It’s hard to believe that I completed my first distance ride a little over a year ago. I really wish I had tried this sport sooner! It can be a little nervewracking trying out a completely new discipline but that’s the great thing about endurance and distance riding. There is so much information out there and so many people willing to share their knowledge and experience that you can easily prepare yourself in order to try out your first ride! I’m going to put together a check list of sorts for those who are interested in trying out endurance/distance riding but are nervous or not sure where to start.
- Find a mentor! Mentors are invaluable to this sport. Aside from being full of knowledge and willing to share it, they can also be an excellent motivator and training buddy. I would suggest hopping on Facebook and checking out the OCTRA page. There, you can post a little about you and what area you are in and members can assist in finding a mentor to help you.
- Get an OCTRA membership! Purchasing a membership to OCTRA (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association) help support the association, it also allows you to attend OCTRA-sanctioned rides and allows you to be eligible for year end awards.
- Get familiar! What sort of ride are you wanting to do? Set Speed? Ride and Tie? Endurance? What distance? A description of all of the events are on the OCTRA website as well as all of the rules (http://www.octra.on.ca/Files). Make sure you familiarize yourself with them and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something or if something is not clear. Chances are you aren’t the only one with that question. Clinics are also held regularly so keep an eye on the Facebook page for one near you. There are two coming up in the next few weeks. One is going to be held during the AGM in Coburg on February 27-28. Valerie Kanavy is the clinician and this isn’t an opportunity to be missed. Learn and ask questions of one of the greats in the sport! At the other end of the province on March 5th in Waterford Ontario, an Endurance 101 clinic is going to be held. This audit only clinic will be a fantastic intro to endurance and distance riding.
- Volunteer! Volunteering is a fantastic way to get introduced to the sport. Not only will you get to meet new people, you will also be directly involved in helping the ride run. I first vounteered as a scribe for the vets and this really helped me become familiar and more comfortable with what goes on during the vet checks. When it came time for my first ride, this was one less thing I had to worry about messing up!
- Research! Aside from talking to your mentor and other endurance riders, there is a wealth of information online. The Old Dominion website has an excellent primer on getting started. (http://www.olddominionrides.org/EndurancePrimer/01.html) and the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) website also has a number of fantastic articles on getting started (http://aerc.org/static/Preparing_for_Your_First_Ride.aspx). Yes there is a TON of information here but don’t feel overwhelmed. Read a little bit at a time and ask questions.
- Get riding! Get out on the trail and enjoy!
Hope to see you out at an OCTRA ride this year!