So, you've decided to give endurance a try, be warned though, it is addictive. You can't jump in and try an endurance ride, but you can try a 20km introductory ride or a 40km intermediate ride as a "Day Member" without joining QERA. Most of our rides require pre-nomination. As the season progresses, links to ride flyers, Facebook pages or websites will appear on our ride calendar. A good place to find up to date information is the QERA Facebook page. Just a phone call or email to the ride secretary is usually all it takes, however for ease of administration, many ride organisers are using the Try Booking website for nominations. Pre-nominations are required so the organisers can determine how may veterinarians are required at the ride. You will need to complete a Horse Health Declaration available from the Forms section of our website. Please note that helmets are compulsory at ALL times you are mounted at an endurance event. Even if you hop on your horse to check stirrup length in your camp, you must wear an approved helmet.
If the ride starts early in the morning, you may need to arrive the previous day and camp overnight. Even if it is an afternoon ride, it is still worth camping overnight, endurance riders are quite the sociable bunch, and we love to relax and unwind around the camp fire after a ride. If it is a Sunday morning ride, nominations, pre-ride vetting and pre-ride talk are all on Saturday afternoon. The ride secretary will advise you as to when you need to arrive. You simply arrive at the ride base, and you should be stopped at the gate by a volunteer that will check your horse health declaration is complete. They will direct you where to camp. You pick your spot, and set up a yard for your horse and your own camp. Some rides have yards available for hire, check with the ride secretary. Make sure your horse has plenty of water, and if it is just doing a 20km ride, grass hay is all they really need. Keep an eye on your horse and make sure it is drinking water. Many introductory ride and intermediate ride horses that end up in the vet hospital are there because they are overfed or because the horse decides it isn't going to drink the available water. If your horse is a bit fussy about its water, get it used to a bit of molasses in water at home.
Once set up, you may have some time to sit back and relax before the ride secretary is open for nominations. Nominating means more paperwork. You will have to fill out a ride entry form with your and the horse's details, pay your entry fee, and receive your ride bib. You will need to wear your bib when you take your horse to the vet check, and when you ride your horse.
Something you should practice at home is the trot-out. Your horse should trot willingly beside you on a loose rein. Another hint is to trot your horse out once you are at the ride base and get an experienced friend to make sure your horse isn't lame BEFORE you nominate. Most ride organisers will give you a full refund if you arrive at the base and your horse is lame.
All horses must pass a pre-ride vet check. Horse welfare is of the utmost importance in our sport. Once vetting is open, there will probably be a line up. The first step is for your horse's ID to be checked by the chief steward. The CS will also check the horse's teeth to ensure they are old enough to start the ride. The chief steward is the highest authority at an endurance ride. Once the CS has checked your horse, you will be asked to go to a TPR bay, where the horse's temperature, pulse and respiration rate will be checked and recorded on your day card or logbook. You will then be asked to go to one of the vets for the vet check.
A vet will check your horse for obvious cuts and abrasions. They will check the girth, back and withers for soreness. They will check capillary refill time, jugular refill time, and skin recoil time to determine how well hydrated your horse is. Finally, you will be asked to trot your horse out so the vet can check for lameness. Your horse should trot nicely beside you, willingly on a loose rein. You trot 40m out and 40m back so the vets can observe the hind end and the front end for lameness.
All Introductory and Intermediate riders must attend pre-ride briefing. You will be given a quick talk on track conditions, ride safety and start time and procedure. Most importantly, you will be told the colour of the arrows you are to follow. After pre-ride briefing, it is time to relax around your camp fire.
Intro and Intermediate rides always start in daylight. It is a good idea to get up an hour before ride start so you have time for breakfast, coffee and to saddle up. You must wear your ride bib on the outside of any clothing so it can be seen by checkpoint personnel. You would have been told in pre-ride briefing where you are to mill around and warm up for ride start. Once you are in the start area, ride over to the chief steward (red vest) and clearly call your bib number. They will call your number back to confirm they heard you. If the CS doesn't repeat your number, they may not have heard you. Once the clock says it is ride start time, the CS will release the riders. If it is an afternoon ride, you need to attach a good headlamp to your helmet, as you will probably be finishing the ride in the dark.
The goal of an intro ride or intermediate ride is to complete, there are no placings. They are non competitive and are speed limited. There will be a minimum time set for the ride, and you must not come in early or you will be disqualified. You ride at you and your horse's own pace, and plenty of time is allowed for you to complete the ride, even if you decide to walk your horse around the course. You follow the arrows as specified in the pre-ride briefing. You will come to at least one checkpoint, once again, call out your bib number and wait for a reply. Every 5 or 10km, you should find a distance marker that will tell you how far you have come. Eventually you will come to the finish line. Once you cross the finish line you aren't quite done.
Your horse has to pass the end of ride vet check. It will be exactly the same as pre-ride vetting, except there will be no ID check, and the temperature won't be taken. Sometimes respiration rate is not taken either. The vet will check all parameters, and then ask you to do a trot-out. If your horse is sound and passes the vet check, congratulations, you have successfully completed your first ride. Our rule is "Fit to Continue", that is at the end of a ride, your horse should be capable of heading out and doing more distance. It can be a heartbreaking sport, if you vet out, you will feel down, but most of us understand that bitter taste of vetting out. It is even worse if you are on the final leg of a 4 day 320k marathon and you fail the last vet check. If you must leave after you have finished the ride, you must wait for 2 hours, sometimes horses can crash after they have passed the final vet check, this is one of our welfare requirements.
We always have a team of experienced vets at our events, their primary concern is the welfare your horse.
Almost done, the final official part of the ride is the presentations, where you receive your completion award, and your logbook / day card. You will be told at pre-ride talk when this will take place.