Going the Distance: Conformationally Speaking

Is your horse built like a radiator? Then he’ll probably excel at endurance. Sharalyn Hay follows up last week’s column with some prospect-selecting tips.

From Sharalyn:

Last week I touched a little bit on a few of the necessities that your endurance prospect will need to have. And although I stand by the statement that any breed can do an endurance race, unfortunately not every horse can. It is a very demanding sport (for both the human and the horse, but really for the horse) and therefore some things must be taken into account…

1. It can be an Arab, a Quarter Horse, a Zebra or a rainbow farting Unicorn but it better have the build to carry you for the long haul. Conformation can play a major role and is something that you need to pay attention to when you are looking for a suitable mount (as a side note: if you do find a rainbow farting Unicorn please let me know… I totally want one).

2. Your mount must be of appropriate age. If you are planning on doing Limited Distance rides, the horse can be 4 years of age. If you are doing 50+ miles then your Unicorn, er horse, needs to be at least 5 years of age. As an interesting aside, there is no age limit for riders. Some rides will have a minimum age, but as a whole most rides don’t care how old you are. Do you hear me re-riders? This sport is for you. Come and join the insanity!!

*laughs hysterically*

Oops, that just slipped out. Where was I?

3. Some conformation type things to keep in mind: the horse needs to be able to comfortably carry your weight, good feet are way better than crappy ones, a shorter back typically has less problems than the limo-style horse and spindly legs are generally not thought of as a good thing. These are just my observations and opinions, but I have seen all types out there successfully competing. So if the old nag out back has a few flaws but can get the job done, by all means come out and ride.

4. A horse with a radiator (or greyhound) build will generally do better than the stockier versions. This has to do with cooling out and being able to pulse down quicker. However, your stockier partner still has a shot. As they adapt to the work, their muscles will change to more efficiently perform the task at hand. Plus there are things you can do to help them out, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

5. A horse that eats and drinks, no matter the situation or where they may be at, is pure gold. You can train the picky ones to do this on command, but if you have one that thinks that the world is his/her buffet then that’s even better. No training needed… just point and release.

6. Even better than a horse that consumes everything offered on the trail? A horse that doesn’t think every leaf is a monster out to eat them. You can train the spook out of a horse – with a lot of patient counts to 10 (I should know, Flash was a master at the imaginary monster spook) – but it is better if your horse is pretty OK with all the goings on and can still concentrate on what you are asking them to do.

After you consider all of these things, the most important thing is this… does riding this horse make you happy? If the answer is yes, then the rest is just icing on the cake.

So go ride – and remember, to finish is to win.

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