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Hannah Kelly and her son Jack competing at the Lavenham ride. Photo courtesy of Indie Pics.

Endurance riding has its roots in European cavalry and breeding programme tests that required horses to carry 300lb over 100 miles in one day. However, it was only in 1955 that endurance became a sport when an American named Wendell Robie and a group of friends rode from Lake Tahoe across the Sierra Nevada to Auburn in under 24 hours. This was the moment the famous Tevis Cup was born.

Today, endurance is an equestrian sport officially recognised by the FEI, which describes it as “the ultimate challenge.”

With some endurance rides around the world covering a staggering 160km, strict veterinary checks on soundness, heart rate and metabolics are carried out before, during and after each ride and any horses not within the parameters are not allowed to continue. The art is to produce a horse fit enough to cover the distance at the required speed, with the skill of the rider being to keep to the right pace to win without tiring the horse or exceeding the maximum heart rate levels.

James Dickinson riding his purebred Arab Magdy at the World Endurance Championships in Abu Dhabi in February. Photo courtesy of Marijke Visser.

While endurance riding remains enormously popular in the States, it also has a big following in Europe and the UK, where the sport is governed by Endurance GB, a member of the British Equestrian Federation. Endurance in Scotland is governed by the Scottish Endurance Riding Club.

“Endurance riding became popular in the UK in the 1960s with long-distance riding tests organised by the Arab Horse Society. It then developed in various different forms until Endurance GB was formed in 2001,” says Heather Giles of Endurance GB.

“Endurance is one of the most inclusive equestrian disciplines in the UK with the sport open to riders of all abilities and all breeds of horses and ponies, although it's fair to say that at top level in the sport pure bred Arabs and horses with a high percentage of Arab blood dominate.

"There is a huge range of distances in endurance riding, from unaffiliated pleasure rides to the affiliated Foundation Novice rides which start at 25km. There are types of membership to suit everyone and a Try Before You Buy system so that you can give endurance a go before committing to full membership.

“Endurance riders talk about how addictive the sport is, how friendly and helpful everyone in the endurance family is, and how it enables you to experience riding in beautiful parts of the country.

"Endurance GB encourages everyone interested in the sport to volunteer at an endurance ride to see how it all works. There are 24 regional groups and many find that this is the best route into the sport.”

Phillipa Verry riding her horse Charterlands Stilton. Photo courtesy of Farlap Photography. 

For more information, visit, and If you are in the UK, you can find your regional group here.

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