Head-long…or Head wrong
Have you got so caught up in the getting there that instead of being headlong in love with the endurance sport you find yourself frustrated, unfulfilled, maybe a little bit disappointed and angry? Instead of all the joy you expected to feel you feel like you are on the periphery, or you are just tired of trying and failing? If so your headlong, may have segued to head wrong.
The thing that attracted me to endurance in the first place was that it was every man’s (or mostly woman’s) sport. First there is the romance phase, where endurance is this beautiful, mystical, “thing” that mere mortals set upon a quest with faithful steed, mountains, and mist, and rivers, and the wind. Which in my journey was quickly replaced by saddles and biothane in various shades of red, blue, brown, black, and orange. Gadgets that measure pulse, and GPS coordinates, time, distance, and speed. An old pickup truck that is barely held together at the fender wells by a network of patchy rust and thin air. A horse trailer that is on the very bottom of the spectrum, one mere step above a stock trailer. A budget that does not get me to very many rides a year. A lot of effort, with not too much pay off, as my expectations were built up so high there wasn’t much room for me to slide anywhere…except down. Down I went.
The fact is nothing much had changed about endurance from point A) to point B). AERC did not make any drastic rule changes, the rides that were one year were being held again; there were nice people showing up at the rides, and now and then one that wasn’t so. Nothing to get my head in a twist about. But twist it did. My head was wrong. It took me a year to find my way back from that and realize that what had changed was me.
Though I like to feel I am very involved in encouraging others (I hope I do) I don’t take it all so seriously anymore. If I fail to not complete a ride or even start a ride, it is slightly disappointing, but doesn’t hold the importance it did in the beginning. Finally my mind was wrapped around the concept that this endurance riding thing is recreational. I should be enjoying myself! There is no grade at the end of the day other than that my horse should be okay and I should feel like I have met a personal challenge. I don’t think I even collected my t-shirt on the last completion. It didn’t matter to me. These days I’m in a practical place. I really don’t care about my ride time other than I make the cut-off. The saddle fits, the bridle works, the pad is wool and it is good. The horse pulses down, the horse trots out, she drinks on trail, we are catching the curve ever so slowly. If I go for a conditioning ride I’m good, if my mare gets a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation, it will just have to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to find myself riding and looking out across a mountain ridge (but I live in the southeast part of Indiana). I’d like to have that beautiful moment to watch the mist rolling across Appalachia, or cross some river I’ve never seen before, but chances are…I’ll stay right here in Indiana, catch a ride, or two, or three on Spotted Wonder on a very lucky year. I will simply settle for the experience on my horse, the trickle of sweat down my back, and the cool wind of a thunderstorm rolling across the Midwest. That will be my endurance experience, and that is quite alright by me.