Tuesday, August 30, 2011


NEDA stands for National Endurance Driving Association. Sadly, it's much more of a regional thing right now. Hopefully one day someone will expand it, but for now you have to come to Nevada or California to see a NEDA ride. They offer a 10 mile fun ride or a 20-30 mile endurance ride.

Yes, it's endurance driving. It's set up for carts - a few people bring Clydes or Percherons and big chuckwagons, but a lot of the drivers have little homemade... well... chariots. Little stand-up chariots, made out of metal, pulled by one light horse. It looks utterly terrifying and like a ton of fun. They go barreling across the desert like some modern-day Ben Hur reenactment.

The carts alone make it a fabulous training experience for green horses. Yes, horses generally come completely unglued the first time they see a cart, but, you know, once you work through that you've got a way better mount.

NEDA rides have no time limits and no vet checks - just a pulse and go between the two loops. You can pulse in and turn right around for the next loop, or take a lunch break, whatever suits your style that day. I usually sponge my horse, make sure she's drinking and gets a bite to eat, grab some human food, and go back out. A lot of local AERC riders use NEDA rides as training, and that's basically what I do too.

AERC is the (multi)national endurance riding association. Some areas also have regional endurance associations - the Southeast's SERA is particularly active. Most of the time if there is a 50 mile or longer ride being held in the US or Canada, it's sanctioned by AERC (and, optionally, FEI or a regional group). AERC rides offer: sometimes a 10-15 mile fun ride, a 25-35 mile limited distance, a 50-65 mile endurance ride, and sometimes a 75 or 100 mile ride.

AERC rides cost a lot more than NEDA rides - I did two days at Frenchman, plus the corral rental, for less than a one day AERC ride. In large part that's because AERC rides have vet checks, plus higher overhead for an active national organization. At an AERC ride, your horse has to get a passing grade from a vet before the ride, several times during the ride, and shortly after you finish the ride.

I'm fully in favor of all the AERC vet checks - but I also don't worry too much about not having a staff vet at a NEDA ride. There's a lot of evidence showing that horses face serious metabolic stress after about 40-45 miles of riding, but a 20 or 30 mile ride just isn't inherently dangerous. I wouldn't want to do a 50 mile ride without a vet check, but a 30 mile ride isn't that hard on a horse. You're still assuming some risk when you ride 30 miles - but you're assuming risk any time you un bubble wrap your horse. :)

NEDA rides are fun. There's a pretty laid back attitude, even among the racers. And yes, there are racers - NEDA has quite good year-end points awards. I'd love to get a blanket one year!

The AERC fun rides are a good way to check out the crazy endurance thing in your area. Here's the AERC ride calendar. They don't list fun rides in the regional listings, but if you click on the ride flyer it'll say if there's a fun ride. They're inexpensive, about $25-35 in the West. (I am too lazy to look at other regions.) AERC does stagger start times, so if you go to a fun ride you will not have to start with the serious racers. You will see them on the trail, but you don't have to deal with the starting line stampede! They're designed specifically for people curious about our sport, so feel free to wear your cowboy boots or ride in your Passier. The riders are usually stressed out, but I've never met a rude volunteer (at least in the West!)

ETA the NEDA website. Thanks, C!


  1. Here's the NEDA website:

    TONS of fun and very low key. I love our ability to choose these rides over the much more expensive and structured AERC LD distance.

  2. OMG! I am not letting the husband see this post! He misses the eventing days, and he'd be playing Ben Hur with Boomer if he had any idea this sport existed! OMG!

  3. Thanks, C - added it to the post!

    Hahaha, I would love to see Boomer pulling a chariot!

  4. I don't think I would have the guts to do the Ben Hur Chariot thing!!

    So I wouldn't get laughed out of town on my warmblood and close contact saddle at an AERC fun event??

  5. Not at all, Melissa! Any saddle that's comfortable for you and your horse for a couple hours is fine. Your warmblood might not be happy doing a 50, but I really think any horse can do a 25. There is a full Friesian who just plows through LDs out here. His name is Harley and everybody loves him. :)

  6. So, by cart, you mean a horse pulling a cart with a harness and everything, at an endurance ride? Wowie!

  7. Cool! Some of my driving friends would be all over it. :-)


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