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First endurance ride in May...am I nuts?

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  • First endurance ride in May...am I nuts?

    Okay, so, I have set a goal for 2011...to finally get my husband's mare, a 10 year old Arabian who people have repeatedly told me would make a great endurance horse and my husband really wants me to compete on, to an actual endurance ride. We've selected a 55 mile ride in May with the help of an experienced endurance friend.

    So...am I crazy? I did one 35 mile LD just for kicks a few years ago, not on this horse, but I have some idea of the environment at a ride. This horse does 25-35 mile rides pretty routinely (like, most weekends), and finishes within the typical ride guidelines from what I know (as in, good time and pulses down quickly, these are just fun rides). She has naturally low P&R and great recovery times. Also sound as a dollar with good bone, ground-covering at all 3 gaits, used to riding some of the toughest terrain out there (we're in some pretty rugged mountains where there aren't really trails, and it gets pretty hairy especially when I follow deer trails and get us going straight up a mountainside that is more fitting for bighorn sheep than horses ). This mare is a star, though, and is used to going on large group rides with crazy horses, being passed at speed and passing, riding in groups or branching off on her own, etc. She's also used to hauling away and camping out, so I don't think the environment of endurance rides is going to bother her. And even if it does, she's still easily manageable and never gets totally nuts even when she's upset. She's one of those horses who doesn't seem dead broke because she has so much energy if you're not really working her, but is totally sane and reliable with a decent rider even if she does get snorty sometimes. And she settles down to business pretty quickly, I like a horse with personality but too much silliness is discouraged.

    Also, am I doubly crazy for trying to do this with a full time horsey job? I'm a trainer, I currently have 14 horses in training and am mostly a one woman show. I have a guy who does most facility maintenance for me and feeds when I'm gone or on the days I train at another barn and get home late, but I do most of the feeding and care and all of the riding. It's a lot of work, and it is hard to ride horses consistently when I don't absolutely need to...but she really could use more work than she gets, and I could make the time if I spent less time goofing off on COTH and other online places... And also, just in case you were worried, if I feel she is not fit I have no qualms about scratching beforehand or pulling her during the ride. I'm not an endurance trainer and most of my clients who I've mentioned it to think I'm nuts for even considering it, so no ego there.

    We did do a 45 mile ride in about 10 hours 3 weeks ago without particularly trying to hurry, which made my endurance riding friend laugh at my concerns. But I can't help it, I overthink everything.

    I guess I don't really know what the point of this thread is, just that somehow a 55 mile competition ride seems so intimidating even though I'm excited about it, so I figured I'd post...
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
    We did do a 45 mile ride in about 10 hours 3 weeks ago without particularly trying to hurry, which made my endurance riding friend laugh at my concerns. But I can't help it, I overthink everything.
    I'm laughing, too.

    You have nothing to worry about. The horse's program already says it is more than ready and more than fit (probably more than it needs to be), and since you've already done one LD, you have a good idea of the basics.

    Just stop thinking and fretting....and just go ride. That is all you are doing anyway. Riding. Simply riding. If you want to think, then think about the 55 as 4 sets of 13.5 mile segments. Go enjoy the scenery, enjoy the people, enjoy the relaxed environment ...and then come back and tell us how much fun it all was!!

    We'll be waiting for all the details!


    • #3
      This horse does 25-35 mile rides pretty routinely (like, most weekends)
      If she gets ridden this much, especially on the tough terrain you describe, your horse is absolutely ready and you may actually be overriding her already. That's a lot of miles you put on her every week and you could easily do these longer conditioning rides every other week instead or do shorter ones (under 20 miles.) Arabs tend to keep their conditioning very well and once they're fit, you can really cut down on the non-competitive miles. Instead, focus more on dressage work which is simply the best cross-training for endurance horses.

      A couple of weeks before your competition, back off altogether and just do easy short rides, and if this horse has turnout, then just let her rest the week before. At the most, I take a dressage lesson before a ride, and during competition season I don't even do much conditioning between rides anymore. It depends on the horse, but the rule of thumb is to let a horse recover for a couple of weeks after a 50, two-three weeks after a 75, and a full month after a 100. So if you're planning on competing fairly frequently with her next year (and she sounds great in every way!) then your time commitment will actually be fairly small once you get going.

      Also, just to put things in perspective - but I am in no way advocating this - someone at my barn who rarely works with her Arab gelding and simply does not ride him enough (and he only has a small paddock to run in...) took him to a 50 at the end of August here in NoCal - hot and dusty. It was a fairly easy course and she took the full time allowed (12 hours) and came in with five minutes to spare but she finished and the horse got all A's and only one B... So that's what some horses can do for you, even though it's completely unfair to them to not condition and then compete...

      In any case, good luck and please report back


      • #4
        Also, I wanted to post this link:

        It may be interesting to you as you're moving up distances; it's discussing the difference between riding 25 vs. 50 miles.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the advice, guys. I know I'm overthinking it, I just can never believe it is as simple as just riding...but that's all it ever is.

          Lieslotte, I think it may have sounded like I ride her a bit more than I do...we do typically 1 or 2 weekend rides, usually 1 of about 25 miles and another of 5-10 miles. That's not specifically endurance conditioning, it's pretty typical of trail riders in my area and I'm usually with a group. Otherwise we school in the arena or do short sets up the dirt road (which is hilly, like pretty much everywhere here )just to stretch her legs. I don't have time for more. And most of our group rides aren't that fast. Rereading my first post I realize I implied that most were, but I didn't mean it quite like that...when we do a faster ride, she would do well in LD rides from looking at her time/distance/recovery and comparing those to ride stats and such, but it's not like we're "racing" every weekend. Most take about 4-5 hours or sometimes more if we have slower horses or novice riders along.

          And I'm a dressage trainer so no worries on that, she gets plenty of dressage work even if she'd rather just be marching down the trail sometimes.

          Your advice is fantastic, so thank you so much for that. Especially the stuff about your schedule and recovery times. I haven't really been thinking of her as an athlete with a specific conditioning regimen until very recently (like right before I freaked out and posted this thread ), when I decided to compete with her. Until now it has been, "Oh I feel like going for a ride with these friends and she can do it, so let's take her!" Not exactly scientific.

          I may well be riding her too hard to be a serious competitive endurance horse. I definitely don't want to break her down. Since our longer rides now are rare and there is not time limit or motive to push a horse (even though I don't plan on "racing" at first when we compete, just trying to finish), what may be good condition for her now may be overconditioning for a competition season (as hopefully we won't stop with the first one, I have a tentative schedule planned out but we'll see)...if that makes sense. And she definitely gets ridiculously fit with very little effort on my part, even for an Arabian.

          One question I have...I have read several sources saying "ride the number of miles in your average week" ie. if you're riding 50s, ride 50 conditioning miles per week in preparation. But that seems to have fallen out of favor? I'm going to ask my friend the next time I talk to her, but I'd love to hear the opinions of experienced endurance riders here. I know the importance of recovery in a dressage horse, and I'm sure it has the same importance in endurance if not more, but I'm having trouble translating it, if that makes sense.

          Thanks again for your advice, too. And for reading my novels!
          exploring the relationship between horse and human


          • #6
            I've heard that before too, to ride the same number of miles in a week that you'd ride in competition, but I dont think many people follow that and I sure dont think its necessary or even good.

            I think the article posted was good- I think that if the horse doesnt get too wound up and is a good drinker and eater, it should be able to walk and trot for a long time.

            I've been doing 50s for about 8 years and I've generally always just one "conditioning ride" a week. Ranging from about 8-20 miles, depending on the terrain. That has been sufficient for my horse to easily be able to complete 50s at a reasonable pace (not racing). Then a few other days a week, I just ride doing arena work or a leisurely ride, etc.

            I remember when I did my first endurance ride- and it was a 55 as well. I had done a bunch of LDs and CTRs but a 50 (especially a 55!) sounded so daunting. But it really wasnt. Just go in with a mindset that you are riding each loop and are going to be out there a long time.

            I cant stress enough either how important it is that the horse is well behaved and takes care of itself (it sounds like that is not a problem for you.) I did my first AERC rides with a friend that had a little mare that was really hot and would be wanting to run the whole way. She did OK on LDs but on that first 55 that we did, my friend ended up pulling because her horse was acting up as usual, and had thumps at the 35 miles vet check.


            • #7
              One of my horses did 30 miles in Oct. without having been ridden at all in the fall, just out in the field running around. Came in middle of the pack in good condition.
              There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


              • #8
                Originally posted by CosMonster View Post
                One question I have...I have read several sources saying "ride the number of miles in your average week" ie. if you're riding 50s, ride 50 conditioning miles per week in preparation. But that seems to have fallen out of favor? I'm going to ask my friend the next time I talk to her, but I'd love to hear the opinions of experienced endurance riders here. I know the importance of recovery in a dressage horse, and I'm sure it has the same importance in endurance if not more, but I'm having trouble translating it, if that makes sense.

                Thanks again for your advice, too. And for reading my novels!
                I always cringe when I hear this... I think that was the old school thought and if you talk with anyone who does endurance these days, the focus has changed from ride ride ride to rest rest rest. We taper our conditioning miles in order to peak for a ride, and I always give two weeks off after a 50 and more for multidays/80's/etc. This is also the reason most of us have multiple horses!!! After legging back up in the spring my main mare rarely gets ridden longer than a few miles between rides. Hence my three ponies....

                Your mare sounds more than ready for a 50 right now, like others have said, you may even be overtraining. For a horse that's going like yours, I would do one longer (15-20) conditioning ride on the weekends, a shorter (5-10) mile ride in the middle of the week and a few dressage sessions to increase/maintain flexibility and suppleness. I rarely ride over 25 miles a week, I just don't want that much wear and tear. BTW I count what you're doing as conditioning, even if they are just group trail rides. As long as you don't go out and ride the endurance ride at a faster pace than she's used to, you will be fine. Good luck!


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks again for all the advice. I read that and kind of went --100 miles a week for a 100 mile horse? That's just nuts.

                  And Eddy's Mom, yeah, I consider it conditioning too, I just meant I hadn't been doing it with a specific plan or anything yet. I think I probably will actually wind up using her less now that I'm developing an actual plan for her and am going to be competing her. It's probably a good thing, I've gotten a bit lazy about getting some other horses out on trail rides because she's just so good at it and fun to ride.
                  exploring the relationship between horse and human


                  • #10
                    Just do it, you and your horse will be fine!!

                    I was scared to death to put Sweets in the 60 this October given that she did not work much at all during the hottest part of the summer. But she did great. She was more than ready. I went into it with the idea that if she was showing ANY signs of fatigue at any of the vet checks, I would pull her, but she just seemed to get stronger and happier as the ride went on.

                    I got a ton of great advice from the folks on the AERC yahoo chat board. Many of them don't ride their horses much at all between competitions and they do fine.

                    This coming summer we're aiming for doing only 50s and a 75 in the middle of the season. Doing the 60 gave me a lot of confidence in my horse. If you're not on the AERC board already, definitely join. Many many experienced people post there. In fact, most of them had told me I could enter her in a 100 and probably do just fine. They said that most horses are way more conditioned for the long rides than people think they are. As long as you're not racing, but just finishing, that is.

                    And P.S. - I work 2 jobs. I work 40 hrs a week in an office, then trim horses nights and weekends. Sometimes I'm out there riding in the dark with a head lamp and glow bars to get my time in. It's worth it!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by saratoga View Post

                      I remember when I did my first endurance ride- and it was a 55 as well. I had done a bunch of LDs and CTRs but a 50 (especially a 55!) sounded so daunting. But it really wasnt.
                      I was scared half to death to enter that 60. Had visisions of crashing and burning entering my dreams for days before the ride. But after getting through the first two legs, I was having SO much fun, the horse was having fun, and it was one of the best experiences I've had in my life on a horse. It was over before I knew it. And the great thing was that even though I was tired and a little sore, if I *had* to get back on and ride another loop or two, I absolutely could have. I had a great friend to ride with though, which did help. During the 3rd and 4th loops we were acting a bit silly to pass the time. It was such a great time, I can't wait for this coming ride season to start, and honestly I never felt that way about LDs. They were fun, and a challenge, and I felt a sense of accomplishment but I've always had 100s in mind so getting one little step closer to that goal was a major sense of accomplishment.


                      • #12
                        I was like that with my first novice, then my first 25. Now my only problem is getting the serious jitters the night before the ride. And there is no reason for it.... just that I do.

                        So go.. enjoy! Read up on all the newbie advice just to make sure you are not missing anything, and then learn as you go.

                        My biggest piece of advice would be- know your horse. Even if the vets give you great scores and let you go on, and your horse just does not feel right, trust your gut. Everyone I know who has trusted their gut has always been glad they did.