Endurance riding in focus
The Irish Long Distance Riding Association (ILDRA) organises numerous long-distance riding events throughout Ireland each year.
Most rides involve a Pleasure Ride for both members and non-members, normally of about eight miles.
Competitive Trail Rides are run over a number of distances, starting from 20 miles for members. Some events also feature Endurance Races, which start at 50 miles and are for experiences horses and riders only.
The Endurance Rides present the toughest challenges, where riders are competing against each other, rather than the clock. The highest level of competition is the 160km (100-mile) endurance ride, the International Senior championship distance.
Endurance riding is a uniquely competitive challenge and regarded as the supreme sport for learning about equine fitness. Veterinary checks before and after competitive rides -- and in the middle, too, for longer distances -- ensures the best possible care of your horse is taken and any problems can be picked up earlier rather than later.
As a rider, you learn more about the way your horse functions and how to regulate your riding to suit conditions that will affect the way your horse behaves and how it presents to the vet. Key factors for riders to assess are the terrain, the weather and the route.
Your job as an endurance rider is to assess your ride, read your map, decide on your tactics, plot your directions and work out where your back-up crew will meet you on long rides.
The sport is known for its camaraderie and the ILDRA is happy to put you in touch with a more experienced rider who can advise you. The organisation also stages talks, seminars and demonstrations across the regions.
Perhaps the best reason of all for taking up endurance riding is the partnership built up with your horse over many miles of new riding ground. You guide your horse and it carries you. It has to trust you to lead it back home, and you have to trust it to get you there, forging a relationship between rider and horse that is hard to equal in any other sport.
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