Patience is a virtue?
An analysis of the career histories of horses that started out with Endurance GB in 2002 and 2003
The first analysis was carried out on the career histories of the ‘Class of 2002’, i.e. those horses who completed their first ride with Endurance GB in 2002, by reviewing the whole Endurance GB archive up to and including 2015. Horses that only did one ride were discounted. This data was then compared to the career histories of the ‘Class of 2003’, i.e. those horses who completed their first ride with Endurance GB in 2003. The patterns evident in the careers of the ‘Class of 2002’ matched the patterns evident in the careers of the ‘Class of 2003’. For the purposes of this article, the data from both samples have been merged.
Number of rides per year
The average length of career across the ‘Class of 2002’ and the ‘Class of 2003’ was 4.2 seasons, with an average career completion rate of 82%. 69% had a pass at their final ride, indicating that those that retired at that point retired sound. Around 4% of the horses that started out in 2002 or 2003 were still on the circuit in 2015.
The average number of rides per year, average number of rides in the horse’s busiest season, and the average career completion rates compared to career length were as follows:
One point to note here is that although doing a high number of rides in a season does not appear to have an adverse impact on a horse’s longevity, very few horses did a high number of rides per season year after year after year, and very few horses rode at longer distances year after year after year. The most common pattern is that the horses with the longer careers tend to have three/four years when they did a lot (ie big distances, or lots of rides) and then they dropped back to a more manageable level the rest of the time; and their 'busy' seasons are not necessarily consecutive years. This shows that Endurance GB’s ride structure needs to be flexible. If the stars align and riders are in the right space personally and with the right horse to do a bit more, then we need to make sure the door is open for them, but we also need to make sure that they are welcomed and supported to drop back to the shorter rides when necessary.
Longest distances completed during the horse’s career
28% of horses completed a ride of 80km or more during their career, and around 8% attempted a 160km:
There is not a significant difference in career completion rates comparing those horses that ‘only’ completed lower distance classes in their careers and those who attempted longer distances:
When did horses attempt their first longer distance ride and what effect did this have on their career?
There is some evidence that waiting an extra season or two before attempting a longer distance class can have a beneficial effect on both the horse’s length of career and its overall career completion rate:
The data would appear to back up the old fashioned wisdom which says that it takes at least four years to ‘make’ an endurance horse, as horses that spent a little longer at the lower distances before doing the longer rides had longer careers and better career completion rates. Of course, this lower distance preparation does not have to be done at rides; a horse that is carefully prepared at home can be just as successful and there were also examples in the archives of horses that had done just that. The important point is to make sure that the horse is properly prepared and that it knows its job before it is asked for more.
Esther Young, Endurance GB Rides & Rules Committee