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

April 1, 2010

Moving from 25 miles up to 50

Some of my visitors here regularly participate in 50 mile rides. Wondering if you would share the difference in how you ride a 50 in comparison to an LD. Do you pace your ride slower? Faster? Do you trot more? Canter less? Do horse and rider hit a physical wall at some point? What then? I'm so weary "trying" to master the LD that my mind wants to think and plan on other bigger things.

A typical TOP TEN ride time at Clark for 50 miles is around 4:15-5:00 (hours:minutes) that is cranking along at an average of about 10 mph. Of course a rider has 12 hours to complete. Is it harder for the horse to be on the trail for 12 hours than it is to just get the job done?

If a person uses 25 mile LD's to ready their horse for a 50 mile E. how many 25's until the horse is "READY"? A few? A season? Depends on the horse?

It has also been suggested to me that a horse that does not take care of itself on an LD will (in theory) quickly learn when riding Endurance out of necessity. Truth? Fiction?

OKAY: WHINEY SECTION *you may want to stick your fingers in your ears and make the WAH WA WA WAH WA! Sound...but venting makes me "feel" better.

Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that a large part of mine and Phebe's angst derives from just two very important things:

*Horse training issues (Rating, emotion, fear of strangers and environments with much activity).

*Rider issues ( Balance, fear of injury to self, fear of injury to horse).

My current working goals:

#1 Get back the easy trot that I can actually post rather than two-point. Worked on that for a long time with her on Tuesday and could only get the balanced trot moving AWAY from home....towards home she'd fall apart. When she falls apart I get unbalanced as she's not trotting, and not cantering, but somewhere in the middle of a transition that is UGLY and then I start needing a finger on "something" to stay balanced which is aggravating to me.

#2 Start working at the canter (control, steering, rate) up in the fenced training area rather than on the trail. On trail the canter gets faster....faster....faster....FASTER (see where this is going?). I can torque her back down to a stop easily, but she acts like she's on an adrenaline high as speed takes over. I'm not really looking for speed, just an easy relaxed canter that can be a different gear when the trotting muscles could use a short break.

#3 Building cardio without risking horse injury. I've read that cantering hills is easier on the horse than trotting them, but not sure of the truth of that. Have also read that it is good for anaerobic training of the muscle cells as long as you have active rest following the work? But on an actual ride wouldn't you just tire out your horse by cantering hills? If I train hills at the canter, will she think she has to tackle every incline with speed? You see I have a lot of questions on this issue. I don't necessarily want a FAST horse, as much as I want a solid, steady, fit for the job horse. As a rider I enjoy the canter much MORE than the extended trot. But her heart rates go straight up, so she's not working effeciently. OH THE STICKY WICKET! Perhaps working at cantering exercises off trail will help her build into this in a more relaxed mind set than tearing down the trail like a bear is on her tail. She also won't have room to work up a head of steam before we get to a fence line.

#4 I haven't figured it out yet! But quite sure there SHOULD be a #4. *LOL* Just fill in the _______________.

Now the old lady (me) must get ready for the twelve hour work day. Hope you all have a wonderful spring day and get some saddle time. ~E.G.


  1. When I was a "runner", I am telling you from a human perspective anyway, it was easier to handle the hills at a faster pace. Going slower just prolonged the pain more. Same when I used to run stairs for gymnastics. Running them quickly was so much easier than running them slowly or walking them. Still when I go for walks I find my self running up the hills just to get them over with!

    I am not 100% sure it applies to horses but I believe so. Also, in running, when you get into a zone/pace and stop just to start all over again it is harder than just keeping a steady pace. This I know is true with humans anyway. I imagine so with horses. So on a ride your going at a good trot don't make her stop just for no good reason. I'm saying on an endurance ride. Probably good for training, I suppose, to work her harder.

    I'm all for cantering up hills in an endurance ride. Obviously, in training and conditioning do some walking up hills that you normally canter up. Just to use differnet muscles and let her know you don't always run up hills.

    About when you are ready for 50's I'm not sure what to tell you for sure. I've only done one. I think it depends on the horse. And in your case the rider as well. Takes some rider fitness.

    I really haven't hit the "wall" and I've rode 3 50's. I don't believe my horses hit a "wall" on their first fifty last fall.


  2. I don't usually comment on blogs because I hate to give advice. Especially in endurance. Each horse and rider team is so unique that what works for one, won't work for another. And, as you already know, it's important to know who you're taking advice from!

    I feel like I am somewhat qualified to address the "moving up" question. I have just over 3500 miles (wish it was more) which include distances from 100 milers down to 50s. I also have very few pulls and most of them have been RO. I've been doing rides since 1996.

    I have brought along 4 endurance horses and each started with one or two LDs. And that's it. Young horses probably benefit from doing more LDs, but once my horses are physically and mentally mature (each pony is different) and finishing the LD with gas in the tank, I think the horse is ready for a 50.

    I generally ride my conditioning rides and endurance rides at the same pace. I am sure you've heard the old standby, "train like you ride, and ride like you train." I ride a good distance once a week, every week (except after a 50) and keep my horses pretty fit at all times. When possible, I do some lighter trail riding (or dressage lesson) during the week. The main difference between conditioning for LD rides and 50s is that you need to be more consistent in your conditioning. You can't just ride 6 - 7 miles a week and be ready for 50 miles.

    As you know, EVERYONE has the perfect ride formula. I don't. I ride what time, weather, and my horses' level of fitness allows me to. I prefer my longer day be 3 hours and maybe 15 miles in length. Sometimes it's longer, especially in the month leading up to a ride. If we've done a ride the month before, I ride less.

    As far as actually RIDING a 50, I do it just like I did in training. I walk at the start, walk on bad footing, walk the steep down hills, walk the steeper uphills, trot when I can, canter a bit if the footing is really nice, and try not to waste time at vet checks. I generally finish middle to back of the pack.

    So ... don't be scared. If you can finish LDs with a horse who has more, if you have time to condition a bit longer, and if you actually WANT to, move up to 50s!

  3. You raise an interesting point that I've considered: when a 50 is won in 4 1/2 to 5 hours, and a 'slow but steady' pace will have you finish in around 8 1/2 to 9 hours, is it harder on the horse to go 'slow' and be out there for 12 hours? I think it may be harder to be out there the extra 3 hours, and if your horse really needs 12 hours to do a 50 (when win time is around 4.5 to 5 hrs), he's probably not ready for one. JMO

    Also I learned endurance from a couple of trainers who don't train or ride fast - lots of steady trotting (i.e. we rarely do much cantering) so I'm pretty much always a mid-pack rider.

    I have found it important for the horse to have the 'sweet spot trot' - his own steady trotting pace that he naturally maintains for miles (green horses take a while to find it). JMO

    All JMO!!

    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  4. I don't have as many miles as Merry or Karen, but I'll tell you about my experience and emphasize that YOUR MILAGE MAY VARY. And also that I've learned a lot in 2000+ miles because I've done a lot of stuff WRONG before I learned how to do better. Okay?

    I read in your post that you are afraid that you will be riding out of balance, and that your horse may be working too hard to finish an LD to make a graceful transition to a faster speed and/or longer distance.

    So before you think about speed or distance, think about balance.

    When does your balance fall apart? (at the canter? at mile 18? right before lunch? coming into a vet check? going downhill?)

    Once you've identified the when , you can start to identify the why . Make sense? When are you feeling tense, scared, or floppy in the saddle? When is your horse travelling with a hollow back, yanking the reins out of your hands, unable to maintain the steady trot or canter, or showing a higher heartrate? What are the possible causes? How can you address them?

    A big key for changing a lot of my mistakes into learning opportunities was getting a new riding instructor. I'm not a finished product, but I've discovered that if the rider isn't feeling better, stronger, and more balanced after 6-12 months with an instructor, it might be time to take lessons with somebody else. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is needed.

    Same with riding partners. If you and your partner agree on everything in the world, maybe you should try riding with somebody who does stuff a little differently...especially you see that s/he finishes rides looking and feeling the way you want to look and feel.

    At my old karate school there was a sign at the front door that I like:
    Everyone works.
    Nothing is free.
    We all start at the beginning.

    It applies to endurance riding, too.

  5. Thank you all for the wonderful input (it made my day *smile*).

    I'm most balanced and relaxed at a slow trot. I'm okay at a slow canter.

    It is the extended trot that is my undoing as there is too much impulsion and LIFT to post it, and my two pointing is so/so. (so there is an issue there)

    The biggest balance issue is her continuing to try to break gait from the extended trot into the canter. That inbetween thing she is doing that is no longer a trot, not a canter, and somewhat cocked sideways. My choices are to push her on into a canter (which teaches her the wrong thing) or stop and reverse her and try again. (horse training issue here).

    Then the fear issues which I own. I hit the ground HARD last year eight times. Eight LUCKY times as my injuries were just scrapes and bruises, and a pulled muscle. Several of these occurred when she rolled back suddenly at a trot, and once at the canter when she perceived something scary out on the trail (tree bark, chip monk, who knows?). So when we speed up those incidents niggle at the back of my mind, and I get tense, which probably translates to her in a hurry as she's good at picking up on my emotional vibe.

    I've kind of got the why's figured out. Just need to work on the how's (to fix them).

  6. I'm not sure what gait you are talking about? Some (lazy horses, can't imagine yours) will canter in front and trot behind. This mostly incurs in Western pleasure horses, called a 4 beat lope.

    If your going sideways and forward at a trot that is a half pass. Which is good for your horse. Stretches the back leg muscles, dressage people can help me out here.. But you only want her to do it when you ask for it. Shazam will try to do it sometimes. You have to really "ride" your horse to work them out of it. Use your legs. Put your leg back behind the girth and gently ask the horse to move their hips over. It takes some rider athleticism to do this at a trot, especially an extended trot. That's why dressage riders train so long and hard to just do things that look pretty simple to you and I-- but aren't!

    Usually Shazam does this because I am holding him back from going faster than he wants. So usually make him work by half passing in one directions than the other than the other and then it's too much work and he will go in a straight line when I ask him.

    Rating your horse at speed does require a lot of rider balance. It's probably something you should practice in the arena. Instead of making her do a slow trot in the arena just do the big trot and learn how to post it. Practice. You really want that big trot anyway for endurance. Just my two cents.


  7. Here's my 2 cents:

    In my experience, at some point the LD's become easy. You find yourself thinking - I could totally go out for another loop! Or your horse is SO strong you think - I HAVE to go out on another loop! At that point, elevate! :)

    Your first 50 will feel like your first LD at that point - HARD. After a bit, 50's don't feel like that big of a deal. You can ride 2 or 3 in a row (multiday) and it's not that hard. then you are ready for a 100 (not that easy, but you get the drift anyways).

    Biggest change for me was pacing. Even though the pace needed to complete both is about the same, LD's always felt more rushed to me. I alwyas feel like I have plenty of time in a 50 to just enjuoy myself.

    Getting used to what a tired horse versus a demotivated horse feels like is important.

    Being able to stay hydrated is very important (I don't think the food ocmponent is as important in a 50. It becomes improtatn when moving up to a 100).

    In response to your last question, i think it depends on the horse. Farley learned the LD distance fairly quickly. Which meant she paced herself and thus tried to go faster than I wanted because she *knew* she would be odne at 30 miles. Once she started doing that, I moved her up the distance (took her exactly 2 LD's to learn the distance). 50's and 65's were the same deal. She "learned" the distance in about 3 rides. That's why I felt like it was important to go out for the last loop of the 100 in February - by stopping at the 65 mile point, that would be the THIRD time. If I could POSSIBLY get myself well enough to go out, I needed to so that she wouldn't "learn" the 65 mile distance, bc she was going to be my 100 mile horse.

    Becky Hart during my lesson last month told me to start cantering Farley up hills in training to build up her hindquarters. I won't do it reguarly in rides, but I think I will probably do so in conditioning. I've heard cantering (if you are able to help with your seat) or walking through sand is better than trotting. Not sure about hills. Probably depends on the horse and how you use your seat.

  8. Interesting that no one mentions trying to do 2 LD rides over 2 days as sort of a check point. I was thinking that would be a reasonable next step. But of course, I have NO experience with doing a 50 mile ride.

    And sounds like the top 10 in a 50 were finishing way ahead of Doc & I on our 25 mile rides. (Of course, having a horse with heaves and a weak stifle, I don't really want to push him.) I don't envision us getting to 50 mile rides, but I could see doing 2 - 25 mile rides over 2 days.