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Why Endurance may be the brain food your Eventer needs to add to his training diet

Event Rider Nic Toomer gives her account of the benefits of endurance



“So I’ll be honest... the idea of “trotting on roads for miles and miles” never much appealed to me; the idea of giving up a day of competition to go for a “long hack” just didn’t do it for me.

That said, I had two competition horses getting very bored of trotting circles in the arena and a 4 year old that needed to go out and see the world. Unfortunately the roads around where I live are not great for taking out a very fit eventer, a diva of a dressage horse or a 4yo so I heeded the Boss' (mum's) advice and checked out the Cheshire EGB website.

I was amazed at the variety of places all around the country that endurance riders have the pleasure of riding. It took me 5 years to train my eventer up to BE Novice so that I could ride round in front of Chatsworth House and all along the Boss could go along to an Endurance GB ride and enjoy a canter round with her friends.

Most of the competitive rides (for those with buns of steel) also run a Pleasure Ride and at the same price as a round of affiliated jumping it seemed a great way to get out and enjoy some fresh air.

So I entered the 16km (10 mile) Pleasure Ride at the “Cheshire Frolic” at Delamere Forest hosted by Cheshire EGB with my 4 year old Duncan. There was a vet inspections and trot up before and after the ride (great practice for CIC1*) which he passed with flying colours.

I can't tell you how relieved I was when I discovered there were white arrows on the ground showing me which direction to take.

As we trotted and cantered along, enjoying the Cheshire Countryside and Delamere Forest it dawned on me that maybe in these modern times, when it is well recognised that despite our best efforts, many competition horses spend way more time on artificial surfaces that we would like, event riders may be missing a trick.

There I was, less than an hour from home, cantering along a sandy bridlepath around the perimeter of a huge quarry, safely away from the traffic with cheery volunteers at every road crossing, simply enjoying time spent with my young horse... really getting to know him, how he reacted to different situations and how his brain worked. He was learning to be independent but also to take reassurance from my leg when he needed it. We covered many different types of terrain, and aside from the obvious benefits of fitness, strengthening and stamina building we were also going uphill and down dale; great for helping him to learn to balance both himself and his rider. He went through water, over a railway bridge and even past a Segway! There was no pressure as we weren’t competing, we could travel at our own pace.

There were other horses for him to go past or that passed him, sometimes we were in front and sometimes behind... some people even stayed and chatted for a while! All good practice for him ahead of a competition atmosphere and for walking on down to the start box. It was quite fascinating to feel how as the ride went on he learnt to engage his core and open up his stride to keep up with those in front whilst conserving some energy for later on.”

I love Eventing and one of the things I love most are the wonderful venues that Eventing takes me to, the different atmospheres and seeing how the horses respond to different questions.

Mum had been enjoying those same things with her trusty steed, Tomas but without the pain of 5am plaiting or having to follow Mary King in the dressage. For me, 16k is far enough for now but for those who are up for it there is plenty to aim for and mileage awards too. I have done 3 pleasure rides with Cheshire and Derbyshire EGB now and am happy to report that there has been no instances of “trotting on roads for miles and miles” in fact quite the opposite. There’s a great social atmosphere and people are very friendly so you will soon find someone to tag along with if you want company.

So whether rain stops play, your horse needs some fittening work between competitions or you simply want to get out and enjoy your horse I suggest you check out the website and give it a go.

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