So you want to be a distance rider but you don’t have a clue how to get started. This short primer is for you!
#1. Grab a horse that is trail savvy. Horse should be sound, in good physical health, and on no medications. Horse has been ridden at least weekly in lessons or on the trail. Horse has a base of fitness.
#2. Throw on a good fitting saddle, bridle, pad, and two water bottle holders. Shoes, boots, or whatever kind of hoof protection works best for your horse.
#3. Now ride, ride, ride….and ride some more. You have eleven or twelve weeks before your planned ride to get ready. Ride at the trot on all the flats, take it easy on the steep up hills and down hills. Train three times a week, with two short rides at a good extended trot for about five miles. The longer third ride is long and slow 4-5 mph and increasing distance of two miles each week, so 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, ( 25 this is your LD ride). Check your horse over good after each ride. If horse is sore, seems off in any way then back off and reassess. If horse continues to move out well, eat well, and keeps a good attitude, proceed with the plan! There are many different training and conditioning programs out there. Check out the links area of this blog for other spins on the how to and pick the one that works best for you. The above plan worked for me, but may not be your cuppa joe!
#4. In the meantime enter the ride, and pay your entry fee. If you are not an AERC member you will need to pay an extra day fee charge (usually $15). If the ride is held at a State Park or private grounds you will want to pay for and reserve a camping spot. Check with ride management.
#5. Cram a bunch of camping gear into your truck, or hitch up a trailer that has living quarters or a large dressing room. Drive, drive, and drive some more. Set up camp.
#6. Check in with the ride manager and get yourself signed in as officially there, and get the letter (A-Z) for your horse. Ask what time your horse can be vetted in, and be there! Ask when the ride meeting will be held. Be there! Take notes, ask questions, especially about how the trail is marked, and how turns are marked, and the color of ribbon you follow for each loop. Note the start time.
#7. Get your gear ready for the next day, tuck your horse in with plenty of chow and hay to munch, and set your clock for an early morning wake up. Make sure your rider’s card is in your pocket for the next day. Keep it with you.
#8. In the morning tack up and be ready to go at least thirty minutes early. Use this time to warm your horse up, drink, and check in with ride management that you are present and accounted for.
#9. On ride day let everyone leave, then ride, ride, and ride some more. Remember to ride fast enough to finish (5-6 mph), but slow enough to teach your horse to ride sane!Take your time at trail intersections and turns so you don’t get lost. Your first ride is about learning and teaching (your horse), and completing (not placing or racing). You have five hours for a 25 mile LD, use them! Have your rider card ready when you come in at the halfway, and when you finish. Head to the pulse gate first, and then the vet gate after your horse has met pulse criteria. Make sure your horse is eating, drinking, peeing (yellow), pooping, and moving freely. Follow the vet's advice.
#10. After your ride pat yourself and your horse on the back for a job well done. Completing your first distance ride is an awesome accomplishment, and it was also a lot of fun!
AERC RIDE CALENDAR and click on 2011 AERC, then select the region where you live to find the rides close to you or plan a vacation outside of your region. Come join the fun, and remember to “finish is to win.”
Ride on... ~ E.G.