Clinics 101 – Getting Started

By Patti Stedman


Endurance 101. These are introductory clinics for people new to the sport, typically conducted in a classroom-type setting, but ideally with access to endurance tack and equipment and horses, upon whom veterinary checks can be simulated, and metabolic (heart rate, skin pinch, cap refill, tack/back soreness) checks taught to the clinic attendees in a hands-on setting.


A 13-unit PowerPoint presentation created by the Education Committee is available for you to use as a framework for your clinic. The presentation starts with “You can do this!” plus how to get started and what to expect before, during and after competition.


Note: Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, has produced short YouTube educational videos to mesh with these PowerPoint modules.


Endurance 201. Oftentimes, mounted clinics with a mock endurance ride and vet check — as well as a camping experience — are conducted by clinic organizers. (NEW! As of 2018, clinics can host official AERC Introductory Rides — please consult the AERC rule book for details.) These may be a part of a multi-day clinic which also includes materials from Endurance 101 clinics, but more frequently are held in locations without access to classroom types of settings and projectors, and are more hands-on in nature.


Endurance 201 clinics are designed to take concepts and turn them into practice. They are a critical part of the learning process and key to ensuring new competitors feel comfortable with the skills they will need to successfully get through their first ride.


Beyond the Basics. This PowerPoint presentation was created by the Education Committee to help riders get through the “sophomore slump.” It was intended for riders who had done some competing but were looking to increase their level of performance in the sport.


For all of these clinics and expos, the office staff is happy to get you promotional materials for AERC and some good “swag” to hand out to clinic participants, including membership applications.


Remember, all of this is part of one of our most important organizational missions — to “cast the net: and increase our AERC membership. If you’ve been toying with the idea of taking the plunge, please don’t hesitate to contact the AERC office at or via the AERC office for details.


Get started! The first step is to sign up for clinic insurance, which is partially funded by AERC. You can fill out our Online Clinic Insurance Application or print out and mail or fax back the clinic insurance application. If you have your own insurance or your clinic is insured by another group or organization, please use this clinic insurance release form.


Once your insurance form is received, you can fill out a clinic order form so you have the materials needed for your clinic. (Or, even easier: give the office a call, 866-271-2372, or send an email: AERC Membership Desk.

By Ann Cofield




Hosting an endurance clinic is an excellent way for you to give back to the sport. This is an opportunity for interested people to begin the sport of endurance riding in a safe and knowledgeable way. Also, it a good way to showcase our sport to people of other horse disciplines.




Who will manage the clinic? The person who most wants this event to happen will be the one. This is the time to ask for support from other endurance riders, veterinarians, land owners and sponsors.


Who will come to the clinic? Advertising ahead of time in your community, putting out flyers at barns and tack stores, writing articles for horse publications in your area and inviting other horse clubs will bring in the majority of participants. Endurance riders always have friends who are interested and sometimes Pony Club or 4-H members attend. Also, local newspapers will possibly do an article about the event. Publicity needs to be handled by a committee who will be prepared to mail out information and take phone calls.




When is a good time to have the clinic? Pick a weekend when there is not an endurance ride nearby so you will have help. Be aware of major horse events in the area, as most of your participants will come from other horse activities. Also, warm, dry weather is a big plus!




There are many possibilities for clinic sites. If this is to be a one-day event, keep in mind most people will trailer in that morning so the site needs to be close to the target area of your prospects. Some people have never camped with their horses and even tying them to the trailer for several hours can be traumatic!


A private farm with at least ten miles of trail is excellent and offers a casual atmosphere. Plan to pay something for the use of the land, although some land owners will not charge. Consider providing a portable toilet instead of using their private bathrooms. Find out ahead of time if people need to bring their own water, or enough will be available. Do not put the land owner’s phone number on your brochure unless they agree! Designate someone to be sure the camping area is clean when the clinic is over, even though the participants would have cleaned, too.


It is wise to have day event insurance. AERC subsidizes a portion of the cost of an Equisure liability policy for clinics approved by the AERC office. Insurance must be requested 60 days before the clinic. Click for the AERC Clinic Insurance Application.


If using private property for your clinic, let the land owner know you appreciated the use of the farm. A thank you note and restaurant gift certificate is little to pay for the opportunity to return in the future.


Public land can be an ideal place to hold a clinic. On this land the most important person in your life is the land manager or forest ranger. Be patient and courteous. Remember, they have rules that must be followed. Just do what they say! It is helpful if one of the members already has a working relationship with the land manager by doing trail work.


Volunteering in the forest gives creditability to your group and the officials are more willing to help with your efforts. Again, be prepared to get insurance and pay a trail fee. Have participants sign waivers, produce Coggins papers or other required documents. Choose a site with moderate terrain and easy access. Non-endurance riders may never have pulled trailers far off of paved roads. What an adventure awaits them!


Clinics can also be held in two parts. Meet at some public location or restaurant one evening. Present an overview of endurance riding and discuss the most important aspects of our sport, care and conditioning of the horse. Give handouts describing a reasonable conditioning program and other information concerning feeding, shoeing and camping with their horses. Have experienced riders talk about what to expect before, during and after the ride. This is also a good time to talk about ways the family can be involved, crewing or helping with the ride. Have a plan in place to do a training ride at a nearby location on the following weekend. Be sure to stress the use of helmets as an important safety feature of our sport. A question and answer time is always appreciated. The presentation should take about two hours.




At clinics with the horses, have a greeter at the gate when the participants arrive to direct parking and welcome them. It will take a few minutes for people to unload and settle their horses. This is good time for the working members to walk around to the trailers, introduce themselves and point out the registration table. Time is of the essence and people tend to dilly-dally around at their trailers if you don’t head them toward the registration area.


Once everyone is gathered, introduce yourself and whoever else is helping. Twenty to 25 people is a reasonable amount to manage for this type event, although it can be larger with an experienced support group. Go over the agenda. Stress keeping to the schedule. Give people a chance to introduce themselves and tell what breed of horse they have brought.


Explain that when the ride goes out they will be divided into small groups for safety purposes. Give information about pacing and trail safety, and give out maps and describe how the trails are marked. Let the vet go over the ride card, explaining what he will look for when the riders return. The participants will be anxious to ride. Get them on the trail and they will be better able to listen upon returning!


An experienced rider should accompany each group and “teach” along the trail. A ten-mile trail is usually enough. Some people would never have trotted even a mile at a time! Stop about halfway to take pulses. Teach it then and each person can try taking their horse’s pulse. A designated open area or field is a good stopping place, as other riders will be there, too.


Who will take the riders out? The fastest endurance rider? No. Plan to use members who have well-mannered horses, can maintain a steady pace, are able to use a stethoscope and will recognize if there are problems with the horses. Some people may choose to audit, and not bring a horse. A few members should be in camp to answer questions, or if there is power, show some endurance videos.


As the riders return, start the vet check. The support people can be available to help prepare the horses for the check. The vet’s evaluation is more meaningful now that the riders have been on the trail. Most of the horses will do well and the riders will be pleased. This is a good time for the lunch break!


Panel discussions work well in the afternoon, although there needs to be some hands-on experience to vary the information being given. At the end of the day have a question and answer time and possibly follow up with a training ride in the near future. Give the participants a “how-to” packet, as they will not remember all that has been said. A follow-up letter is appreciated, thanking them for their interest in our sport. Also, if some members will volunteer to be available by phone or e-mail, it gives the prospective endurance riders confidence to continue with their training. Don’t expect to see the clinic participants at the next ride. Some will be overwhelmed and decide this is not the sport for them; others will take the necessary steps to move forward into the sport and eventually, you will see them on the trail!


There is no better feeling than to see someone you helped at a clinic stand up at their first ride to receive a completion award!

Flyer advertising the clinic, handed out at local riding stables, feed stores, horse fairs, etc.:




Date – Location – Cost


So you want to be an Endurance Rider!


Or maybe not! How will you ever know unless you explore the possibilities of this exciting sport?


An endurance competition is not just another trail ride. It is a timed event, over a marked and measured trail, governed by rules from the American Endurance Ride Conference. This national organization sanctions endurance rides in all parts of the country, so that no matter where you compete, the rules will be the same.


State or regional organizations, or individuals and their friends usually manage endurance rides. Ride sites are located on large tracts of private or public land. The endurance groups maintain the trails, in addition to doing other trail work throughout the year.


The distances for these rides are usually 25, 50 or 100 mile one-day events. The allowed times for completion is 6, 12 or 24 hours. The most important part of the ride is the vet checks for the horses. These checks will be every 15 miles or so, depending on the trail loops. At the vet check the horse has time to eat, drink and rest. It is also important that the rider take care of himself (or herself) eating and drinking plenty of water. Electrolytes are good for both horse and rider. Equine veterinarians check the horses for lameness or metabolic problems that might have developed during the day. If the vets feel that the horse does not need to continue, he is pulled from the ride. The veterinarian’s word is final.


The key to being a successful competitor is to bring a well-conditioned horse to the ride and don’t get caught up in someone else’s plan. Ride your own ride. The distance you chose to go at each ride depends on where you are in your training program, whether your horse does better on flat or mountainous terrain, and how you feel that day. Most people who participate in this sport have families and jobs but still find time to compete successfully.


So, who does endurance riding? A person looking for adventure, challenge and a good time will love this sport! Camping, enjoying the beauty of our fields and forests, and the camaraderie of friends will bring you back again and again!


Be sure to include information about who is giving the clinic, what topics will be covered, and a schedule. Give your contact information and how payment is to be made. Also be sure to give exact directions to get to the clinic.



Sample “what to bring” letter for people interested in attending the clinic:


Hi Folks,


Hope you are still planning to attend the Endurance Clinic __________(date) at _______________ (location). Enclosed, you will find a registration form, a list of items to bring, what your horse should know and an entry to the ride. (You will receive a clinic agenda as soon as speakers are confirmed.)


What to Bring:


Camping. Decide how you will secure your horse. Electric corral, picket line, other. Tying to the trailer is not recommended, but is OK. Whatever your plan, TRY IT AT HOME FIRST!


Feed. Whatever your horse is accustomed to eating. After the clinic you may want to make a change.


Water. You will need to bring water for your horse — 5 gallon buckets with lids, or other covered containers will work. You will need a sponge to use for cooling the horse. Car washing sponges are great.


What Your Horse Needs to Know:


Even though your horse may be well mannered and quiet at home, don’t count on this being the case at the first endurance ride. Lots of activity, strange horses and new environment can scramble their brains!


Safety is a major issue. The vets cannot afford to be kicked or bitten by your horse. Ride participants and volunteers are at risk, also.


DURING THE VET EXAM: Your horse will need to stand still. The vet will look in his mouth at the gums, feel the legs, pick up the feet, feel for muscle tone and do a skin pinch to check for hydration.


Jog for soundness. Horse should trot out 125 feet on a loose rein, neither run ahead of you or have to be chased. You may use halter or bridle.


Sometimes the vet line is long and the horses have to stand quietly. If your horse kicks, bring a red ribbon for his tail.


PLEASE TELL THE VETS IF THIS IS THE FIRST ENDURANCE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR HORSE. The vets will handle your horse with more caution and give you additional help.


If you have additional questions, call or e-mail ________________.



Sample “follow-up letter” to send to participants after the clinic:


Hi Folks,


Congratulations on completing your first steps on “the journey of a thousand miles”! I know you need time to think about the weekend, what you learned, and your adventure on the trail. Please feel free to e-mail or call any of us to answer questions as you continue to train for the next event.


(You can encourage the participant to join AERC and/or send along an entry form to an upcoming nearby AERC ride. List local/regional endurance organizations, and consider sending the mentor list for your region.)


Keep in touch!


Thanks again for your interest and effort in beginning the sport of endurance riding!




(Your Name)

Updated 5/20/22

Back to top