Could you imagine someone so flexible? Well perhaps those fantastic trick riders we enjoyed Saturday night at Can-Am, but no, this is a little less literal.
“When are you going to do a Ride N Tie with me?” I asked about a week ago over a pint at our date-night pub.
“I would rather do a ride on my own, a bucket list item for me!”
Wait, what did he just say?! Don’t question… just go with it!
Lee isn’t quite sure why he said this, but the foot was in and I was not about to let him spit it out. Before the night was up I had offered him to do a charity fun ride instead, but the foot reached deeper and he insisted it had to be a competitive ride. 12 miles. And for some reason it had to be hot? I swear I inserted no roofies in his drink. One thing I have learned though… if the green horse offers a nice canter… just let him canter!
The catch – he will give my sport an honest effort, but if he doesnt like it, I can never bug him to ride with me ever again. Thats fair enough, but I added a few clauses here:
-he cant pretend not to love it just to “win” the contract
– if he LOVES it, he can’t steal my Bentley away from me, or if he does, I get a second horse (he didn’t agree to this, but we will see what goes down!).
Of course, I am not about to let him out in the forest alone with MY horse (to which he brought up that his name is also on the plate outside Bentley’s door) without some training. Lessons and weekly practices were agreed to… is that foot out the other end yet?
The male ego is a fragile thing, so it was agreed that I would not become his coach and we booked his first lesson with Karen Briggs (my coach)… also to her surprise. It’s going to be very difficult to butt out.
Yesterday he had his first lesson. He manages to remember some things from the 8 times he has sat on something 4 legged with a heartbeat and Bentley actually made a great lesson horse – Lee smugly pointing out how much better behaved Bentley acted versus when I ride (for which Bentley just tells me “Hold on tight, we’re about to go FAST”).
Half an hour of walking with 2 or 3 laps of acceptable posting trot and an accidental canter stride and they were done. Long way to go to get to 12 miles!
Will keep you posted on his progress, maybe I can even convince him to write a guest post here with all his gripes about being conned into this.
March is a tough time of year for getting out riding. I don’t know about you, but by this time, I am no longer excited about the snow and the cold. I find more excuses not to ride than i would have early in the winter, even though I know that now is the time to start ramping up my training. Its just the cold…. I am so sick of it. It has gone on long enough! This year is particularly bad, because we had a brilliant warm snap in February, so going back to temps near -20C feel more like I am jumping into the arctic ocean than looking toward spring.
So what do I do instead? I make my plan for the year! Its a great time to start because it will help me be accountable for the next few weeks while temps remain below 0, but it will also get me psyched up (or perhaps psyched out) because I get to see that the ride season is really not that far out and I have a clear path to get there. Yay!
Unless you are a spreadsheet whiz/junkie like myself, you may feel a little overwhelmed, so today I will share with you what I use to plan my rides.
1. I start with my main goal and a ride calendar
Ashley and I have set our sights (or main goal in this case) on Shore to Shore in August. I stick that baby into my spreadsheet and start working backward, using the OCTRA ride calendar. If you aren’t from Ontario, use your local ride organization calendar.
My goal is to do more multi-day riding in preparation for Shore to Shore, as well as longer rides at a slower pace so we lose that “racey” pace we had last year. So I go through the calendar and pick rides where I can ride 2+ days and try to maximize my distance. Of course, I know this is a perfect world plan so I won’t be devastated if I have to drop distances or a ride altogether, but this is what I want to do. More more more, slow slow slow.
What I will add here too, is your main goal may not be what mine is. Maybe you want to do your first 50 or 100. Start with the goal, the date you want to achieve it, and work back using logical stepping stones.
Here, you will also see that I have a calculated rest period. A general rule I have derived from mentors, presentations and reading that I will use for myself is 1 day of rest for every 10 miles in competition. I have added in 2 extra days to account for the stresses of travel and bing bang boom, I am able to calculate what day I will next be able to sit on the back of my dearest Bentley. Double check… yup, its not after the next ride. Whoopie! Alternately, you could use the FEI rest guidelines.
2. Work up to your first ride of the season
I have found once I get Bentley fit enough for the first ride, that I don’t have to do too much to keep him fit throughout the season. In fact, rest becomes more important than work. So I focus my training plan on what to do until that first ride so that we are ready to go.
Another rule of thumb I learned early on and tend to go by is that my total weekly miles should be approximately what I would like to do in one ride (so if my first ride will total 25 miles, I should be riding 25 miles a week on average – higher distance rides I tend to go a little lower and allow more wiggle room in the program to ensure adequate rest). So again, I work back from the ride date and distance and try to make it work. I try to build 5-10% each week in distance.
This is also where I can take a look to see if where I am now = where I should be based on my rate of building. Looking at my plan here, I can go out this weekend and try to do 25 miles and say “ok yes, the plan should work” or “nope, hes too fat, maybe I should pick a shorter distance for my first ride”. Then I adjust my plan forward and back until I come to a happy medium. There is no late scrambling to catch up when it comes to fitness, I need to do this now!
You will also see I have colour coded everything. I try to mix up long rides, interval training and ring work/lesson so I get our cross training in.
Ok, now here is something I wish I hadn’t done because nobody ever really wants to know the final number when you ask “how much is this going to cost me?”
I am not actually going to share my budget, because I know my significant other will read this and tell me “hell no!” before I even dip the toe in, but to be fair, I like to pad my budget so I always have extra and can say “look how good I was!”.
The basics of your budget should include fixed and variable costs. In fact, I would even say we have 2 different types of variable costs to consider when looking at our competition. So here are some of the numbers to jot down.
Fixed Costs – these are things you have to pay whether you ride once, or go to every ride. These would include your insurance, memberships, annual shots/teeth (though you could argue this is not so much a competition expense… like I said, I pad my budget). This may also include things like hoof protection if you plan on using something like boots through the entire season or longer.
Variable costs (per ride/day) – These would be the things that the more rides you go to, the more you have to pay, but not necessarily dependent on how many miles you do during the ride. In here, I would include total entry fee, people food, travel costs to and from the ride, chiropractic or massage work that you will have done before and/or after the ride (include for you and/or your horse depending on who needs it), hoof protection (if you use shoes and need to put on a new set before each ride) and probably extra food for your horse.
Some of these would be a cost per day like people food, I gave myself a budget of $30/day for my food, so if its a 3 day ride (+2 days travel), I will ensure to budget for each day. Others, like travel, will only happen once per ride no matter how many days you camp out.
Variable costs (per mile) – these are things that you will need more of the longer/more miles you ride, I might also call these consumables. In here, I include electrolytes and other supplements (such as pro-bi and BCAA) and miscellaneous veterinary supplies that I would likely need on longer rides.
I would quantify them as a dollar per mile value based on dosing instructions (ie for electrolytes, I have previously used an estimate of $1 per mile).
This is also where I will consider wear and tear on my equipment. I realize that I am going to ride holes through my pants, and probably break some straps here and there, so I add some padding in again with a dollar per mile value that I can set aside (if I am being good of course) and save for that rainy day that I need to replace a piece of equipment. If my equipment doesn’t break? Oh well then… I see there are some awesome new products at the ESRR web store.. maybe I treat myself to something fun?
Lastly, I add everything up and get a total for the ride. My fixed costs will be divided through the total amount of rides I do and the variable costs will be added. Assuming I have done an individual line item for each ride, I can also go a step further and calculate either a dollar per day amount, or dollar per mile ridden amount. That way, if I am running short on cash (highly likely after seeing he final number), I have a better idea which rides I should cut based on my goals – its all about value for me!
I know this may not have been the most exciting read… it takes a certain type of crazy to enjoy this dry, mathematical work, but well, I am that certain type of crazy! The bottom line is that making the plan will help you visualize the path to your goal and determine if it is achievable with the time and resources you have at your disposal. Then down the line, if things go awry, you can adjust and move forward rather than starting from scratch.
Thanks to a recommendation from her sponsor, Mad Barn, Sarah was invited to speak at Horse Day during the 51st Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week on the topic of travel and horses.
Our drive up was not at all bad, despite what the radio station was telling everyone. The event suffered unusually low turnout for the event but those who attended were very engaged.
Sarah shared stories and her experiences from travelling to Mongolia for the Mongol Derby, herding horses in Iceland and recently competing in South Africa for Race the Wild Coast. Attendees were treated to some never before seen helmet cam footage which we will be sharing here and on our Facebook page in the coming weeks.
Sarah’s talk received many compliments and there was never a quiet moment at the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat booth as people were excited to hear more about her adventures in Mongolia, Iceland and South Africa and what the next plans were.
The only suggestion we have to improve the event is that we would have loved to have more time to talk with visitors to our booth. The trade show and speaker area were in the same room so while it was great to be able to man the booth and listen to the presentations, many great conversations were cut short because the next speaker was about to begin.
It was great to see familiar faces and make new friends and especially nice to see so many people not only interested in the travel stories but wanting to know more about how to get into endurance and distance riding.
We would like to thank the organizers, staff, volunteers, and anyone else who made this event possible. The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team would love to be back next year, hopefully with some more fantastic stories, this time from our adventure from Shore to Shore!
Want to get a head start on your Black Friday and holiday shopping, skip the long lines and help out the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team? When you do all of your shopping online through this link (https://www.flipgive.com/campa…/51832-eat-sleep-ride-repeat…), not only will you have access to great big name stores such as Apple, Indigo, Macy’s, Dyson, Lowe’s, Body Shop, etc,, a percentage of your purchase will go to help fund the adventures of the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team.
As you are reading this, I am somewhere several thousand feet in the air, probably knocked out with sleeping pills, on the 22.5 hour (over 1.5 days) on my way to South Africa, for Race the Wild Coast 2016.
If you have just come to the blog recently, let me brief you: I will be riding 350kms, swimming horses through rivers, running down steep rocky cliffs, and camping in some of the most remote and beautiful country of South Africa. So as you can imagine, picking gear to get me through this adventure was a bit of a trial and error. Thankfully, the great folks at FITS Riding have offered up a few options for me to try. Lets take some time to go through my process and review the options!
I often tell people, once you get a pair of FITS, you will never need or want another pair of breeches again. 3 years later and it’s still holding true. In fact, I wouldn’t ever consider wearing another brand for this adventure – whether they sponsored me or not!
Ok, so I already owned these guys, and they are the reason I reached out to FITS earlier this year. They are the greatest pair of riding pants I have ever owned. I get a lot of people asking about them, and if they know FITS, they tend to sneer about the price tag – particularly in my endurance world where expensive things are reserved for those frilly folk in the hunter/jumper/dressage world. Yes, these are on the upper price range when you peruse the rack at your local tack shop, but hear me out, I have saved so much money thanks to these breeches!
Why? The quality is superb. Yes, I can buy a pair of decent riding tights for 1/3 of the price and they are OK, but do you know what happens to those ones? I will tell you! My beef is mainly with one mainstream brand… I wont mention who, but I have had 2 pairs of tights rip when dismounting, 1 wear see-through on the butt, and 2 wear holes through the knee patches. Not a single pair of these tights could take my abuse for more than a year (in fact one pair ripped only on their second ride). Total bill about $600 since I started this sport a little over 5 years ago.
I have had these all-seasons now for 3 years and they still look brand new. They came to the Mongol Derby with me, they have thousands of training miles, and are my first pick for every endurance race I enter. Cost of my FITS breeches? $269. That’s some serious savings!
If that is not enough to convince you, just try on a pair. Seriously, try it, you will like it! You will instantly notice the quality is far superior to other brands. The material is thicker without being hotter, but they still manage to keep you warmer through spring and fall seasons. There is more stretch and compression than their competition – I can actually FEEL the difference the compression gives, allowing me to perform better, longer, and feel less sore/tired following my rides. Plus, compression = more flattering fit, and the cuts and details in these pants make it hard not to check myself out in reflective ponds or in ride photos. Instant confidence boost when you ooze into a pair of these.
Lastly, the deerskin leather is wonderful. It seriously sticks when it needs to (like when Bentley pulls a 180 spook), but it doesn’t restrict my movement in any way. The deerskin can also be machine washed which is a MUST in my household. The design of full seat – with those lovely butt cheek circles, keeps everything tight to my body without rubbing – as opposed to standard full seats which have a tendency to droop and shift on my particular body type.
Pros: Superb quality, fit and comfort
Cons: The up front cost is quite high at $269 USD (but they pay off over the years)
While I am seriously in love with my all-seasons, swimming in salt-water could prove uncomfortable and damaging for them. This was my main reason behind contacting FITS to discuss some other options. The next pair that they sent me were the Free-Flex full seats. The seat is synthetic, so it would be more suited to frolicking on the beach than the deer skin. Everything else is pretty much the same – the compression fabric, the cut, the mesh panels etc. but it does have two hip pockets instead of one, and a front-zipper in case you have trouble squeezing into a pair of pull-ons (particularly difficult when you are wet or sweaty!)
I was a little skeptical at first with the full seat, worried that because it wasn’t the standard circular patch, I would still have some drooping. I was thrilled when I tried them on, they hugged me just as well as my beloved all-seasons, and wow, did I ever look good! Put on a nice belt and a polo shirt, and I looked like a professional jumper rider! Clean me up and take me out!
My first ride saw some epic spooks from Bentley, as he faced off with some baby deer. I sat these leaps and twists like a hula figurine glued to the dashboard of an outrageous taxi driver. These things have serious stick! When I hear riders say “I wish I could just velcro myself to my saddle”, I will now tell them this is the next best thing!
Unfortunately, for me, the stick was actually a bit of a downside. This race in South Africa will have me running down hills, and running in these pants had my thighs sticking together uncomfortably which caused some chafing. There are no perforations like the deerskin had, so I could feel some moisture (sweat) building up behind the panels on my leg. Add salty sea water to that, and I knew I would be in for trouble.
These are some seriously wicked pants, but I am going to reserve them for times when I need extra security in the saddle… jumping and working on greenies. I do want to try hunting this year, and these would be perfect for that. I would highly recommend these to jumpers or those who need the confidence that comes with extra stick. Its nice to have these in the tool-kit!
Pros: Same comfort as the all seasons but with extra stick, more traditional appearance
Cons: Not suited to swimming or running (if you need to do that), or long hours in sweaty/wet conditions.
Would you like to win a pair of Free-Flex’s? Go to the ESRR Facebook page and shoot us a message. We are raffling off a pair to help fundraise for my adventure. Ashley and Solstice can sell you tickets and/or you can come visit us at an upcoming event to buy tickets.
These are the ones that are JUUUUUSSSTTTT RIIIGGGGHTT for me. Again, I found the quality, fabric and fit to be impeccable. I would say they are like a second skin, but my skin isn’t this tough while still being soft! The two main differences here are that instead of the deerskin, we have silicone grips, and there are no mesh panels near the ankles.
First off, I didn’t miss the mesh panels. I will be riding without tall boots or half chaps, so the lack of mesh is actually bonus… less chance the nasty bugs will get me. However, it is a nice feature on the other models to keep things light under the boots.
Next, the silicone is not nearly as grippy as the deerskin or the synthetic full seat. I am also quite alright with that. It will make it more comfortable for me to run along with my horse (and I tested this by doing essentially a half marathon RNT in these last weekend), and keep me pretty mobile in the saddle, while still being grippier than many of the competing breeches and compression garments. Yup, just right!
They are comfortable enough to sleep in, and I was amazed at how quickly they dried during my test rides (2 days back to back – ride N tie, then a set speed). Despite being soggy all weekend, I didn’t have any chafing, minimal rashing, and really only felt wet when it was actually raining (as far as my pants go that is!).
One other thing, there is a large cargo pocket on the one leg. Perfect for a phone or treats. I prefer this pocket to the ones on the other models (located more on the hip) as its easier to access and can fit more stuff without pinching.
These also have a significantly lower price tag at $129 USD. Any other silicone grip pants I have seen and tried are about the same price. Maybe a few bucks cheaper, but nowhere near the quality of FITS.
Pros: Great price and value, cargo pocket, pajama like comfort.
Cons: Not as grippy, I can only find these in US stores (though have seen the winter versions on shelves here).
Hi Everyone! I am Sarah, an Endurance Horseback rider from Ontario who was selected to ride in an epic adventure: Race the Wild Coast, along the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
The race will consist of 350kms over the course of 4-5 days. To successfully complete this challenge, I will be required to carefully manage 3 horses over difficult terrain, swim river crossings up to 50m with my horses, self-navigate to check points where the horses will have to pass a strict veterinary inspection, and camp out with only 5kg of total gear carried on my back.
Only 25 riders have been selected worldwide to compete in this inaugural event. As an exciting bonus, the entire thing will be filmed as part of a feature-length documentary.
I am so honored to have been selected to compete in this race, and represent our community of riders and adventurers. I have successfully paid off most of my fees out of my own pocket but am still a little short of my fundraising goal… which is where you come in!
I hate asking for help, but if you want to throw a few $ encouragement my way while I race, I would be forever grateful! I even have a few things to give away to make it worth your while too. Your support helps me get to keep going on these crazy adventures for your reading and viewing pleasure atwww.EatSleepRideRepeat.com
Race starts at 5:00am South African time on October 22 (Oct 21@ 11pm for my friends and fans in Ontario). You can follow along at my website www.EatSleepRideRepeat.com which will be posting updates daily!
On May 28 and 29, Eat Sleep Ride Repeat was in attendance at the inaugural Natural Horsemanship Trade Show. The event took place at Partridge Horse Hill in Pontypool, hosted by owner Lindsay Partridge. If that name sounds familiar, it is because she competed in the 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park. She won the competition aboard her thoroughbred horse “Soar”, earning the title of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
The Natural Horsemanship Association (NHA) is a not for profit organization with the goal to bring the natural horsemanship community together, and better promote it to new people. They offer coaching certification, a directory of members and host various shows throughout the year.
The NHA trade show consisted of clinicians speaking on many different aspects of horsemanship from training ideas to alternative therapies. There was also a number of vendors in attendance.
The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat booth received quite a bit of attention with many people interested in our adventures and endurance/trail riding in general. It was great to see clinic participants wearing their newly purchased ESRR gear in their riding clinics (a testament to how cool our shirts are as the weather was incredibly hot and humid).
Overall the trade show was a success and we loved meeting a bunch of new faces! Hope to be back next year!
I had the privilege of being sent to London, UK last week by my 9-5. This isn’t a blog about what I do for a living, rather how I spend my living… but how great is it when these intersect? Fortunately, the seminar gave me lots of free time in the evenings to do the things that fuel me.
I had rented a flat (apartment) in Southwark, a 15 minute walk from the business district where I was working during the days. It was an absolutely adorable place with many very old buildings, tiny alleyways, and cobblestone roads (which broke my suitcase… but I won’t complain!). It also had a ton of trendy bars and restaurants. I had found myself in my personal heaven!
Most nights I went walking along the Thames, exploring in my own way and steering clear of the tourist traps and just enjoying the scenery and wandering down the nooks and crannies of the city… which is free and totally my thing!
Friday night, I met up with Luke. Those of you have been following for a few years might remember that he was one of my comrades in the Blood Wagon for the Mongol Derby. He works in the Queen’s household cavalry and gave me a backstage tour! I met the horses, learned about his “kit” and saw all the preparations going on for a parade the following day.
Parade? Can the public go to this? Why yes, yes indeed! Luke told me where to go along the road so I could see it, and what time I should show up.
We spent the rest of the evening wandering the city, catching up and reminiscing about MD2014. There is something very special about meeting up with fellow Derby riders, especially ones who have been in a similar situation – not being able to finish. They just get it. The highs and lows come back, and the drive to finish is re-ignited. Once again, it was incredibly hard to say goodbye.
Saturday was my last day in the city and having not made plans for day tours or anything worked to my advantage. I had the perfect time to see the parade and headed over to St James park. When searching for a spot to see the parade, I saw a young man in uniform chasing down a group of girls “Excuse me ladies, do you want to see… excuse me… ladies?… do you have just a moment…” They completely ignored him and ran away. So I grabbed his attention “I would like to hear what you have to say!”. He asked me if I would like to see the parade from the GRANDSTANDS, and gave me a free ticket. Wow those girls really missed out.
Let me stop for a moment and offer this advice to anyone travelling. 1) Don’t plan every moment… let things pop up because you never know where you might find yourself, and 2) Take the time to talk to people. Sure, sometimes they may be selling you a tourist trap, but other times they might have something much more special to offer!
I had to run to make it to my gate in time, but I was ushered into my seat just in time – there were literally thousands of people. Turns out, my (reserved) seat was right at the point where the parade entered, so I got a great view of everything. I couldn’t believe my luck, and actually had to brush back some tears of happiness.
The Cavalry came in and lined up right in front of me, then for the next hour and a half or so, the ceremony put on displays with the the various groups of the Queens guard (Forgive me, I don’t know what anything is called!). A once in a lifetime experience indeed!
And without further ado, please enjoy some video snippits of the show.
Last weekend we completed our first ride of the season. We sponsored a team on the 6 mile ride n tie and the 50 mile endurance race. Our ride n tie team came in second and I completed my 50 successfully. My goal was to just finish as I needed just one more completed 50 in order to get my Novice qualification which will allow me to compete at my first FEI ride in July. Not only did we finish in roughly the same amount of time as my first one back in October although this time I had rain, deep sand and slippery terrain to contend with, we also finished with perfect vet scores, which means our winter training and preparation paid off!
As you may or may not know, Tipperary Equestrian/Phoenix Performance Products (based out of King City, Ontario) provided me with a new helmet and eventer safety vest for the season (in our trademark black and pink colours!). I’ve always been a big fan of Tipperary and have used their products for a number of years now so I am super excited about this partnership. The sport of endurance not only pushes my horse and myself to our limits, but the strength and quality of my equipment is put to the test as well. Aprilfest was a great ride to put Tipperary’s equipment under pressure because I completed both a long and short distance race and the weather on both days was two extremes: sunny and warm on Saturday for the 6 mile ride & tie and cold and rainy on Sunday for the 50 mile endurance race. Here is my review on both the helmet and the vest:
Colours: come in a variety of colours to match your tastes, plus they can do custom embroidery (perhaps I’ll have to get one with the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat logo on it!)
Movement: I did not feel restricted in my movement at all and at times I forgot I was wearing the vest. I really like the lacing up both sides so I can adjust the vest as needed. The helmet is also very light and like the vest, I occasionally forgot I was wearing it. The harness is comfortable and doesn’t move around.
Breathability: I chose a Tipperary helmet because I do a lot of riding out in the elements. The hard outer shell holds up in the rain better than a velvet covered helmet and all of the vents help keep my head cool. Despite the warmer than average temperatures on Saturday, I did not overheat or sweat more than normal while wearing the vest. In the cold and rain on Sunday, the vest did keep me warm (and fit under my jacket!). However, when I switched over to a lighter jacket as it warmed up, the vest sadly did not fit under it. In the future, I’ll have to test how well repels or holds water and how heavy it gets if it does.
Safety: the helmet has extended coverage on back of helmet, which many helmets out there do not have. Not only does this make the helmet fit more secure, it will protect more of my head should I fall off. There are lots of hazards out in the forest plus with varying terrain, you never know when your horse could take a misstep and fall. While the vest isn’t going to prevent everything, it can definitely lessen the impact of an injury.
Other: the Tipperary helmet is super affordable (less than $100!), it doesn’t give you that “mushroom head” look, they have an accident replacement policy (keep your receipts!), and the equipment gives me increased confidence. I’ve evented in the past and still take jumping lessons and wearing the vest has made me less nervous when it comes to jumping. While the vest doesn’t make me invincible, that extra bit of confidence helps me get through the ride and is conveyed to my horse as well, which increases our performance. If you’re a rider who is nervous about taking your horse out on the trail, consider picking one of these up! Thankfully, I did not test the helmet or vest to see how they work and hold up in a fall situation (and I hope I don’t have to!)
Since we have completed our Novice qualifications, Splash and I are going to take it easy at the next ride on May 22-23 at Cayuse Creek Ranch, competing in the 28 mile set speed event. Hope to see you there! If you are looking for something to do the weekend of May 28 and 29th, come visit Eat Sleep Ride Repeat at the Natural Horsemanship Trade Show at Partridge Horse Hill in Pontypool, Ontario (http://www.nhassociation.ca/nha-trade-show/). We will have a booth set up with a trade show deal of receiving $10 off your purchase of $50 or more on anything we have. Come stock up on your riding gear for the season!
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!
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.
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!
I get to spend hours, rather than seconds competing with my horse.
Prize money? What prize money? Everyone competes for the love of the sport, not to make enough money to pay their entry fees.
I get to ride in a host of different forests full of beautiful, maintained trails.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!