You have a healthy horse, transportation, a place to ride at where you can collect some miles and want to try endurance riding? I just went through the process of compiling my new endurance gear this past year and here are my “must-haves” for getting started:
#1- A Helmet
Whether you are going from a free-spirited trail rider or from an expensive show helmet made of Titanium it’s really important to wear head protection in Endurance riding. Endurance is different than a relaxing trail ride as majority of the ride is done at a trot. There are also other elements to consider like rocky trails, or low hanging tree branches. Unlike the hunter/jumper horse show scene, a helmet for endurance is fairly inexpensive. It’s also helpful to get a helmet that is lightweight, (you will be wearing it for 6-24 hours a day!) provides plenty of ventilation, and fits well.
My Tipperary wasn’t an expensive purchase, just under $100 in comparison to expensive show jumping helmets.
#2- Ditch the tall boots; get something more comfortable.
One thing that you will not find in endurance is tall boots. The first thing that I got when I decided to switch to endurance riding were my Ariat Terrain Zip H20 boots. I did a 12 mile “Fun Ride” before I officially switched to endurance and could not believe how discomforted I was while wearing paddock boots. It’s very important to find a boot that is shock-absorbing because your feet can and will go numb! It is also common in endurance to have to dismount your horse and walk or run alongside him to give yourself and your horse a bit of a break. Some riders wear athletic shoes with cages on their stirrups, but most riders opt for the Ariat Endurance boots which are very similar to hiking boots.
My Ariat Terrain H20 Zips have lasted me hundreds of miles and I wear them when I hike as well.
#3- Comfort Stirrups & Seat Saver
When I did the Fun Ride last year I rode in my dressage saddle and irons. I did not know this would be a problem considering I have spent hours in the saddle in other disciplines. However, with endurance riding you can go hours posting the trot and not realize how uncomfortable that can end up being. I had searing pain in my ankles, and my toes went numb from only riding 12 miles. The other thing you may need is a seat saver, sheepskin cover, or a gel seat added. Being in the saddle for hours at a time can be uncomfortable to the point where you bum is sore. I had a friend who rode in a western saddle during a 30 mile ride and she immediately decided to purchase an endurance saddle after that ride. I ended up deciding to go all out and purchase a Tucker Endurance Saddle that features a “Gel-Cush” seat and “Ergobalance Trail Glide” stirrups.
I love my saddle so much it’s sickening. I bought it off Ebay brand new and fell in love with the black leather and brass heart conchos.
#4 Riding Tights
Unlike other English disciplines, endurance riders steer clear of breeches and jeans. Most riders wear Kerrits or Irideon riding tights that provide seamless comfort and eliminate chafing. Some riders even wear athletic tights.
I actually have Lululemon tights on in this picture.
#5 Hoof Protection
In America, endurance riding takes place in fairly rocky and difficult terrain and especially here in Arizona. It took me some time and some trial and error but my 16hh Thoroughbred mare needed a more rugged set of shoes than just steel. She is now comfortable and happy being ridden in Easy Shoe Performance N/G shoes. My mare is confident now about going up and down steep and rocky terrain. Another common option is to leave your horse barefoot and use boots
Annabel currently wears the Easy Shoe Performance N/Gs (not shown) and has a pair of Renegades as spares. I would eventually like to have her barefoot and use the Renegades all the time.
#6 A HiTie System for your trailer
Camping is a part of endurance riding and it is rare to be stabled at a base camp that has corrals or stalls. You can tie your horse directly to your trailer, but I felt bad that my mare couldn’t walk around and was worried she’d get tangled up in the middle of the night while I slept. I had a “HiTie” system by Easy Care installed on the side of my horse trailer. My mare now has a 13’ diameter and can comfortably graze, lie down, and roll. I’ve been using one this whole season and have never had any problems with it.
Annabel loves being on the Hi-Tie.
Comfort is key when it comes to Endurance. At my first ride, I gawked at the idea of having to wear running shoes while riding, riding tights and putting sheepskin on my saddle (fashion before comfort-not!). I spent years in Show Jumping and Eventing looking trendy in my breeches and button-ups but notice how my “Must-Haves” are for the comfort of myself and my mare? Spending a little bit of money on these things are a great way to get started on successfully, and the least painful way to get through a ride.
What were your “must-haves” when you switched to Endurance?