20km: is kinda like Adult Riders, or E grade eventing. Walk trot tests. Any horse, given a modicum of training and a rider who is capable of doing the ride, can complete. No special gear required, just ride in the tack you have. There are always lots of social riders, not there to compete, but to enjoy the day, and their horse, and the company. Then there is a smattering of experienced endurance riders, starting their new baby, using the ride as a training opportunity.
40KM: OK, maybe at this distance, it’s more like C grade eventing, or Medium dressage. You have put some thought into this, maybe decided that endurance is IT for you, bought some endurance designed gear (maybe even some biothane!). The breeches may have given way to riding tights, and the helmet is chosen for comfort. But still, ANY horse, provided it is sound and trained correctly, can go out and do 40km. You don’t have to switch breeds necessarily, and the horse you have is probably the best horse you could pick.
80km: now we’re at A grade eventing, or Prix St George dressage. Endurance is what you DO. You have probably gone out and bought a youngster aimed specifically at this sport and trained it with that in mind, or you are riding a seasoned schoolmaster. It will probably be an Arab, just as upper level dressage demands a warmblood, or eventing a TB orTB/Warmblood X. Sure, there are other breeds out there doing 80kms and doing it well, but they are unusual. You will have a saddle bought with endurance in mind, and a whole lot of biothane gear. You may wear running shoes, not riding boots. Other equestrian disciplines look at you like you are from another planet. friends complain that you can’t talk about anything else!
160km… OK. NOW we are talking Grand Prix dressage, or Showjumping. This is the top. You don’t get here without some serious miles under your belt, and without some very specific training, feeding and conditioning. Like Grand Prix dressage, many 160km horses are at their peak in their teens, and it takes several years to get there.
But here’s the thing that does my head in. Unlike dressage or showjumping or eventing, it is NOT POSSIBLE to train this darned and blasted 100 miles at home first! You can go into a dressage arena knowing that you have trained all the movements at home. In SJ, you can go in knowing your horse is physically capable of jumping 1 metre 30 or whatever it is. You CANNOT go out and ride 160km on your own to make sure that the horse is ready. You cannot know that you have a 100 mile horse under you until you give 100 miles a crack for the first time…
So I guess all you can do is enter the damn ride, hold your breath, and jump. Give the godamn thing a go, and if you fail, get up and re assess. Then try again, maybe?
Sounds good in theory. I’ll get back to you when I’ve wrapped my own mind around it.