Rebirth of Endurance Tests/ Roadmap to the Future/ Part 1: Endurance Testing Conceptual Chart


Thank you to the thousands who took the time to read the first nine segments of The Rebirth of Endurance Tests, and a very special thank you the many who made the additional contribution of sharing your comments, counterpoint and perspective.   This remains a very collective exploration in which I am honored to be gathering and transmitting the energy of many, past and present.

To better engage this interaction of so many readers, I am dividing what I had previously forecast to be a single chapter named Roadmap to the Future into two parts.  This first part will further a more specific conversation about where we ideally want to arrive, and soon to follow a second part will then describe specific steps to get from here to there.

Forwarded to guide conversation here is an Endurance Testing Program conceptual model in flowchart format.  This chart extends beyond the conventional boundaries of endurance racing to show relationship in the broader equestrian racing and distance riding communities. This is offered as a work platform for developing in the best possible compatibility with traditional ideas and institutions around the world, while allying this diversity for optimal effectiveness in supporting equine welfare.

The accuracy of projections, and the effectiveness of any action plan to bring about change can only be as good as our vision of where we intend to go.

The best path will reveal itself when we build a beacon that shines brightly together.

Interpretation and Use of the

Endurance Testing Conceptual Chart


To better express the most effective functional relationship between different classes of equine distance tests, the definitions and parameters of fields in the racing side (Right) of this graphic are different than current conventions.  What has lately been identified as “Limited Distance” racing in North America and by other monikers elsewhere is named here as equine Marathon, a term for racing in this range that pre-existed the more recent terminologies.  The category of Endurance Race in this conceptual exercise is more specifically reserved for tests in a physiologically distinct zone beyond the range of a primary metabolic surge of effort for equines.  The category Extended Marathon covers race events in the broad transition zone between Marathon and Endurance Race as defined in this conceptual exercise.

Gesturally depicted here is as expressed in earlier chapters of Rebirth of Endurance Tests ; Endurance Racing sits at the conceptual crossroads of sport and science.

Arrows indicate proposed developmental pathways.  This proposal is again quite different from conventional qualification procedures or development pathways of the either AERC or FEI.  It is more consistent with effective development processes in North America prior to the mid-1980’s, and with the more recent rules of events at Boudheib in Abu Dhabi.  Notice that by the specific direction of the pathway arrows, the Marathon races (orange blocks) that are so popular today are not even part of the proposed ideal development pathway toward Endurance Racing.  These Marathon classes are depicted here as a sport racing group (yellow/orange), which exists along the edge of the unethical, just as we have witnessed in vivo.  The intent here is not to condemn all races in these classes, for there is a lot of good science that can come out of tests in this area.  This does graphically express how tests in the Marathon and an Extended Marathon range can easily challenge the limits of veterinary control technologies and become unethical if we direct the test conditions to become too sensationally sporting.

The type of criterion for advancement varies according the type of test.   CTR events are capable of yielding academic performance grading (AG), and this is an ideal basis for advancement criterion when available.  For advancement through race classes, some variant of completion rate (CR) criterion might afford the best equine welfare protection.  Example: “< 65% completion rate finishing at least three races in the top 50% of the field of competition”.

With effective rule structure, some of the criterion elements shown here might not be essential for the welfare of the horse, and should be optional at the discretion of regional governance.   This might be particularly true of advancement between CTRs.  When the veterinary control systems are well developed and supported by conservative test conditions, unprepared horses are reliably identified and dismissed from test early without harm.  The potential for failure is then an eloquently adequate discourager of premature advancement.  In fact, the more a program can be self-regulating in this manner the better.  We should never use advancement criterion simply to inflate participation in events for the support of image and bureaucracy.

Heritage Trials is a label created for a less common class of endurance tests that extend beyond the time and distance range of Endurance Races.  At these very long ranges the distinction between racing and fixed pace tests becomes more muted, so for the purposes of this exercise I have denoted Heritage Trials as one class.  This might eventually be worthy of sub-class division of Heritage Racing (Right half) and Heritage CTR (Left).

The position of elements on this chart gesturally represent relationship in two dimensional ranges of test duration vs. functionality.   Even the size and position of the areas within in each colored shape represent the conceptual range specific events in each category might operate, depending of the rules of play engaged and other factors of the test environment.

Environmental factors can be indigenous social and political characteristics of a region, or geographic features; anything that effects the events performance as a more academic, or more recreational/sporting exercise.  This is why each region of the world needs to develop its own focus areas for improvement.  To do this we need clear and objective recognition of where we are in the big picture.  From there we can each lay out our own regionally optimized path to a common honorable goal.

Endurance Program Conceptual Chart Legend

Endurance Program Conceptual Chart


Placement of specific test examples on the Endurance Testing Conceptual Chart


In North America we have a modest number of CTR events operating to the right of the center of the respective CTR1A1, CTR2A2, and CTR3A3 domains.  I indicate “to the right of center” because many of these events have come to operate with more relaxed recreational/sporting intent and less academic rigor than in the past.  Endurance racing in North America most typically operates just left of center in in the MarathonA4 and Extended MarathonA5 domains, extending into the EnduranceA6 domain for some events.  “Left of center” placement is suggested because while the races here have had low incidence of equine welfare issues, they have also become less effective at supporting long visional scientific benefit.  These races aren’t rule structured so much differently than the races in UAE that are causing such public discontent, however a proclivity toward more diverse courses and social pressures have resulted in less on-course tragedy. Therefore, environmental conditions largely account for the difference in placement.

In North America we have a few events in the Heritage Trails class domainA7, recognized within AERC only by a special “Pioneer Ride” sanctioning process.  Notice that by the position of the Heritage Rides domain on this chart, rides of this length inherently have significant academic potential, whether they are structured as a race, CTR or otherwise.

Unfortunately, those attending CTR(A1-A4) and those attending races(A4-A7) are separate groups in North America, with relatively few participating in both types.  What remains of North Americas CTR systems is effectively disconnected from endurance racing.  CTR participants only occasionally progress into distance ranges that fully examine equine athletic potential, and endurance racing participants commonly short-cut into racing with minimal focus on horsemanship and equitation fundamentals.  To further institutionalize this separation, the USA equestrian federation (USEF) currently does not allow CTR events to credit toward FEI qualification, so horses starting the FEI qualification protocol are required to start in Marathon class races instead of CTR events that would be much more effective for developing young horses toward Endurance Racing.

The UAE equestrian federation wisely learned some time ago that operating racing events in this Marathon domain as qualifiers for Endurance Racing was inefficient, and instead now conducts fixed pace qualifiers(E1) located at the rightmost extreme of the CTR domains of this conceptual diagram.  I indicate “right-most extreme” because there is little attempt to scholastically critique equitation, or to score the horses beyond the basic intent of demonstrating that the horse has completed the distance in passable fitness.  Distinctly crossing over to the right side of this chart, longer distanced tests in the UAE with very fast sport oriented courses commonly operate in the center(E2) and the upper center(E3) of the Extended Marathon zone, putting the longer UAE events well into the ethical danger zone (red) depicted in this chart.

The recent Boudheib rules(B1) created longer distance fixed time (pace) events that include added attention given to the ranking of the best condition scoring, making them more academically effective, so these events might be located higher (more distance) and to the left (more academic) of the UAE qualifiers.  This is a groundbreaking move in the direction of best practices for UAE, and there’s plenty more that can be added to this foundation to build a more efficient development system for horse and riders alike.

This actually puts the UAE well on its way to having to a more ideally effective endurance program; one that encourages a more academic approach to training and development.  This is would be graphically represented by working sequentially right up the center of the CTR type events toward endurance racing on this chart.  All that remains is more academic optimization of pace standardized trials, and creation of more well-rounded, naturally diverse courses for both the set speed trials and races.  They certainly have more variety of terrain available to them in the UAE than is being utilized, and resources enough to recreate any terrain of the world if they should become so motivated.

If the Mongul Derby were to be placed on this chart, it would be split in its classification for horses and riders; because riders go the whole distance, while the equine partners are changed daily.   For riders it’s a test of Heritage Trial status, for horses it’s more like Marathon racing.


Thank you for taking the time to entertain this conceptual exercise.  Every new contributor helps create a new reality for endurance testing.


Where would traditional distance riding tests of your region fit in this chart?


What adjustments of your traditional tests, or new elements are needed, to create a more academic development sequence supporting Endurance Testing and Heritage Trials in your region?


I look forward to your comments, please use the COMMENT link at the bottom of this post.

If you’d like a copy of the above chart, or this entire document in another electronic format, or if  you’d simply like more private dialogue, please feel free to contact me



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