New Endurance Opportunities for Army Riders

For the last 4 years Maj Shelley Bates, Adjutant General's Corps has been taking part in one of the FEI's fastest growing equestrian sports…Endurance riding. Now she and the AEA aiming to get more Army riders involved in the sport.

“Endurance is to get you and your horse around a set distance course (32-160km) and finish with a horse who the vet deems 'fit to continue'. The speed you travel at will depend if you are doing a fixed speed test (called a graded ride) or a free speed test (known as a competitive or race ride). Everyone has to start out doing Graded rides to ensure you and your horse are prepared for the greater distances and speeds.
My Endurance story started a little differently, although I was aware of the sport previously, I decided on a whim in 2013 to enter the Mongol Derby…the world's longest, toughest horse race (google it and you'll see what I mean!). This was 1000km over no more than 10 days across the vast steppes of Mongolia. It was an epic adventure though luckily far from putting me off from Endurance, my passion for it has grown.”

“The horse I had bought at the beginning of 2013 with a view to doing some preparation rides prior to the Derby had injured himself so it wasn't until I returned that I could start training him for the 2014 season. I had to start from scratch, due to his recovery programme but that was a good thing as long slow distance work is a key staple in training the Endurance horse. We got started in Mar 14 with our first 32km ride that used the South Downs so it was pretty hilly. We progressed throughout the year to open level (there are 3 grades of rider/horse) and ended up doing 65km to finish off the year. 2015 sadly saw another injury (horses!) and then I deployed to Afghanistan. On my return it was another rehab programme and some showing before riding solo along the South Downs Way (100 miles) over 5 ½ days. This year I have been riding my friend's horse, Sadhira, who is international standard. We were selected to represent England at the Home International competition (against Scotland, Ireland and Wales) and competed in my first race ride over 80km with another 40km thrown in the next day for good measure!! Considering at the start of the year I didn't think I'd be doing much it's turned out pretty good…I also now have my Advanced status so it's upwards to full international standard for me now!”

Endurance riding is really easy to get started in, whilst there are lots of Arabian horses competing at higher levels, anyone who has a horse with a leg in each corner and is prepared to put in a little work raising fitness levels of horse and rider can give it a go. I'll be writing a couple of blogs over the winter about endurance riding but my aim next year is to get some Army riders to compete as a team and end up at the riding club finals in Oct 18 in Builth Wells, Wales. If you want to be part of a growing sport please contact me through the button below. If you don't have a horse please still register your interest as we need crew to support us and I will do my best to look into getting rides for you.