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

May 17, 2011

Competing on A-typical breeds

I know to excel a person really needs pointed towards a breed that is comprised of plenty of slow twitch muscle fiber (ie: Arabian, half-arabian, Standardbred, thoroughbred).  So if you are selecting a non-typical breed for the sport, how do you know what you have, until you try it?  I guess what I'm saying is, if you select a half-arabian, how do you know he will be able to "finish" because is he more arabian, or is he more of the something else?  And is the half necessarily a guarantee that you are getting a slow-twitch vs. a fast twitch motor apparatus on the rear end of that horse? 

*If you know of some folks competing on Quarter horse / arabian crosses I'd love an email to discuss how they've done, and their training strategy, and completion times, to get a feel for what I'd be doing, and how to adequately prepare this cross safely (so as not to fall into the same pit I'm just crawling out of again). 

I really like the sound of this little gelding I'll be looking at.  His coat is bright and shiny, his eye looks like "a horse on a mission."  The veterinarian who runs the rescue, and has ridden the horse feels he is a good prospect for distance.  He looks like a quarter horse, but by all reports he is the energizer bunny on the trail.  Could it be the perfect storm?  Could it be...I'm SO HOPEFUL.  I've always love arabians, I've loved them since I can remember breathing, and I've always enjoyed riding them, and their sensitivity.  But all those qualities can likewise make for a nervous and fractious horse, a spooking rolling back horse, a skittish horse.  I'm just rolling sadly past that place in my life.  I want NEED a horse that will calmly trot down the trail, jog down the road, and really likes the job.  The decision has been heart wrenching for me, but I hope I can find that horse and that my learning curve is such that I can do right by the new horse in training and competition, and perhaps the new horse will give me thing I've desired for so long, an uncomplicated ride.   So talk to me if you will about riding this a-typical breed.

Then there is this sweet little mare.  She's 5 years old, a throughbred rescued from the killer pens.  They report she is quiet, and seeks to please, she has 30 days under saddle, starting on another 30. 
I love her size at 15 hands, she would work also for my husband to ride occasionally, and I've always preferred the bay color above all others, and look at those cute little tippy ears, and the cute almost "arab" head!  She is very petite considering her breed.  I'd have a little more preparation time with her. But they say she isn't bothered by much.   I'd want to have a summer of nice slow getting her head into enjoying the trail before I'd want to leg up for competition.  She would be very beautiful and sleek once conditioned (she is wooly for winter in this photo). 

Too bad I can't just smooosh both horses together!

I'm so excited to go visit them this weekend.  The drive is quite a ways north of us.  I honestly hope that things aren't so equal that I struggle with a decision.  It would be super nice if I could have a trial period to ride my choice, because out on the trail in the real world is where you find out the horse you have. 

Phebes is going to go on hiatus once the new horse comes home.  I want to give her time to heal any underlying muscle issues.  To have some deserved rest from going, going, going!  I will continue to ride her to keep her from getting sour on vacation, but rides will be for pleasure, or to expose her to other group settings of horses that aren't racing.  Part of me still hopes that with mental maturity, more exposure to the world, that she will become less reactive, and may yet do some LD's.  But we'll see.  For now, making her as nice a pleasure horse as I can is good enough.  Maybe we can try a few ACTHA rides this year...there will be several in Indiana.  She can't do all the skill sets, but it would be fun, and good for her mind.  ~E.G.


  1. You might want to have him tested for PSSM - if he's part QH - the U. Minnesota has a hair test for $65 - you can download the forms on line.

  2. Jimmy, the 28yo 5k mile super horse that I often ride with, is a quarter horse. I don't even know if he's EVER had an incompletion that wasn't RO.

    I also know a girl who has great success with her appy gelding.

  3. I've competed mostly on Standies and Arabs...and I find that *both* have challenges. I prefer the Standie challenges:

    my standie mares were/are both big and dark. Story was actually bigger-bodied, and required extra effort to keep her cool...but treating her as I would any big-bodied dark-colored horse of any breed was sufficient to get her through rides. We slow down in hot weather, I carry extra water to dump on hot dark horse skin (I also carry a sponge if there is water on the trail), and I do a *lot* of long/slow conditioning.

    I know a lot of people riding appaloosas, quarter horses, and gaited breeds who use the same strategies with success.

  4. Talk to Jen. Her little quarab rocks. She's the most tolerant little thing ever and is quite the trail horse. She's a little energizer bunny.

  5. I don't know if you're a TTEAM person at all, and I am by no means an expert, but I can tell you what I like about that mare based on reading Linda's work. Her ears are nice and wide apart at the base and even wider apart at the tips, which often denotes a horse who is interested in her surroundings without being reactive. Those are safe, sensible ears. Hurray for good signs!

  6. i competed with a quarab mare and did nothing differently with her. i did not like her size 00 feet. i loved the non-spookiness part - she was a true husband horse. she had horrible gaits (everyone else complained but i was used to it), but she was nimble and a sprinter, but could also go all day. she did have hard muscles and at one ride that caused the vets concern but it never became a problem.

  7. I think you can definitely do a few ACTHA rides with Phoebes and I think you will find that you will do much better than you think. At least half of the people I judged couldn't back their horse up and a few even commented they didn't know if their horse could back up or it had been a long time. Seems like a pretty important skill for trail riding to me, but I guess everyone has a different perspective. :-)

  8. How do you know if your horse has fast or slow twitch muscles? I was trying to research and it seems that within a breed like Quarter Horse - some can have either. Just wondering what an American Saddlebred might be. Someone commented at an endurance ride that they were surprised to see a Saddlebred because those large muscles must be hard to cool down? I thought that was weird. Plus I have friends in CA winning 50 mile rides and getting best condition on their Saddlebreds.

  9. Keep in mind that the most record for Tevis completions (13), is held by a Quarter Horse mare. =) I would worry WAY LESS about the actual breed, and judge the individual as they are. Some Arabs can't do endurance, some QH's will excel. Keep in mind that a lot of horses don't have just fast/slow twitch muscles. In fact, the majority are a type that will change and accomodate based upon how they are being used. Sorry, but I don't have time to look up the technical term right now. But the muscles will adapt to become more like a fast or slow twitch based on how you condition/ride.

    My horse Sinatra was a total mutt. We're guessing mustang/QH-cross of some sort. He fitted up to look like a beautiful fit cross-country runner.

    Personally, I would pick SANE & EASY over any other qualities except soundness.