18 May 2021
by Alison Lincoln
Alison Lincoln is a rider, author, coach and freelance groom with a degree in Equine Sports Coaching
Alison Lincoln looks at the importance of energy supply, training and recovery for long-distance horses... Competitive Endurance rides are a test of the athlete’s ability to safely manage their horse’s stamina and fitness while coping with the varying terrain, distance and weather conditions on the course.
At elite level, rides can be up to 160km (100miles) long and split into 3-6 loops. That’s exactly the distance we’ll see this weekend when the Longines FEI Endurance World Championship is held in Pisa, Italy.
At the start of Endurance competitions and at the end of each loop all horses must pass a veterinary examination before being allowed to continue. If a horse fails any of these ‘vet gates’ then their result is classified as FTQ (failure to qualify).
Research at international level events show that fast riding speeds in the early stages of a ride (loops 1 and 2) and when riding in large groups is a significant risk factor linked to negative outcomes for horses and tends to be followed by a sudden drop in speed in the following loop.
In both cases, it’s likely adrenalin takes over causing combinations to get ‘carried away’ and end up travelling at speeds they haven’t trained for or aren’t capable of maintaining for any length of time.
More often than not this leads to an FTQ classification due either to lameness or fatigue. Fatigue is more than just tiredness, it’s the muscles’ inability to continue to work and occurs primarily due to the depletion of energy stores or the build-up of lactic acid. (You know that burning feeling after you’ve stacked a barn full of hay? That’s lactic acid build-up)...