I didn’t even know endurance riding was a thing until a couple years ago. I’d heard of it in the Middle East but I thought it was for crazy people riding crazy Arabians through the desert. I didn’t realize there was a whole community of endurance riders out doing their thing all around me.
A friend I boarded with was interested in it and I started looking into it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in the saddle for 50 miles, to be honest. That Cougar Rock thing at Tevis looked a little nuts to me. I’m not sure I’m that extreme. Luckily there are Limited Distance rides of 25 or 30 miles for someone like me. When I decided to let Heidi be a trail horse, I decided to give endurance a second look. The more I learn, the more I like!
I love the motto of the AERC- to finish is to win. I’ve done a little showing in hunters but I never could afford the trainer or the fancy lesson barn and I was limited in my success because of that. I had a nice horse but couldn’t afford to dedicate myself to lessons and showing the way I would have to do in order to get really good. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I would work really hard on my own, on a horse I trained myself, and then lose to lesson horses. I knew I had accomplished a lot on my own, but I always felt a bit empty after a show I didn’t win. I spent a lot of time and money to come home a loser. With endurance I’m not riding to beat anyone. I’m riding to make it across the finish line with a sound, happy horse.
I love how endurance riders are so connected to their horses. When you’re spending that many hours in the saddle, you get to know your horse on a whole different level, especially in regards to his health. Already in researching for this sport I’ve learned a ton of stuff I was totally ignorant of before, things like dehydration, plasma levels, electrolytes, gut motility, pulse rates, and the list goes on. I knew some basic stuff about colic and tying up, but I didn’t know the connection between those things and dehydration and how to monitor whether my horse is handling exercise well. It’s fascinating stuff!
Did you know you can wear whatever you want in endurance? No show jacket or tall boots in 90 degree weather! Woot! Tack is a free for all too. If it works for your horse, great! I can ride Heidi in a bitless bridle. Can’t go bitless in hunters!
Endurance riders camp with their horses when they go to rides. Camping is my second favorite thing after horses! I’m stoked to be able to combine these two things!
Finally, I think Heidi and I can both agree on endurance. She likes the trail better than the arena and I like having a goal that we’re working toward. I’m hopeful that I’ve finally found the horse sport for me!