View Full Version : Can you generalize about CTR/endurance for me please?

Jun. 17, 2010, 04:37 PM
I just saw the photos from Old Dominion and it looked so beautiful and just "awesome" in the true meaning of the word -- that I wandered into this forum to learn more.

My overgeneralization of endurance was that you ride Arabs in nylon tack and go up rocky cliffs -- at least those were the only photos I'd seen and they were scary! But seeing the photos from Old Dominion made me realize that maybe those rocky cliff photos are like the ones people see of the giant fences at the Rolex KY Three Day Event -- the top of the sport. What is the rest of the sport of Endurance and CTR like? Where would a regular rider who has no aspirations of going to the WEG fit in? Can you make some generalizations for me as to the cost? atmosphere? what it's like out there? Types of horses used (or are only Arabs used?). I'm sorry for being so vague and dense here.... I just don't know where to start. I can read definitions of endurance but it won't tell me what it's like on a lower level.

I have an eventing/foxhunting background. But my best memories on horse back have either been trail rides or hunting (even on blank days when we don't find our quarry). So I think I might like more serious long distance trail riding.

I appreciate any background info you can give me. Thanks!:)

Jun. 17, 2010, 05:32 PM
I'm going to drop some links for you:




The first is for CTR, the other two are endurance (50+ miles)/limited distance (between 25 and 50 miles).

Arabs and crosses make up most of the horses used but are not required.

As for the rest, I've only volunteered and not ridden (yet, it's a goal some day) so will let qualified people answer.

Jun. 17, 2010, 05:49 PM
If you don't want to be serious about Endurance, you don't have to. You can do limited distance or Competitive Trail. You can do a 12 mile ride or a 25 mile ride. You don't have to do 50-100 miles. All different types of horses are used. I got offered a mule to ride at a competition once. My friend uses her Georgian Grande for 25-50 milers. She has Trakehners that she also uses. Standardbreds also have awesome stamina for this. Really, any horse that has been conditioned properly and like to get out and go a bit while staying sound, you can do endurance with.

Jun. 17, 2010, 06:01 PM
Where to begin? Endurance is IT! Just you and your horse - against the terrain, the weather, the clock, the pain in your knee, the little voice in your head asking "why?" ;) It's just the best way to spend time with your horse if you also have a competitive streak and don't "just" want to trailride.

As an eventer/foxhunter you already have the advantage of knowing lots about conditioning , I suppose, and that's exactly where you start. If you already have a horse, no matter what breed, start building mileage and learn your horse's heart rate and recoveries after various training rides, climbs, trot sets, etc., to see if s/he will be good at this sport and then go from there accordingly.

If you are looking to buy a new horse, go with an Arabian - I'm just biased that way ;) Preferably this horse should already have some mileage or even a record (AERC), it should be very sound (mind and body) and will help you transition into your new discipline.

For all technical aspects and ride schedules, visit the following websites and read all they have to offer: http://www.aerc.org/ and http://www.fei.org/Disciplines/Endurance

Depending on your location, the terrain and the speed of your rides will differ greatly. For instance, I ride in Northern California and we have a lot of technical and difficult footing here (think Tevis!), so our horses face different conditioning challenges than elsewhere. So an endurance ride in the desert around Dubai will favor fast horses but those same horses may fail terribly when put in the Sierra Nevada because they don't know how to climb or aren't sure-footed. I'm sure you get the point... You condition for where you will ride most.

What worked best for me was to find another endurance rider (I actually board with two now) and start training and going to events with them, possibly first as their crew. There is so much to learn about feed, tack, vet check conduct, etc., and it's best to learn by doing. When you and your horse are ready, enter some Limited Distance rides (anything under 50 miles, usually 25 or 30 miles) and start gaining experience. Before you know it, you'll be hooked. I know I was!

Compared to many other disciplines, endurance is fairly inexpensive, up to a certain point... You can get a good horse for mid- to upper four figures (some people make it their mission to find the "diamond in the rough" and buy at auctions or rescues... but if you're starting, please go with a reputable breeder/trainer!) And don't be cheap about the saddle and your tack - you will be spending many many hours and miles in it, and so will your horse! Get the best you can afford! Unless you have a trailer with living quarter, invest in a good tent and air mattress, camping stove and other gear. You'll be in nature! No groomed grounds and fancy anything anymore ;) Most ridecamps I have been too are very basic.

As far as endurance riders go, you will find that most of them are really helpful, very outdoorsey and fun, but also quite opinionated and quirky and you will meet some real characters. Some take this sport more seriously than others (often people who have crossed over from other disciplines and have competed before or people who breed and train for endurance) and then there are many who just truly enjoy the long ride and time spent with their horse and don't care too much about their placement as long as their horse is happy and sound. Either attitude will work and you will quickly figure out where you fit in.

Have fun and please report back!

Jun. 17, 2010, 07:43 PM
Don't forget ECTRA. (http://www.ectra.org/)

In a nutshell--
--25 miles mnimum distance. (4:10-4:40 completion window)
--horse is judged against itself, being looked at by a veterinary and a lay judge at the start and the finish.
--no foreign substances
--no bandages, leg boots, etc.

Crazy and wonderful fellow competitors, organizers, judges and volunteers.

Jun. 17, 2010, 07:56 PM
CTR is a judged event where enduracne is more of a race.

Both involve conditioning your horse to be able to handle mileage.

In both the horse is pre-vetted for his ability to do the mileage.

In CTR, these checks are used as a standard to judge the horse after the ride for a score. Usually one vet judge and one lay judge (a person usually of considerable experience and knowledge of horses and CTR). The horse is judged as to how well he is to able to continue on. There are ususally different divisions --either by weight or experience. A score is earned and the highest numbered score wins.

In endurance, the first horse across the finishline to be checked in by the vet is usually the winner. They use the scores to determine Best Conditioned ( a highly conveted awared). The scores are usually a letter grade as opposed to a number (in CTR). There are usually several vet judges, you may or may not get the same one who pre-vetted your horse.

This is a very generalized description. In CTR, you are to rate your horse at some pre-determine speed--here in Florida we are expected to maintain 6 to 8 mph. A 25 mile course may be allowed 4 hours plus and minus 20 minutes. This included some mandatory stop at the water stops. If you come in too early or too late you are penalized.

In endurance, and I have been out of it for a long time--there are vet checks at the water stops. Some have mandatory stops. Some are fly bys. You can maintain any speed you want as long as you cross the finish line in 6 hrs (LD 25 miles).

Jun. 17, 2010, 08:49 PM
I can only speak to Endurance as I haven't done CTR (my horse has though...) and I just wanted to clarify the above comment: The vet checks are not at the water stops, rather there is water at the vet checks ;) And along the route, of course, either natural water or in troughs so you need to train your horse to readily drink from both.

Also, every endurance ride has mandatory hold periods not just some... It usually is 30 minutes for LDs and 60 minutes for 50 miles. Then there are more holds for all distances beyond that at frequent intervals and of course at the end. You will need to make sure your horse is well conditioned because the hold period only starts after you have met pulse criteria which is set by the head veterinarian and is usually around 60. Your horse gets graded on impulsion, hydration, gut sounds, etc., and will be pulled if there are any issues. But unlike in CTR, you yourself don't get "graded."

And yes, there are cut-off times which vary on the distance ridden. But if you have no major issues on the trail and ride a well-conditioned horse, this is nothing to sweat about. I recommend checking out the public ride results for events in your area and looking at the finishing times and how wide they vary. It's also very educational to see how many riders got pulled and for what reasons (lameness, metabolics, over time, etc.) Check it out at http://www.doublejoy.com/erol/RideResults%5Cdefault.asp

Again, CTR and Endurance are similar yet different, so read up on both and try both. Have fun!

Jun. 17, 2010, 08:54 PM
Your horse gets graded on impulsion, hydration, gut sounds, etc., and will be pulled if there are any issues. But unlike in CTR, you yourself don't get "graded."

Under ECTRA rules, only the horse is "graded".
There are no scores for horsemanship--it is reflected in the condition of the horse.

Jun. 18, 2010, 09:14 AM
I think what needs to be said to people who think they "might" like to try distance riding is this;

There are no short cuts. If you don't have the time to spend doing longer periods of riding while conditioning your horse, if you hate getting sweaty/cold/wet while riding, if you aren't willing to trailer long hours to get to a competition, if you aren't willing to spend months and years getting your horse physically and mentally ready to compete, if you don't have access to miles of trails to condition on, if you don't have a truck and trailer....then this sport probably isn't for you. I realize that this is blunt, but really, I know lot's of folks who tried distance riding but quit because they hated getting up early in the morning, didn't want to move their horse to a barn with real trails because they didn't want to drive a long ways or they work too late, or it was too much commitment of their time in general. If you don't have a truck/trailer it's nearly impossible to do this sport unless a good friend is also doing it.

If you don't really want to spend the time to learn about good shoeing, good feeding, taking pulses, etc, this isn't your sport.

I think the toughest thing that most folks face is access to trails to train on. Honestly, you really should have riding acess to at least 12 miles of trails. I managed for a while when I boarded where I could do about 6 miles of trails and loop around twice (boring after a few times) and trailer away on a weekend. it also helps to have other people to ride with who also do the same sport.

By the way, you didn't see the tougher trails at the OD! Just the photographers don't hike out that far. But most CTRs and some endurance rides are on gentler terrain.

Bonnie Snodgrass

Eddy's Mom
Jun. 18, 2010, 10:44 AM
I think eventers and foxhunters are really are long-lost relatives! I can't think of a better previous discipline to come from! I myself came from a show background so I'm the one clipping and bathing my horse before a ride. Old habits die hard :D

To the OP- I think you'd love it! I hope you can hook up with someone to show you the ropes. Given that soundness, stamina and toughness are necessary for eventing/hunting you have a really good upper hand considering most people who start endurance (at least in our area) were casual trail riders first.

Now you just have to slow your pony down from a gallop to a long trot and you would be ready to go! :winkgrin:

Jun. 18, 2010, 10:50 AM
Yes Bonnie, sorry I wasn't comfortable doing P & R's at the OD last weekend. Maybe next time. And don't forget suggesting to anyone interested in CTRs & Endurance to volunteer!! It's a great way to see the sport up close & personal & there's lots of people there to answer any questions you may have. And read the rule books for each sport!

Jun. 18, 2010, 11:20 AM
You are so right, come and volunteer. Contact the ride manager at a ride in your area, offer to volunteer and puleeze, don't tell them you are available from 9-3 on Sat only. Offer to arrive early on the day before the ride, camp over and stay until it's over.

Do not take the attitude that volunteering is only something you do when you are horseless. Or, I ride all the rides close to me and the other ones are too far away to drive to. How the heck do you non-volunteers think a ride is getting put on. Bored retired people who don't own horses???? WRONG!!!!!!

I'm ranting now. I was so fortunate to get a wonderful group of people to come to the Old Dominion's big ride and sweat and toil all weekend. Almost every one of them were riders with sound horses! I have two horses who I compete on and I skipped this ride and worked it.

Every single rider should pick 1-2 rides a year to volunteer at. Yes, it's a great place to learn for the newbies but every single rider OWES the sport time too. Us volunteers aren't being paid, nobody is making a profit off of entries. If you don't volunteer you won't have rides!

Off the soap box. In case you couldn't tell I help put on one of the biggest east coast rides every June as the volunteer coordinator. At this point, shortly after the ride I'm beginning to de-stress but I'm still a bit wound up.

Doing pulses at a ride as a P&R person is a bit intimidating at first. I suggest getting a decent stethoscope, take it along and offer to do courtesy checks. Go to the pre-ride vetting in and ask people if you can take their horses pulse as they stand in line to see the vet. this is a great way to try a whole bunch of horses. It's actually one of my favorite jobs although you can bump into argumentative riders now and then. You have to be tough skinned at times.


Jun. 18, 2010, 12:18 PM
amen sister! (about Bonnie's volunteer rant!)

Jun. 18, 2010, 01:42 PM
I haven't read all the replies, so please excuse any repeats.

Also, I've not done CTR (the "judging" part doesn't appeal to me), but I understand the rules are quite different depending on which governing body sanctions the ride, so there is variation.

As for endurance -- what appeals to me most about the sport is the fact that it is NOT "judged" for the most part. The guy in front is the guy in front; period. Yes, a vet "grades" your horse in certain areas at each vet check, and I suppose if it was a close call between two horses for BC (Best Condition), then those "grades" might make a difference. But in the case of most of us, this is not a issue.

The other thing that appeals to me is that success in the sport very much depends on the rider/owner's ability -- almost no one rides horses who are trained and/or conditioned by someone else. In many other sports (WP, dressage, H/J, etc) a pro can do all the training & conditioning and then the rider/owner just shows up for a few lessons and the event itself. That sort of set-up is pretty rare in endurance.

Instead, your "success" depends on the work YOU do -- and it requires knowledge is so many areas: hoof care, nutrition, basic riding/training, saddle fit, conditioning -- just about the whole gamut of horsemanship.

Lastly -- the sport offers a HUGE range of "goals" to go for in terms of competition; in other words, there is a place for everyone (and just about every horse). Your goal can be just to finish each ride and rack up miles, or it can be to Top Ten. You can go for the War Mare Prize, National High Mileage Award, Jim Jones Award (the stallion award) -- each has slightly different criteria. There are other "awards" as well, so there are many ways to "win" in the sport; many different goals to set for yourself & your horse.

As for what sort of horse -- well, it is true that Arabs or Arab x's are the most common, but it's also true there are many, many successful non-trad breeds out there, even at the higher levels. Suzanne Hayes, who does very well each year in terms of regional standings, has competed off an Arab/QH cross for years. Mustangs have done great at the highest levels, and one of our posters here on COTH did something like 10 50 milers on a 16+ hh tank-like Hanoverian -- who didn't even START the sport till he was 19!!
If you have a sound horse in your pasture who enjoys "going down the road" then you have a horse for endurance. Probably NOT a Tevis winner, but then most of the people riding Arabs don't have that either -- so no worries!:lol:

Also -- compared to most other equine sports, endurance is pretty affordable; I would say gas is the highest expense once you have your saddle (I know SO many people who have gone through 4-8 different saddles before they found the right one). But again, if you are only doing 25's (which technically are NOT "endurance" rides) or afew 50's per year, you can probably make just about any fairly well-fitting saddle work. The more miles you do, the more important it is to have perfect fit, both for you and the horse.

The down side? To me it's how long it takes. You aren't allowed to ride a horse in "endurance" till it is 5 yrs old. You can ride 4 year olds in LD.
And, although I've had experienced endurance riders tell me you can condition a horse to complete a 50 in 6 months, the general wisdom is that it takes about 2 years to get a horse fit enough to be competitive (as in, going for a Top Ten placement) in a 100 miler.

You have to do ALOT of conditioning -- especially at first. Also, as several posters noted, you need to have access to lots & lots of trails and/or be willing to trailer to them. Because the terrain of the rides varies, you need to condition on different terrain as well -- either that or skip the hilly sort of rides if you haven't conditioned on hills.

I've only done one fox hunt and no eventing (although I've watched some), but I would say your biggest disappointment MIGHT be (and I"m just saying might) the pace of endurance vs those other two sports. Endurance is NOT a "speed" sport. For most riders on most horses, the majority of the ride is done at a trot -- you will not have alot of long canters over hill & dale like fox hunting or eventing.

But I would encourage you to give it a try. It's not an expensive sport to get into -- membership in AERC is very reasonable and you should be able to use the tack, horse, etc. you have now to just give it a whirl.

Or many times you can "rent" a horse from another rider if you just want to see if you will actually enjoy going 25-50 miles in one day. Another way to try it out is to volunteer to help out at an AERC ride -- most ride managers are always looking for help.

Good luck -- enjoy!!

Jun. 18, 2010, 04:26 PM
Thank you all so much for your replies! I really appreciate it.

I liked the comment about it being you and your horse against the challenges of the terrain -- That's how I think about foxhunting. You have to get there... through the creek, over the fence, just Go! I also like that these sports don't require a certain headset or specified number of strides. :)

Jun. 18, 2010, 06:09 PM
One of the things that was the most pleasant surprise to me when I started judging distance rides was that the riders had was more knowledge of vital signs, nutrition, shoeing, and tack fit than many average horse owners.
It was so refreshing.

Then, over a 10+ year period of judging, to see the baseline of knowledge of these same riders rise appreciably was terrific as well.

Jun. 20, 2010, 12:19 PM
In my area most LD/endurance rides offer a trail ride option. For very little money you can take your own horse out, ride a distance that is comfortable for you (as little as 10 miles), experience the ride camp atmosphere and get a chance to see if this is something you want to do.

I'm attracted to LD riding because it seems a lot like eventing used to be - nice, helpful people who are, for the most part, pretty darn good horsemen.

Jun. 20, 2010, 03:48 PM
Some great responses, here - Kyzteke summarized a lot of what I enjoy about endurance. So far I have done a couple of LDs and some trail rides, as I don't have a horse of my own who is suitable -- but I really enjoy the atmosphere, the people and pulling together my skills so that I will be able to become more serious at some point.

Lots of people participate without "racing" - it is a long-term commitment for most of them to building their horse up. Making the pace is still a lot faster than most people ride on the trail - I have been told that I show my eventing roots by jumping logs and asking the horse to go through puddles even if there is a way around.... you are really supposed to be conserving energy - but there are plenty of real challenges, not least of which is the work you have to do to care for your horse. I don't feel bad about getting involved slowly - I like to have a reserve of energy and confidence.

There are relatively few CTR rides around here so I haven't tried one yet -- and besides, I have been lured into endurance by friends who have trailers - something I am without. There are some key differences, but I suppose if that was the option open to me, I'd try it!

To me, the main thing about both these sports is that you are motivated to ride, develop new skills, work through issues, and to have some fellowship.

Jun. 21, 2010, 09:03 AM
Making the pace is still a lot faster than most people ride on the trail

This is one of the most common things that people don't understand when I tell them I ride endurance, even horse people - most of them think it's just a really long trail ride. I usually finish about in the middle of the pack, and I ride at a steady trot for most of the way, with some cantering and a few walk breaks. If you're used to more casual trail riding, you will be very surprised at how long you and your horse need to be able to trot :)

Jun. 21, 2010, 11:19 AM
Totally agree about the volunteering and in fact I just finished signing up to volunteer for a ride in October here in Texas. I've been volunteering for the various shows and have been getting tons of experience. I can't scribe for most shows, handwriting is way too bad but I don't mind running or keeping the judge supplied with food and water.

I have been thinking about doing the endurance riding. Ages ago we would trail ride a lot with our horses and regularly went camping with them. We just thought it was a fun thing to do wish I would have known about the competitions then I probably would have at least tried them. We never worked our horses in the ring unless it was for competition. I did barrels and poles and never actually practiced them except for the week of the competition. I did conditioning all over the place and used the bayous of Houston as trails. Lake Sommerville was an awesome play ground as was South Padre.