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Saturday, February 7, 2009

So soon?

A Quick note on moving up the distance. (before anyone screams about me doing a 100 "so soon"....see previous post on my 2009 goals)

I will warn you - I'm getting on my soapbox! :) Please don't be offended, this is just my personal opinion. My horses are my world and the last thing I want is injuries from pushing too far, too fast. I'm merely offering a different view.

The picture above is Jonah, one of my cats. It has nothing to do with today's post :)
A lot of endurance programs have this schedule: 1. Do LD or slow 50's for a year, 2. do faster 50's and maybe some multidays for a year, 3. don't do 100's prior to the horse having at least 2-3 years of solid endurance experience.

This is definitely playing it "safe". You would probably be successful following this schedule. However, what about evaluating yourself and your horse, and making the decision that is right for you at that time? Life isn't always "safe". Sometimes, if you don't grab the moment, it is lost. Let me tell you a story.

(Pictured: Gus is the gray in the foreground. Taken Wild West 2007)
Alie Smart (and her mom Jenny) are people I am proud to call friends. Alie and her amazing horse Gus had an incredible year in 2007, my first year in endurance. Look up their record on the AERC website, you will be amazed. Gus did multidays, back to back 100's, 50's one after another without a break all year. The really incredible part? This was Gus's (and Alie's) first year doing endurance. They also did Tevis that year. People started pointing fingers and whispering that it was too much too soon. How could she be pushing that poor horse so hard? Gus only pulls that year were mainly due to other riders using him as a brake for their horse, and that pesky rock with "his name on it". However, this grade horse from the auction kept plugging away.

Fast forward to 2008. After coming so close to breaking the junior mileage record for AERC, the pair decided to go all out for 2008 and break that record in half. But then the "inevitable" happened, Gus started getting pulled at the beginning of the season for being "off", "not quite right", or being "stiff". Everyone, including Alie, assumed he had found his limit and decided time off was in order. Every one's concerns about pushing a horse too far, too fast had been justified. Right?

Updated to say: When I say "everyone" I don't really mean "everyone in the entire endurance community". I don't mean to imply that "everyone was against them". It's just easier to say "everyone", than "some people who were generally nice and supportive but dissaproved... :)" No need to get defensive :) I'm just trying to make a point....

Even after time off, Gus did not improve. At the UCD vet center, the veterinarians discovered that Gus had cancer in his hindquarters. Cancer that required extensive surgery and chemotherapy, and months of rehabilitation and daily care. The vets told Alie that Gus would never be sound again and would never do endurance.
(Pictured: Jenny on a trail ride)
If Alie and her mom had not made the decision to grab life by the horns and GO! Alie would never have had a chance to experience Tevis and the other accomplishments with Gus. No one knows what the next year will bring. If the time is right for something, go after it. Alie and Jenny evaluated Gus and rode within his ability. It pays to keep in mind that different horses have different abilities and talents and not all will succeed using the same "plan". Minx requires many more miles to maintain fitness for a 50 than Farley. As a result the line between conditioning and over conditioning is much thinner for Minx and it's easy to override her. Gus did well with his schedule. Another horse might fail where he succeeded.

Now for the good news :) Gus is doing well. Alie has been riding him again, and although he moves "differently" from before, he is already doing more than the vets predicted. Jenny thinks that he will be able to do a 50's again! I wish them the best.

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