FEI Endurance European Championship 2023 Ermelo

Endurance is for everyone

Written by Jacob Melissen

Of all equestrian disciplines, endurance is still the least known. That’s a shame because it is one of the only equestrian sports that can be practiced by horses and ponies of all breeds and by riders of all ages.

Photo by: Jacob Melissen

This discipline is often compared to the “Elfstedentocht”, a Dutch long distance iceskating event. In itself that seems logical because this monster journey of 200 kilometers on ice skates can be compared with the journey of 160 kilometers that riders and horses cover in one day. Just as the ice skaters who start in the Elfstedentocht have prepared doing shorter distances, the combinations that start in the 160 kilometer long ride on horseback also first started in competitions over much shorter distances.

Competitions over 20, 40, 60, 90 and 120 kilometers are organized. In these competitions one must first have started and of course finished before being allowed to start the highest level: the 160 kilometer event.

Photo by: Jacob Melissen

There is one big similarity in competitions over all distances and that is that the welfare and well-being of the horse is guaranteed by veterinarians. Before the start of each competition, the horses are vet checked. These veterinarians check the soundness, temperature, muscle tone, heartrate and hydration levels of the horse. The same thing happens at the inspections during the rest periods, because on rides longer than 30 kilometers there are rest periods where veterinarians carefully check whether the horse can and may start the next loop. Even after crossing the finish line there is a strict veterinary inspection.

The wonderful thing about the endurance sport on horseback is that the routes almost always lead through beautiful terrains of great scenic value. As a result, for many people, riding an endurance competition is an alternative to a nice ride in a completely new environment. As an endurance rider, you not only get to know your horse very well, you also learn to listen to the signals that your horse gives you. For example, after 15 kilometers a horse can indicate that you can ask for a little more pace, while a little later you will receive a “signal” that you should take it easy.

Another attractive part of this discipline is that you can choose to cover the distance in a group, or do it all by yourself with your horse, being completely free to choose your pace. You can even stop if you want. That freedom, that bond with your horse: nowhere do you experience that more strongly than in the endurance sport!

Photo by: Jacob Melissen

In walk, trot or canter riding along fields and meadows, through woods and over the heather, as an endurance rider you experience the truth of the saying that heaven on earth lies on the back of a horse.

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