Getting started in endurance - how fit does my horse need to be?

Firstly, if you’ve made it to this page, it’s probably because you want to get started in endurance riding. Or, you are at least thinking about it. So a big welcome! Endurance is the friendliest sport you will come across. Whilst preparing for your first ride may feel daunting, it really needn’t be. It really is so much fun and you’ll be surprised to learn just how easy it is to get involved at the lower distances. The chances are, your horse is probably already fit enough to complete 30km and even sometimes 40 km endurance rides (assuming your horse is sound and well).

How? Horses are such a superior athletes to us and in the wild would naturally travel around 30 km a day. So if your horse is already in work, be that only three days a week, it is more than likely that as long as you take it steady you would be able to complete a 30 km ride, without changing your training routine at all.

If your horse is already working, say four or five days a week , and you know that you can maintain trot or canter for a fair while. Then you can probably already do a 40 km ride!

It’s a really surprising fact, I think a lot of people assume that you’ll need to do loads of extra training to do endurance. Whilst this is absolutely the case for the longer distance, when you’re just starting out it’s, a good idea just to give it a go. And you will often be surprised just how well your horse rises to the challenge.

It’s important to remember you don’t need to practice the full distance at home before doing it on ride day. If you picture yourself a few years down the line training for an 80 km ride, you for sure realise that you can’t practice the same 80 km ride the weekend before. So therefore you have to practice at shorter distances and work on different factors on different rides such as pace, time in the saddle, speed, rhythm, balance and even just general riding skills. For example, being able to maintain your horse in front or behind, manage gates and be safe in traffic.

If I was going to do my first ever 30 km ride, my main focus would be working on a few longer, slower hacks. So say going out for maybe two or even three hour hacks. Not trotting and cantering the whole way by any means at all. Probably mostly in walk, with some trot and canter interspersed to focus on time in the saddle.

On another ride I’d then focus on maintaining more trot and canter, so that will only be 45 minutes or an hour and with a bit less walk involved.

I also factor in a schooling session, whether that be in an arena or on a hack incorporating lots of lateral work and transitions, working on the aids and just generally getting them balanced and powering through from behind.

In summary, I really don’t think you need any specific training plan for 30s and 40s because it really is within the scope of any horse particularly if you ride your horse 3-4 a week already.

But anyway here is a skeleton plan to use as a guide for a first 30km. You may find that you’re already going above and beyond this plan, in which case you are more than ready!

Day 1: Hack

Day 2: Schooling

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: 20mins core in-hand

Day 5: 10km

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: 20mins core in-hand

Day 8: Rest

Day 9: Schooling

Day 10: Rest

Day 11: Hack

Day 12: Rest

Day 13: Rest

Day 14: 20mins core in-hand

Day 15: Interval training ride

Day 16: Rest

Day 17: Rest

Day 18: 20mins core in-hand

Day 19: Rest

Day 20: Schooling

Day 21: Rest

Day 22: Hack

Day 23: Rest

Day 24: 20mins core in-hand

Day 25: 2-3hr slow ride

Day 26: Rest

Day 27: Rest

Day 28: Rest

Day 29: 20mins core in-hand

Day 30: Rest

Day 31: Hack

Day 32: Schooling

Day 33: Rest

Day 34: 20mins core in-hand

Day 35: 10km at ‘race pace’

Day 36: Rest

Day 37: 20mins core in-hand

Day 38: Schooling

Day 39: Rest

Day 40: 20mins core in-hand

Day 45: 30km endurance ride

I should add that this training schedule is based on a horse that is already in some degree of work, not a horse that has been turned away for an extensive period of time or suffering any injury. If your horse has had a lot of time off, of does have any specific injuries it would be worth consulting a coach for a more specific plan. I’d recommend speaking to Maggie of On the Hoof Dt.

Hopefully this blog has given you confidence that your horse is probably already fit enough to give endurance a go!

As usual, any questions feel free to get in touch directly or leave a comment.

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