My thoughts on attributes for an atypical breed in endurance. I’ve been swirling around in my head about specific attributes to look at with this sport in mind. What my long-term goals are, all pointed towards enjoying the sport and avoiding LOTS of disappointment along the way. I know that to have a really “easier” rode in distance riding the Arabian is the way to go. But my mare which is actually 7/8 ths Arabian proves that there is more involved than just “breed.” So I want that good thinking mind that is non-explosive, non-reactive, self-preservationist, and compliant. I want to have FUN, without the worry of coming off because a stick changed location, or a rock has rolled over the last time the creek flooded. I want it SO BAD.
The horse needs to cool out and pulse down within reason. I’m not sure how I’d feel about coming into a vet check and waiting….on a pulse down. So I guess I’m looking for the lowest possible resting heart rate of the two horses in question.
The thing I’ve missed the most with my current horse experience the past few years is the horse/person connection. I certainly do love my horse, but I can’t say she has EVER developed any warm and fuzzy feelings about me, or our adventure. Phebes is happiest in the arena setting, working off leg, trying new things and ways of communicating. She feels safest in a more static and routinely unchanging environment. The very nature of the distance sports is boldly challenging the ever changing trail in the midst of a lot of other equines. Phebes doesn’t like other horses much either! She is a pretty dominant mare, so I believe a dominant mare may not be a good fit for my personality either. The horse I enjoyed the most was a little bit spooky Arabian, my old mare that was put down a few years ago. Even though she was spooky, she would try, try, try for me. She came to meet me at the fence every day, ready for the next ride (even if it was scary). If horses can love, she loved me, if not…I KNOW she trusted me. She wanted to be near me, to be brushed, and kissed, and scratched. I wish we could have ridden on forever. A connection to my horse is probably the most important on my list. I want that “buzz” up my arm again when I touch my horse, and a soft nose seeking me out, saying I’m your horse! What will we do today? How far will we go? Can we go together? I’d like to get there safely…
As for actual competition goals, I don’t have aspirations for 50’s. I’d like to “try” one, and complete one, just for the experience. I like Limited Distance for several reasons. First of all for health reasons. I have a muscular and connective tissue disorder, osteoarthritis, a balance disorder, among other middle-aged health related woes. Until I can complete LD’s and feel like I could safely hike out ten miles if I needed to? I think I’d better stay with LD’s! But I do love the multi-day. I want to stack up completion mileage on one horse. Coming in 17th out of a group of 20 doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is coming in 17th and STILL HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT MY HORSE. I’m not sure at this point what the magic bullet is for conditioning a horse towards successful slow multi-days, but I wouldn’t think it should be much harder than working towards a 50, since the mileage is exactly the same. I’d like to get to the root of that to assure in my heart once and for all that I am not the root of Phebes’s problems with over /under training or over performing. My intellect says that with her foundation of LSD she was adequately prepared. I just don’t want to repeat the past.
As for a breed of horse I could be happy with? I don’t really care so long as they can happily trot along intermittently for 25-30 miles. Just a healthy, willing, happy to go horse. One that is looking towards the next fork in the trail, a horse that sniffs the trail and thinks…horses ahead and willingly picks up a trot. I guess I just want their heart into the game. I’ve seen horses that had to be soundly whacked with a crop to go back out on trail at the mid-point of a 50 mile. I don’t want to be that rider or ride that horse. Past that I don’t care if I ride short, tall, sorrel or bay, spotted, or unremarkable…I’d even ride a mule (love those long ears btw). I think I have two very good prospects before me. The gelding is independent, sane, and safe and that is so close to the goal. Just the ratio of fast twitch muscles to wonder over. He is probably as close to a ready horse as I will ever find. The mare has all those warm and fuzzy qualities I like in a horse-a-nality, and the little extra size that would allow my husband to ride her, so I could continue to enjoy Phebes. It will likely be one tough decision all things considered. If all other things seem equal, I may resort to checking for that tingle of connection, that I’ve only ever felt one time. ~E.G.
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