S t r u c t u r e o f t h e r i d e
Before the ride, horses are inspected by a veterinarian to ensure they are fit to perform in the ride. Additionally, riders are given a map of the course, which shows the route, the places for compulsory halts, and any natural obstacles (such as ditches, steep hills, and water crossings).
The ride is divided into sections, with different names (legs, phases, etc.), depending on sanctioning organization. After each leg, horses are stopped for a veterinary inspection. Sometimes called a "vetgate", where they are checked for soundness and dehydration, with their pulse and respiration taken. To continue the ride, the horse must pass the examination, including reducing its heart rate below that specified for the event, typically 64 bpm, although terrain and weather may require the ride veterinarians to set a different maximum target. The riders' time between (legs, phases) keeps running until their horses reach the required target heart rate , so it is important that the horses recover as soon as possible. Any horse deemed unfit to continue, due to lameness or excessive fatigue, for example, is eliminated from the competition.
After the veterinary inspection, the horse must be held for an additional time (usually between 20-45 minutes), at which time it is fed and watered. If the veterinary inspection is on the course rather than at base camp, ride management usually delivers to the inspection location a cache of riders' personal gear, food, and water.
Riders are free to choose their pace during the competition, adjusting to the terrain and their mount's condition. Therefore, they must have a great knowledge of pace, knowing when to slow down or speed up during the ride, as well as a great knowledge of their horse's condition and signs of tiring. Riders may also choose to ride, or may dismount and walk or jog with their horse without penalty. However, they must be mounted when they cross the starting and finish lines.
The terrain riders compete over varies greatly from ride to ride. However, natural obstacles, called "hazards", are marked on the trails with red flags on the right and white flags on the left. When so marked, riders must pass through the flags. In some areas, wilderness or undeveloped areas are difficult to find; in these places, no more than 10% of the route can be on hard-surfaced roads.
Determining the winner
Under the rules of the FEI and AERC, the first horse to cross the line and pass the vet check as "fit to continue" is the winner. The winner is determined by a combination of speed and the recovery rate of the horse or by a required standard.
Additional awards are usually given to the best-conditioned horses who finish in the top 10 for distances of 80 km or more. The Best Conditioned, or "BC" award is generally more prized than finishing first, as it is determined by a combination of speed, weight carried, and veterinary scores. Thus, a horse finishing fourth, but carrying a heavier rider than the first place finisher and with equal vet scores, still has a good chance to win the BC award.
Endurance is much less formal than many other equestrian competitions, with The Full Leather Enduro is designed specifically for Endurance riding
However, riders are required to dress in a way that preserves the image of the sport.
An equestrian helmet is required for nearly all sanctioned rides
Endurance riders usually use a specialized saddle that is designed to be lightweight yet comfortable to horse and rider for long hours of riding. At the highest levels, it is usually a variation on the English saddle in shape, although it may have wider panels and stirrups with a wider tread. Regardless of design, endurance saddles are very light to ensure the horse does not have to carry unnecessary weight. Many endurance saddles have extra metal rings for the attachment of equipment. At lower levels, lightweight endurance designs based on western saddles are popular. Various experimental designs are also common, including treeless and flexible panel saddles.
Riders who compete in CEI rides must meet a minimum weight of 75 kg with their saddle. If the rider weighs in under 75 kg, they are required to ride with weights. Weigh-ins are generally conducted before and after a race; however, unscheduled weigh-ins can occur during the race.
Bridles for the horses may use a wide variety of bits or Hackamore’s. Riders also often add a breastplate to keep the saddle in place while traveling over rough terrain. Use of a crupper is not common, but sometimes seen to keep the saddle from sliding forward on horses with a certain build. Protective boots may be used on a horse's legs, though boots also cause problems in some types of terrain, they may slip, can collect burrs and dirt, and if crossing water may become waterlogged, any of which can irritate the legs of the horse and lead to lameness, so use varies by the type of ride and the rider's preferences.
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