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

January 21, 2017

Competing on a non-arabian breed horse

Reading today about the struggles many have meeting the measure of endurance riding.  Rider burn out, and worse equine injury, non-completions, and facing up to the realization that the sport isn't working out like you had hoped and dreamed.

I know that the higher percentage of people who experience this are likely riding their non-arabian breed of choice.   You have to be darned smart to complete with "that kind of horse" while the sea of Arabians blast on by.   And therein lies the rub,  You have this horse that is bundled up with fast twitch muscle, you rev that puppy up and it can really go...for a little bit.  Keep the pedal down and muscle fatigue sets in and the balance of your horse's cadence starts to get a little wonky.  Maybe sweating more than the Arabian counterparts as they just prance on down the trail.

Do you realize the challenge you have laid before your horse?  I've encountered a rash of problems trying to fit Journey into the endurance mold.   Even though she did complete two fifty-mile rides, I'm unconvinced it is in her best interests to do so moving into the future.  LD's?  If she arrives eating and drinking she's good to go on LD's.

So what am I blathering on about here anyway?  Believe it or not I do have a point or two for you to ponder.  Let's go.

What are your goals?

Do you want to complete or do you want to compete? 

  If you want to truly compete  you need a horse with a good couple of years of slow previous work, and it probably should be a well-conformed, and well trained Arabian or half-Arabian horse.   That is just the truth of it.  There are anomalies of non-Arabian horses doing some decent finishes, but that doesn't account for their longevity (or lack-there-of) in the sport.  Even the Arabians break (ask those guys in the middle east) when they are pushed past their limits.

If your answer was complete, start your self way back in the herd and actually ride your own ride.   (Out of sight of the herd is even better) Partner up with your horse and set a goal to take a near maximum time allowance riding adventure.  Even if it means you ride alone.  Those horses hammering down the trail are NOT YOUR HORSE.  Probably the hardest thing on ride day is to keep one's self from getting caught up in the herd.   Almost every horse I see that has a visual of a horse ahead of them, due to herd instinct (the last horse in the herd  does get eaten by the bear after-all) is going to inch up the speed a little, and a little more.  It doesn't take too much of that to set off a metabolic issue.  It doesn't take too much of not paying attention to the trail to trip on a root, stomp on a rock, or make a big slip in the mud.  End of day! Money down the out of commission.

So what are you going to do with your mustang, paso, appy, or fill in the blank breed of horse you hold so dear?   You want to keep that horse healthy and sound?    You are going to stage your passion to your horse's individual talent, and that might mean the only way you will ever top ten is if there are only ten or less riders in the field.  It might mean that if you have six hours to complete a ride including the holds, then you do the math and ride those miles in a way that uses that time in the best interest of the horse you are riding.  It might mean cherry picking which rides your horse goes to in order to not over-ride for the season.  Make a pact with your horse that you will do this for two full seasons.   That you will gear your riding to your horse's current level and talent, not your own desires.

Now let's flip that coin. There are some pretty highly successful people out there riding on their breed of choice.   Sue Phillips and her quarter horse Sussie Prize come to mind. They have that coveted Pardner's award from AERC.  Now that would be someone to talk to about how to do the thing and do it successfully.   I dang well guarantee you that horse is being ridden to it's strengths, and the rider is riding SMART. 7,140 miles of mostly 50 mile rides on a quarter horse. I've seen photos, this is a heavily muscled quarter horse.  1999-2016 (Seventeen years of beautiful long rides on that horse).  That is the kind of place I like to throw my respect.  Would I ever like to have about eight hours to pick Sue's brain! 

So there is hope.  Work out your bugs on the trail, and implement that learning experience at a ride and accept that the horse you ride will give you what he can give you.  If you ask for more than that ---well---it might all hit the fan in some big ugly way.  Set goals that are realizable for that horse.  That is having success.   Ego just brings us all down.

What makes me so righteous? How do I think I know so much?  Because I've fallen flat on my round little face by doing it wrong.  Even in learning, there is still much for me to learn.  ♥

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