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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

September 24, 2008

Attitudes concerning distance riding

Distance riding is clearly a misunderstood discipline to the misinformed. I had someone who asked about Endurance riding and got that tight puckered look about her, and stated "I don't think I'd want to do that, it seems like it would be hard on the horse." The general horse riding public still has visions of those unfettered early distance rides before AERC, vet checks, and rule book. I was polite to her, and made the explanation of the time involved in preparation, and the "type" of horse that does well in the sport. All the while she continued to look distraught... So I guess I need to rethink my explanation of what endurance riding and Limited Distance is, and what it is NOT. It was disconcerting to see this vision of some yahoo with a riding crop flogging their sweating and near death horse for 25-100 miles standing before me. All the while I'm still "training" my horse, and just conditioned up to a whopping 3 miles at the trot! Keeping in mind that Phebes is so exhausted when I'm finished that when I turn her loose she gallops to her favorite dirt spot to roll, jumps up, and gallops up to the other field to join her herd mates, and GALLOPS up to the water tank when she is done with that! My how I have mistreated that energy left in her at all!!!

This reminds me of the discussion between three of us aspiring riders of what "endurance" really is....with that being the mindset of a rider that is willing to work for one, two, three years to build a horse that can enter their first distance ride. The huge time committment involved, the set backs, the equipment that fits one week, and doesn't the next, the crashes, bruises, aches, and disappointments, the plans we put into motion only to discover that our horse doesn't read the plans, and backtracking to accomodate the needs of the horse, while striving to build a good solid base that won't fail when we point the horse down the first competition trail for a FINISH (not a win....a finish).

Right now I have almost four years invested in Phebes, and we are just beginning to see the potential of trail work, with a lot of schooling up in the paddock during my work week. I will feel fortunate if we get to try for a finish next season sometime, which will put my efforts into this horse up to FIVE YEARS. That my friends is endurance!

Then we have the feelings within the endurance community that Limited Distance is not endurance. Well....I have my own feelings about that. For some horses a 25 mile LD is the top of their game, and to push farther would not be in the best interests of the animal, so for that horse & rider team, that is endurance for them. As some of us riders age, and accumulate problems from residual injuries, 25 miles may be the limits of "our" endurance. It is good that there is a place for these riders who love the trail, the competition, or the completion. The revenues from limited distance help to keep the sport of distance riding alive and well. A good thing, is it not? All the while we look up to those who are able to excel at 50 and 100 miles, in awe of those horses and riders who aspire to that elite level, and do it so well.

So what is endurance riding to you? How would you present the sport to the misinformed? ~Endurance Granny


  1. Obsessed as I am, I tell a lot of people about endurance riding. When they say, "what's that," I like to start with the declaration that it's "One horse, one day, one hundred miles." Then, as they stand there looking stunned, I explain that it takes years of commitment and excellent horsemanship to reach that goal, that there are vet checks, that endurance riders are (on the whole) among the best horsemen I know...

    I've never had anyone react with sheer horror (or even puckering), but I've heard the stories! Ah well. Their loss. Don't cast your pearls before swine. ;-)

  2. Since I do CTR, I have a lot of people assume that it's endurance and it's fast and it's a race. I often find myself explaining that there is no racing at all!