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Transitioning from eventing to endurance

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  • Transitioning from eventing to endurance

    I have an Anglo Arab mare who did two long format Training Level 3 Day events a couple of years ago. She is not fit now, but am contemplating trying her in endurance. Getting her fit for the long format eventing was easy -- she loves the trail, is more relaxed on the move than in the ring, her numbers were always very good and she got fit easily and quickly.

    I've read a bunch of the materials in the Sticky's on this board and am wondering if anyone has a sense of how much this prior level of fitness will "buy me" in terms of getting her fit for endurance. For example, it is easier to get a Thoroughbred fit for eventing if it raced for a while. The body has been fit like that before and "remembers." And you have built that bone and strengthened those tendons and ligaments in a similar way before. How much can I expect that her prior fitness will help in getting her fit for a 25 mile LD? (seems the first logical goal)

    I have no experience in endurance, but see a lot of parallels with the experience I do have using LSD and keeping horses sound that are working hard. I am curious about the residual effects of prior fitness. Anyone have any thoughts? Thanks!

  • #2
    Being a former eventer, I can tell you that you do have a good start already. While the dressage work will aid the horse in better balance on the trail, there is little parallel elsewhere. Eventing is a lot of jumping in the arena, and short sprints across country on a groomed 2 mile or so course going from fence to fence at a canter/hand gallop. Lots of small, intense efforts.

    Endurance, or even LD, is slower, but longer sustained effort. Figure it is the "roads and tracks" of the old 3 day format. The body is asked to continue at a measure pace for miles.

    You've already built bone, wind, and muscle for the short, intense work. Good! Now you will turn your focus on the "endurance" aspect of getting the heart, body, and mind prepped for a sustained, long effort.


    • #3
      Another thing to think about: it's relative "easy" to get the horse fit enough for endurance, especially just a 25 mile ride, what's a little more difficult is having the horse mentally hold it together with 50-200 other horses out on the trail at the same time; passing, drinking out of creeks, dealing with the craziness of vetchecks, out of control riders bumping into you or cutting you off, etc. Definitely set up some practice sessions with other riders, and train with leap frogging exercises, splitting up and going different directions, holding your horse back while another rider gallops by--on and out of sight, etc
      Windwalker Ridge: Gaited horses, lessons, training, sales


      • Original Poster

        Yes, I am wondering how she will handle the start. I was reading about that and that may be a challenging. She's gone hunting a few times and held it together. I hope that experience may help.


        • #5
          Keeping your horse in the pasture 24/7 is, IMO, one of the best things you can do to help an endurance horse keep some fitness. Some don't and do just fine but that is not how I like my horse to live.

          Depending how out of shape you horse is will tell you how long it is going to take to get it fit again. Start out with a short trail ride and see how he is after. Walking is an amazing workout for horses without stressing joints! It doesn't do much for Cardio though. Find some hills, walk, trot, and canter them. It sounds like you know your horse and will be able to tell it is ready for an LD. I say if you can ride 8-10 miles two days in a row and your horse looks good after and the next day then you'd be ready for an LD.

          Not to bad mouth LD's, I've done a few and loved them!! Now I only ride endurance and I've noticed a difference between the two. I've noticed in both, but more in LD's, riders will go flying by you at a canter and in a mile or two they are walking and you end up passing them. Then they fly by you again and you pass them when they are walking...over and over. I was guilty of that when I first started. Now I find it annoying! To not tire the horse a steady pace is a great goal! Try an LD or Endurance, you will love it!!


          • #6
            Originally posted by kcooper View Post
            Yes, I am wondering how she will handle the start. I was reading about that and that may be a challenging. She's gone hunting a few times and held it together. I hope that experience may help.
            In endurance, you're not required to start en masse with everyone else. Just go check in before the start, and then you can take your horse out of sight for a few minutes until the main crowd has left. At most endurance rides, you'll find at least a few people with young or hot horses who prefer a slightly late start.
            RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.


            • #7
              That's a great theory until you realize that several others with green/hot/crazy horses are waiting for the coast to clear as well, then there's multiple horses having anxiety attacks that the herd has "gone" and they have to catch up, then there's the really nutty people with the racing mindset that happened to be late to the start that have to go galloping by, completely oblivious to the fact that your horse is having a meltdown, but by golly, they're going to WIN....I start a lot of new horses (and riders) and have found it to be safest to pair up with a nice horse/rider and just tuck in right behind them, work out your communication ahead of time (panic voice, faster/slower, STOP, hold up a second, etc) and then follow at the back of the main crowd at the start, maybe have stirrups a hole or two shorter than usual (horse will be very "up" at first ride) and be ready for lots of half-halts, maybe some crowhops, etc the first couple miles, then it all settles in. Horses usually sweat a lot from nerves their first couple rides, just keep them at the steady pace, tucked behind the buddy horse. Don't give them any other option until they settle down, start stretching their necks and are rateable and thinking, THEN the ride becomes a ton of fun!
              Windwalker Ridge: Gaited horses, lessons, training, sales


              • #8
                Originally posted by kcooper View Post
                Yes, I am wondering how she will handle the start. I was reading about that and that may be a challenging. She's gone hunting a few times and held it together. I hope that experience may help.
                OOooo! Now, if you'd told me that earlier, I would have said you absolutely had a leg-up on your readiness!

                Hunting is a GREAT way to get a horse used to group starts and stops and going with the gang without going bonkers. Having those staff whips fly by you going the opposite direction ('Ware Whip!!!), or having to give way immediately ("Staff, Please!!" or "Master, Please!" or even more important "Huntsman, Please!!") by pulling off the trail or stopping and turning to face the oncoming Hunt staff/Master/Huntsman, or giving way to a hound ('Ware Hound Left!!" or "'Ware Hound Right") or keeping well back from a running hound that has gotten into the Field while the rest of the field gallops on, the cracking hound whips, the horn, the Huntman's calls to his hounds, the wild-ass "hand onto your hat and pray!" gallops when the Field is flying in a group behind a screaming pack of hounds smoking on a hot line.... ALL this is FABULOUS training for an endurance horse to deal with the ins and outs along the endurance trail.


                My dear, you will have no problem at all at an endurance ride. Even the endurance start will be very ho-hum/yawn after what you experienced in the hunt field.
                Last edited by gothedistance; Apr. 25, 2011, 03:18 PM.


                • Original Poster

                  I will see if I can find a buddy to help out. Halcyon Days advice about just insisting on a steady trot and getting her to focus on a friend makes a lot of sense for this horse. She will latch onto pretty much any 'herdmate' however temporary.

                  I will give the 25 a shot! Seems realistic, like a discipline she will love and there is plenty to learn to keep me entertained for some time

                  I anticipate that no matter what (annoying or not), she will have to trot a million miles an hour for a good 15-20 min at the start and then settle in. She is well schooled and knows to not canter unless asked, but I can't imagine this won't be exciting for her. And, like the event horses, a lot of times better to let them get out a bit of energy and go fast and then settle rather than fight with them, which takes even MORE energy from both of you and frequently results in NO settling! At least I have that experience going for me


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Halcyon Days View Post
                    I start a lot of new horses (and riders) and have found it to be safest to pair up with a nice horse/rider and just tuck in right behind them, work out your communication ahead of time (panic voice, faster/slower, STOP, hold up a second, etc) and then follow at the back of the main crowd at the start, maybe have stirrups a hole or two shorter than usual (horse will be very "up" at first ride) and be ready for lots of half-halts, maybe some crowhops, etc the first couple miles, then it all settles in.
                    Also a good plan, but if you're going to do this, make sure you pick your buddy carefully, and do at least one training ride beforehand if possible to make sure the two of you (and your horses!) have the same ideas.

                    I've had a few "buddy" situations that ended in near disaster, either because the rider's actual plan had nothing to do with her stated plan, or because her horse's gaits were completely incompatible with mine. Even worse than your horse having no buddy is your horse deciding that he's completely attached to a buddy who wants to trot really fast down a steep hill
                    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.


                    • #11
                      You will have a wonderful time!

                      I wrote an article on the whole topic of Riding Your Own Ride.

                      Maybe it will be helpful to you?

                      Here's a link:


                      Good luck! We will expect to get a full report.

                      Have you read anything that Denny Emerson has written about endurance and eventing? He's a huge proponent of eventers cross-training with endurance. He rode one of my horses in a CTR last summer and we spent a lot of time talking about what a good mix the two sports are and the similiarities/differences in succeeding in each.