American Endurance Ride Conference Annual Convention

The American Endurance Ride Conference Annual Convention accompanied by a trade show was held in Lexington, Ky., January 22-24. Filled with seminars, the convention was an opportunity for both new and experienced endurance riders to gain and enhance knowledge that will be helpful in preparing for their next endurance ride competition.

Valerie Kanavy, a well-known member of the endurance community, presented her insights on endurance ride strategy. She listed three important characteristics as strategies for success: setting realistic goals, patience and commitment, and flexibility. One of the top priorities is to set realistic goals. The key word here is realistic. One should evaluate the horse, the commitment he or she has to the sport, the schedule, and the time. Once this kind of evaluation has taken place, only then can one set realistic goals. Goal setting is also about planning ahead. Getting horses ready to participate in these events requires long term planning and training; therefore, one must have the patience and the commitment to preparing the horse properly before asking it to do too much. Flexibility is equally important. One must be able to adapt to the unknown and be willing to change things depending on the circumstances. Basically, the best strategy is to pay attention to the details. Pay attention first to the horse and listen to what it is telling you. Let the physical condition of the horse and the lessons that you have learned in the past determine the steps in your overall plan. Pay attention to saddle fit, to nutrition, to shoeing, to clothing, to using what works with your horse. Since there is no 100 percent correct rule for every horse and every situation, paying attention to the details of your own horse will help you with your number one goal which is to finish the endurance competition.

A main focus at this year's conference was nutrition for the endurance horse. Three separate seminars were devoted to this topic. The first part, "Evaluation of the Endurance Horse" was presented by Dr. Stephen Duren and emphasized the need for being able to determine if a horse could go the distance. After discussing sources of energy and energy reserves, Dr. Duren discussed body condition scoring ("the ways to evaluate the storage tank"), and ideal body condition. Using a series of slides, Duren showed examples of every body type from #1 (emaciated) to #9 (extremely fat). He then discussed the ideal body condition score. Too thin or too fat horses don't recover well. The most competitive endurance horse will be in the #4 to #5 range, and closer to the #5 range. Therefore, since energy balance is critical to the performance of endurance horses, it is important for the endurance rider to evaluate energy balance in horse with routine condition scoring and keeping in mind that horses will not perform at their genetic potential when their condition score is outside certain ranges.

Two other seminars continued this topic. Dr. Kathleen Crandell presented "Feeding the Endurance Horse." After a trip through the grocery store of equine nutrition, Crandell summarized her presentation with the ideas that nutrition can make the difference. The endurance horse needs energy for performance, protein for body strength, minerals for bone health, and vitamins for body function. The most important thing to feed a horse is forage: pasture first and good quality hay next best. Dr. Joe Pagan completed the nutrition hat trick with his topic being the new horizons of endurance nutrition. Together these three seminars provided valuable information for the feeding of the endurance horse.

Other topics covered during the convention included massage therapy, liability issues for amateur horse owners, equine chiropractic, and the rehabilitation of injured horses.

About the Author

Tim Brockhoff

Tim Brockhoff was Staff Writer of The Horse:Your Guide to Equine Health Care from 1995 to 1999. His degree is in Agricultural Communications from the University of Kentucky, and his equine experience is with American Saddlebreds.

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