Endurance is a competition against the clock where the speed and endurance of a horse is put to the test, but where riders are also challenged with regards to effective use of pace and thorough knowledge of their horses and cross country. Indeed, although the rides are timed, the emphasis is on finishing in good condition rather than coming first. Endurance is a genuine test of horsemanship which began as a necessity rather than a sport. Horseback riding was the main form of transportation for centuries and reliable horses that could travel long distances while remaining healthy and fit were much sought after. Since necessity was replaced by many other means of transportation, Endurance has thrived as a sport.
1904, Lyon - Vichy, the first two finalists Capitaine Muguet and M. George
In its 24th year with the FEI – Endurance became an FEI discipline in 1982 – Endurance has come to be the Federation’s fastest growing discipline. In 1982, there were four international rides. This number slowly increased to an average of 18 rides per year up until 1998 when the World Championships were held in the United Arab Emirates. Thanks to the sponsorship of the UAE National Federation, 47 NFs came from all over the world to compete. This huge attendance proved to be the catalyst for an amazing growth in participation. This tendency was confirmed in 2005, when the 353 international competitions made Endurance second only to Jumping and Eventing. The area with the biggest growth being South America.
Modern competitions consist of a number of sections called phases. At the end of each phase, in principle at least every 40 km, there is a compulsory halt for veterinary inspection, usually referred to as a vetgate. Riders are free to choose their own pace between the start and the finish of the competition. They may lead or follow their horses, but must be mounted crossing the starting line and the finish line. Each horse, which is thoroughly examined before it is allowed to start the ride, must be presented for inspection within a set time of reaching each vetgate. The aim of the check is to determine whether the horse is fit to continue the ride.A final veterinary inspection occurs at the end of all rides to ensure that horses completing the ride are not overly fatigued or lame. Excessive fatigue, signs of lameness and other indications of problems are grounds for elimination.
It can take years for a combination to be ready to compete in a 160 km ride. Endurance requires extensive preparation and a deep knowledge and understanding between horse and rider. In this way the well being of the horse can be maintained at all times.
The minimum distance for a one day competition is between 40 and 160 km, depending on the type of competition. For competitions of more than one day, the minimum average distance for each day is 40 - 79 km for FEI * rides, 80 km to 119 km for FEI 2* and 120 km or more for FEI 3* events. For a Championship FEI 4* one-day competition, the distance is usually 160 km and the winning riding time about ten to twelve hours.
1905, Bruxelles, Capt. Bausil
The World Equestrian Games
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years - the latest edition was held in Aachen, whilst the next FEI World Equestrian Games will be crossing the Atlantic for the very first time to be held in Kentucky (USA) in 2010.
The Endurance World Championships are held every four years in the same year as the Olympics. However, due to extraordianry circumstances, the last Endurance Championships were staged in January of 2005 in Dubai (UAE).
The next World Endurance Championships are to be held in 2008, which will be held in Terengganu, Malaysia.
The European Endurance Championships are held every two years, the next edition is to be held is in Portugal in 2007.
1914, Biarritz - Paris