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Thursday, March 25, 2010

When the going gets tough....stick with endurance

Crysta had a very good point on my previous post about First Rides.  I failed to point out the positive and uplifting things that are a part of endurance.
I guess I glossed over the positives since I think *most* of us got into endurance because of those ideas...and I assumed we all understood why endurance is so magical.  I tried to address the reality of the first ride - and that is that endurance is hard.  As someone who had their sights set on 100's and was only using 50's as a stepping stone, my biggest surprise was just how HARD the whole thing was - from start to finish.  Even after I decided I needed to finish some LD's to restore my confidence that this was DOABLE, I still found it HARD.  My first season I was kinda casual about the 50 mile distance, because it was "just" 50 miles (remember - 100's were my goal).  After that disastrous first season, my motto throughout my second season was "respect the distance"
That being said, it does no harm to reiterate what we all know - that endurance is THE horse sport.  (I'm just a bit biased...) :)
  • That "magical" bond between rider and horse.  I'm not a particularly emotional person.  I've gotten good at faking socially correct emotions as not to be labeled as "potential serial killer", but when it comes right down to it I can be a bit... hard.  Picturing Minx's effort at the end of our first, disastrous 50, or thinking about Farley's first 100 mile completion brings tears to my eyes.  It was a YEAR after the 50 before I could accurately describe the 50 without bursting into tears.  Horse and rider are so in tune to each other, it's magic.  We are equals (even though I STILL get the final say on speed :) ).   


  • YOU and your HORSE are ATHLETES.  After years of hating my body because I didn't feel like I was "athletic" enough, I absolutely thrive on the knowledge that my itty bitty arab and my big ol' butt are athletes.  Even doing marathons didn't give the me sense of accomplishment and physical effort that was *enough*.  What's totally cool is the look of shock on people's faces when you say "yeah, I did 50 miles over the weekend".
  • Accomplishing something that's HARD.  In a world of lowered standards and consolation prizes, I love how honest and difficult endurance is.  It's HARD and it's WORTH doing.  Especially for someone like me, where not much in my life is hard (right now at least.  After all, at 25 the worst is yet to come right?) I LOVE the challenge.


  • Seeing country and land you will never see any other way.  This is usually the reason I give when people ask why endurance.  And it's partly true.  The other reason I do endurance is the sheer challenge, but most people can better relate to the sightseeing aspect.  If you love the outdoors and seeing the country, how better to enjoy it than from horseback?  Many times endurance rides are held on private land not normally open to the public.  I've seen so much of California, just because of endurance and I love it all. 


  • Doing something so incredible that you can't even make yourself believe you actually did it!  Did I really go 100 miles in 17:44?  Really?  Did that puny, cute arab in that pen really do 100 miles? 


  • Really REALLY getting to know horses and learning the details of management.  As someone who is OBSESSED with the details, this is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of endurance - figuring out the BEST saddle and the BEST saddle pad and the BEST diet and having a REASON for Every. Little. Thing. I do.  I love it.  EVERYTHING I do with my horse has a reason from what I feed, what bridle I use, to how my saddle packs are constructed.  I eagerly devour new research and I'm constantly asking myself how new ideas and knowledge fit into my current management system and what, if any, changes are needed. 


  • Learning to deal with failure.  Sure, you can deny any wrong doing or mistakes and blame the horse for your pulls, and in some cases the horse or bad luck may be to blame (I did a post on this a while back).  However, endurance rewards being able to recognize and learn from your mistakes, and from horses you will learn unconditional love and forgiveness. 


  • You will learn people skills!  (I really really needed this).  Endurance is a small, close-knit group of people and I quickly learned the value of an apology and not to burn bridges.  Endurance is humbling.  Endurance taught me to deal with difficult people with graciousness and respect.  I learned to listen more and talk less.  Endurance connected me with people (like you - my dear blog buddies) and for one of the first times in my life I feel like I belong some where and there are people like ME out there. 
So I want to hear from you - why is endurance the best sport ever?  What motivates you to keep trying even though, perhaps it hasn't been the easiest journey? 


  1. Mel said: "So I want to hear from you - why is endurance the best sport ever? What motivates you to keep trying even though, perhaps it hasn't been the easiest journey?"

    ~E.G. replies: It is incredible how long this journey has been for me. The first Endurance News landed in my mail box in 1986. I had a perfectly PERFECT Arabian standing in my barn lot at the time, but I was a stay at home Mom in rural Indiana, struggling to make ends meet, in a difficult marriage, and to begin was just not in the cards for me. I kept that single issue of Endurance News for TWENTY, yes....TWENTY years. The little "I wish I could" tucked into the back corners of my mind. The husband became an EX, which resulted in my re-homing my horse as I struggled to keep my girls warm, fed, and in school. I could no longer own a horse, but would go to the county fairgrounds each summer so I could breath in that lovely smell, touch them, and dream of things that would not be. Little girls take priority over horsey dreams. Fast forward a couple of decades. Daughters are grown, living on their own. I have acquired a non-horsey husband. We live on a ragged little farm that has seen better days. Cleaning out the cedar chest one day I happen across my copy of The Endurance News. Something just ignites inside of me. Yeah....I'm pushing 50, overweight, don't have a barn (we just tore the decrepit thing down), but maybe, just maybe I can do this at least once. I handle the old magazine with something like reverence, and feel that perhaps I will do something for ME, something totally selfish and longed for. And the rest is pretty much chronicled on my blog. It has been the most difficult and beautiful journey...this thing called Endurance.

  2. what you said - yeah!
    and EG, that's awesome!
    (I'm an addict)
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  3. I can relate to the belonging. I can also relate to what you said about not being an overly emotional person. (What can I say, I worked in Mental health for 8 years of my early adulthood) Endurance gave me a purpose again after having lost one with horses for many years. I almost got out of them about 7 years ago. I grew up showing and training in the Hunter jumpers. I went to college to ride, basically ,but the riding program was a joke for an experienced rider. I quit the riding program sophmore year, graduated and then decided to get into raising Warmbloods. It was rather disasterous with sick horses, colic surgeries, and colts I couldn't sell. I almost went broke doing it. I finally got rid of my remaining breeding stock. For a coupe of years I continued to do a lot of trail riding, did some outside training and even went back into some local shows with my one remaining TB gelding but the spark was gone . I suddenly stopped enjoying horses and didn't ride hardly at all for a year. Then I found JB and I remembered when I first had gotten Rebel Endurance was the sport I had wanted to go into with him but never did because of college. SO I trained JB up and here were are. I needed purpose and endurance gave it to me.

  4. EG - your comment gave me goosebumps.

    I knew I wanted to do endurance the first time I heard about it. I was doing a school of the horse soldier event (cavalry) and Jeff Wahl started talking to me. I was probably still in high school? I instantly knew I wanted to do 100 miles, even though I had just started riding for "real" (beyond walking on a 4-H horse) when I was 16. I did lots of trail riding with friends (we never walked..... I told Jeff I wanted to be really good at it so that I could do consulting and help others doing endurance riding too. I went to college etc and never thought about it again....beyond the whole "that would be fun".

    3 months before I graduated for college, a friend gave Minx to me. I rode for a couple of months, got reminded about endurance and made plans to do my first ride the following April after I had graduated. I've been hooked ever since.

  5. The vast majority of AERC endurance riders care more about the welfare of their horses than winning a prize. That's what attracted me to endurance - after watching people ride lame horses and sore their horses to win 25 cent ribbons, I wanted a sport where people CARE about the horses.

    Plus, it's totally as fun as I thought it would be!

    Re: being an athlete - I have found that "normal" people are either extremely impressed or extremely underwhelmed. Half of them are like "oh, is that hard?" and the other half are like "woah."

  6. EG, you are a hero.

    I wanted to do endurance before I got my first horse. Actually, I wanted to do Tevis . I still want to do Tevis. Someday I will.

    The sport keeps my interest because of so many factors: the people. the trails. the focus on the welfare of the horse. the focus on education for riders. the focus on building and maintaining historic trails.

    But mostly, I do it because it's really hard. Even when it isn't very difficult, it's really hard. There are plenty of things in my world that have become a little too easy, but endurance never will.

    And that's really good.

  7. I was actually thinking about your question last weekend as I was on the trail at our first ride of the year!
    I never really knew much about endurance and always thought it was just for Arabians and crazy people (just kidding there).
    I had just gotten out of TB racing and was really feeling like I had no direction, and for me no direction with my horses pretty much equates to no real direction in my life.
    I was very saddened at some of the things I have seen in the racing industry (the exceptions, not the rule, most of the people I ran into were great horsemen) but I think as an "industry" it needs some work.
    I was totally curious when a friend of mine that has Tenessee Walkers started telling me about the sport, I LOVED the aspect that the horses welfare is central to the sport. They even have vets on site to do mandatory checks? I was really getting interested, plus I'd really just started trail riding and was enjoying the outdoor aspect of riding.
    I went to my first ride last May and was pretty much hooked, love the trails, love the conditioning, love having a purpose for at least a few of my remaining TBs, plus I have met some of the nicest people out there!
    Karen W.


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