Endurance and Clarke Johnstone
How does Endurance play a part in Eventing?
Endurance plays a big part in Eventing, as you have to maintain Endurance across the three disciplines. In particular the cross-country event is quite extensive, as it is 11-12 minutes of galloping at speed across country and doing jumps. The horse has to endure physically in that it needs to be fit enough not to tire. The rider needs physical endurance, as riding a horse in such conditions is physically draining. However, the rider has to endure the mental side of things as well. Throughout the rider needs to maintain focus to not only properly direct the horse around the course, but also to keep control of the horse and be aware of how it’s feeling. It takes at least four years to ‘produce’ a horse. More often that not you can get two years into this process, and realise the horse will just never be able to compete on the world stage, and you have to sell it. For example, the horse might just not have the mental capacity to show-jump.
Tell us about the rider / horse relationship.
Being aware of your horse is crucial – when the horse tires, becomes less/more responsive, sees a flag up ahead, etc you to be completely aware of these things and decide on what adjustments you need to make. As a rider you have to have good mental endurance, and need to be mentally tough. This is crucial as anything that you are feeling the horse will pick up on – you need to be sending the right messages to your horse. In many ways the horse is an extension of yourself. Some people need to work on the mental side more than others, but for others it comes quite naturally.
Tell us about the riders physical preparation.
Basically, it involves as many hours as possible in the saddle. 8-10 hours a day means that a professional rider can cope with the physical endurance required for the events. However, I will also work on my core strength, go to the gym, do runs, etc.
And mental preparation?
Experience counts a lot in horse riding, and it is often the older athletes that can endure the mental side more easily. Huge amounts of hours go into training, and it can be challenging. It can be tough to go out riding when it’s wet and cold but I just love it. Each day is different, as you never know what your horse will do.
How did you get into eventing?
I got into horse riding when I “just had a go.” I fell in love with the sport and immersed myself. Competing for your country brings with it more pressure, but also more reward when you know you’ve been successful. There is a strong sense of pride.