Dannii Cunnane collects some tips from The Australian Endurance Riders Association to help prepare a rider and an inexperienced horse for its first training ride.
As an introduction to Endurance, the purpose of the Intermediate ride is to introduce newcomers to the sport of endurance without the pressure of a competitive event. The Intermediate ride is non-competitive and is a friendly, low-pressure ride with the focus on a successful completion. It’s assumed however, that the horse that is being trained has had previous trail or riding experience and is not a newly educated horse.
Long and slow distance work is the basis of preparing a novice horse for a training ride. You should plan on riding the horse three to five times per week and allow six weeks to get an inexperienced horse fit for its first 40 kilometre training ride. Always remember that rest is critical to the conditioning of an endurance horse as it allows recovery time from the introduced stresses of training. The training sessions should each be about one hour in length with a longer session of two hours or more included once per week. Over the preparation time this will extend to longer sessions of three to four hours, which aligns with the time the rider should be expecting to complete the 40 kilometre intermediate ride.
Weeks 1 and 2: The horse should be ridden at the walk and slow trot over mainly flat terrain. This is crucial to building strength in the legs and condition the horse for its future training. During this period it is a good idea to teach your horse to walk-out as strongly as possible so that the conditioning effect is maximised and it will also help you to cover more ground later at rides.
The distance of the slow trot section should be increased steadily over the two-week period while decreasing the walk section. For the average horse this will mean covering about 7 to 8 kilometres initially in a one-hour training session and 10 to 12 kilometres in a two-hour training session.
The amount of rest days to be incorporated into the training program will be dependent on the level of fitness of the horse prior to commencing the training. For unfit horses two days of training can be followed by a day of rest. This can be increased to three or four days of work followed by a day of rest.