Successful endurance riders know what it takes to keep themselves and their horses comfortable and safe on long, challenging rides. In this article, we share valuable tips to help you select the right gear and develop smart habits for the best endurance racing experience. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 1. Wear Riding Tights
- 2 2. Use Biothane Tack
- 3 3. Dress In Layers
- 4 4. Dress Right For The Weather
- 5 5. Wear Comfortable Shoes Or Boots
- 6 6. Wear Half-chaps
- 7 7. Always Wear A Helmet, Even For Short Rides
- 8 8. Be Sure Your Saddle Is Properly Fitted
- 9 9. Monitor Your Horse’s Back
- 10 10. Keep Your Horse Comfortable
- 11 11. Adjust Your Stirrups As Needed
- 12 12. Use A Seat Cover
- 13 13. Invest In A High Quality Saddle Pad
- 14 14. Use A Crupper
- 15 15. Use A Breastcollar
- 16 16. Hang A Sponge On Your Breastcollar
- 17 17. Choose Your Saddlebags Carefully
- 18 18. Bring Durable Snacks
- 19 19. Bring A Canteen
- 20 20. Be Prepared For Emergencies
- 21 21. Let Your Horse Drink
- 22 22. Let Your Horse Graze
- 23 23. Keep Yourself Cool
1. Wear Riding Tights
Even though some riding jeans are made of more stretchy materials and do have very flat seams, riding tights are better. They are made of a blend of cotton and spandex that moves with you, wicks away moisture and helps control your temperature in both hot and cold weather. This modern riding apparel comes in a vast array of dazzling colors (which you can coordinate with your horse’s tack) or you can go for a more traditional look with basic black, navy or khaki colors.
2. Use Biothane Tack
Biothane is a synthetic material that comes is a vast array of gorgeous colors (including traditional ones)is easy to clean and lasts forever.
A colorful halter/bridle combo made of biothane makes every aspect of riding easier. The combination of halter and bridle means you don’t have to change your horse’s headstall during breaks on the trail. You carry less, and cleaning it is a breeze. It can be rinsed off with the hose and hung to dry, or you can even toss the whole thing (including the bit) into the dishwasher for a good wash.
3. Dress In Layers
It’s better to have many layers that you can peel off or put on as needed than to have a big heavy coat. A cotton T-shirt with a longer sleeved shirt and a light jacket over it provide good protection and the ability to control your temperature. It’s also a good idea to take along a lightweight rain poncho, cowboy hat, or coat in case of showers.
4. Dress Right For The Weather
If you are riding in cold weather, be sure to wear enough of the right kinds of layers to keep your body warm, and invest in good thermal gloves and socks to keep your fingers and toes warm. Other ways to keep your extremities warm include using finger and toe warmers and simply getting off and walking from time-to-time to enhance your circulation.
5. Wear Comfortable Shoes Or Boots
For long rides, your footwear should be as comfortable and supportive as the best walking shoes. Try comfortable cowboy boots – you’ll need plenty of width for the ball of your foot, wiggle room for your toes, good arch support and a sturdy sole with a bit of a heel to prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup. You should always be prepared to walk a long distance.
6. Wear Half-chaps
This handy item protects your inner calves from being rubbed raw against your horse’s sweaty sides. They also keep your pants and your ankles dry.
7. Always Wear A Helmet, Even For Short Rides
Modern riding helmets are light weight, comfortable and cool in every sense of the word. Your helmet should be SEI certified and ASTM approved. You never know when your horse might shy or even fall. It only takes a moment to suffer a serious head injury.
8. Be Sure Your Saddle Is Properly Fitted
Both you and your horse must be entirely comfortable with your saddle. The tree must fit the horse properly, and the seat must fit you properly. A badly fitted saddle can cause both you and your horse physical injury, joint and bone pain and behavioral problems. Many endurance riders (and horses) prefer a treeless saddle for a natural, comfortable fit.
9. Monitor Your Horse’s Back
Two hours after you’ve finished a ride, check to see if your horse is experiencing any back pain. Just press down on the saddle area with your fingertips and see how he reacts. Check again the next day. If he is experiencing any bruising, he will feel it more then.
10. Keep Your Horse Comfortable
You don’t have to tighten your girth as tightly as possible. Even though we are taught to do this as children, it’s important to remember that grown people are stronger than children. It is possible to tighten the girth too much. Make it snug (so that you can slip two fingers under it) and check it from time-to-time to be sure it hasn’t loosened.
11. Adjust Your Stirrups As Needed
Adjust your stirrups as needed, or just kick your feet out of the stirrups if you need to. On a long ride, holding your legs in the same position the whole way can cause a lot of pain. Move the stirrups up or down as you need to, and get off and walk from time-to-time to give yourself and your horse a break.
12. Use A Seat Cover
Adding extra padding to the seat of your saddle helps make it more comfortable for the long haul. Check your local tack shop or online for cushy gel or sheepskin seats that will fit your saddle.
13. Invest In A High Quality Saddle Pad
Your saddle should fit properly, and a quality saddle pad should help wick moisture away from your horse’s back, distribute your weight evenly and provide some air circulation under the saddle.
14. Use A Crupper
Use a crupper to hold your saddle steady when you ride downhill. This is another case in which synthetic materials are better than leather. A soft crupper made of biothane is nice looking, easy to clean and comfortable for your horse.
15. Use A Breastcollar
Use a breastcollar to hold your saddle in place on uphill rides. A biothane breastcollar is lightweight, easy-clean and attractive. It also gives you a good place to hang small items you may need.
16. Hang A Sponge On Your Breastcollar
You can use this to cool your horse off on very hot rides.
17. Choose Your Saddlebags Carefully
Make sure the saddlebags you choose will stay put and won’t flop around while you are riding. Bouncy saddlebags are uncomfortable for you and your horse.
18. Bring Durable Snacks
Even with non-bouncy saddlebags, your snacks will take a beating. Bring nuts, hard candy, jerky, granola bars and the like. Avoid fresh fruit – especially bananas and mangos.
19. Bring A Canteen
Even if you are only going for a short ride, bring water. For long rides in hot weather, you’ll need eight ounces of water per hour. If you are carrying individual bottles of water, freeze some of them before you set out so that they will still be cool later in the day. Remember to bring electrolyte supplements as well.
20. Be Prepared For Emergencies
Create a safety and first aid kit containing:
- Easyboots (at least one) for your horse
- Basic first aid supplies
- Fire making supplies
- A hoof pick
- Glow sticks
- Duct tape
- Vet wrap
- A whistle
- A knife
Think of where you are going, and be prepared to hike out and or camp if needed.
What To Bring On Endurance Rides: Horse Edition
21. Let Your Horse Drink
Even though overheated horses should drink sparingly, if your horse is in proper condition for the ride and you are not overdoing it, you should allow him to drink as much as he wants when he has the chance.
22. Let Your Horse Graze
Likewise, your horse needs to keep his strength up, so let him graze when the opportunity presents itself. Fresh grass contains electrolytes, and that’s very important for an endurance horse.
23. Keep Yourself Cool
Soak a bandanna in water and tie it loosely around your neck to stay cool. Look into cooling neck bands, helmet liners and vests made of a miracle synthetic fabric to help keep you cool.