I think there is a dimension in regards to endurance success which has not been discussed in the posts of the last two weeks which have been the best thing we have had ... discussions with real substance. I refer to the gifted horse .... the Michael Jordans of the horse kingdom. They are born, not made.
Many well known endurance riders can lay their claims to fame at the door of Lady Luck. They stumbled on to the gifted horse...BUT,. give credit where credit is due... They knew what to do when the raw materials came their way. The homework, the mental attitude, the dedication, the attention to detail combined with the gifted horse put them at the top.
I do not feel there ever can be a blanket rule of how to train, how many hours, at what speed, at what altitude, how many days a week, how many miles at the trot or gallop. Individual horses vary as much as individual people.
Horses are not born equal and some arrive on earth with the gene structure arranged so that they have more stamina than the average, they have more heart than the average, they are sounder than the average, they are less prone to illnesses, they thrive on hard work that will break other horses down. It is up to the savvy rider to figure out what is enough and what is too little or too much. And when the equation all fits together, you have a world champion, a Tevis Cup winner, a mileage champion. Natural talent is a God given plus in our sport and while the klutz may with arduous and disciplined training become a good endurance horse, he needs that extra special something he was born with to become a great horse. The records for the Tevis Cup Ride (the one with the longest file of records) were made before electrolytes, DMG, heart monitors or massage therapy came to our sport. They were set by horses with awesome natural talent who sometimes rose to the top in spite of their riders. This is not meant to be argumentative with the posts of the last several weeks which have been the best, the most informative and the most thought provoking of anything seen on this bulletin board. I throw this subject in as an extra part of the equation that has not been brought up in depth and I hope it will stir up some more great discussions. I appreciate so much the recent input on this bulletin board. It cannot help but stimulate us all to become more thoughtful and better endurance riders.
Yes, the great athletes are great because they train like crazy, but only one out of a thousand rises to the top even though many might train at the same intensity. The difference is desire that some are gifted with. What I meant by the heart of the horse might better be explained as what is between the ears, or, the mind of the horse which cannot be measured. In long distance riding there can be no greater thrill than to point your horse at a mountain and have him want to climb that mountain as much as you want to. There can be no greater thrill than crossing a finish line of a 100 mile ride with a horse who still has a tank full of gas. It makes you feel ten feet tall and is the ultimate emotional award that can erase 100 miles of heat, cold, hunger and fatigue and leave you walking on air.
The average and typical endurance horse needs a little nudge in the ribs occasionally and the encouragement of his best buddy or other horses on the trail. The shining stars can stir our souls because the momentum come from within This can be, but is not necessarily, competitive desire, but just pure and plain unmitigated joy in their work. Their enthusiasm is not the adrenline rush of a stampede start, (because it is still there miles down the trail) or because they are crammed full of high powered supplements but rather some self induced excitement that doesn`t quit.
Maybe it is the challenge. I really don`t know the right word. The rider senses the horse`s enthusiasm, it is contagious and then rider and horse feed off of each other. Four endurance horses that come to mind are Wendell Robie"s stallion, Siri, who lit up the arena at the finish line; Ed Johnson`s Bezatal who took a stroll in the park on Tevis Cup day and just happened to get there first; Donna Fitzgerald`s Witezarif who flowed like water over a rock: and, of course, Becky Hart`s Rio who continues to amaze us all.
These horses set us on fire and make total endurance junkies of us all. The fondest wish I can make for my fellow endurance riders, is that one of these special horses crosses your path just once in your lifetime. When he does, you will know it and it will be magic.