by Jay Randle, Splendacrest Endurance
The Australian Endurance Riders Association (AERA) Logbook system works like this:
When you have a horse that is ready to commence 80km (50 mile) rides, you apply to AERA for a Blue Logbook. This is a smallish (6" x 5") booklet, with 30 pages for ride details, and a couple of pages for Identification details. In order to apply for this Logbook, the owner of the horse must complete a standard Horse Identification form, showing markings, brands, microchip numbers, scars, height, colour, breeding, age, etc.
It costs $25, and comes to you with the horse name and a unique number written in on the front cover. This unique number is also written (or stamped with a postal-type stamp) on each page of the logbook. The Logbook also has the Identification details (above) written into the ID pages of the Logbook. Each horse has its own Logbook, which goes with the horse when it is leased, sold or retired.
Our current system of qualifying horses for endurance means that the horse needs to successfully complete 3 x 80km rides at a restricted pace while it is in the "Novice" phase of its career. This restricted pace is set at 14km per hour (or approx 8.3 miles per hour). This doesn't mean that you must do this pace, it means that you can't go any faster than this pace. It works out that you cannot complete the first 3 x 80km rides in under 6 hours riding time. Sometimes, depending upon weather conditions or terrain, the Head Vet can increase this minimum time, but they can't decrease it. So the pace could be set at no more than 12km per hour, or 10km per hour, if it is advised by the Vet.
Our maximum allowed time for completion of 80km is generally 8 – 9 hours riding time. This means that our minimum speed can be no less than about 9 or 10 kms per hour (5.5 – 6.25 miles per hour). This does not include Vet hold time, which is generally 1 hour at the 40km (half-way) mark, making the total time for an 80km ride either 9 or 10 hours, not 12 hours like the AERC allows. I would consider that any endurance horse trained properly could achieve this 5.5 – 6.25 miles per hour pace quite comfortably. Sometimes the weather here gets extremely hot, and extensions are then usually made to the completion time, in order not to stress either horse or rider!
There are MANY riders here who do this slower pace, however I would estimate that 50% of riders here on Novice horses would complete most 50km rides in 6 - 7 hours riding time, depending upon terrain and weather conditions. Remember, our horses are not permitted to go any faster than 6 hours riding time for their first 3 x 80km rides.
The Logbook must accompany the horse to each ride from then on. If the Logbook is left at home by mistake, the horse cannot enter the ride. In my experience this rarely happens, as the riders always check to see if they have their membership card and the Logbook prior to leaving home!
When you pay your entry fee at the ride base, the RM Volunteers write all the details onto a "Master Sheet", and also into the Logbook. Then you take your horse and the Logbook to the Pre-ride Veterinary Check, where the Chief Steward compares the ID information in the Logbook with the horse that is being presented. The next stop is the TPR Steward, who writes the Heart Rate, Respiration and Temperature into the Logbook. Then the Vet inspects the horse and enters all the other pre-ride parameters into the Logbook: Mucous Membranes, Capillary and Jugular Refill, Skin Recoil, Heart Sounds, Gut Sounds, Body Condition Score, Muscle Tone, Girth, Withers and Back, Gait, and an Overall Score.
The Logbook then gets collected by the RM, and collated in Rider Number order at the arrival gate. As most of our rides consist of loops back into Base Camp, with only a few having travelling Vet Checks, it is quite an easy way to keep track of the Logbooks, as they are then handed to the Rider as s/he arrives back into camp, with the arrival time noted into the Logbook. This is when the riding time stops.
Under AERA rules, we have up to 30 minutes to present to the Vet for inspection. Most riders here will strap (crew) their horses until such time that the Heart Rate is steady at under the required maximum of 55 beats per minute for the first leg of the ride. Once the Heart Rate is good, the horse is taken to the Vetting area, and the TPR Steward again takes the Heart Rate and Respiration. The TPR Steward then enters this information into the Logbook. Then the horse is presented immediately to the Vet, who enters all the other parameters (including a Trot Up) into the Logbook. The Logbook is then retained by the RM, and gets shunted back to the arrival gate for the next arrival of that horse.
We do not have the option of multiple tries to get the pulse down. We only have one chance to get a confirmed pulse of under 55 bpm off the first leg, so great care is taken about how the horse is recovering prior to presenting to the TPR Steward and the Vet.
This presentation to the TPR Steward and the Vet can take place at any time within 30 minutes of arrival off the leg, and then the horse is fed and rested for the additional time to make up a total of 1 hour. So, if you present to the Vet within 10 minutes, your horse gains the benefit of an additional 50 minutes of rest time. If you present to the Vet right on the maximum of 30 minutes after arrival, then your horse only has an additional 30 minutes of rest time.
If your horse fails this Vet Check, the reason is marked in the Logbook. This could be a Lameness, or an injury that is concerning enough to the Vet for him/her to determine that the horse is no longer "Fit to Continue". If your horse passes the Vet Check , but the rider wishes to Withdraw from the ride for any reason, then such Withdrawal must be done prior to the `out' time. This is also then marked in the Logbook with the reason, ie. Rider Illness, etc.
If everything is OK, the horse and rider depart on the second loop of the ride. Upon arrival, the same procedure (above) applies, with a maximum 30 minute time to present to the Vet. However, after the second and subsequent legs of our rides, the maximum Heart Rate is 60 bpm, again with only one chance to get it right.
All the Veterinary information again gets entered into the Logbook, which is returned to the RM for transposing either onto the Master Sheet or into a computer program. Many of our rides are now logged into the Computer at the Ride Base, where power is available.
Once the horse has successfully completed the required 3 x 80km rides at Novice pace, then the Logbook is "upgraded" to Endurance Horse status. This requires the owner to have a Veterinarian officially identify the horse (which can actually be done at any stage prior to or during the Novice period), and the owner sends in the Vet ID with $5 and the Logbook to the Registrar, who updates the ID information, sticks a yellow cover over the Logbook and returns it. From then on the horse is able to travel at an unrestricted speed.
Most riders here would continue to compete the newly-qualified Endurance horse at novice pace for at least 2 or 3 rides before upping the speed. And many riders never complete in under 6 hours, and are not concerned with the competitive aspect of the sport.