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

January 17, 2015

Making Endurance Safer for the New Rider/Horse

There's a lot being said on  facebook  in the past 24 hours about how new riders are riding unsafely, and what's to be done about that.   I have a few ideas on that score but quite sure my opinions would fall mostly on deaf ears.  Though I'm sure there are a minority of riders who might fall into that demographic new/fast...what I pick up from newbies as a whole is not that racing mind set.

The inherent problem is that LD has for the most part become a race, rather than the truly safe starting place it was intended to be.  The "answer" to this problem is pretty simple really...

1.  A later (separate) staggered start time.
2. Keeping new riders off the course with much faster experienced riders.
3. A rule that prohibits placement for a horse's first 3 or 4 competitions.
4. Rules that encourage pacing those first 3 or 4 rides safely. 
5. A set of qualifying rides for extremely inexperienced horse people.

Sounds a bit like CTR but it would encourage learning to ride your horse at a sane pace early on without 50 mile horses blowing up behind and past you.  Would eliminate for the most part arms being pulled out of sockets and horses developing race brain syndrome which is ugly and hard to fix. 

All of these could likewise be addressed with coaching (mentoring), actual hands on face to face learning opportunities.  101 clinics and such.

But then, is this new rider/ fast rider thing such a big problem?  That is not what I'm picking up from the segment of new people I have contact with currently.  Though I'm sure there are lone wolves out there behaving badly... I'm pretty sure that there is a perception problem going on as well.  That if you are new you just have to be stupid and bad if your horse is pulled.    Most of the horses I see that look over ridden are not being ridden by newbies for the most part (at least in my limited experience).  Most of my experience with riders behaving badly (racing off when your horse is trying to drink, blowing by on trail, talking down snarkiness)  have not been new riders.  Sorry!    If an experienced person gets pulled for some reason it just "wasn't their day."  Or a rock had their name on it.   Or the horse got up on the wrong side of the stall.     If a newbie gets a pull it is "oh my GOD did you see that coming or what? What an idiot!"    Either scenario may, or may not be true.   There may be a perception problem.

Example:  I always prefer to point at my own issues than other people's since I know the full story behind mine.   My very first LD ride on one horse was a complete disaster.   Oh the horrible terrible newbie.  But the story behind that was that I had actually spent the entire cold winter conditioning.  Did it on the terrain I'd be competing on. Rode the actual course faster once in late training than I planned to compete. Did all of my long  conditioning rides with FOUR EXPERIENCED LD riders, rode the actual ride with one of them on her new horse which had conditioned with mine at the same pace all winter.  Her horse vetted through just fine, and mine nearly dropped dead (though she passed her vet checks).   I will not say I was not responsible.  We are all responsible for our horses.  But even though I was trying extremely hard to do right, it all went terribly wrong.  Things may not be as black and white as they seem.

Moral:  The best laid plans of mice and men (or in this case horses and people).

There are safe-guards that could be put into place, but those won't catch everything.  So what to do?

Here is an extremely unique idea.  Let's help each other.  Let's celebrate the new rider, and help them segue seamlessly into the sport.  Let's offer to ride with a newbie.  Let's teach them about pacing, eating, drinking, electrolytes.  How about we let them know that it takes a year or maybe two to build a horse to race fitness and that their horse may never be good enough to race, ever.  Let's give them a safe and happy venue to complete from the start.  If things don't go well, instead of pointing the dreaded finger, let's help that person solve their problem. 

As for the lone-wolf riders who show a pattern of behaving badly over time?  That's up to the organization in charge to field that and fix that.  We as riders are not the endurance police...

1 comment:

  1. You are on to something.

    One thing that really bothers me on these endurance boards is the assumption that green bean equals new to horses. I rarely start my own posts, but the other day I posed a question about my daughter's gelding. He had some MINOR swelling in his fetlock after picking up a rock in his hoof. I asked for prayers for speedy healing and if there was anything I could do to help him. I was amazed by the number of people who responded negatively and told me the board wasn't a place to ask questions like that. They also offered little practical advice, such as continuing with the hydrotherapy and try a poultice. I eventually deleted the post.

    Anyway... My point is people who are new to endurance aren't always new to horses. I have a multitude of experience. I'm sure others do as well.