FOR ALL OF MY HORSE PEOPLE (Guest Post)

Eat Sleep Ride Repeat strives to promote the sports of competitive distance to riders and non-riders alike.  We are thrilled to share with you a guest post from a converted outsider who got his first taste last weekend.  So in case you were on the fence about giving the sport a try, consider his experience!
-Sarah

There are a lot of disciplines and activities we can enjoy with our mutual passion but in general, it all boils down to what we have been exposed to by others and what our family and friends do with their horses so that we feel like part of a community. Let’s face it, riding horses isn’t just about horse and rider, it’s about sharing that passion with others who feel the same way. Well I want to share with you a newly discovered discipline to me within this passion of ours.
My introduction to horses was all about rodeo events. Speed, adrenaline, and milliseconds are the name of the game. I’ve even had a chance to try my hand at Team Cattle Sorting. Lots of action, speed, and unpredictability make it a blast! Unfortunately, a lot of these events require a certain kind of horse to make the competitions less like work and more like fun. I have never been blessed with “the right kind of horse” for whatever event I was trying out. Due to life’s circumstances, I made do with what I had and it was usually to my horse’s displeasure.
My most enjoyable times have always been out on trail with friends and family, never in the arena training to get my horse to turn a barrel better. My horses have always tended to prefer this over arena work, as well. The problem with trail riding is that I don’t get my speed or competitive fix. Generally, we can only ride as fast or intensely as the greenest or least able riders in the group.
Amber on Black Bart's Deniro
Amber on Black Bart’s Deniro
This leads me to my latest discovery and what I know will be my “forever home” in the equestrian world. I have had the wonderful good fortune to have met Amber Davis who has introduced me to Endurance Riding and Competitive Trail Riding. For me, it has it ALL!
  1. I get to spend hours, rather than seconds competing with my horse.
  2. Prize money? What prize money? Everyone competes for the love of the sport, not to make enough money to pay their entry fees.
  3. I get to ride in a host of different forests full of beautiful, maintained trails.
  4. I get to go camping WITH MY HORSE and it doesn’t cost anything more than my entry fees! No stall fees, no camper fees, no cleanup deposits! Even if I finished last in every race, I still got to go camping and trail riding in the woods with my horse for less than I would pay at a campground that offers horse accommodations! How freaking awesome is that?
  5. Horse health and safety are the absolute rule above and beyond anything else. You don’t race unless the vet says your horse is fit to race. If your horse isn’t doing well during a vet-check midway through the race, you don’t get to finish the race. If conditions are dangerous, they alter the race parameters or even cancel the race. I have seen rodeos take place in abysmal terrain/conditions and was stunned that riders didn’t pull their horses from the competition. Not wasting their entry fees was more important than their horse breaking a leg in a foot of mud or getting cut on rusty autoparts turned over from 40 years worth of demo derbies at the fairgrounds. In endurance, you get to pick your spots. If the terrain is bad, you slow down, pick your way through it carefully, then make up for lost time in the good spots. With most events, there is no need to push your horse to its limits because there is a minimum time that you are allowed to finish in. If you finish sooner than that time, you get disqualified. Horse health and safety first.
  6. I can race with the horse and gear I’ve got. You don’t get points for having the prettiest tack, the most well bred horse, or the nicest outfit. English or Western? Doesn’t matter. Don’t have perfect conformation? Doesn’t matter. Don’t have a horse that knows a hundred commands? Doesn’t matter. Whoa, right, left, walk, trot, and canter are all you need to start out. Got a horse that hates to be alone? You can team up and race with other riders. Got a lazy horse? Most horses would rather pick up the pace a little than get left behind all alone on an unfamiliar trail!
  7. There’s a distance for everyone’s ability level… 6 mile, 12 mile, 25 mile, 35 mile, 50 mile, 100 mile… you get to pick your comfort level and have fun with it.
  8. There’s even something for that athletic person in your family who doesn’t like to ride called a “Ride and Tie”. You compete as a team with horse and rider and a runner. You can switch riders at the halfway point or the runner can do the whole 6 miles on foot.
  9. After a long day of riding, everyone kicks back with a cold beverage of their choice, enjoys a hot meal, and shares stories about our mutual passion. No packing up and rushing off to the next competition, no cliques based on events or social status, just equestrians sharing their love of horses.
If you find yourself not having fun with your horse anymore, if you find yourself bored, if you find yourself frustrated with the politics of your discipline, if you’ve got a horse that doesn’t enjoy what you’re asking of it… then I urge you to come and check out this wonderful world of Endurance Riding. I have only done 2 short races so far and I’m hooked. My horse is happier and I’m happier! I’ve gone from having a horse that would try to buck me off or drive right into the fence rather than canter around the arena to having a horse that wants to lead the group and set a decent pace through the woods! Amber has a horse who wouldn’t step over a washout in the driveway a year ago and last weekend he completed his first 6 mile ride like a champ!
This discipline has so much to offer a horse and rider. I only wish I had been exposed to this discipline years ago! Please come and check it out with us one day, just to see for yourself!
Dan Colby
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