As a person new to the sport you can do all kinds of training, reading, riding, and thinking on endurance (LD). Until you've actually been there done that however it is all just a bunch of theoretical mumbo-jumbo in your head. You can think you have it right, only to discover quite the hard way how wrong you are. Often actual endurance riders will try to save you from yourself. I've only one word for that: LISTEN
There are many ways to totally jack up your first ride experience. The list of ten which follows is not all inclusive but might save you some grief.
#1 Starting with the pack or running with the herd. Just don't do it. Your horse has likely never been in a herd of hyped up ready to run (because they are experienced) horses, and the old saying the horse you have at home will not be the horse you have at a ride is the truth. Hang back, let the dust settle for five minutes, then leave at a sane quiet and controlled pace. Otherwise you spend the ride pulling on your horse to slow down, or riding to fast, and the first ride experience is bad. Ride over.
#2 Too little preparation. It is difficult to know how to condition a horse for the sport at the beginning. At first you think you are killing them, and lean towards under prepping. In this scenario your horse will hit the wall and run out of gas. Ride over.
#3 Too much preparation. In this case you've run all the energy out of the horse before you ever got there. Again the horse hits the wall of exhaustion. Ride over.
#4 Not drinking. Fix this one before the first competition/completion ride. Maybe the horse needs more time on trail, maybe you need electrolytes pre-ride to jump start the thirst impulse. A serious lack of hydration sets the scene for metabolic failure. Ride over.
#5 Not eating. Again this needs worked out prior to competing. If the horse isn't eating, get to the bottom of it. Are you dealing with ulcers? Does the horse need more time learning the ropes? A lack of gut sounds could mean ride over.
#6 Rubs and chafing. You will need to have ridden at least the distance of your longest loop at pace a few weeks prior to your first ride. That could be fifteen miles or twenty miles. If tack is causing issues on this ride you need to fix it before you enter your first official competition. This includes saddle, bridle, hoof boots, leg protection, crupper any gear you intend to use. Those effects also pertain to you as the rider. You would be shocked how painful it can quickly get if your skin starts chafing away. Ride over.
#7 Dawdling. If you haven't done a ride you will see that riders are passing you like you are setting still. That is to be expected, but don't dawdle at water crossings (except to allow for drinking/sponging) or anywhere else. Losing a few minutes here and there can seriously eat into your ability to finish by the time cut off. I've found that I need to average 7 mph moving time to meet the cut off...or Ride over.
#8 Getting lost. It will wreck your day. Try to stay oriented to your map so you at least have an idea of where you are. I've personally been bitten twice by this one. Ride over.
#9 Being mealy mouthed at the ride meeting. For goodness sake, if you have a question ask it. Last ride I went to they said something like...the written instructions might have some mistakes....whereby my hand shot up for specifics as to what, and where. Not asking questions that you may have is stupid. Missed the ride meeting? Sorry. Not having the answers may mean ride over.
#10 Mixing up your out time. Pulsing through and forgetting to vet in. Taking the wrong fork of the trail into the finish. It can be lost in the details. Create a little system of how you do things and stick to it. It will become like muscle memory and become automatic with time and experience. But that first ride you will be surprised at how overwhelming it might seem, especially if you are going it alone. Ride over.
The moral to this story is listen to those who have gone before you. Map out the steps in your head, have a plan, and stick with the plan. It isn't that any of the points mentioned are actually hard to overcome, but if you have several of them happen to you it could be a game changer and cause your competition to turn into another conditioning ride.
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