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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Endurance - a different look Pt. 1

Re-starting Endurance after an injury that has been in rehab for 5 months, and will likely continue to be in rehab for the next 18 months, is just that - a restart.  A start from the beginning. 

The fact that Farley has almost a 1000 competition miles (not counting LD's) and has finished Tevis and 2 other 100's doesn't count any more.  The base line of how much mileage she can handle and the speed that we can navigate terrain, and our pacing for LD's, 50's, and 100's has all changed. 

Yes, it's wonderful we both have past experience in doing endurance - and the learning curve in developing/continuing our partnership will certainly be improved as compared to starting a totally new horse - but I think relying on the past to dictate our endurance future would be a mistake. 

The same questions have to be asked of the post-injury Farley as I would ask any new horse that comes into my possession.  How much mileage can the new tendon handle?  How fast?  Over what time period will I increase work?  What will be my "checkpoints" in the process?

Endurance News (publication by AERC) has recently published several good articles are starting an endurance horse - including a recent one by our very own blogger - AareneX.  The emphasis in the articles has been the importance of first developing the MIND of an endurance horse.  Only after the MIND has been properly conditioned should you work on cardio/muscles/bone/tendons and all those other "physios" of endurance riding. 

In deciding how endurance will look different, an assessment of Farley's "mind" condition is more important than what our conditioning program looks like.  Especially considering that improper "mind" conditioning is harder to undo, than being consistent from the beginning - and as I am starting a new chapter of endurance, now is a good time for "new starts" - even on those things I may have been lax about in the past.

Mental Conditioning

I think that Farley actually has a decent base of "mind" conditioning.  In 7 out of 10 starts she would start on a loose rein with no fuss.  Obviously, that can be improved - however, in general I am satisfied with her "rate-ability" during rides and the way we start our rides. 

However....there's this nagging issue that I'm totally going to fix on this go'round of the "new" endurance phase of Farley's career.  Standing when I say "stand".  As in, don't move your feet when I say stand.  Even if there really is a cougar in the bush.  And every horse in the ride is going to pass you.  And you are sure you are going to die.  Even then, you get to "stand".   

Especially now that most of the "big" attitude things have been fixed - not standing 100% of the time when I say "stand" has emerged as the "big issue". 

Consistent with the new plan of mental conditioning first, this issue will be fixed by the time Farley and I cross an official start line of a endurance ride again. 

Long Term Goals

Before starting on the physical conditioning plan, it's important to identify what my long-term goals are.

I read a lot of blogs. Every single blog on my side bar, plus more. My subscription count in Google reader is currently ridiculous, and on any given morning that translates into ~75 posts a day.

Each blog is a snapshot into some one's life and their activities and - whether they realize it or not - usually reveals the driving force or overall goal/expectation for their life. It's interesting to analyze how their daily actions or their explicit short term (1-2 years or less) goals either agree with or conflict with their unstated long term goals (5+ years).

I get frustrated when a blogger is contradicting their apparent long term goals with their present day actions! Do they realize what they are doing? Do they realize they are sacrificing their long term goals for instant gratification? Do they really want to achieve those long term goals or are they just for show? Am I unconsciously doing the same sabotage in my life? Are my short term goals consistent with what I want eventually? Or do they contradict each other?

Now is the time to explicitly state my long term goals, to make sure that my actions in the short term are consistent with them:

1.  Decade Team
2.  Platinum level 100 miler for Farley (requires at least 15 completed 100-milers)
3.  5000 mile medallion for Farley (short term goal is a 1000 miles of course!)

Although it would be neat to win a race, get a BC, compete in the national championships, win a mileage or points jacket at the end of the year etc. - realistically it won't happen, and in many cases would be contridictory to my long term goals. I won't push my horse hard enough to win (if I ever do, it will be a fluke - just like getting a year end points award in 2009) and I can't see when I'll have the time/money to ride the number of races to be competitive in the year end awards. (especially as a student).

Nope, my enjoyment in endurance comes from plugging along and sharing that experience with a horse - and if I'm NOT getting enjoyment from that, I need to do some serious self-evaluation.  Much like I'm doing now - because to do anything else is a complete contradiction of my long term goals.  I admit that I DID lose that "joy" that comes from just being able to complete rides and ride my horse in the last year or so.  Identifying why and what I can do to find satisfaction again will be paramount. 

Much to my dismay - my all too short lunch is now over (which is even more tragic as I'm skipping the "food" part of lunch to compose this), so like a good little vet student, I am now going to class.  I will continue this post in part 2, and will muse on some of the changes that will be giving endurance a "new look" for Farley and I. 


  1. Can I have some of your energy and efficiency, please? Seems like you have plenty to spare!

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Mel. I really really really hope you can find the time to comment on my forthcoming blog post (should publish this evening), b/c you are my go-to girl regarding horses and guns! >g<

    I agree that the most recent issue of EN was a gold star, and not because of my article--did you read the John Crandall/Stagg Newmann article? That was a huge WOW for me, and I wish I'd been able to read it ten + years ago when I was getting started in endurance. Really, really REALLY good stuff there.

    Don't forget to sleep. You're going to need those synapses later.

  3. Aarene - I am just now catching up on your blog and I read your part 2 this afternoon. You mean part 3 has guns????? Whoo hoo!

    I agree that the Crandall/Newmann article was incredible. One for the folder for sure. I was struck by how your article and theirs were so similar in theme. I thought you before and after pics were a nice touch.

    Arg - synapses. We did cellular gap junctions today. :) Honestly school isn't that bad. It's a full time job plus some to keep up with all the assignments and research and such, but if you can keep your head above water on a day to day basis, it's very doable. First test on Friday!

  4. Part three has guns...or rather, it has defensive weapons including firearms.

    Funny thing about the article--I sent a couple of article ideas to the editor, and she LEAPED on the before/after article, because it fit perfectly into the issue she was putting together. So I had to quick-fast write and re-write it for her! Total elapsed time from query to finished copy in my mailbox was about 3 weeks.

    I'm eagerly waiting for pt two of your post!


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