This insider advice will help you stay comfortable and safe; it'll also help you look like a serious trail rider rather than a wannabe. If you'd sooner give up riding than be caught in a pair of neon-colored pantyhose, then consider a more conservative color, such as tan, navy, or black.
The fabric keeps you warm in inclement weather, cool on hot days, wicks moisture, and, most important, doesn't chafe or rub. Other popular brands with endurance riders are Gideon, Kerr its Overstretch, and Saddle Bums.
(Guys, if you just can't bring yourself to don pantyhose, then consider wearing them under your jeans.) If your outerwear becomes too hot or heavy, tie it around your waist or to the back of your saddle.
As a base layer on top, endurance riders usually compete in slogan T-shirts from previous rides. If you tend to burn easily or will be riding through brush, layer a long-sleeve cotton shirt over your T-shirt.
Find a riding boot or shoe that's wide across the ball of the foot, offers your toes ample room, has a cushioned, yet sturdy, sole, and has a heel just high enough to catch your stirrup. Both Aria's Endurance Collection and Mountain Horse's line of paddock boots offer a variety of styles for both men and women for summer, winter, and wet-weather riding.
Have your calves ever been rubbed so raw from chafing against your horse's sweaty sides (making your calves also uncomfortably wet) that you scream in pain when showering after a long, painful day in the saddle? They'll keep your calves from being rubbed raw and will keep the bottoms of your riding pants dry and down on your ankles.
The single most important piece of equipment you can wear is an ASTM-approved, SEI-certified riding helmet. Don't shun a helmet because you're “just meandering down the trail”; you can suffer a serious head injury falling off even if your horse is standing still.
For helmet makers, see the resource guide; it's best to try on several makes and models before you buy. Endurance riders have learned a lot from their miles in the saddle; here's what they recommend.
Your horse can suffer behavioral problems and, worse, muscle, tissue, and nerve damage. Finding a saddle that fits perfectly shouldn't be a problem, provided you do your research.
This man-made material lasts virtually a lifetime and is easy to clean; you simply hose it off or dunk it in water. “Combo halter-bridles allow you to unclip the bit, leaving you with a halter,” notes endurance rider Terry O'Brennan.
So that you can walk again after your ride, don't set your stirrup length as though it'll never change again, says McGee. A breast collar is an absolute necessity to keep your saddle in place while going uphill.
It'll also give you lots of great places to hang things, such as a sponge. Endurance riders like breast collars made from biothane or neoprene, which are lightweight, easy to clean, and come in an array of colors.
Tack secret #6: Find a good saddle pad. For long hours in the saddle, a pad that wicks heat and moisture, distributes weight evenly, protects pressure points and is easy to keep clean is a must for endurance riders.
Top on the list is the Skit Pad from Carousel, which can be custom-ordered to fit any saddle. Supra cor pads also receive high marks from endurance riders.
The brand of choice that most endurance riders prefer is Stowaway (available from Synergism Saddles), which has both pommel and castle packs. These handy packs come in a variety of colors for English, Western, and trail saddles.
As for packing snacks for the trail, anything that will hold up to being stuffed into a saddlebag will suffice, such as granola bars, jerky, and hard candy. Never hit the trail without water, even if you're just going for a short ride.
For longer rides, especially in hot weather, supplement your water with electrolytes, or pack Gatorade. Endurance rider Karla Perkins recommends always carrying an Easy boot, a hoof pick, a knife, Ve trap, and a small role of duct tape.
“With Ve trap or duct tape you can spell words out on the ground,” Perkins says. The famous Dave Race and Holy Toledo got stuck in mud.
With the Ve trap, Laura Hayes and I spelled out 'NO' in bright colors, so those after us didn't make the same error.” Attach them to the front of your breast collar, where they'll illuminate the ground without affecting your horse's (excellent) night vision.
The infamous endurance rider Crockett Dumas once said, “From the moment horses are born, they spend their entire lives trying to kill themselves.” If you've got a very hot horse, as in has been racing, that's when you offer six swallows, walk a while, then six more, but not out trail riding.
Endurance rider Steve Shaw also believes hydration is key. Endurance riders have devised some interesting ways to stay cool during long hot rides.
Your fingers are numb; your toes feel like someone smashed them with a hammer. The key to staying warm is twofold: (1) Dress to protect yourself from the elements with layers, as mentioned earlier; and (2) enhance your circulation.
Gripping the reins and sitting in the saddle only makes it worse. To keep your circulation moving in your hands and feet, wear warm gloves and comfortable socks that wick moisture.