July 26, 2008

The Lighter Side of Endurance Riding

A wonderful endurance (and past CTR National Championship rider) Christine Eickleberry sent me by mail this week "The Lighter Side of Endurance Riding" by Angie McGhee. If you have never read this....you must find a copy. She comes up with some really humorous stuff, and it reads as the HOW NOT TO of endurance, how things went wrong, and how things are just down right funny. I've not gotten through the entire book yet, have been savoring it bit by bit prior to sleep each night.

I'm wondering if Angie McGhee has written yet on "Cybil Syndrome". I found it to be the most terrifying aspect of those first few endurance rides...it can affect the rider, it can affect the horse, and may God bless and keep you safe if both horse and rider get it. Rider symptoms: The rider will present as a calm sane individual at the pre-ride check in. Having conditioned the horse for long slow distance, having prechecked gear, worked out feed regimines and taken a vow of "to finish is too win." There are virtually no pre-ride symptoms other than racing thoughts, and perhaps an increase in the rider's heart rate. After all this is a first endurance ride, and the rider plans to just take it easy, enjoy the trail, the woods, and get a completion. Now I've contemplated if over night ride managment sneaks into your camp and sprinkles some kind of "Cybil Dust" in your coffee mug....I don't know for sure how it happens, I just know it does happen. Ride day ---- the newbie rider presents on her pretty and nicely conditioned for LSD horse. The timer sends you out, and suddenly the Newbie becomes Cybil. Look at all those horses and they are all moving out in front...oh my God I can't finish last, this is my first race (did she say race?), oh the shame of it! The dual personality emerges and out pops full blown Cybil Syndrome, the crazed newbie, trying to out run the hot shoes, and doing it for at least a mile or two.

The other side of the coin is a fairly put together new rider, who has not caught the syndrome (or ride management thought they were going to be caught and just spread the Cybil dust around camp....some drifted onto the horse's hay). The horse and rider team present sanely, and head out on the trail, they look spectacular! Then a horse passes the team and Cybil Syndrome strikes the horse. The equine who could have given pony rides at the fair to tiny children suddenly gets the "Look of Eagles", and muscles start popping up and the rider feels the horse actually gathering up under the saddle, then they are off!!! All the while the rider is trying to do all those nice things she read about in the books she bought on endurance riding. The horse is galloping on after the pack, while the rider is hanging on for dear life ( she never practiced riding at speed as she had no plan or intention of doing so), grabbing for the horn on the saddle that doesn't have one because they are now using an endurance saddle. You hear screams of something like "whoa Black Betty!!!" as the horse races down the trail with the pack.

Cybil Syndrome can also happen at the vet check. If the rider is afflicted their unsuspecting crew (spouse) will greet their sweet wife and ask how they can help. All normalcy ends at that point as Cybil has arrived. She's hot, she's tired, and she's in back of the pack. How could that HAPPEN? He says, " honey, I thought you just wanted to finish"? Where she then glares at him and ponders the various methods of poisoning, and collecting on the insurance for a "faster horse." The husband turns pale and gazes into the woods wondering if she was abducted by aliens and who is this woman"? If only the horse is afflicted, the horse will come bounding into the vet check, with eyes glittering, dancing around like something from "The Black Stallion Returns", the vet becomes dizzy spinning the circle with his stethescope trying to get a pulse. He never gets one, but in fear of his life figures a horse with that much energy is good to go, but he does have some concerns about the rider who is standing bent over, long strands of mane hair entangled in her fingers, hands on knees, face frozen in fear...

When all is said and done the pair will finish pretty near last, just like they would have if all things had gone well and pair had not been afflicted. That is the irony of Cybil Syndrome.


  1. OMG! That is too funny! I have not had the pleasure of riding long distance (YET!) but I know my husband wants to be my crew. I sent him this blog...letting him know that Cybil Dust can run rampant in camp! Ha ha! I will need to find that book too...sounds like a great read!

  2. Hey, this is Angie McGhee. Just ran across your blog and I do believe I've at least written about this syndrome in people...didn't call it Cybil (my aunt by the same name is far too sweet) I refer to it as "growing fangs". :-) I think the case I mentioned was when we had some new people park beside us at Longstreet's Charge. The mother & grown daughter very fit as were their off the track Arabian horses. They were known for doing some pretty fast mountain trail riding...A LOT. The daughter's husband was busy preparing HIS camp: a folding recliner, a TV (to watch tomorrow's game) a cooler, etc. I smiled at him and said, "You aren't going to be using any of that tomorrow...you're going to be VEERY busy when they're in the hunt". He just laughed and said, "Oh no, they're just going slow". I laughed and said, "Look, their horses are fit and tomorrow those two are going to grow fangs". He just laughed and shook his head. The next day at the 1st vet check they were the first to arrive. He went ambling over that direction and suddenly they were yelling at him for blankets, stethoscopes, WATER! He had this stunned look on his face, turned and started hustling back to get stuff and our eyes met. It was so funny but he wasn't laughing. He just looked shocked like he was thinking, "She was right! Fangs!" :-)