Hindsight is 20/20, now isn't that the truth? As I've looked forward to 2011 I've been able to come up with very little in the way of ride goals. All I can say with any certitude is I want to master multi-days. What that will mean to me in 2011 is still rattling around in my brain. I've been looking more seriously backwards these past few weeks than forwards. Mulling over what I'd do differently if I could start completely from scratch with my horse. I did try to do things right, I got a mentor early on, but still...I'd turn it all upside down and do it very differently today with this horse, or a new horse. So, what would I do differently?
After putting Phebes under saddle I would have trail ridden slowly at walk and trot for one year, without any distance related agenda other than to enjoy the trail, and build trust.
I would still look for a mentor, but only a mentor that is a serious turtle rider. I would only train with someone who rides with that mentality in order to teach my horse the proper mindset FROM THE START. Phebes was started under saddle from nearly day one with middle of the pack LD riders, so from the get-go she was set up mentally to go with the herd. BAD IDEA, very bad... don't do it.
Truly, as I've looked over the conditioning programs out there for beginners starting in distance riding I have some really strong disagreement having applied a few programs unsuccessfully. The only program that finally worked was my own, and it was a lot higher mileage than most suggest preparing for an LD. I totally disagree with asking your horse to do a mileage that it has not trained for. Over and over I read that you don't need to train 25 miles to do a 25 mile LD. My experience with this horse was that is very wrong advice. You are asking the horse to then perform at an LD at a level higher than it has been trained, setting your horse up for muscle soreness and metabolic issues. The only thing that worked for us was gradually tweaking up that long slow distance mileage week, by week, by week. We in fact did three 20+ mile rides prior to our last LD, with rides of varying distance in between the longer ones. I could tell a huge difference in her attitude day one at Spook Run. She had a lot of turbo in the tank when we finished. Day two? Ummmm....not so much. I even got off and hand walked some to give her relief those last few miles in. I really think we should have trained at least two back to back long rides previously to build the stamina for two days as well. But without those long training rides ahead of time? Day two would have been out of the question entirely.
Many programs have you getting the horse up to 6 mph and keeping that pace throughout the ride. Though my average ride times never really did exceed this speed, I am told to slow down....slow down....slow down. Though, I thought I was riding the correct normal "slow" speed all along, based on what was available for me to read, and talking to others. If I could turn back the clock we'd do a lot more walking, and enjoying the scenery. The aspect I love most about having and riding my horse is that focused alone time, when you just savor being in the moment, trotting down the trail, the problems of life draining away. That my friends is better than any prescription your doctor may write.
Other hindsight corrections I'd make are buy the right gear from the start. Don't substitute, don't buy it just because it is cheap or you think you can make it work. It's not going to. Buy what you know you will need, buy the good stuff, and BUY IT ONCE. Other things may possibly work, but in the end they are a pain (quite literally). Why bother with the aggravation. Just suck it up and buy a good saddle pad that doesn't hold heat, a beta or biothane halter/bridle and breastcollar, some easyride stirrups, and be done with it! I must have half a shed full of "stuff" that I thought would work out but didn't. Heck, if you want cheap junk, just give me a call as I've already bought it and discarded most of it.
The best advice I would give a new person starting the sport is to just take your time, and don't build up unrealistic expectations that will let you and your horse down. Take the time to enjoy the view along the way...now that might be a nice goal for 2011. ~Endurance Granny
Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association