Conditioning the Competitive Trail Horse

Learn what to do and be well prepared before competing your trail horse.
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Those of us who have trail ridden and packed into the mountains are very apt to proffer this advice to the beginner or novice who wants to do likewise: Don’t take the mountains lightly, because they can be unforgiving. Know what you are doing and be well prepared before you go. That same advice should be given to beginning and novice competitive trail riders: Don’t take the competition lightly, because it can be unforgiving. Learn what to do and be well prepared before competing.

That being said, competitive trail riding and endurance riding can be exciting and challenging equine endeavors. These events stimulate the successful human partner in the team to know and understand the equine partner in a way that is rarely attained in other forms of equine sports.

Many riders will start at the competitive trail riding level and, if they find it to their liking, will graduate to endurance riding. Most endurance rides are 50 to 100 miles in length, but there also are 150-mile rides covered in one, two, or three days, and there are limited distance endurance rides of 25 to 35 miles. The sanctioning body for endurance riding is the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), formed in 1972. It now sanctions about 700 rides per year in North America. We will draw on the AERC’s approach to conditioning competitive distance horses.

We also will draw on the expertise of the Upper Midwest Endurance and Competitive Rides Association (UMECRA), a distance riding organization that sanctions both competitive trail rides and endurance rides. There are other organizations involved with competitive and endurance riding, but we will concentrate on the two

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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