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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Essential Equipment - Level 1

When I start a new sport I usually have lists and lists and MORE lists of equipment I need.  I'm convinced that's part of the fun for an OCD person starting a new sport - lists. 
There are lots of lists for riders starting endurance, but they are usually so detailed the poor person throws up their hands and gives up, or the list is not clearly prioritized with what equipment is needed NOW, and what equipment you don't need to worry about until you are doing 100's. 
This is not a comprehensive list - for example I don't cover personal items such as first aid kits, camp gear, or what exactly to carry on the trail.  Instad, I'm trying to give a rider an idea of what it takes to get into the sport (level 1) and then what items you will probably want to invest in as you go further into the sport (levels 2 and 3). 
Level 1 equipment is what I consider basic equipment that is needed before starting your first endurance race.  You may be able to condition without many of these items, but (and this is an important fact to remember) an endurance ride is different from a conditioning ride.  It just is.  Everyone I have talked to admits dealing with the same feelings during their first race - that it was different from what they thought it would be.  It can be different in a good way, or different in a way that makes the rider evaluate their suitability for the sport.  By having the right equipment during your first ride, you can maximize your chances of an enjoyable experience!
(BTW - I'm sure that many of you are going to disagree with some of my opinions and that's GREAT.  Please post in the comments. ) 
Level 1
  • Saddle that fits - this is applicable to ALL levels.  Plan on dealing with this one your entire endurance career!  Although I do not advocate riding in a saddle that doesn't fit, it is possible to be successful in the beginning at the LD level, or even a 50 miler if you are light, a good rider, and the saddle fits "well enough".  So at this level, it is probably not necessary to go out and purchase a 5K saddle for your first ride, as long as your current saddle fits "well enough". 


  • Appropriate footwear for horse - For your first race, I would recommend sticking with whatever has worked in your riding for the last couple of years.  Now is NOT the time to experiment with boots if you have been using shoes.  If you have been riding barefoot without shoes OR boots it can be a hard decision.  Most west region rides require hoof protection and the ride managers are usually warranted in requiring it.  In my opinion, it would be better to nail a pair of shoes on for your first ride if you don't have prior boot experience. 


  • Basic saddle pad - Nothing fancy the saddle, when you are starting out, assuming a saddle that fits well enough, an appropriate sized rider, and decent riding skills, you shouldn't need a fancy pad to start in your first LD or 50 miler. 


  • Basic tack appropriate to horse - bridle, bit/hackamore, breastcollar/crupper.  Use what you have as long as it fits well and you aren't having any rubbing or chafing issues. 


  • Waterproof horse blanket - Most rides I do are in the mountains, and it can get very chilly at night, even in the middle of summer.  If you don't have a blanket, you can get away with a large wool blanket (army style, can also be used as a saddle blanket) draped like a cooler, with a surcingle around the middle (this is what I did for my first ride).  A mid weight waterproof turnout can be bought for ~$50 if you look around.  Because the horse will be standing at a trailer, there is no need to get a fancy super duper resilient one - just get one that will be appropriate for the temperature and will keep the rain off for a night if it rains.  Even if your horse is not normally blanketed and has a hair, it can still be necessary to blanket during the cool nights because if they get cold, they can't move around to warm themselves.


  • Good reins - Although I generally recommend using the tack you have, take a close look at your reins.  I've had 2 pairs of (brand new) reins either break or disintegrate in the rain during an endurance ride my first year.  This is one area that I would recommend investing in new tack right away.  Choose a synthetic that you like (there are many options - weight, feel, style) with clips on the end (my preference).


  • Riding tights or other appropriate ride wear - If you do insist on doing your first ride in jeans, do yourself a favor and wear nylons, silks or something between the jeans and your skin. 


  • Gloves - Useful for pushing branches/brush out of your face while trotting. Especially necessary where there is poison oak - better to get it on your gloves and wash/discard them then to get it on your bare skin.  Gloves also prevent you from getting blisters from your nice new synthetic reins.  Yes, we would all like to think our horses are well behaved enough that we wouldn't pull on each other enough to even worry about blisters.  But trust me on this - for at least your first 1-3 rides - better be able to pull and control speed at the moment, then to let your horse run a-muck, promising everyone you slam into that your horse will be trained better by the next ride!


  • Small feedpan - Small enough to mix up a bit of beetpulp or whatever your horse likes at a vet check. 


  • Electrolytes and a way to administer - You may decide you don't want to electrolyte, and you might assume you don't need them for the easy LD or 50 mile race you have planned.  You may be right.  However, things happen since they are small and don't take up space - it is better to have and not need, than to wish you had them.  Even if you don't use them, you might become a hero to a fellow-endurance rider who has lost theirs on the trail.


  • Gallon bags of feed - each type of feed into a gallon sized bag for vet checks.  Even if you normally mix the feed together at home, horses seem to get pickier at rides and may only want one feed at checks.  A gallon sized bag seems to hold the appropriate amount of feed - the horse eats as much as they want, but you aren't stuck hauling 10 pounds of feed in your crew bag.


  • Spare parts - I suggest an extra stirrup, stirrup leather, reins, and girth. 


  • Makeshift crew bag - no need to go out and buy a fancy one at this stage of the game.  I'm sure there are plenty of duffel bags laying around that you could use!


  • Headlamp - you won't need it during the ride, but they come in handy when tacking in the morning, making restroom visits in the middle of the night etc.  After using a headlamp around my horse, I won't go back to using a flashlight.  The headlamps are that much better.  If you don't want to make a huge investment, go to Walmart and pick one up - they even have one that includes a red bulb in it for less than $15.


  • Buckets and hay feeder for camp - bring enough containers that you can give your horse a home away from home - hay feeder, water bucket, beet pulp bucket, salt bucket etc.  You will probably want an extra bucket to use for sponging too.


  • A way to carry water and snacks - Carry water on the trail!  Even if later on in your endurance career you make the decision that you don't need to - find a way for your first ride.  Camelbaks can work if you don't have anything else.  You might be able to rig a way to carry a water bottle on your saddle without it bouncing. 


  • Sponge or scoop - I prefer a sponge.  Tie a string around the middle, attach a carabiner and hang off your saddle. 


  • Evaluate your riding foot wear and stirrup capability - I have 3-4 different stirrup-boot combinations that I will use depending on the ride, how much I plan on getting off and running, if I'm having problems with my feet etc.  I believe strongly that unless you are riding with a booted shoe, you should have a covered stirrup.


  • Stethoscope - I consider this optional. I don't use one, I've always been able to feel the heart beat better than listening for it.  This isn't something I would carry on the trail, but if I used one I'd put it in the crew bag.


  • Bands for braiding - If you horses mane is long or thick, it does make a difference.  It's also helpful with keeping the mane out of your fingers when you are trying to use the reins.  I usually find a 12 year old to braid for me, or braid early the day before.  It's not my favorite task.  Working braids stay in the best, but I have done a french braid before for a one day 50 and it stayed in (Farley has a long mane).


  • Endurance appropriate leg protection for horses that need it - if you are going to use leg protection on a horse (preferably only if your horse needs it, make sure it is appropriate for endurance - won't soak up water, won't attract stickers and burrs, cool as possible, doesn't rub and chafe, is easily removable (you will probably have to remove at each vet check), easily cleanable.
Next up:  Level 2 - you have some rides under your belt and you have decided that this is the sport for you!  What's next?


  1. Nice overview, good info--can't think of anything to add--except rider food. It can be a surprise to find out that what you think you want to eat on a ride makes you feel sick!

  2. ahhhh! Lists lists! I can feel the joy that writing this brings to you. In fact, I'm freshly inspired to think up a list to start! (And you know that I'm not being facetious!)

  3. ahhhh! Lists lists! I can feel the joy that writing this brings to you. In fact, I'm freshly inspired to think up a list to start! (And you know that I'm not being facetious!)

  4. When I'm packing for a ride, I try to visualize myself and my horse, head-to-toe, and make sure to pack all the equipment I see in my mental image!

    helmet, headlamp, bandana, gloves, appropriate raingear/warmth layers, fanny pack, tights (can be "regular" or polarfleece, depending on the weather), socks, more socks, a clean change of socks, an extra pair of socks, boots.

    headstall, saddle, saddle pad breastcollar, rump rug, saddle bag, water bottles, sponge, fresh shoes. Winter blanket goes to camp even in summer--the mountains are COLD! And a big bag of carrots.

  5. Rump rug. Wish I had put one on Chief before we left to trailer out to mark trail yesterday. He wishes so too, lol! Some years I hardly us the dang things and other times it gets used a LOT!

    If you posted this, then ignore me, I had a long day or two and should probably be sleeping about now...zzzz

  6. Nope - I had the rump rug on level two... But it coulddefinatly go here too depending inthe weather for your training and riding

  7. Wait - you forgot something for the rider, the women riders specifically... A DAMN GOOD SPORTS BRA!! lol!! It is a must have unless you want to feel like you got beat up by the end of a ride!!

  8. I almost put that! Lol. I've never had a problem, but now as I get "older" I find myself willing to pay for 20 dollar sport bras instead of using the $1.50 walmart ones.

  9. Hmm - I've heard it said that training rides and REAL rides are different. It will be interesting to see how that is true for me. I'd assume it'd be different for each individual personality. Would be fun for me if you'd post about this.....and then lots of others commented! (please?) :-)

    Hadn't thought of getting a headlamp - will add that to the list.

    Sponging - is that done even if it's chilly? (say, in the 40s and 50s in the spring?)

    On the crewbag....this is something that confuses me. If you carry snacks and water with you, and you have the sponge on board - what do you put in the crewbag?? What do you do with this stuff and when?

  10. I keep my list on an excel spreadsheet and review and modify as the weather or terrain changes but this is a great basic list to get you started.

    Also plan time for packing and storing your gear to save space and you can never have too many buckets.


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