for a corral. You are not there to fence off acres and acres for your horse and prevent other riders from having space to park. Unload the horse and give it a bucket of water and some hay or feed to encourage it to relax and eat.

    Next go to the Ride Secretary's stand to get your rider packet. Inside that packet will be your rider card which has your horse's ride number on it and will be used by the ride vets to record your horse's physical and metabolic parameters at all the vet checks. You must carry this rider card with you throughout the ride. You will also get a dinner ticket, a description of the trail or a map, and a list of the ride rules and conditions. If you owe a balance for the ride entry, or anything else that was required, the Secretary will get it from you before handing over the rider packet.

    Go back to your camp, check on your horse, unload it's feed and hay, and set out the other supplies, like electrolytes and buckets of water, to be ready for the next morning. Next, lay out your ride clothes, shoes and socks, and fill your water bottles so that you don't have to worry about it the next morning. Now take the time to rest and relax while waiting for the pre-ride vetting to open.

    When the pre-ride vetting is open, bring up your horse to the vetting scribe. They will have grease crayons to write the ride number on your horse's hindquarters, and then direct you to the vets doing the pre-ride check. The vets will check your horse's resting heart rate, respiration, and internal/external structure to ensure the horse is healthy and sound. They will also have you trot out and back in a straight line to ensure your horse is sound. They will mark your rider card with this information in the form of letter grades - A to B minus - with an overall score. Horses that have anything less than a B- on any point, or trot out with visible lameness issues, will not be allowed to start.

    Once your horse has vetted in you can take it back to it's pen or tie and let it enjoy some relaxing time eating and looking around, while you tuck your rider card into a small plastic bag (to prevent it from getting wet or torn) and tuck it away in your saddle bag, or in a special card holder attached to your saddle. You must carry this card with you at all times throughout the ride, so securing it now will ensure you won't forget it in the pre-ride rush the following morning. If you have enough time, saddle up and take a ride out onto the trails to familiarize yourself, and your horse, with the start and finish areas. If someone else is also riding out, you can join up for a stroll on the trails to relax and socialize.

    Rides will serve dinner to all the entries (crew and spectators must pay) and afterwards will hole the ride briefing. At this time riders will be told about the trail, if there are away checks that will need supplies transported, how the trail will be marked, length of miles between holds (mid-trail vet checks with mandatory hold times for horses to eat and rest), pulse parameters (what your horse's pulse should be before you can go into the vet check) and what time the ride will start. Information on awards, best condition judging, and special briefings for novice riders will also be given.

    When the ride briefing is over, it is time to go back to your camp, give your horse it's evening dinner, put on it's evening rug to keep it warm all night (even in the summer the evenings can be cold) and get yourself ready to hit the sack. Many riders find it hard to sleep at night -- if you can't, just close your eyes and try to rest anyway. The night will be over before you know it, and soon it will be time to get up to prepare for the ride.

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