As its name implies, the discipline of endurance tests a horse’s fitness and stamina, and a rider’s horsemanship skills, in a long-distance competitive format where the condition of the horse is paramount. Recognized endurance competitions can be 50-, 75- or 100-miles long, and all are held in a 24-hour period. Courses are cross-country and can include natural obstacles such as ditches, creeks, and thickly forested hillsides. Strict controls and rules are in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of competing horses. Competitions can be divided by weight divisions (rider plus tack) to ensure a level playing field, and veterinary check-points are placed at various locations throughout a course to ensure that the horses are sound and fit enough to continue to the next stage.
Since the primary objective of an endurance ride is its completion, all competitors crossing the finish line are awarded. Additional ranked placings are earned by the horse and rider teams finishing the course in the best times, and there are usually awards given to the best conditioned horses. Endurance rides are held all over the United States and in exotic locales all across the world. The discipline gained international recognition by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) in 1978, and the first World Championship event was held in 1986.
Rather than celebrating its heritage by simply looking into the past, endurance riding in the United States routinely revisits its history with many of its competitions taking place on historic trails, such as the Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and the Lewis and Clark Trail. In addition to providing a challenging athletic endeavor for both recreational riders and those with international competitive aspirations, endurance rides promote the importance of open-space preservation for future generations and a continuing appreciation for our American heritage.