How do endurance races work in horse racing

You may have come across endurance races before. These are a very different type of equestrian competition than traditional horse racing under Rules. Just what is an endurance horse race, and how does it work? Some horses are better for longer distances than shorter ones. You need to know the benefits and downsides of endurance racing. Can you get an endurance race bet on? Find out all about the different kinds of endurance competitions and where in the world these events are most popular. 

What is an endurance horse race

Endurance races are long-distance contests and are the equivalent of a marathon for horses. They come under the umbrella of equestrian pursuits rather than traditional horse racing. A horse endurance race distance is far greater than any event contested under Rules. They also take much longer to complete. All rides are timed, so horses are racing against the clock as well as each other.

If you are thinking of having an endurance race bet, then this is not something offered by online bookmakers generally speaking. As a discipline within the equine sport, it has virtually no betting appeal or interest. Despite being popular in the Middle East and parts of America and Europe, endurance competitions are more of a pastime for equestrian enthusiasts than gamblers looking to bet.

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Differences from traditional racing

One way that an endurance race differs from traditional horse racing is the terrain. There is no galloping up the home straight or racing around a bend on a racecourse here. An endurance competition takes place in nature. There are natural hazards, such as rivers and steep climbs, to get past. Only 10% of the route, marked out by colorful arrows, flags, and ribbons, is allowed to take horses on roads with hard surfaces.

There is also a major difference in how far these events are staged over. It is common for a horse endurance race distance to be 50-100 miles (80-160km). Just to compare, the longest high-profile jumps horse race is the Grand National. That is about four-and-a-quarter miles (almost 7km) and takes about 9-10 minutes to complete. Endurance races, by contrast, can last as long as 15 hours. This is because each rider sets their own pace. 

Checks by vets are made at regular intervals during events, rather than before and after like Flat horse races. There are designated stopping points on the planned route where riders must bring their horses to a halt. Any horse deemed unfit to continue must withdraw from the race. Riders only have to be mounted at the start and finish lines. They can lead horses along the route at a walk or jog if they wish.

What are the different types of endurance competition

You will find that there are different endurance events based on the age of the horses competing and the distance. Younger endurance horses cannot be expected to take on a full race while they are still strengthening. Their training is brought on by Limited Distance competitions. These endurance races are typically over 40km. The FEI, the governing body of the equestrian sport, uses a star system to categorize events:

⏩ One Star – 50-74 miles (80-119km)

⏩ Two Star – 75-86 miles (120-139km)

⏩ Three Star – 87-99 miles (140-160km)

⏩ Four Star – about 100 miles (160km)

The Senior Championships call for a horse to complete a Four Star route in a day. For seven-year-olds, the Championships are over 81 miles (130km). In the Junior and Young Rider Championships, routes can be 75 miles (120km). The Tevis Cup in America that takes place along the Western States Trail is another of the FEI’s Four Star endurance events through the Sierra Nevada in California.

How does the different terrain affect endurance events

Some parts of the route will be easier going than others. As with a racehorse running uphill, it is more difficult and exerting to climb the steep hills and even mountainside paths, which can be undulating. It may be best for riders to lead horses over such natural obstacles. Once a horse isn’t sure of its footing, a cautious approach is often needed to get it through the hazards in endurance competitions. 

The fact that only a small proportion of the route is on roads means endurance horses have to be versatile. Climbing uphill and clearing obstacles will become more difficult as the day(s) and race wears on. Hazards can be very dangerous for both horse and rider. A deep, fast-flowing river or stream might be challenging to cross. Adverse weather can also make the terrain treacherous and slippery underfoot.

How can distance impact endurance competitions

There is obviously a big difference between a Limited Distance endurance race over 40km and the Senior Championships over 160km. The longer the horse endurance race distance, the more equine stamina required to last and complete the route. There is a greater chance that a horse will fail a vet’s examination in the longer distance events than the shorter ones and thus be declared unfit to continue.

As well as one-day events, there can be an endurance competition that lasts several days. The aggregate distance of these events, despite a daily limit, can be even longer. You are dealing with extreme tests and, just because a horse did well in a Limited Distance race in its younger years, there is no guarantee that it will train on and appreciate even longer trails when it is older.

Which type of endurance horses are best at it

While endurance events are not limited by the type or breed of horse that can enter, unlike thoroughbred horse racing, certain equine sports are better suited to its rigors than others. Arabian horses tend to be the best for endurance racing as there is a great emphasis on stamina in their breeding. That does not stop standardbred or retrained thoroughbred horses from taking on the challenges of this discipline, however.

What else should I consider about an endurance race

A rider’s ability and understanding of their horse is an important consideration. Nothing tests their mastery of horses like endurance racing. Knowing when to lead the horse through a hazard and when it is getting tired are among the key intuitive skills that riders must develop. Patience, perseverance, and the ability to pace horses properly over the extreme distances of these endurance events are essential too.

There is also the consideration of how long it takes for the horse’s heart rate to get back down to acceptable levels. Horses that are as fit as they can be for the unique demands of an endurance horse race will recover the fastest. Where the rest period intervals are throughout the route are also important. If one takes place after a horse has just made a lengthy and steep uphill climb, then it will take longer for their heart rate to return to standard levels.

Is there value in endurance racing: by Book Spy

While endurance races demand an awful lot of horse and rider, the sense of accomplishment must be huge. It will take time for horses to recover from the exertions of this discipline. If you are looking to place an endurance race bet, you will be disappointed to learn that bookies don’t offer markets on them. Popular horse racing bets exist in more traditional forms of the sport. Look out for each-way or ante post betting through online bookmakers.

Endurance is niche compared with other equestrian pursuits. While critical differences exist between endurance competitions and thoroughbred horse racing, equine fitness is vital for both. There is still a race with a winner, a second and third, but time plays a bigger part in proceedings. Endurance events see riders, and their horses try to conquer rugged terrain, and how they go about getting past natural obstacles is down to the rider’s judgement.

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