So, you've been riding for some time and discovered the awesome and highly addictive sport of Endurance Riding... Where to begin with obtaining the required tack and equipment to start your endurance career? RIGHT HERE! I have compiled a basic list of goods that you will need to start this thing the right way the first time.
1. A SAFE, YET LIGHT WEIGHT AND WELL VENTILATED HELMET
There are many important items required for endurance riding, but proper head protection is of utmost importance, and in my opinion, the most important item on the list of things that you will need for Endurance Riding. Unlike in an arena or even on a relaxed outride, you will be facing obstacles at one stage or another during the long hours of training for an Endurance Ride. Why not invest in the best helmet that you can afford at this point in time, instead of compromising on your safety...
With a huge variety of options available, I have researched the world's leading brands and have come to the conclusion that LAS Horse Helmets are by far the preferred choice of helmet for this sport, used worldwide by top Endurance Riders. Like anything, there will always be pro's and con's, but in the case of LAS Horse Helmets, the list of pro's outweigh the con's and this brand of helmet might be something to consider.
What you see here is a very adjustable, well ventilated and light (390g) helmet, available in two sizes and a variety of colours to choose from AND most important of all, LAS Horse helmets are certified with the highest European safety rating. BUT... Yes, there is always a but... It is priced between R3200 to R3600 and you can get it from my store. www.endurancetack.co.za
Yes it is a lot of money, but so was the pair of Nike sneakers that you are wearing... Difference is, could a pair of comfortable shoes save your life?
2. ON THAT TOPIC, LET'S LOOK AT YOUR FOOT GEAR...
There aren't many things as gorgeous as a pair of tall leather riding boots... pretty to look at but not practical for Endurance Riding, no. Not even a pair of short jodhpur boots. Go for something light but strong, comfortable and with ventilation or you would end up with sore, tired feet that could spoil your entire ride. You might have to hop off and walk or jog next to your partner, offering him a break when the going gets tough. Best would be to acquire a pair of shoes that you would buy for hiking or jogging.
I have tried a few brands of shoes, although not all, but can advise you to look at a pair of Salomons which seems to be locally preferred by more than half of the riders that I see at events. I find these shoes to be long lasting and comfortable. If you do look at Salomons, and especially the Speedcross style that I uploaded here, I would advise to go for a half size if you have a broad foot.
You can get these at Cape Union Mart or Sportsmans Warehouse or a Salomon store for around R2400 which is more or less what you would pay for a pair of Adidas or New Balance cross trainers. In my experience Salomons are tougher than cross trainers or running shoes and I recommend them for that reason.
3. NEXT... STIRRUP CAGES OR TOE CAGES OR TOE CAPS
The following rule is stipulated by the Endurance Riding Association of South Africa:
Rule 3.3.5: Safety stirrups are compulsory if flat soled running shoes (or any other shoe without a clearly defined heel) are worn.
By safety stirrup, they mean a stirrups cage or toe cage.
So, if you follow my advice on shoes, you would need a set of stirrup cages.
Some saddle manufacturers include them with the saddle, but not all. Again, go for something light weight, but strong - these things are pricey, you don't want to buy the cheapest used pair available and end up stepping right through it when you needed protection most!
Here we have a set of Compositi toe caps on Matrix stirrups. Both manufactured in a very strong plastic and as light as you will get. This is a popular toe cage locally and internationally - I see many of the Sheikhs in Dubai competing with them in red.
These toe cages come in two sizes (kids and adults) and in a variety of very cool colours to match your chosen colour scheme! They are available at my store for R550 a set (toe caps only) and I must say, like most of my products, they keep their value in the case where you had enough of one colour and want to switch over to another! www.endurancetack.co.za
If you have a standard adult size pair of metal stirrups, you can easily fix the Compositi toe caps to it, saving you some money on buying a new pair of stirrups.
4. AN ENDURANCE OR TRAIL SADDLE
For your and your partner's sake, invest in an endurance saddle that distributes weight over a larger area over his back, than the two small panels of a GP or a dressage saddle do. Your horse will be stuck with that saddle on his back for hours and hours and at times, carrying your tired and most likely unbalanced body. You will also be stuck in that saddle for hours and hours, so get the correct saddle and size not only for your horse, but also for you. Synthetic equipment is ideal for endurance riding, it is light in weight, and can take heat and cold and rain and wind, unless if you enjoy spending time on treating leather tack...?
There are tons of saddle brands available locally but please do not believe when people say that endurance saddles fit all horses. Think logically! How can one saddle fit a skinny undeveloped five year old short back 14.1hh Arab from the veld that has not done a single day's work in his life and then also fit a 15.3hh muscular broad-shouldered Anglo that is competing at top level in his 4th season of endurance? THEY DO NOT FIT ALL HORSES - NO SADDLE CAN POSSIBLY FIT ALL HORSES!
You will see bargains second hand as well, but the saddle will not necessarily fit your horse. But the advert says that this brand of saddle fits all horses? THE SELLER IS EITHER LYING OR HE IS CLUELESS!
Can you imagine having to run a marathon in shoes that are too small for you? Give that some thought and buy a correctly fitting saddle for the one in this partnership that will be doing the most work.
A Wintec Endurance Pro II saddle is a light weight synthetic, adjustable saddle that can be adjusted to fit more than one horse or adjusted to how your horse builds muscle and changes shape. It offers a soft suede seat to keep you from sliding and it has front and back adjustable knee rolls/blocks to keep you in position when your horse is having a fresh day. It is only available in black and come in different seat sizes.
The Wintec Endurance Pro II saddle retails for about R14 500 and I am currently busy with negotiations to stock this saddle in my shop.
Remember... just because this saddle is adjustable, you are not guaranteed that it will fit your horse. The tree might not be suitable for his back, or the wither clearance might not be enough for him.
A qualified saddle fitter is required to fit ANY saddle, ALWAYS. So, if you see a good, used saddle on Gumtree, make an arrangement to have the saddle fitted first and if it fits, go for it. The least that you could do for your horse is to spare him the pain of an ill-fitting saddle.
Ninon Halvorsen from Sound Saddle Fitting (SSF) is an internationally qualified saddle fitter and goes the extra mile with each fitting, as if it is done on her very own horse, each time. I can strongly recommend her as she is able to flock and fix and do all sorts of funky things with saddles, possibly saving you money on having to purchase an alternative saddle by making the saddle work for your horse with adjustments or a different saddle pad or riser pad, or whatever. Plus she is reasonably priced! She is contactable on her mobile 083 289 2086 and on www.facebook.com/saddlefittingsa. Please do yourself a favour and either ask whichever fitter that you decide to use, for contactable references or read references or ratings on their websites or Facebook pages and make sure that they really are qualified! I find often that someone does a three day crash course and suddenly becomes a professional farrier, physio, saddle fitter or even a veterinarian!!
5. A SYNTHETIC ENDURANCE BRIDLE
Once actively training and preparing for a race, your pony will build up a good sweat during each ride.
Leather tack on a sweaty horse in the sun, wind and rain, is not going to last. I'm gonna to cut to the chase and recommend the only endurance bridle worth trying, and this is manufactured by Zilco in Australia. Zilco is the reason for Endurance Tack SA's existence. Zilco's how Endurance Tack SA started! But that's a story for another day...
Zilco offers two styles of Endurance bridles, but this one seems to be the more popular style and it is called the Zilco Deluxe Endurance Halter/Bridle Combo. It has a standard very adjustable halter with stainless steel fittings and a removable very adjustable bridle part which easily detaches, saving you time to get to the vet check. This product is very light and will literally last you a lifetime.
Yes, there are other brands available, but they are cheap copies of this product and not nearly at the quality level of Zilco. I will offer you a ten year guarantee on this product with confidence, plus you will most likely sell your Zilco set for more money than what you paid for it, after two or even five years!
It is available at my shop and currently retails for R1250.
Zilco also offers endurance reins, endurance breastplates and endurance martingales. You might have never needed some of these parts before, but you will be shocked to see how hectic your horse becomes as his fitness and confidence increases during training and how suddenly riding without a martingale becomes disastrous.
I can't exclaim the importance to NEVER leave your horse unattended with a Zilco halter or halter/bridle set on. I can assure you that it will not break and you could end up with a badly injured horse. Plus...lately I see that horses left in their portable paddocks at rides, wearing their Zilco halters, get robbed! Recently a brand new halter was stolen from the horse's head. So, moral of the story - do not leave your horse unattended - in a paddock or stable or horsebox, well, actually ever, with his Zilco halter on.
6. NO MORE JODHPURS; GET A PAIR OF COMFORTABLE BUT DURABLE RIDING TIGHTS
As you know now, you will be spending many hours in the saddle, so best would be to do so in as much comfort as possible. A pair of stretchy seamless riding tights is a must-have to start off with. Many ride in sport brands such as NB, Nike or First Ascent - these tights are manufactured for running and cycling and
1. Will not survive hours of chafing against your saddle and
2. Will kill the insides of your legs, as the seams are exactly where you will grip with your legs during a spook.
A pair of Kerrits or Irideon tights that are made specifically for endurance riding is the way to go. No zips and back pockets, super elastic for getting on and off without restrictions, no seams, gel grips on the inside of the tights by the ankle, to avoid the tights from pulling up. Made from technologically advanced fabric, keeping your body cool.
My style of choice is definitely Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights. It has two front pockets for your phone and your vet card (or whatever) and it is made with an Ice Fil material that keeps your body temperature cool. It has full seat tiny carrot stick gel grips that keeps you from sliding in your saddle and it is super elastic. These tights are strong and durable and will last you season after season. They are available from XS to XL and in a variety of colours.
Again... and you will learn that endurance riding is not a cheap sport to partake in... these tights start at around R1200 at my shop. Every now and then when I feel generous, I have a sale where I offer two pairs at a discount price. But I wouldn't recommend that you wait for that, it could happen tomorrow or in six months time! Yes, R1200+ is a lot of money for a pair of riding tights, but have you been to the shops lately? I just went online to check, and a pair of full length New Balance tights at Sportsmans Warehouse retail for R1200.
I have sold Kerrits tights to people that use them for running too, they are super comfortable and they really are flattering. Do not be put off by black thinking that it'll be too hot in summer - they are designed to cool your body temperature down and I guarantee you that you love wearing them.
7. A SHIRT WITH A COLLAR
Again, not negotiable according to the rules of the Endurance Riding Association of South Africa.
Rule 18.104.22.168: Riders must be dressed neatly and appropriately at all times. Their dress shall not detrimental to the image of the sport of endurance, and riders must always convey a neat and sporty image. It is recommended that riders wear appropriate riding attire (shirts to include a collar). Riders are not allowed to wear shorts whilst riding.
Golfers or Polos are available from most sport shops. Go for something that will keep you cool and that does not have seams on the front or back, as you might want to have your rider number printed on your riding shirt.
I have a few light cotton Irideon Polos available and they are quite nice - super comfy and they are longer at the back to offer a bit of extra coverage. You will find golfers anywhere from R200 to R500 and probably even more. The Irideon Argyle polos that I sell is available at R300.
I would not recommend that you purchase a long sleeve shirt for winter rides. You will be surprized at how quickly a cold day becomes very hot during the first loop of a ride! I ride with a long sleeve compression thermal under my short sleeve golfer (with my rider number on) and remove it from underneath my riding shirt if it gets too hot. I bought this from Sportsmans Warehouse and they go for around R500. If you are concerned about sun against your skin in a short sleeve shirt, consider something like UV arm sleeves that you will also find at my store. www.endurancetack.co.za
8. A GPS UNIT AND HEART RATE MONITOR
I almost forgot about my favourite little gadget that I literally use every single day! A GPS Unit and HR monitor really is a necessity for endurance riding. It tells you your speed, your distance, your average speed after a ride and also your horse's heart rate.
There are some options available, but I have stuck to Garmin. The Garmin Forerunner 310XT with premium heart rate monitor has been working hard for me over the past four years and is still going strong. The heart rate monitor comes with a human band, and is too short for a horse's girth area, so I extended mine with some industrial elastic that I purchased at a sewing shop.
These units go for around R4000 at Takealot and are also available at most large sport shops.
what I particularly like about this model is the battery life of about 20 hours and that it is water resistant. So, you would never run out of battery at a ride, even if you forget to switch the unit off during the breaks between loops.
There are cheaper options available and I suppose that a GPS unit is not really a necessity for some people that aren't riding competitively, but at the least you must have some form of a heart rate monitor so that you can check your horse's pulse before entering the vet area, or how else would you know that your horse's pulse is below 64 bpm? For R2000 you can buy a digital V-MAX Equine HR monitor at my store, which is only used to check your horse's heart rate. www.endurancetack.co.za This item is handy but it doesn't serve a dual purpose like the Garmin Forerunner 310XT with premium heart rate monitor, so if you are a 'less is more' kinda guy or gal, go for something more basic like the V-MAX, but I would strongly recommend the Garmin unit and can honestly say that it is worth the price. I use both these products, as I find that the Garmin picks up a double heart beat or takes some time to pick the pulse up, costing me unnecessary time at a ride.
Alrighty... I would say that the above items are the very absolute must-haves to start off and although I can easily extend this list with a hundred more items, but I think that to begin with, the above items will make your life much easier already.
Many of the items that you will need for endurance riding are things that you already have - water buckets, brushing boots if your horse needs boots, sweat sheets, leads, trucking equipment, saddle pads, gloves, etc. After some training and maybe a race or two, you will soon discover what you want to replace with something better suited for endurance riding and what you are happy with continuing to use going forward.
Hours and hours on horseback in discomfort just won't be fun. So, wherever you can improve comfort for yourself and for your horse, will make the race a bit shorter.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on must-haves to make the life of a rider and horse partaking in long distance rides, better...