Contact information:

Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Email: jackereynolds@yahoo.com


December 18, 2010

Conquering Novice Discouragement




My distance riding journey began July 2007 on Aidrian (Puddin') an 18 year old arabian broodmare.  I put her under saddle and began training with Barb W. and her AQHA gelding George.   We spent the spring evenings and weekends training at 4-6 mph, puttering along the trail, riding calmly and sanely for our first novice non-sanctioned 15 mile LD.   It was here that I felt the first chords of noncontent and confusion as we trotted along and horse, after horse, after horse blew by us.  These horses were the 50 mile horses that started before we did.  I felt confused and a little afraid that there was no way we could do this!  Barb says something like "they are passing us like we are standing still!"  Synapse connects with synapse within my brain that the pace we were riding was too slow.  So next I hooked up with intermediate LD riders to train with and completed my first LD on the older mare with only one minute separating us from a top ten.  Next up I was on my newly under saddle half-arabian, and we trained "faster."  At intermediate pace still I felt outpaced by these riders as I didn't have the riding experience to hang with it, and didn't know that my horse shouldn't be doing it anyway.  All the empirical evidence said otherwise.  We were still too slow to cut Endurance.  Hell...we were too slow to cut LD!  First crack out on the LD trail, averaging only 5-6 mph my horse has a tie-up post ride from over-exertion.  Wasn't I going slow?  From that point forward our rides began to unravel into levels of disappointment & discouragement.  Even though I was riding a "slow" endurance pace the  rides continued to plague us with problems, muscle tightness, lack of appetite, poor gut sounds, coupled with if I tried to ride on a loose rein Phebes would torque up her trotting speed to 10-13 mph!  When she hit the LD trail she was doing what she had been trained to do, ride at intermediate speed.  Un-training is much more difficult than training my friends.  A horse that has become race-brained is counter to the beginner's long range goals. 

Our fourth attempt together we hooked up with an experienced "slow" LD rider.  But even that Anglo-arabian's slow pace was faster than my mare needed to go per the ride vet.  So again I asked myself "how slow is slow"?  Pacing a distance horse is an art form, and if you are thinking of just coming into the sport, that how slow is slow speed really needs to be your focus.  The answer to how slow is slow, is something like slow is however slow it takes for your horse to catch the learning curve.

It is hard for me to believe sometimes that I've been at this for 3 years.    During this time I've watched fellow blog buddies start in LD and move on to the longer distances (Elsie "Living in a Zoo", Melinda "Boots & Saddles", Tamara "The Barb Wire").  Though I cheered them on in their success I'd be less than honest if I did not express my inner frustration as they mastered the LD and moved up to 50, 75, and Tevis.  While here we are, trying still to perfect the LD.   However I feel it is in Phebe's best interests to do the shorter distance well before we can ever set our sights to Endurance.  She must rate effectively (which will require lessons), she must eat and drink (which will require her to relax), we must finish with good muscle tone (which goes back to rating well and relaxing, and electrolytes, and all kinds of stuff...), and we must do all these things consistently, for a cycle of rides and multi-days.  We can't measure ourselves against the successes of others.  They are riding their distance journey, not mine.  We have to take pride in our own accomplishments however small.  While I look up to certain riders and their achievements such as Karen Chaton, I also have to understand that even these Endurance Icons look up to someone else, and probably at some juncture of their riding career experienced their own forms of discouragement in some situation or other until they too learned how to do it right.

If you are just starting out, don't get discouraged, ride your own ride, and define what slow really is...As newbies to the sport (Phebes and I have had  only 5 LD's total) it is easy to look at the front runners and the icons of the sport as how it is done, but they  too  must have started AT THE BEGINNING.  ~E.G.

6 comments:

  1. There was a little teeny sign near the front door of my old karate dojo. Most people only saw it one time, because you would come in the front door on that first day, and then use the "students entrance" for the rest of eternity. But if you were paying attention that first day, you'd see the sign:


    Everyone works.
    Nothing is free.
    We all start at the bottom.


    I think that sign alone sustained me through 13 years of training...and has helped in some non-karate endeavors as well, including endurance.

    Maybe it will help you, too!

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  2. As hard as it may be, sometimes we have to admit to ourselves that maybe our horses aren't meant to be endurance horses for one reason or another. It's as much about their mental state as it is about their physical abilities. Do they fret? Do they take care of themselves first? Do they camp well? How independent are they on the trail? Some of these issues cannot be solved by training and may never get easier for the horse. And why stress them out so much to prove a point? If they don't like their "job," it may be in our best interest to find them another.

    As an internet stranger, having never met you or your horse, but having read some of your posts, it seems to me that yes, you should have been able to move on by now to longer distances. 12 hours is plenty of time to finish 50 miles, even going slowly, but if you're already having trouble at the LDs then maybe Phebes isn't the right horse for this discipline.
    I'm one of these people you describe who already "passed you" and has moved on to 50s in her first season. Am I a better rider or a better horsewoman than you? I highly doubt it! What made me more "successful," if you want to call it that, is my horse and having picked her out very carefully.
    So if you'd truly love to ride Endurance, don't feel bad about moving on from Phebes. People do it all the time. It seems you tried very hard with her but this may not be what she was meant to do.

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  3. I'm truly feeling better about our ride partnership than I ever have. I've just had to adjust the sails so to speak. The point I was trying to address is to NOT GET discouraged. You ride a different horse than I do, and mine presents me with some challenges. I've just found my "okay" place with that, and have decided that five attempts, all but the first successful is not a deal breaker for me. Will she excel as an endurance horse? Will she even move up at any point? I don't know, and I'm not going to worry about it. I'm shifting toward smaller more attainable goals, with a simpler ride strategy and we'll get where we go, and that will be good enough. We will putter along a couple of years and see how things go. I do not have my heart set on endurance, my heart is set on going as far as I can on THIS horse. Maybe that will always be 30 miles, and that is okay with me.

    I will grant you 100% that the horse you have beneath you dictates a person's degree of success at the sport.

    Not discouraged! But definitely bored out of my brain with the snow right now. ~E.G.

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  4. I wish there was a like button for your response EG. I commend you for being committed to your horse. I feel the same way about my mustang. We just completed our first LD. He did well. However, if he hadn't, I would have been in the same boat as you are. It's my realtionship with my horse that matters most to me.

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  5. I guess I'm just not the "giving up" type. But it is a matter of what your goals are, and I've realigned mine to give Phebes an opportunity to adjust. The first ride we went too she was pacing her pen, pooping cow patties, and mentally checked out with the vets, had a metabolic meltdown. I over estimated her ability to cope. The last ride we went too she was calm in camp, eating good in her pen, pooping normal, and was very well-behaved for the vet. That is an improvement. Did she present some behavioral issues on trail? Yes she did, but I expected that. And she did get a little tight in the hamstrings day 2 climbing all those big hills at Clark. Her worst scores were a B on capillary refill, a B on gut sound, and a B on muscle tone. Not the lovely all A's that I would have liked, but probably not the worst scores seen at the ride overall either. I'm hoping to attend a ride or two under different vets so I can get several opinions on what is going on with her, and what to do about it. The best scores she had were at her first ride in the spring, we rode alone almost the entire way. But you can't always get that even if you are dead last. So we have worked out many things over the past four rides, and are inching closer. I just don't believe that five rides will necessarily make an endurance horse. Part of the reason it seems like we have been at it so long is because the first two years of my blog were while I was getting Phebes under saddle. Then the tie-up thing set us back for five months, which we completed well that ride too. So I'm not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water, and if she can't do this, well---she can do something else! She loves trail riding and is really "good" at it, so there are always other related disciplines I could look at, but I won't until she gets a full season under her saddle. She might be 12 by then, but I'll have had a lot of fun trying :)

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  6. I guess I'm just not the "giving up" type. But it is a matter of what your goals are, and I've realigned mine to give Phebes an opportunity to adjust. The first ride we went too she was pacing her pen, pooping cow patties, and mentally checked out with the vets, had a metabolic meltdown. I over estimated her ability to cope. The last ride we went too she was calm in camp, eating good in her pen, pooping normal, and was very well-behaved for the vet. That is an improvement. Did she present some behavioral issues on trail? Yes she did, but I expected that. And she did get a little tight in the hamstrings day 2 climbing all those big hills at Clark. Her worst scores were a B on capillary refill, a B on gut sound, and a B on muscle tone. Not the lovely all A's that I would have liked, but probably not the worst scores seen at the ride overall either. I'm hoping to attend a ride or two under different vets so I can get several opinions on what is going on with her, and what to do about it. The best scores she had were at her first ride in the spring, we rode alone almost the entire way. But you can't always get that even if you are dead last. So we have worked out many things over the past four rides, and are inching closer. I just don't believe that five rides will necessarily make an endurance horse. Part of the reason it seems like we have been at it so long is because the first two years of my blog were while I was getting Phebes under saddle. Then the tie-up thing set us back for five months, which we completed well that ride too. So I'm not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water, and if she can't do this, well---she can do something else! She loves trail riding and is really "good" at it, so there are always other related disciplines I could look at, but I won't until she gets a full season under her saddle. She might be 12 by then, but I'll have had a lot of fun trying :)

    ReplyDelete