One of the greatest things about having a blog and an endurance related business is the new people I get to meet. One of those friends that I regularly correspond with commented that at her last endurance ride she spent so much time worrying about various things during the ride it was hard to enjoy actually DOING the ride.
I’m familiar with the feeling.
Is endurance not the sport for worriers? Is being a “worrier” detrimental to your ride? How do you balance the worry with also having fun with (what is for most of us) a hobby?
As I added blogs to my website's resource page I was struck how at any one moment in time, everyone in endurance is going through different stages. And by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. The experienced riders, the newbies, the ones returning to the sport after an absence. One has an injured horse in the beginning stages of care. Another is starting their horse back after long months of rehab and rest. Another is at the height of success, another is trying to decide the right time to retire a mount, and another is looking for that new mount.
In 6 months if you return to those blogs, the stories will be the same, but the stories will be in a different place! The rehabbed horse is back in the game, the new horse is now an old hand, and the successful horse is looking at retirement due to a tragic pasture accident.
There’s no denying that stuff happens. Even when you are careful. Even when you are prepared. Even if you aren't going that far, or your partner is just sitting in the pasture.
Worry is a part of endurance for some people. If I'm being completely honest, I don't really enjoy the actual riding as endurance rides much - yes, there are periods where I take a deep breath consciously tell me myself I need to let it go and actually have FUN. But most of the time I'm focused and alert and making sure everything is still a "go".
I think that some people do a better job of letting go of their worry and enjoying the ride. If being a worrier is part of who you are, then learning to draw the line between productive worry, and worry that just detracts from enjoying the sport is important. I am a worrier and a stressor. Here are some of my strategies to deal with the stress and worry that I experience
1. Thinking about everything that could happen and developing contingency plans is actually comforting for me and I enjoy it.
2. Being organized.
3. Be prepared and educated. Or at least feel that way.... for both horse and rider.
4. Accept the risks of the ride and the sport.
5. Once you have done the best you can and it's ride, stick your head in the sand. I often have to consciously let go of my worries at various points in the ride and say "for the next 10 minutes I will do nothing but enjoy the scenery and tell myself how much fun I'm having".
6. Be cognizent of what helps and what doesn’t. I realized that talking through my worries and stress doesn’t help - it just keeps it at the forefront of my mind like an endless loop that repeats over and over and over.....better to distract myself and NOT talk it through.
I enjoy after the ride. I enjoy prepping for the ride. I enjoy the trail and being with my horse - but rarely on a ride do I have that totally content feeling unless I really really work on it and consciously decide to put away my worries. I actually enjoy my conditioning rides far more than the actual endurance rides - until I look back at those rides. Which brings me to another point - I really try to do things during rides that I may not appreciate at the time, but will make the memory of the ride enjoyable. I buy a picture, no matter how I felt about the ride while riding, or right after. Going through the little “ceremonies” at rides, such as doing the “victory lap” Tevis. I didn’t want to do that victory lap and my crew had to order me to do it - but now, watching the video during that section brings tears to my eyes.
Worriers can be successful in endurance because they catch stuff, hopefully while the issue is relatively small. BUT - that has to be balanced by learning to manage that worry. If you don’t, the very real risk of burning out and giving up endurance.