Contact information:

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


March 21, 2014

Goals for the rest of us...








Sometimes goal setting is hard.  It seems like the probability of success is nearly impossible.  If you are feeling this way, maybe it is time to re-think your personal ride goals.  Are you dreaming past your horse's capabilities, or your own financial capability, or both? Success begins and frustration ends when you can balance your ride goals, your horse's potential,  and your financial situation.  It would be distressing to have set goals, trained for them, only to determine that the price of entry fees, insurance, and fuel to the many venues you would need to attend has shut you down.  Some people find themselves within that fortunate income bracket to have High Point and High Mileage Goals, but remember that you have to attend a lot of rides in many places to get anywhere close to the league of placing in those.  If you can do that, I’ll cheer you on.  Some of us have to fill the barn with hay, support the kids, take care of the critters, and play on what’s left.  In today’s economy that can mean at the end of the month  not much residual cash.    So how do you still have fun in the sport if you aren’t winning? If you can't go to ride, after ride, after ride?  There is where it becomes personal, challenging, and all kinds of crazy good.   You have just wiped the “competition” off the map, and now it is down to you, your horse, and the trail.  You stop looking at other people's success, and determine what you can do, instead of what you cannot.   Frankly this kind of laser specific focus is what gets my adrenaline going.  It is where your mind opens up to the possibilities. 

The Elizabeth Funderburks of the world are “my” kind of hero.  Rider, horse, and determination that says, by damned…I’m going to beat this goal if it kills me. Though I have no ambition to replicate her goals, I certainly resonate with her absolute stick-to-it-ness.  That thing that says no matter if I have to do it three times, or more, we are going to succeed at something personally challenging on the horse I have.  Not the goal that requires me to  buy a race bred, endurance proven Arabian something or other, but taking this back paddock (Appaloosa, Tennessee Walker, Morgan, Mustang, or…whatever kind) horse and whip this trail, on this date, and build a beautiful connection with that horse. Riding out to prove something to myself.  That is what the folks who don’t do the distance sports fail to understand.  It is what the people who race do not understand about those who do not.  Once you get that, you will never look at endurance the same.   So maybe you can’t make it to twelve competitions this year. Maybe you aren't going to hot shoe it down the trail for glory ride after ride after ride.   But you might be able to throw down enough cash to make it to a pinnacle ride once a year, yes?  Or twice, yes? You might up your game from LD to 50, or 50 to 75, or set your goal for the big one, a hundred miles in a day.  Wrap your heart around one of those; make a financial plan of how you can get there. The field of dreams is not out there across the fence my friends.  It is right smack dab in the middle of your chest, that place where your emotion rises, that moment that you know you and your horse have done something personally phenomenal.

14 comments:

  1. I think that having goals is good and developing long term and short term goals is important. Stats and figures are not always the way to judge success. I like setting personal goals like "Get my horse out away from the barn at least 12 times this year. Well that doesn't mean far of rides, could be a short day trip with friends.

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    1. You are right Tina. I guess it just boils down to finding your niche. That place that your heart says "I'm so happy for this day." Many people contemplate trying this sport, and kind of shrug and feel I can't possibly be competitive so what's the use? But when you set aside an AERC award (though those are wonderful) from your mind, and take it down to the root of "why did I want to try to ride distance" you may find the answer was that you wanted to excel on your horse, and if you can see the TRAIL who's butt you want to solidly kick, with a horse that sound, healthy, and has spit and vinegar in his eye, you can feel good about that. I personally am facing another potential horse disaster here. If I can't sort it out, I'm back to scratch. But I still find great happiness in other people's success.

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  2. Awwww, thank you! :D What a great post! You're totally right, your goals and your satisfaction in hitting them are all on the inside.

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    1. You might as well have won Tevis, I was so excited for you. Still am. In my mind team Fixie is the top of the heap :)

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  3. I really like and appreciate 95% of this post -- thank you! Buuuuut (speaking as someone with zero intent to race in the foreseeable future but also with an intensely competitive temperament), I am uncomfortable with the racers-don't-get it bit. All racers, maybe not, but most (all?) of the ones I know have experienced similar struggles and they do understand. Individual mileage may of course vary.

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  4. Hannah, I honestly meant no slight against those who race. It is just a different niche that is all. My direction for this statement was meant strongly to find "that place" in however you want to do it. I believe that sometimes people just give up as they see a successful rider as one who a) wins by racing b) wins through constant competitive mileage, and though those are certainly very good and meaningful goals, the rest of us have to find meaning in our own ride. The races are having their wins, and mileage riders are doing what they do and finding that intrinsic feeling of success already. I never really got that myself until a few months ago. I was so busy trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be, that I just burned myself out. I'm excited about the sport again, and wish others success in whatever it means to them. But in truth, someone at that competitive level will not experience the challenges that the rest might. For one thing, they aren't going to be riding their backyard horse (usually). If they are competitive enough to be winning and winning, they are showing up for many rides, and riding within a budget that has no bearing on some mere mortals. When you start hitting the mark from within, it is like the ground shifts suddenly and you've warped into a decidedly different place. The fun comes back.

    I will offer my apologies for any unintended slight to anyone. It was not intended that way. :)

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  5. I'm also a little concerned about the "racers are evil" mentality that's getting more prevalent (not AT ALL saying that that's what you're doing Jacke). In this sport I am one of the 99%, the people who will never achieve national status, but I do not believe that rules need to be changed to make the sport less of a "race", which some people are trying to do. There's competitive trail for those who object to racing. I do not believe that elite riders (of most nations) are riding horses that they don't care about, that they treat them like machines, that they don't enjoy the scenery and the whole experience. That's how many paint these people, and I think that's far too broad a generalization and not fair. I don't think it's fair to say they don't have struggles like "we" do. Hell yes they do, just different ones but I'll bet they hurt just as much to them.

    However I'm not sure what you mean by a "backyard horse". I read the stories in this month's Endurance News of horses that achieved high mileage status, quite a few of whom are not Arab, and a similar story behind alot of these horses was that they started out as young, untrainable, warned off, took tons of time to make them rideable. To me that's a backyard horse! Not one of those stories said "I bought this horse totally trained for $30,000 and we won and BCd our first 100 miler". Again, I'm not saying you said these things, but it's dividing the sport more and more nowadays when so many people are trying to paint a "us vs them" division and saying that us non-elite competitors are somehow doing it right and the elite riders are somehow selfish jockeys and destroying the sport.

    I've never personally known anyone who's done endurance and then quit when they realized that they could not possibly be a national Top 10 rider. I know lots of marathon runners, and they run their own race and could care less if they ever bust a tape. I suppose there's individuals who would quit a sport if they couldn't be "the best" but luckily I don't know any, and endurance certainly wouldn't be the only sport that would have that! One would think that everyone realizes that you can still do endurance events without the expectation of winning.

    Before I step down off my soap box (what's with me today? maybe because it's 30 degrees again and no meaningful riding) I'm seeing this "ride vs race" debate as a way of glorifying us 99% and demonizing the 1% which is kind of a national phenomenon in all things. I don't want to see endurance turn into another Occupy movement.

    Hope to see you at a ride or CMO soon Jacke!

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  6. *sigh* I need to learn to write and express myself more clearly I guess. This was not a shot against the people who race. The point is, they have their niche. They take joy in that. The ride fit, fast, athletic horses, and they enjoy the adrenaline rush. THAT IS THEIR GAME. It isn't mine, and it isn't a lot of people's. Yes, they have their struggles too.

    I speak only from my own perspective, and mine certainly is likely in the minority. The intent was to inspire somebody who might be on the fence, that there is a place for them, if they look at it a different way. When I started I did have big dreams. Not National dreams no. But I did want to rock some LD mileage and my little horse world fell apart. It felt then as if I could not fit in ANYWHERE. And saying that someone who rides for the win has little in common with me or my goals is not demonizing them in any measure. They simply are motivated by a different "reward" than I am. Doesn't make them bad. Just means that I've no interest in that even if I had a horse with that kind of potential. I am interested in making my horse fitter, getting a personal better time at a given ride, but in all honesty after the problems with Phebes I am VERY RISK ADVERSE. Nothing, NOTHING is worth hurting my horse. And as speed increases on a ride, so does risk. Risk of a game ending injury, risk of colic, risk of metabolic issues. Endurance in general carries a risk, but that risk magnifies with speed. There are elite riders / horses that will do what I never will. That's okay....I don't wanna. I just want to make it through a 50, feed and pet the pony, come home, and feel like we did okay. I'm thinking I'm probably not entirely alone in that feeling.

    Today I'll be happy if even one ride happens this season, cause things aren't shaping up to well...

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  7. P.S. Apparently I missed that article in EN's. Going to have to drag it out and read what it had to say. I thought this past month was like the year book thing? Didn't realize there were any articles to speak of in it?

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  8. I don't mean to pick on you and I'm sorry you're having a rough stretch; I hope things improve. And if you're not in the mood to read the rest of this comment, that is of course 100% okay, not that you need my permission, etc.

    I just -- really don't think the dichotomy between riders who sometimes race and riders who never do is anywhere near as clear and sharp as you're describing it. Because individual mileage may vary and I dunno, maybe my experience is seriously skewed by operating in the weird happy little bubble that is the New England horse scene (but the conversations I've had with folks in other reasons suggest otherwise), but I know some folks who race endurance and take it seriously and want very much to win. I've ridden with them (not on rides they were racing!) and chatted with them about their horses and mine (which is how I know that at least some keep two or three outside their kitchen window and work a 40+ hour week to support 'em) and emailed them in a panic (and been told soothing stories about how their past and current experiences with whatever issue I'm panicking about) and borrowed their gear (with great humor, patience, and grace). I've actually just arrived home from watching a couple of 'em devote half their day to welcoming and encouraging a roomful of newbs.

    They're just people, that's all. They love their horses and they love the sport, just like the rest of us. They also love riding fast and competitively on the right horse and on the right day. But that's in addition to the other priorities; it doesn't replace or supplant it. Sure, some racers are jerks just like some mid-pack riders and some turtles are jerks. And sure, some of them have deep pockets and some do horses full-time. But most of 'em are just people, and they do get it, and they're nothing but kind and encouraging -- which is part of why I feel so strongly about this. The other part is that in my previous "life," people sometimes assumed that my personality and my sometime competitive success meant that I valued winning more than I valued my horse, which was both really untrue and really hurtful. So I don't race endurance, but I know what it feels like to be outgrouped because you care about performance and it is exactly as much fun as being outgrouped because you don't.

    Again: I am right there with you on setting goals and priorities that are appropriate to you and your horse and your situation; I think that is fantastic advice and I appreciate you putting it out there.

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  10. It makes me honestly sad that one sentence out of a page can turn what I meant as only a positive for people like me, into something completely different. After a good night of sleep, I'm not going to apologize for something that others want to perceive in what I write as an insult to racers. This is about finding goals for the "little guy". That is all. I know my heart is in the right place, and that is all that matters to me.

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  11. Jacke: yes it was the last issue of EN that just came out. Wanna say I got it maybe a week or two ago? There's a whole bunch of cool little profiles of horses that reached mileage goals. It was my favorite part of the magazine. Shows pictures, breed info, and descriptions by the riders of their horses. Very very interesting!

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  12. And every single April ride in the UMECRA organization has been cancelled! Nothing til May. I'm assuming it's a combination of trails probably not in shape and people just have NOT been able to ride their horses! I'm glad to see it, less chance people (especially beginners) will not override an unfit horse early in the year. But it sucks for midwest competitors who try to get national mileage awards.

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