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

December 24, 2014

What's ruining your ride?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I've gone to a number of distance competitions and did not enjoy it.   Now you are probably thinking that is a pretty stupid thing to say coming from a person who proudly waves the endurance riding flag.  However, I can't believe that I am the only one to have experienced this, and it is a huge obstacle for a certain set of riders that experience ride anxiety.

Ride Anxiety?

Yeah.  You know that feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach the morning of the ride inspired by all those possible worries that can go wrong?  That slightly sick feeling that puts off your appetite, tightens up your body, and your breathing?  Yeah, that.   Now I cannot speak for the masses.  I can only speak for myself.  I get so wound up that I don't sleep the night before.  I lie there staring at the blackness behind my eyelids, listening to the intermittent crunch, crunch, crunch of hay being burned while I try to blank my mind of thought, mostly unsuccessfully.  This carries over next morning in the way I might communicate with my horse if she is a sensitive creature at all...quite likely my body language is WE ARE ON FULL ALERT!   Why wouldn't my horse get torqued up and impatient?

I've determined that the overnight issue is a problem that I have yet to resolve (will keep you posted when I sort it out).   The greater issue that carries over into the actual ride I've been able to take steps to make better, after all a tiny bit of pre-ride anxiety is normal.  Just not so much as I've had.  So I put down a mental list of what is bugging me.  I mean, if you are anxious, something drives that, right?

  • Fear of failure
  • Loss of dollars spent
  • Loss of hours upon hours of conditioning
  • Embarrassment
  • Injury or illness of my horse
  • Having to blog about my most recent goofy mistake
So looking at those, most are pretty pathetic.  When we put our fears down in black and white they look silly.   The only thing I get anxious about that is reasonable is the safety of my horse.   The rest all have to do with time, money, and ego.  Well---the time is already gone, the money is already spent, and my ego is a bunch of hooey!   I try to keep sight of those things before I sling my leg over the horse on ride morning and it has helped tremendously.  


When setting goals set them to be realistic.

Why set a goal for a regional placement when you know (deep down inside) that you will on a good year make three or four rides in a season.  Regional isn't in the cards sister! (or other gender).   Set goals that make sense for your plight in life.     My primary goal, the most reachable goal is to complete.  Even that has gone south a few times, but still, it is my most immediate reachable goal.  Here are some more you can set:

  • Pick one ride each year...let's call it Top of the Rock, and set a goal to beat your last year's time on the course.   I like competing against myself!  That is a reasonable goal
  • Set a goal to top ten one ride this season (if your horse is ready for that).  Study ride times at the ride you are going to, look at the averages for top ten, and train to hit that timing window.  That is a reasonable goal.
  • Network among other riders and form four teams.  The teams will compete against each other.  A team winner will be announced at the end of the season. Best four ride times win! Have migrating trophy that moves from team to team, year to year, fun, reachable goal.  Nothing like busting the chops of your best buddies at the game you love best ☺
  • Set a goal to ride a ride somewhere you've never gone before.  Many of us ride close to home, I am guilty.   But perhaps trading off two rides this season, for one somewhere a bit farther flung would not hurt the budget and give you a positive, reachable goal?
So if all of a sudden you aren't having fun, sit down with a piece of paper at hand and list what is making you feel disgruntled.   The answers can sometimes be revealing.


Well hoopity do!   Been to Walmart lately?  *LOL*   A lot of people don't fall into the friendly subset of personality of the year award.   A bunch of 'em are just not nice people.   But Walmart aside, most of what I've encountered at rides is a bunch of people slinging out a camp, getting things organized for their ride, and the atmosphere is busy, busy, busy!  That is likely more of what you are experiencing than outright unfriendliness.  The answer to that?   Find a ride buddy if you can, and mentor someone if you can.   In ridecamp alone can be sort of lonely.   The quickest way I've seen to have people stop in and say hello is to ride a non-arabian ☺  People are intrigued  because you don't usually break any sound barriers riding the non-arab.  It is also slightly entertaining when your horse that shouldn't finish does.   It's good to inspire conversation.  If you want people who don't know you to be friendly, be friendly yourself.  If you are sad, mad, or whatever it is like people repellent has been sprayed around your rig.  My MO is to search out the face that "looks" lonely.  Approach that person, and say hey!  Where you from, and what distance are you riding?  Talk a few minutes, wish them luck, and say if you need anything I'm over there (pointing at my camp).   It takes years to build relationships with people, unless you have your own riding network from the get-go.


Well---maybe that is true.  Maybe it isn't?   I forego a lot of things that other women take for granted to set aside just a little for my horse fun. I don't have trendy clothing, don't drive an SUV, and the pickup is rusty...  I don't get to go to many rides, but they are my vacation time for the year.  I look forward to them.   Since I've started saving for the bucket list ride, I've found that I was wasting money that could be set aside (barring something majorly befalling us).  By trying to not eat out on work days (or limiting my lunch budget to a sandwich/drink) I've kept my saving on track for the past six months or so.  So save for rides that really mean something to you.   Maybe your first 50, or first 75, or try for a 100!   Go to that one ride that means something instead of three or four that you've done until you are bored silly with it.    Pinnacle rides are where it is at for me.   If I'm not growing, I'm not having fun.


A few choices here.  If your horse is fixable, give him the time needed even if you set it out a year.   Grab up a camera, or your craft,  and go volunteer a few rides.  Learn the other side of endurance from the view point of scribe, pulse checker, or photographer!  Or make some cool ride awards to give to management.    You still get the fun camping experience, you have more time to get to know people and you give something back.   

So what's ruining your ride?  And how do you fix it?  Because at the end of the day, how we view our experience always rests squarely on each of us.


  1. At two of my three rides this past year, I've dealt with ride anxiety by focusing on the pony being a polite western pleasure pony with a pathetic lazy walk and me keeping all my cues OFF. (At the third ride, Rider Failed and started ten minutes late, woops, which left no time for polite western pleasure pony wanderings.) Because I've been ridiculously telling myself that I am riding a western pleasure pony.. lo and behold, the pony lives up to it and rides more relaxed. I can't say it'll work for everyone or even all the time, but we'll be trying it again next year.

  2. Sounds like a great way to start a horse new to the sport to me!