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

June 17, 2010

Riding Turtle

The official mantra of the AERC is "To Finish is to Win." The core of the sport in my mind is horse and rider versus the trail. I started my adventure with this mind-set and somewhere in the process got caught up in the competition aspect which has translated over to my horse which has been a bad mistake. I am a very competitive person, and honestly need a a goal or a signpost to drive me forward in anything that I do. In my work life it would be appreciation and pay increases, in my personal relationships closeness and connection, in my horse life? It was the drive to succeed on our own personal level, until I'm presented with a competition, and then I'm wanting to out do my last personal best. This is unfair because my last "personal best" honestly has more to do with the horse than anything I've been doing. I've lost the vision and the goal which should be more like our best on the given trail, on a given day, on a particular horse, with all other riders put aside and out of the equation. I can honestly say that until I can embrace that mindset I will continue to feel like a failure at this sport. When I look at what I truly value in a horse those aspects all lean toward the definition of a turtle rider except for the one thing that drives me which is "competition." I'm in a personal fix hmmmmm?

So what is the symbolism of a turtle? Strength, stability, patience, and longevity. All of these terms are synonymous with "To Finish is to Win." To complete a ride all that is needed is the strength to get the horse through, the patience to do what it takes to get to the finish, the stability of mind for horse and rider to relax into the moment rather than looking forward or backwards. The previous traits will give the long-term goal of longevity. It all seems so simple really.

So having had a lot of time to think lately I've been wondering...why are the turtle riders of endurance not more celebrated (given awards)? I'm only a little bit familiar with the mileage awards for horse and rider on the regional level and how all that works. But on the more immediate level, on awards night at a ride only the top five finishers are generally recognized, and the best condition horse is chosen from among the top pool that day. The fastest horses are recognized, while the larger slow to moderate group gets their completion t-shirts. I'm not faulting this process in any way, but I'm curious that the slow riders retain their patience to go on ride after ride, year after year, as humble turtles, riding their own best rides. It must be intrinsic in them that they are unfettered by the actual competition aspect around them, and that they have learned to be happy with their horse's "best" on that given day. In my mind I see the comparison as something akin to a Wallstreet Trader and a Buddhist Monk, not which one is right, but which one would you rather be?


  1. Many who ride slow, ride after ride, do not care about awards or recognition. They ride, to spend time with their horse. They are not the ones pushing for MORE awards through AERC as some of the point chaser types do. But, the High Mileage award is one that is usually won by a slow, ride to finish rider, and I think most are impressed by the mileage they do in a years time with one horse

  2. In the Pacific Northwest region, many ride managers choose to recognize the tail-end rider with a special award. One RM always gives flashlights to the tailender! I have a large collection of these, because I rode the Toad for 8 years, and if he exceeded 7 mph his brains fell out.

    Trilby Pederon says "Speed Kills." She tail-ended a LOT of her rides, and the strategy seemed to work just fine for her--her career total is 60,500 miles, and her completion rate on 100-mile rides is 76 finishes out of 79 starts. THAT is impressive.

  3. When you look at accumulated mileage of some of these horse and rider teams, it is quite impressive. ~E.G.

  4. for THE Turtle here in Idaho, we give some pretty cool turtle awards sometimes - handmade turtle pillows, wooden turtles from Malaysia, etc. the top ten do always get something extra. some rides even do top heavyweight, top middleweight, top lightweight, top featherweight awards - and some even give awards for the first 3 in each of those categories! (which could be a turtle, depending on how many riders in each division there are.
    some rides have a 'middle of the pack' award which is nice for some people who never finish in the top ten (like me!)

  5. Look at Dave Rabe, and Les Carrs horse Tulip, who were both put in the HOF this year. Both Dave and Les were humbled I think by the recognition. Dave rides all these miles, because he likes to ride. He could ride faster horses, maybe even win rides, but its not about awards. Les chugs along on Tulip mile after mile, listening to Classic music, or talk radio, to spend time on the trail. Its just what they do. lol

  6. These posts have been really awesome :)

    Do any of you know how the accumulated mileage awards work through AERC?

  7. Really, we all know that to win is to win. But to finish is to compete and in this sport that is saying something. Have you ever been to a high school cross country meet? You should check one out. There are super fast and sleek kids and there are those that are inspirational. They are the slow kids that, no matter how far back they are they keep going. And to do that in high school is truly amazing to me. You and your horse are inexperienced as this sport goes. From what I understand in the horse world, in order to win one of you has to have experience. So don't beat yourself up while you get the experience you need. (Or you could buy a more experienced horse to learn with but where would be the inspiration in that.

  8. It shouldn't be about awards or acknowledgement... for me it is about the satisfaction of keeping my horses going mile after miles, ride after ride. When you run out of horse or have a career-ending injury because it's all been about racing or competition you might think differently about things. Most people could not tell you who won or top tenned such-and-such ride last weekend, but I guarantee they could tell you the top three people in their region who have a zillion miles. Far better than a flash in the pan type of horse/rider combo.

    ~ Sara

  9. From the AERC membership awards webpage ( ) :

    Rider Mileage Program: Upon completion of 250 miles, riders receive a Rider Mileage patch and a 250 mile chevron. Additional chevrons are awarded at 500, 750, and 1000 miles and at each additional 1000 miles. Riders achieving these mileage plateaus are acknowledged in Endurance News.

    Equine Mileage Program: Horses will receive a medallion for each 1000 miles completed. Plateaus are acknowledged in Endurance News.

    Limited Distance Program: Upon completion of 250 miles of Limited Distance Rides, riders receive a Limited Distance Rider Mileage patch and a 250 mile chevron. Additional chevrons are awarded at 500, 750, and 1000 miles and at each additional 1000 miles. Riders achieving these plateaus are acknowledged in Endurance News.

    Limited Distance Equine Mileage Program: Upon completion of each 500 miles in Limited Distance sanctioned rides, the equine will be awarded a medallion. Plateaus are acknowledged in Endurance News.

  10. This has been an inspiring and informative topic. Thanks all ~E.G.

  11. I LOVE the idea of a turtle award. Doc & I would have racked up two of those already. We finished dead last in our first two endurance rides. But we finished. I am not much of a competitive person. I am a definite goal setter and enjoy reaching my own personal goals, but don't care much about how that relates to others. I have done two half marathons in the last 1 1/2 years and just wanted to finish - at the walk. I've taken up endurance riding because I love the idea of the partnership you need to have with your horse to finnish a ride happy and healthy.

    The Parelli's have an saying that I always keeep in mind when I am riding... "At the end of the day, when you get off your horse, can you say, 'Was it as good for you as it was for me?'" That is my goal for every ride - whether it be a pleasure trail ride, a training ride, a dressage lesson, etc.

  12. I I tooam a very competitive person and in that situation I had two choices-I could ride for slow and for personal and less well recognized "awards", or I could take the time and money it would take to have a competitive horse and get the "glory". It's a fact of this world that winning and going fast are the most recognized and doing anything else is more personnal than public. Both are fullfilli g and it cmes down to a choice. I'm not a fan of events where "everyone is a winner". If I decide not to ride to win in endurance, then Im Pershing a more u portant personal goal - like horse longvity. There is a cost to winning in a nything and endurance s not an exception. It is definatley more costly I. Oth monetary and emotional terms