Skill Set—What does my horse need to know to become an endurance horse

For a happy endurance riding experience your horse needs to know more than to just trot like mad down the trail.  Take some time to teach your horse the basics, it will pay off later.

* Horse should be willing to eat & drink in most situations  This may seem common sense but you’d be surprised how things change when you take your horse to an endurance ride with the stressor of so many other horses, the herd instinct at work,  the push of the clock.  It is a lot for a new endurance horse to take in.  Easier if you have taken care of getting your horse to relax with willingness to eat in new and high energy settings.   Teach your horse to take advantage at streams to drink and grassy areas to graze.

*Ground  and handling manners are extremely important.  A veterinarian will be handling your horse.  He/She will be touching the muzzle, looking at gums, pulling down the lower lid of the eye,  pinching the skin to check hydration, running their hands over the back and withers, using a stethoscope, and running hands down muscles of the hind legs.   Your horse should stand calmly for these procedures.  Teach your horse at home to tolerate this handling.

*Willingness to be contained.   Your horse will need to be able to stay put in an electric pen, on a hie-tie, in a corral, or tied to a highline/or trailer.   The horse should do this without trying to evade the confinement by pushing at or pulling back, and remain calm when contained.

*Manners when under saddle.     Your horse will need to develop the skill of being passed on trail, and passing others without issue.

*Basic training down pat.   Your horse should be able to stop on cue, and change gait on cue.  Your horse should rate (this means go the speed you have requested regardless of what is happening with other horses on the trail). 

*Cooperate with basic medical and first aid procedures.  Can you put a wormer tube in your horse’s mouth without a fight?  If not, electrolytes are going to be an issue.  Can you treat a wound, or give an injection without your horse going ballistic?  If not, how can you expect that the vet will be able to treat your horse if something goes wrong at a ride?

*Load, unload, and travel in a trailer calmly.   Sounds like a no-brainer but horses can get themselves into all kinds of messes between here and there.  If you know your horse has an issue, get to work on it.

*Trot out calmly on a loose lead on cue.  At a ride you will be asked to trot your horse out in a straight line, first away from the vet, and then towards the vet.  If you get selected to stand for BC your horse will need to do this on a circle as well.  Plenty of practice at home will be the key to doing this well later at a ride.

Sounds like a lot, yes?   But all are basic training of the equine.  If you have holes in your training, get to work!  You will be glad you did.

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