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How Do You Evaluate an Endurance Prospect?

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  • How Do You Evaluate an Endurance Prospect?

    OK -- let's say you are shopping for an endurance prospect -- middle level competition prospect where you plan on doing some 50's, some XP rides, maybe afew 100's.
    Not allowed to get a horse that has already done endurance.
    How would you evaluate the horse? What criteria would you use? What would you be willing to take a risk on, and what would be absolute deal-breakers?
    Be as detailed as you can be -- stuff like size, age, breed, conformation (what MUST you have, what can take or leave?), heart rate, pedigree, attitude, etc.

    Lastly, has a horse ever totally surprised you in either their ability in the sport or their LACK of ability when you thought for sure you had a world-beater? (geeze...I was sure Blaze would have been good at this...who knew she has a deathly fear of lycra?).

  • #2
    So when I got Seabiscuit I thought he'd be good for endurance, great arab Russian bloodlines. But conformation wise, he interferes in the rear, on the insides of both legs, after about 30 miles. He still spooks really bad. I gave him to a well known endurance rider, and even after 8 months she hasn't been able to move him along.

    So I guess I'd be wary of old splints, that should have told me something.

    Also be able to ride the horse away from his home area. My was calm at his home, but a nut once I got him to min.

    The above endurance rider I gave him to got a skinny arab off Craig's list for next to nothing and he's done great. I think its luck to a degree.
    There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


    • #3
      I think soundness, the ability to recover, and attitude are probably numbers one through three on a shopping list for an average endurance horse. Being an old lady, I also need to add, "dead-broke" at the top of the list. You really need all three (or four in my case). You need a beast who loves to see what's around the next corner; you might not be able to tell at first however that he has this quality.

      Be aware that these qualities come in many different packages. We have marveled at how our "ring" horses have eventually turned out to love the trails. Sometimes I think they like "applying what they learned in the ring" to real life; for instance our speed jumper who could turn on a dime loves technical trails. Many people go with Arabs and that's a good choice - cheap, short, and many of them have the qualities you need. They seem to have very good recoveries but some don't. That's not the only choice but if I were starting fresh I would look at an Arab or Arab cross. That said, looking in our backyard I found a horse who after years in dressage turned out to have amazing recoveries and who lived for hills. He was a 20 yr old big ole Hanoverian.

      If you take care of the horse, he should last a good long time. Don't be afraid of an older horse with a bit more sense. Also, be sure you get a horse you enjoy riding. He's going to be your buddy and your solace; you need to like him at least eventually.


      • #4
        Hi - there was a similar thread on here a few months ago, can't think of the title tho.
        OK, Number One: soundness is non-negotiable!
        A low standing HR around 30 is good.
        Relaxed carriage.
        Good clean legs, nice naturally balanced hooves.
        Look for a lean muscled horse that is also a good doer.
        Not too tall - 15hh would be my max.
        Beauty is a bonus extra - it's what's between the ears that counts
        Arabs or anglos and morgans are arguably the best bet .
        It takes a few years to make a good endurance horse about 5-6 years of age is good.
        Check that the prior owner hasn't forced it if it has already competed (read the log book carefully for frequency of rides and distances covered, and vet comments).
        Look into the bloodlines - are any of it's relatives doing endurance?
        Ideally you want one that is ready to start out on shorter rides, but realise that you may have to condition it yourself. Endurance horses require different legging up than other disciplines.
        Establish good ground covering steady gaits - trotting is best, so look at this when you're buying and be prepared to develop consistency over the miles.
        You can expect it to act up at first what with all the excitement of a ride, but a good endurance horse will get it's head around all that after 4-5 outings. Some horses will always be eager to go though, so you might have to go with that if it's a good horse.When it knows the business it will drop its HR very quickly when you cross the line and the saddle comes off.
        You want it to be forward in attitude and able to look after itself - an experienced endurance horse knows it's going to be out there for a long time and will pace itself, slowing down when tired and picking up the pace again automatically.

        I've got a darn nice little arab mare: just turned 9, 14.2hh, shortcoupled, fine boned and sharp as a tack. Standing HR 32. We are in our 4th full season have mostly done 25 and 50 milers. She knows her job, looks after herself (and me). Barefoot. Doesn't lose condition after a hard ride.
        No vet-outs in 25 starts.
        HR last Sunday 77 over the line, 51 in vet ring just over 5 mins later. CRI 51/53. 40k (25 miles) in 2.15 over big rolling hills. Her best 40 so far was 2.03 over flatter ground. Maybe we'll make 20kph one day.
        Last edited by wendybird; Nov. 3, 2009, 10:05 PM. Reason: Missed out fact.


        • #5
          Sorry! This is long!!

          Buying a prospect is a crapshoot. This is what I look for:

          *SOUNDNESS!- No question here, absolutely not negotiable. I have purchased with and without xrays, but my next purchase will include a full set of xrays (hubby is a vet so it isn't a big deal). Endurance isn't a question of "if" it is a question of "when." Meaning after enough miles, the horse will break down. It will break down quicker (generally) if the horse has certain issues to begin with. I want maximum mileage, dammit!

          *Straight, straight legs- people will argue till they are blue in the face that such-and-such has done 10,000 miles with crooked legs or a club foot but I will not start with a problem. Endurance is hard enough on the horses as it is, that starting with a problem usually ends in heartbreak.

          *Balanced, strong feet- I have a bonefide foot obsession I have also had an extremely talented horse get retired at the age of 13 due to navicular. He had high/low front feet and lots of use as a youngster.

          *Upbringing- This is a big deal- I want a pasture raised, late started pony. I broke this rule this summer when I bought a 3 yr. old already started, but I liked the horse that much.

          *Conformation- LONG legs, short cannons, good bone, deep heart girth (VERY important)- I like a tiny bit of a long back because they tend to be smoother and I am a FW so it isn't that big of a deal. I like a lighter-built horse, although not a hard-keeper. One in the middle, I am small so a big-bodied horse tends to be harder to ride. That said, I like tall DEEP HEARTGIRTH

          *Gait- This is a new deal for me. I am absolutely devastated because my gelding was just diagnosed with early signs of arthritis in his knee after mine and his first pull this weekend He hits the ground fairly hard, and wings the tiniest bit on the leg affected. I will not buy anything ever again that has any gait anomaly or that hits the ground hard. My baby has a swinging, effortless gait and lands so softly on his feet. Mile after mile, this is a BIG deal.

          *Attitude/personality- Bold but respectful, independent but friendly, I don't necessarily discount a spooky horse because in many cases it just means the horse is under-socialized or hasn't been exposed to much. I look at how the horse responds to the spook and how they recovery from it. I like a sensible horse, one that if he gets scared, will come down quickly and look to me for reassurance. I want something naturally quiet but always alert. So much can be changed by experience but an idiot will usually always be an idiot!

          *Bloodlines- I haven't ever put much into it, but I recently got an endurance-bred mare, and did 205 miles on her at a 5-day multiday. I couldn't have been more impressed with her, and think her breeding has something to do with it. I adore that mare!

          I don't care much for heart rate at this point in time, considering the fact that proper conditioning will usually rectify that situation. Can't think of much else but I am probably forgetting something!


          • #6
            I would prefer to buy one from the age of 2-5, unbroke or green broke. I'd look for a horse that I just overall like the look of- I dont have too many "rules".

            I like Arabs or Arab crosses with a long stride and one that pushes more from a powerful hind end as opposed to being on the forehand. Thats a big one to me, maybe the biggest! I think it makes them better climbers too.

            My gelding who is terrific has crooked legs- interferes in the front and has to wear boots. He also has an old splint. It has not affected his soundness and he is 14 now, but I wouldnt purposedly buy one with crooked legs. I also agree about hitting the ground hard being bad. I think a lot of this has to do with more being on the forehand. My gelding really just floats- even though he interferes. I love the way he moves.

            I dont mind spooking. Of course I like a horse that likes to go, but thats kind of hard to measure when you are looking at a greenie. Definitely nice to have a horse that is people-oriented.

            I prefer to buy cheap diamonds in the rough, "craigslist" horses but I have seen some gorgeous horses that were bred for the sport so that would be nice if I wasnt so frugal and into making my own.


            • #7
              I forgot to mention hill reared, it's up there with soundness.
              A youngster that runs on hills for 4 years will have great legs, and good heart/lung capacity. Endurance horses here tend to be brought in at 4 or 5 and then broken. Some will breed from mares before they start.

              Trotting is largely learnt, and the more you do the stronger the strength in the hind end. My new boy is just learning to push himself along - it's exciting to feel the progress because when I got him he could hardly trot at all - always wanted to canter.
              Oh, something else: don't believe claims of a horse's breeding or performance unless it can be verified in records. Which is not to say that an undocumented horse is no good, but there are some awful liars out there.


              • #8
                agree with what everyone's posted so far, wanted to add: MUST EAT! Anything, anywhere, finish up every meal, clean up all hay the night before a ride, gobbles up cooking/carrots when offered--after dealing with a couple distracted wanna-be anorexic type horses (yes, were treated for ulcers too) I'm just not interested in hysterical, distracted, attention deficit type horses. I want them happy on the trail, and pigs when food is available
                Windwalker Ridge: Gaited horses, lessons, training, sales


                • #9
                  I'm not a huge endurance rider. A handfull of 25LDs and 2 50's. In addition to the qualities mentioned above, I would have to say look at the movement of the horse. If it uses it's hind end well (active with good pushing power, steps far underneath himself), built slightly up hill, then the horse should cover good ground, go far distances and stay sound over the long run. Remember the horse's motor is in the back.


                  • #10
                    I am a newbie to this sport so please bare with me. What if the horse was a hunter/jumper is he a good prospect for endurance?


                    • #11
                      Hi India:

                      Most horses can manage a 25 miler. You could assess your horse based on the comments in this thread. You could seek out a local endurance person and ask their opinion.

                      You could try him out and see how he goes. (I started out on a standard-bred mare. She had a super huge trot but after about 15 miles would stop. She didn't see the point of going any further, 25 miles was to her a real drag.)

                      I tell folks to try the sport on their present horse - they need to enjoy it themselves, and you don't know how the horse will go until you try. Sometimes all people want is to do the course and enjoy the country, and never want to do any great distances or be particularly competitive.

                      There is a lot to learn about endurance - how to keep your horse in good condition, sound and ready to run over a long season. And how to get yourself fit to ride long hours at speed so you don't interfere with the horse's ability to go the distance.

                      Have a go! Contact your local club and find out what you need to do. Most endurance people are very approachable and willing to help a newbie.


                      • #12
                        Wendybird, perfect response! I like to look at endurance (or other horse sports) as something to try with your horse. You may even find that your hunter/jumper is crazy about endurance and does swell at the sport, as I found with my big Hanoverian. If a horse has basic training in the arena and is healthy, go ahead and try a few LDs. Be careful though; you and he may decide you don't want to go back to the ring.

                        Incidentally India, TBs have a fairly respectable record in endurance.


                        • #13
                          Here's what I look for.

                          Mare - full arab
                          7-9 years old
                          Broke, but not used much
                          under 15 hands

                          If they meet that criteria I go out and look at them.

                          I start at the hoof and work my way upwards. The further down the list and up the horse I go, the more negotiable I am.

                          *Good strong hoof, nice size

                          *clean legs, proportional

                          *cannons not too long

                          *nice shoulder

                          *short back

                          *good angled hinquarters

                          *Large heart girth, nice wither

                          *srong loin attachment

                          *well set neck, not too skinny

                          Then I have some one trot them out and look at the way of going. I'm OK with travelling close on the hinds as long as their isn't as the flight of each hoof is normal and straight - no winging out.

                          Then I mount up. Try them in teh round pen first, then the arena, then let them rip on the trail (i'm lucky that all the horses I looked at had trail access near their homes).

                          Here's how it worked with my current endurance horse:

                          REALLY nice hoof, great heart girth, back, neck. Excellent shoulder. Weak hindquarters and loin attachment, travels close in the hind, but straight. Not great in the roundpen, but tried. Willing in the arena, but again not ideal. On the trail - OMG incredible. Has the feel, the look, and the aura of an ENDURANCE horse. Controllable, forward, no-nonsense, let's go, careful and sane.

                          I've never regreted it. She's a hundred mile horse and I got incredibly lucky in finding her. Called up her breeder after I looked at her pedigree....and found out that she was the "one that got away". Had a buy back clause, but never was contacted etc etc. Breeder wants her back if I ever want to sell or lease.

                          My bottom line - get a horse that will do "OK" based on confirmation and then go with personality and drive/work ethic.
                          Check out my blog!

                          AERC miles: 740 and counting!


                          • #14
                            The truth of the matter is, with endurance, you won't know whether you have a keeper or not till you do it.

                            Like others have said there are the obvious conformation details straight moving being way high up there.

                            A friend is looking for a new endurance horse and is on his second horse. First one wasn't moving straight and would interfere at around 40 miles at every endurance ride and get pulled.

                            Second one was sold as an 'endurance horse' and had done some 25's and a 50 so he thought 'Great!'. Horse knows nothing, refused to go up hills, would throw tantrums etc etc.

                            I honestly think, until you get them out there you just don't know whether they have 'heart' or not.

                            My trainers FEI quality horse is the butt ugliest thing you have ever seen. Sat out in her field for 7 years unbroke and got brought in to get broke for a school horse. Took the mare out on some conditioning rides and this mare is TOP international quality mare, she has so much heart that she keeps going and keeps trying, HR comes down fast, never pulls up lame etc etc. This is a horse most poeple would never look twice at if buying.

                            Endurance horses are unique in that manner, appearances can be deceiving.
                            I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.


                            • #15
                              1. Purebred Arab only
                              2. No ewed necks, high set only
                              3. Low hocks, no post legs
                              4. No Polish lines, Russian are doing well, and so are Egyptian and Crabbet
                              5. No Cribber, or horse with ulcers
                              6. Very flat mover (smooth, not much lifting of the back at the trot)
                              7. Old enough to test ride to see if you suit well with the horse, and whether you fit the horse with your body.
                              8. Bold attitude, not a sissy
                              9. No flat halter butt
                              10. No halter lines, but proven arab performance lines- iow all horses are pretty, but it takes brains, stamina, bone, good working body, good drive, trainability to do endurance.
                              11. Good eater
                              12. Very friendly
                              13. Matching neck and hip angles
                              14. NO CLUB FOOTS

                              There are exceptions to the rule, and every horse is an individual.

                              Deal breakers for me, and I won't even look at a horse. In order of importance.

                              Polish lines, or too high of a concentration up close
                              Straight shoulder
                              Ewed Neck
                              Halter butt
                              Club foot
                              High hocks



                              • #16
                                Thanks for the info.


                                • Original Poster

                                  There is SO much good information here -- do you think we should ask the Mods to make it into a sticky?


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Kyzteke View Post
                                    There is SO much good information here -- do you think we should ask the Mods to make it into a sticky?
                                    That's a great idea!


                                    • #19
                                      What I look for is fairly specific.

                                      4 years or under
                                      Not particular about gender however
                                      Must be sound (full PPE)
                                      Conformation must be relatively good- I've seen very few perfect horses, I can live with certain faults not others.
                                      Conformation wise - clean, straight legs/ strong loin/perfer a shorter back, but is' not a deal breaker.
                                      Where they've been raised. - I don't buy stall babies- I look for rough tough outdoor horses.

                                      Doesn't have to be purebred Arab.in fact I tend towards hybrids for my own personal competition horses. More vigor/less issues and just as competitive. In fact manay of the top horses now a days are Arab with a little something mixed in.

                                      Temperament- Here's where it gets sticky on a young horse. What you see at 4 and under isn't necessarily what the mature horse is going to be like.

                                      Also you need to take into account the riders' temperament. Are you willing to work with a horse that makes you want to shoot them with a gun every time you ride them for a year or two? etc. What is the end result you are looking for, a ready to go, smart, independent thinking horse who is forward/bold and capable of saving not only his ass but yours in a bad situation, are you looking for a horse you can take to a few rides a year, and be a steady eddy, the list is endless.

                                      I personally tend to look for a very strong dominate temperament in a young horse. At this age, it usually coincides with hot/flightly or obnoxiously ill mannered (not always) But in my experience quite often. and it does take time to channel all that into the right direction.
                                      Originally posted by ExJumper
                                      Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


                                      • #20
                                        It also depends on what type of endurance you are doing. If you are looking to top ten and seriously compete, you have to look at a lot of factors.

                                        But otherwise I think you have a wide variety to choose from. I know two people personally who have completed Tevis on a QH-nowhere near the top ten! Another friend of mine does endurance on her Arab. Pretty much finishes dead last each time. Once she finished a 50 in 11 hr something-almost was timed out. But usually does it in 8-11 hrs. She was only going to do LD and then horse got fit and so now she is doing 50s and just having a blast.

                                        If speed and placing top ten is not your thing, then you have a much wider choice. 100s and/or if you are really competing, you need a real good horse. I rode with a few riders for their training rides. Serious ones and I got bored. But that is just me-I am more a hippie type who hates structure. If you are training for the top level, that requires incredible discipline. I crewed for a few 100s and boy was that work-just not my thing-I ride horses to relax and wind down! So I switched to just plain old trail riding. This I do whatever I wan't and at any speed I wan't and just have fun. If I get back, I might do it like my friend who does some really slow 50s .

                                        Another of my friend's is just starting 50s and her aim is just 8hrs. She just enjoys the ride. Most do have Arabs or some sort of cross, but if your aim is slower and enjoyable rides, I think a lot of horses will fill. You still have to look at their body muscle types-no halter QH types!- but otherwise you have a wide latitude. I know someone who does it on their mule!

                                        I might start that and fox hunting. I am away from my horse for a few months now. I am also thinking of gaited horse-kinda of thinking Peruvian(they do have a higher incidence of leg problems but are smooth, and I do know quite a few who have made it to their twenties just fine) and apparantely there is a Brazilian breed called Mangalarga of which I have no personal experience, just read about or maybe if I can find one, one of those old school MFT or TWH and start maybe 25 or even work up to a 50 in a few years. My girl is 16 now and while some do compete them, I love her too much and don't wan't to hurt her at this age. She still thinks she is 4 and just goes and goes and I really don't wan't to push her.