July 2, 2014

Random Thoughts on Distance Riding


What endurance riding has taught me…

It has been nearly seven years since I stuck my toes ever so tentatively into the distance riding venue. It is hard to believe, I've only accumulated around 275 LD miles and 100 endurance miles. Don't get me started on the THOUSANDS of trail miles ☺   So much has happened…and yet, so little has happened, but nearly everything has changed.  There have been changes in my understanding of the sport, how it functions, expectations of the organization, shift, shift, shift in my personal thought process, and growth within myself as an AERC member, human, and  equestrian. 

On the organizational level do I believe this sport is everything that it could be for all the people involved?  I do not.  I’d like to see more interesting options for the part-time, or non-arab riding participant.  But I do believe that on the whole within the organization (AERC) that our leadership are collectively doing the best they can to give the general membership a good experience.   Where I erred in my early misunderstanding was the actual size, control, and scope of AERC and what they are able to do in regards to awards.  As an example early on I believed that the non-arab riding participants were in much greater numbers than they actually are.  This eliminates from a fiscal perspective such things as breed awards, best of breed, etc.  The numbers simply won’t support it.  .  Participating ever so slowly in the sport I had to realize that my goals if I had them…must be personal.  Personal best, first time at a distance, better time at a distance, mileage goals, etc.  If I wanted to be happy in a sport that I can afford only on a part-time basis I had to make it intrinsic and deeply personal.  Sometimes the goal has just been managing to get there at all.  Coming to terms that I was not competing with anyone else was in part a big let-down, but later ultimately liberating.  I no longer felt the need to “prove” anything to anyone else.  It became personal.  It made my experience swing from the pendulum of giving up…to very good again. 
Then I learned…that ride managers are the unsung heroes of the sport.  What a self-sacrificing lot they really are, and that they are not getting rich anytime soon (if in fact breaking even) on an event that is very expensive to host.

I have learned through the process of attempting three horses at this sport that you never stop learning about equines and that equines can teach you a lot about yourself.  Through my equine experience I discovered many painful things about myself, and have worked hard at correcting those things, and bettered my equestrian spirit.  The mirror of a flight animal can teach you so much about yourself as a human being, if you just stop and listen to what the horse is telling you.  I find it incredibly humbling and at times exasperating that the most problematic horse I’ve ever encountered trusts me, and only me.   I find it satisfying that a senior mare that nobody else managed to stay on took me to an eleventh place finish on her one and only LD, and her exquisite beauty her last and final day on this earth still pulls on my heart.  Now the Spotted Wonder continues me on this journey of distance, and she this horse I believed was not cut out for even an LD, in the end has proven me wrong, and gifted me with that ultimate desire to finally say I’ve ridden endurance.  It affects me deeply when I think of it, what these incredible horses have each given to me as a person. Horses have been the great teachers of life, helping to guide who I am, and what I will be. 

Endurance has opened up my creative side and allowed an outlet for writing on my blog, a few published articles in the Endurance News, and a little artistic license here and there with a certain (spotted) cartoon.  I’ve been gifted with the opportunity to occasionally test out a new product, and write a review, or have a sponsored contest.  Those things on some level are as satisfying as actually doing the endurance thing (while definitely much easier).

More than anything, distance riding has taught me so much about myself that I never would have recognized otherwise.  It taught me to recognize my vulnerability with people, and to not personalize EVERYTHING.  Not to have such lofty aspirations that you cannot help but fall.   Riding long distances taught me that I can be mentally and physically tougher than I ever imagined, and most of all that I can hang in there to reach a goal if I’m methodical and I REALLY WANT IT BAD ENOUGH.  Riding distance has also taught me an appreciation for a spouse that cares about my happiness, even when it likely makes little sense to him, and costs him money.  This endurance thing it has taught me to appreciate and value the people who ride endurance for their  own brand of individual toughness.   It has fueled my finally saying that I stand for what I stand for, and I ain’t apologizing for it anymore.   Like me, love me, hate me, or indifferent, that’s on you.  I am an endurance rider, (albeit only 2 for 2), and damned proud of it.

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