What is Endurance Riding?
Endurance Riding is a test of the athletic ability of horse and rider over distances of 80 km and greater. The aim of the sport is to promote the highest ideals of horsemanship and sportsmanship.
The sport has been in Australia since 1966. The first Endurance Ride, 160 km in one day, was conducted in the Colo area of NSW. This ride is conducted annually as the National Championship ride, and is named the Tom Quilty Gold Cup ride, after the WA pastoralist who put up the money for the winner's Gold Cup. The idea of starting Endurance Riding in Australia was proposed by a group of Arabian horse breeders in NSW who knew of the famous Tevis Cup Endurance Ride in the USA. Promoted by R.M. Williams through his magazine Hoofs and Horns the idea inspired Quilty, and the traditions of Australian horsemanship were rekindled in this modern age of mechanisation.
From that one ride the sport has grown enormously. Each year across Australia, there were over 100 events of distances from 80 km to 400 km.
Welfare of Horses
The welfare of the horses in the sport is very carefully attended to, with one or more Veterinarians present at every event. The horses are thoroughly checked by the ride Vet before they are allowed to start in the ride. The check includes measurements of the horses' temperature, heart rate and respiration rate, and a full metabolic profile. The horse is also trotted out to confirm its soundness. These checks are done at intervals throughout the ride and at the end of the ride. The horse must pass all checks to successfully complete the ride. If a horse fails any of these Vet checks, it is immediately withdrawn from the event.
Horse and Rider Qualifications
Horses and riders must qualify by riding at a limited speed for a number of rides before open competition. This is to allow horses time to adjust to the rigours of the sport, and is a part of the education process for riders. Training Rides are also provided. These rides are non-competitive and are usually 40 to 60 km. A horse must be five years or older before it can enter an Endurance Ride.
Competition is divided into sections, where the riders' weight or youth is taken into account. Junior section is for riders under 16 years of age, Lightweight section for riders whose weight including saddle and all riding gear is under 73 kg, Middleweight between 73 kg and 91 kg, and Heavyweight over 91 kg. Riders can thus compete against others in their own section, and not be handicapped by riding against a horse carrying much less weight.
The sport is administered by state management committees and is represented at national level by delegates from the states. The committee is responsible for setting a calendar of rides, ensuring that rides are run correctly, horse welfare, maintenance of records, promotion of the sport, and the myriad tasks a state management committee of any sporting body must attend to.
A typical Endurance ride of 80 to 120 km would see competitors from all over the state travel to the venue on Saturday. After setting up camp riders present their horses to the ride Vet for the pre-ride check to ensure the horse is ready to start the ride. On Saturday evening, riders attend a pre-ride briefing, describing the course, start times, the arrows to be followed, and so-on. After the briefing, novice riders are given further instruction and guidance on how they may best complete the ride. A Training Ride is normally run in conjunction with the main event. The ride normally starts early on Sunday morning. The course is usually split into legs of approximately 40 km. A half-hour after completing each leg is the mandatory Vet check.
After the completion of the ride by all competitors, on Sunday afternoon the presentations are held. All successful competitors, regardless of their place in the field individually receive a completion award. This may be a trophy, a sash, a buckle or similar for the effort they and their horses put in that day. The placegetters are usually recognise last in the presentation. Prize money is prohibited under the current rules of the Association. The motto of the sport is 'TO COMPLETE IS TO WIN' and all those who pass all the Vet checks are applauded. Those who don't complete successfully are encouraged and helped. Advice and assistance are readily available from experienced riders.
Championship rides of 160 km are normally started at midnight on Friday and continue through Saturday. Marathon rides are rides where 80 km or more is ridden on three or more consecutive days. The Shahzada Memorial Test is a marathon ride of 400 km over five days, held each August around St Albans in NSW. In June each year, the Tom Quilty Gold Cup ride is conducted on a rotational basis by each state. Competitors attend from all over Australia and overseas.
For more information on endurance riding in Australia, contact: VERA