The equestrian sport of endurance riding is a long distance race that is competed worldwide. There are two types of long distance rides, the competitive trail ride and an endurance ride. The competitive trail ride covers a distance between 15 and 40 miles per day. The competitive trial ride can occur over the course of one to three days. The ride is paced-timed, which means you must complete the ride as close to the objective time as possible to avoid penalty points. The horse is evaluated on performance, criteria such as pulse and respiration, the way you handle obstacles, camping safety (if the ride occurs over multiple days), and manners. The riders with the best scores are awarded. The endurance ride is usually 50 or 100 miles in distance in one day. A winning ride time, who complete the 100 mile ride, take about 10 to 12 hours. This is a race ride, the first horse to cross the finish line and pass the vet check in as “fit to continue” is the winner. This is a sport that challenges the stamina of horse and rider. The most popular breed for endurance riding is the Arabian or Arabian cross, but this sport is open to all breeds. So if you love the challenge of distance, terrain, and stamina then you have found a good match with the sport of endurance riding.
The saddle for endurance riding is a key part of the ride. To be competitive the endurance rider needs a saddle that is light weight, but durable for a long distance that can contain rough and steep terrain. The saddle is usually built to allow close contact between horse and rider; which minimizes the excess saddle weight and provides better rider to horse communication. The seat of the endurance saddle has to be very comfortable due to the long hours that the rider will spend in the saddle. Thus the seats are often heavily padded and some may even contain memory form. Typically, the saddle horn is short or there is no horn at all. This allows the rider less interference when posting, standing, or jumping over obstacles. The style of the skirt of the endurance saddle is usually rounded, which helps to lessen the overall weight of the saddle. The rigging, most of the time, is in the center-fire position to prevent the saddle from tipping forward. A back cinch and breast collar are also used to aid in maintaining the saddle position. The stirrups are designed to be deep to allow for rider comfort. The endurance saddle will have a surplus of strings and d-rings to allow for gear needed during the ride to be secured to the saddle. This is the most typical design of the western endurance saddle, but there are English variations as well.
Because the endurance saddle is built for durability and rider comfort, it is becoming more popular for the general pleasure/ trail rider. Because it has garnered attention from riders, saddle designers are designing saddles that are more of a cross-over between the typical endurance saddle and the traditional western saddle. These saddles are designed for the trail rider that is looking for a comfortable saddle that is going to last, with the added bonus of the additional ties and rings. So if you are a pleasure/ trail rider, consider an endurance saddle for the most comfortable ride!