Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. There are two main types of long-distance riding; competitive trail riding and endurance rides.
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Endurance rides can be any distance, though they are rarely over 160 kilometres for a one-day race. In an endurance ride, the winning horse is the first one to cross the finish line while stopping periodically to pass a veterinary check that deems the animal in good health and fit to continue.
The ride is divided into sections, with different names (legs, phases, loops etc.), depending on sanctioning organisation. After each leg, horses are stopped for a veterinary inspection (sometimes called a vet-gate), where they are checked for soundness and dehydration, with their pulse and respiration took. To continue the ride, the horse must pass the examination, including reducing its heart rate below that specified for the event, typically 64 bpm.
As with human marathon running, many riders will participate in improving their horse's personal best and consider finishing the distance with a proper vet completion record to be a win.
Any breed can compete, but the Arabian horses generally dominate the top levels because of the breed's stamina and natural endurance abilities.
Endurance riding is one of the international competitions recognised by the FEI. Endurance riding as an organised activity was first developed in the United States based on European cavalry (mainly Polish and Russian WWI) and breeding programme tests requiring the ability to carry 140 kilos over 160 kilometres in one day.
Organised endurance riding as a formal sport began in 1955 when Wendell Robie and a group of equestrians rode from the Lake Tahoe area across the Sierra Nevada Range to Auburn in under 24 hours. They followed the historic Western States Trail. This ride soon became known as the Tevis Cup, and it remains the most difficult of any 160 kilometres ride in the world because of the severe terrain, high altitude and +/-37 °C temperatures.
Endurance riding first was brought to Europe in the 1960s.