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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Endurance for worriers

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.


  1. We all know "I" never worry. Now let me excuse myself due to all the hysterical laughter...

    The routine worry of this and that helps me to keep things straight. But the downturns of being unable to DO THE THING, really make me question at times if it is worth it. I want a season, just ONE FULL SEASON (praying to the ride Karma powers that be).

    The last ride that I took the time to find some enjoyment I breathed deep at one point, and said to myself "we are going to finish" enjoy the view. I did, and good thing because-- fifteen minutes later I'm scraped off on a tree and my horse has galloped off to parts unknown.

    The AERC should really offer "rider counseling for these and other post traumatic stressors. ~E.G. (tongue firmly in cheek)

  2. 20mt in February was where I really made a conscious effort to enjoy - because I knew that at the next vet check I might have to make th decision to pull. And then when I made it through a check, I would say to myself "better enjoy the trail because at the next vet check...". It was like by having someone go wrong, I could stop looking fir the problem, accept it, and then appreciate what we were trying to do.

    I need to get into that "mental frame" without there being an actual problem.

    I guess stress/worry is the wrong term for what I feel during the ride - intense focus that completely pushes everything else away - including the enjoyment of what I'm doing. Not good!

  3. I *do* enjoy my rides, but I admit that there is always an faint underlying chatter of fret. However, at an endurance ride, the chatter is all about my horse, the weather, the trail, and the amount of water in my bottles and whether it will last me comfortably until the next vetcheck.

    This contrasts sharply to my life OUTSIDE of endurance, which I also enjoy despite the constant faint underlying chatter of fret about the kids, the house, the mortgage, the truck tires....

    I guess at a ride, I just spend time thinking (and fretting) about more pleasant things.

  4. In our family-my husband is the endurance rider. I'm just the crew. :) He worries before the ride-packing the trailer, making sure we have every item imaginable that we might possibly need for the horses. Once we are on the road-he relaxes-I don't. I worry that the horses are too hot-too cold or somehow uncomfortable in the trailer. Once we are actually at the ride-he's off enjoying the day while I usually stay back at camp with the other horse (we almost always take two). I never really worry about him-just the horse he's riding. I don't think I'll ever get over that.


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