There’s some trail wisdom out there that states that “The first 1000 miles are the hardest” when it comes to endurance and the learning curve.
Considering it took me 13 years to get there, I would say I made the most of that curve. But I finally did it…at least, if you’re counting combined miles (which, hey, I’ve learned just as much off of some LDs as I have longer distances).
1,015 endurance + LD miles. 12 seasons of endurance. 15 different horses (and only 1 of them mine), everything from greenies on their first ride to “hold my beer and watch me show you how its done” experienced campaigners. One heck of a learning experience…and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
This probably deserves some really deep, insightful post about everything I’ve learned from endurance to this point, but I’m not quite sure how to distill down so much of what I’ve learned into neat little salient bullet points. Endurance is such an intensely personal journey, and all of us are in it for different reasons, so are going to take different lessons from it.
That’s not to say there aren’t takeaway tidbits worth sharing, though…
- Tums are a quick source of extra calcium.
- The time you decide it’s “not worth carrying the extra spare” is when your horse will lose the boot/shoe in that size.
- You can put out a buffet of food options for them at the vet check…and all they want is grass hay.
- Know your horse’s “normal” — ‘x’ minutes to pulse may be normal for some, and a red flag for others.
- Pulls are learning experiences.
- Food that tastes great at a cold, middle of winter ride might not be quite as awesome in the middle of the summer.
- Our horses aren’t the only athletes in the equation — we owe it to them to be the best partners we can be, so we have to take care of ourselves as well.
- That said, nothing in the world is actually appealing to eat at 4 o’clock in the morning before a 100-miler.
- Be sure to stop along the trail every so often and admire the view.
- We are the lifeblood of this sport. We are riders, ride managers, volunteers. Without all of us, there is no sport of endurance. Support each other. Thank one another.
- If you wear bright-colored, wild-patterned tights, hummingbirds may be very interested in you when you sit down for lunch at a vet check.
- A trail is never boring when you’re riding with good friends.
- Duct tape, desitin, and baby powder will solve many problems.
- Horses definitely have way better night vision than us.
- Electrolyting is a maddening art and science.
- You will be humbled. At one time or another, everyone finds themselves in the position of thinking, “I got this” only to have Endurance Karma turn around and say, “No, you really don’t…”
- Sticking the memory foam saddle pad under the horse’s blanket first thing in the morning is a really good way to warm it prior to tacking up. Ditto with the bit inside your jacket.
- The horse you have at home will not be the same horse you unload from the trailer at a ride. Especially their first ride.
- Enjoy the journey. It can be easy to get caught up in an end-goal destination and miss some of the milestones along the way.
(Okay, so I couldn’t narrow it down. That ride, with that horse, made my Top Three in the list of favorites, so I had to indulge in a bit of remembrance.)