In which we explore ten more tips for endurance riders (green or not)
Mel recently posted "10 Best Endurance Tips" on her blog (HERE),
and I was inspired--not to correct her, because she's got excellent stuff there,
but rather to add to her list.
Here are my Top Ten Tips
1. Start with what you have: The horse you already ride, the saddle you already ride in, the clothes you already wear, the rig you already drive. Your needs may change as you go along, and your priorities may change also. Don't blow your budget on Day 1. Save your pennies to fix or replace stuff that isn't working.
2. If it isn't working, stop doing it. Just because your gear or training or habits or whatever has always worked in the past, do not assume that exactly the same stuff will work in the future. A new horse will bring new challenges; a familiar horse in new situations will have new needs. If there are big changes in your life, your riding may reflect them. Stuff changes. Adapt and improve.
3. You don't know what you don't know. Look for ways to learn new stuff. Don't just read Endurance 101 and figure you know everything. Read America's Long Distance Challenge II, and then read 4th Gear. Sit down with the AERC Educational Videos available on YouTube. Ride with new people, hang out with a veterinarian or farrier for a day. Ask questions, listen, and think!
4. Get involved and volunteer. Volunteer at events to do stuff outside your comfort zone. Scribe for a vet if you've never done it, work the timing table, pulse horses, or help on the water truck. If you a member of an organization, whether it's AERC or BackCountry Horsemen or the local 4-H club, help out! Run for an office, edit the newsletter, spearhead a fundraiser, take photos. If you don't like everything about the organization, don't just gripe. Do something.
5. One size does not fit all. Endurance is the place where you will learn to throw away the words "always" and "never." Just because your friend, or your mentor, or your hero does something a particular way, you are not obligated to copycat. Just because "everybody" uses a particular piece of gear doesn't mean it will work for you. Sometimes imitation will save you a heartache, but sometimes it just won't work. The #1 skill of the best endurance riders is problem solving.
6. Spend time watching your horse. Learn what normal looks like. Does he prefer apples to carrots? Does he need "Mister Right" or will "Mister Right Now" be sufficient company? When playing in the pasture, does he trot, or gallop, or jump? Where and when does he sleep? Does he lie down? Does he patrol the pasture perimeter, or does he stay in the middle? Does he graze alone or with a friend? Know what is normal for your horse so you can quickly identify when something is wrong.
7. Spend time doing non-endurance stuff with your horse. Learn to run barrels, chase cows, or swing a rope. Try an obstacle course. Walk on trails you would normally trot. Hop down and jog beside your horse instead of staying on top. Learn to jump...or to vault.
8. Don't be afraid to take time off. Rest your horse, your body, and your budget sometimes. Take a month away, or a year, or whatever you need. We'll be glad to see you when you return.
9. Be a better rider. Even if you've ridden all your life, take some lessons. Find an instructor who can push your boundaries. Dressage does not need to be a crying sport.
10. If it isn't fun, quit doing it. Whether it's riding a particular horse, or a particular trail, or being companion to a particular person, or going a particular speed, keep in mind that endurance is a sport, and it's intended to be fun.
Some parts of the trail may be scary, or tough, or challenging. Your body may be tired and your muscles may ache...but at the end of the day if you didn't have fun, you did it wrong.
Have fun. That's what endurance is for!