In which Endurance 101 presents a list of skills (for riders)

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” -- Seneca the Younger (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD)

Does anybody still play The Game of LifeTM? 

The board game was popular when I was a kid:  you would roll the dice to see how many spaces to advance along the board, you would make decisions (go to college?  buy insurance?) and you were subject to random chance via the Life Cards, which told you that you had gotten a promotion, wrecked your car, or become the parent of twins. 

I need to warn you now:  endurance is a lot like that game.   You can prepare like crazy, trying to anticipate every possible circumstance, and random chance will still have a huge influence on your ride season.   

You may feel like you’ve got a talent for “rolling sevens”:  your horse is awesome, your saddle fits great, the trails near your house are perfect for training, and suddenly, BAM!  The universe rolls snake-eyes against you, and instead of trotting down the trail, you find yourself fixing multiple flat tires, hiring a new farrier, or trying to splint your own broken finger. 

Knowing that stuff like this happens to everyone is not always a huge comfort.

But, as Seneca the Younger reminds us, it’s possible to load the dice in our own favor.  The following is a list of things to consider while getting ready to compete in distance riding events.   Like the list of useful horse skills posted previously, this list is not comprehensive; however, you may find that the more of these events you plan for, the luckier you become.

·       Look at the list of“horse-skills” posted previously.  What items on that list do you feel are most urgent to address with your horse?
If you don’t feel confident teaching or practicing a particular skill set, what are your options? 

·       Your easy-going horse suddenly starts bucking on downhills.    What’s going on with him?  How will you figure it out? 

·       Watch of video of yourself riding your horse.  Does your horse move freely under you?  Do you see something on the screen that you don’t like?
Send the video to a friend or two who can give you some advice.  Outside eyes can be very useful. 

·       Look at your horse’s foot and estimate how soon he will need a trim and/or a new set of shoes.
What is your plan for a horse who has lost a shoe or boot before or during an event?  Can you put a shoe on a horse?  Do you carry tools with you everywhere?  Have you ever applied a boot?  Has your horse ever worn one?  Do you have the right size(s) on-hand for your horse?

·       Look at your normal feeding regime, and figure out how much storage space will be needed to transport feed for your horse for a long weekend. 
Figure out how to store it all in containers that a horse can’t break into if he gets loose in camp.

·       Look at your tack and identify any parts of it that would benefit by being cleaned, repaired, or replaced.
Brainstorm ways that tack repairs might be accomplished “in the field” if you were away from home and unable to access professional help.  HINT: the cable-ties used to keep computer cords from octopussing all over the house are excellent emergency tack-repair items.  Duct tape and Vet Wrap are also extremely useful.

·       Walk around your rig, and identify items that might be problematic on a long journey with a full load.  Focus on structure (tires, frame, floors) and electrical (lights, brakes).
Ridecamps often set up in open fields and away from modern conveniences.  If you blow a tire on your truck, can you change it with the equipment you have on-board?  What if you blow a truck tire and a trailer tire?  In the dark? If your battery goes dead, do you have jumper cables and can you use them without electrocuting yourself?

·       Look at your equine first aid kit.
You do have an equine first aid kit…right?  Identify the items you would need if your horse was colicky.  Identify the items you want on hand for a horse who scraped up his knees, and the items you will reach for first if his head is bleeding.  If you aren’t comfortable putting on leg bandages, ask a knowledgeable person to show you how to do it before you are confronted with a wounded horse.

·       Look at your first aid kit for humans
My human first-aid kit hangs in the trailer next to the equine kit. Point to the items in this kit you will need for a bee sting, a foot blister, a sunburn, a sprained ankle, and a wire cut. A lot of items in the equine kit can also be used for humans, and vice versa. Remember that the only difference between a digital thermometer for humans and one used for horses is flavor.

·       What happens if somebody else has to take your horse back to camp?  Does your horse know how to pony?  Does your horse accept other riders?  Do you carry a leadrope or a detachable rein that can be used as a lead?

·       What happens if somebody else gets hurt on the trail?  Can you administer first aid? 

·       Do you know how to pony a horse back to camp?
      Do you know how to teach a horse to pony?  

·       Are you confident about riding on terrain that is significantly different than your home turf?  Can your horse handle deep sand?  Steep hills?  Slick mud, sticky mud, sandy mud, or boot-sucking mud? Can you?

·       Can you saddle your horse in the dark, or without sufficient light?  How about when you are very, very sleepy?  Or really really cold? 

·       What would happen if your stirrup fell off?  Could you continue on safely? My riding instructor makes us warm up without stirrups.  We complain about it, but it’s good practice!

·        Can you saddle your horse and mount up with a sprained wrist?  How about a broken toe?  What happens if you lose your contact lens or break your glasses? You aren’t required to start a ride with any of these impairments…but sometimes things happen on the trail and your only other option is to WALK back to camp.

·        Is your riding gear sufficient for bad weather?  Rain?  Sn*w? 

·       Do you know what to do if a thunder/lightning storm rolls in while you’re on the trail?  HINT: get to low ground!  Get off your horse and tie him to the shortest shrub you can find.  Hunker yourself down into a shallow ditch (not a gully that might fill with flash-flood water).  Crouch down, feet together, hands over your ears.  If you can hear thunder, you are within strike distance of lightning!

Prepare yourself to be “lucky” by figuring out –in advance—how you will cope with unlucky circumstances. 

What else can you add to this list?  The comment box is open!


  1. Tack hint: Wind up a hay string into a little ball and put it in your saddlebags. Carry a Leatherman-type multitool.

    First aid: Bring Vicodin, a flask of liquor, and duct tape. You'll be aiiight if you apply all three.

    Riding gear: True story, I rode NASTR the first weekend in June in a tee shirt, because it was June, dammit. I about froze when it started snowing on me. (I had no Vicodin or liquor to ease my pain.)

  2. Funder--I love your first aid kit. The biggest mistake I ever made was to set off on a multi-day pack trip without my inhaler. My asthma/allergies hadn't acted up in months and I just wasn't thinking about it. But we camped the first night in a meadow and I was MISERABLE. Wheezing, coughing...etc. And it didn't let up. By morning I was so short of breath that I knew I needed to ride out. And I did. But it totally ruined the trip. So always remember to pack any med you might need, even if you don't think you'll need it. After that my first aid kit contained an epi-pen for allergic reactions (even though no one--me included--was known to be severely allergic), and also med to give in case of heart attack--some of my companions were old men. Advil is always handy. We carried a pistol for a variety of reasons, not least in case a horse broke a leg, but on an organized endurance ride I'm assuming ride management and vets would be available to help. I always carry banamine for colics, but again, I guess you could get this from the vet, right?

  3. Funder: I am constantly battling with my kids over appropriate clothing choices. They look at the calendar instead of looking at the sky. . This strategy is even worse when they expect calendar weather for the Swampland to match calendar weather for Seoul, Korea (it rarely does).

    Laura: There are benedryl tablets scattered everywhere in my life: in my wallet, in my truck, in my saddle packs. But I think if I get wounded, I want to be transported to Funder's rig....

  4. Like Aarene, I always have so many antihistamines stashed away that I didn't even think about them! Good call.

    I've always meant to get an epi-pen but I never think about it when I'm at a drugstore. My husband had a bad reaction to a bee sting as a kid, so it's something we should have on hand.

    Knowing that there are a couple of vets with full mobile kits just a few miles away makes riding endurance much less scary than it would be otherwise.


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