Endurance riding – a non-Olympic FEI discipline – currently the fastest growing of the entire equestrian sports around the world, second only to Jumping in number of competitions.
Endurance riding is a true test of speed, soundness and good horsemanship. The origins of Endurance riding in North America relate back to the time when the US Cavalry tested its horses on a five-day, 300-mile (483 km) ride, each carrying over 200 lbs (91 kg). It became a competitive sport when Wendell Robie traced the Pony Express route from Nevada to California in less than 24 hours. In 1982, when the FEI approved Endurance riding as an official discipline, there were only 4 international rides. The number reached 300 in 2004 and today well over 400 FEI Endurance events are held world-wide, nearly one third of all FEI competitions. The minimum distance for a one day competition is between 40 and 160 km -- FEI 1* to FEI 3* events. FEI 4* events represent the premier competitions -- the World Endurance Championships, the World Equestrian Games, the Pan American Championships and Continental Championships, including Junior and Young Rider divisions. The World Endurance Championship in 2008 will be held in Malaysia, November 6-9.
In addition to FEI competitions, local and national events are held across Canada and the United States. These are managed by the provincial/regional/state Endurance organizations, and are represented nationally by the Endurance Canada Committee of Equine Canada and the American Endurance Ride Conference. In Canada, rides are recognized right across the country, from British Columbia to the Atlantic region. The Canadian National Championships were held in Alberta, July 30-August 4, 2008.
Endurance riding involves a horse and rider team, completing a set course of up to 160 kms, with maximum times assigned to each distance, within a 24-hour period. Multi-day rides are becoming increasingly popular in North America, offering 2 to 5 days of competitions, each day being considered as an independent, separate contest. Any breed of horse can be used for endurance riding although Arabians and part-Arabians bred for centuries for stamina and endurance have proven to be the most successful breeds.
Riders aim to finish the course as quickly as possible with a “sound”, healthy horse. Welfare of the horse is paramount. There are multiple veterinary checks along each course at which horses receive a soundness exam to ensure that they are fit to continue.
Excessive fatigue, signs of lameness and other indications of problems may lead to elimination from the competition. The challenge in Endurance lies in preparing both horse and rider for the long, arduous competition. Endurance horses must be fit and sound, but also obedient to their riders. Pace and strategy also play an important role, influenced by the level of difficulty of the course based on terrain, technicality and climate.
Endurance Canada is a newly-formed committee of the Sport Council of Equine Canada. The mandate is to manage and coordinate all programs, services and activities relating to the sport discipline of Endurance, from grassroots to international, meeting the policy guidelines of Equine Canada, Sport Canada and the Federation d’Equestre Internationale (FEI).Endurance Canada publishes an e-newsletter monthly for affiliate members, alternating between ‘international’ and ‘general’ news. The International Sub-committee of Endurance Canada has developed a nomination and selection process for FEI Championship events, and Endurance teams representing Canada have competed in many countries around the world. Annually, the Awards and Recognition Sub-committee acknowledges the Top Canadian Junior and Senior riders, as well as other outstanding individuals who contribute tirelessly to the sport. Endurance Canada Executive members sit on several of the Equine Canada/Sport Council committees: International, Competitions, Veterinary, Athlete’s Council and Welfare of the Horse.