Maybe some background on limited distance rides is in order. Endurance riding was flourishing before the advent of 25 LD rides and there are hundreds of people out there who have never done a limited distance ride. Nobody fought the concept of limited distance rides more than I did originally and few are in favor of it as much as I am now. My antagonism was that when I started endurance riding there was one ride only..the Tevis Cup Ride. There was no one to go to for advice except Wendell Robie who said "keep them lean and have a wet saddle blanket in the barn at night". And so I overrode and underfed. There were no electrolytes, fanny packs, heart monitors or other of the accouterments that we consider so necessary today and which I depend on totally. The pulse requirement was 72. Both the horse and I sank miserably at the first vet check on our maiden voyage. I learned that the backbone of the Sierra was more formidable than the golf course I trained around. I learned that I was not fit and I learned that I was riding the wrong breed. Help came in the form of a horse loaned to me that lived at the end of the Tevis trail, was trained on the trail and it was a walk in the park. And I was hooked. Hooked to the point where I could not wait a whole year for the Tevis Ride to come back (still the only ride, remember). And so in 1967 I started the Castle Rock Challenge Ride..the oldest 50 miler in the U.S. The Auburn people poo pooed a little ride of fifty miles, but I was trying to draw on a local group and they simply were not as turned on as I by the challenge of a 100 miler. Well, as time went on, many people for various reasons did not want to go fifty miles , but they wanted to be endurance riders so the concept of 25 milers arrived upon the scene.
For those of us who egos were for whatever reason somehow tied up with being "endurance " riders, the thought of others coming along and diluting our sport was awful. Some ride managers were convinced that they could not make ends meet without the added income from LD riders. And so LD rides began to be incorporated into the 50 and 100 mile events, but ONLY after it was written in the AERC Handbook "that an endurance ride by definition, is not less than 50 miles". Our fragile egos were preserved and less ambitious riders had the shorter trail to fulfill their needs. As time went on, I became a fan of LD rides. I saw the benefits for young new horses, the introduction to a sport for new riders who could make a personal decision as to whether to set their goals on higher mileage, stay where they were or decide it wasn`t for them anyway. In addition, it did bail some rides out financially. To backtrack, many present day endurance riders used NATRC rides as a precursor to endurance and I can`t think of a better place to start learning good horsemanship, trail manners, etc. With the risk of alienating some, which I regret, 25 miles does not require a tremendous amount of training and its participants have not really proven a whole lot. I can swim, but I am not an Olympic swimmer. I can jog, but I am not a marathon runner. I do not think this makes me a lesser person. It means that in these particular fields I am not a shining star. But I can ride fifty or a hundred miles and this does make me an endurance rider. It means that I have done my home work and I have had personal aspirations.
There is another category of riders.... those who because of personal problems, physical disabilities, time restraints or other reasons cannot opt for the longer distances but they love their horses, they love the trails, they want to be a part of the whole scene. And so we have 25 milers and everyone should be happy. I realize that I, sooner than 99 percent of the people in this sport, will be forced to cut back to 25 milers. (I just seem to pre-date most of the people riding). When that time comes, I hope that God will give me the grace to accept the fact that I am no longer an endurance rider, I am an ex-endurance rider. (Hey, if Joe Montana can be an ex-football player, I guess I can be an ex-endurance rider). I watched my wonderful Gazal`s dam at age 25 do her first LD ride with an 8 year old on her back. That didn`t make either of them an endurance horse or an endurance rider, but, boy were we proud. One of the best horseman I have ever known, (now gone) could only ride 25 milers due to a disability. My admiration for him was greater than for any of my 100 mile cohorts. No, he was not an endurance rider in my book but he ranks higher in my mind than any that are.
So let`s each find our place in the sun and be happy that we can be out there at all..regardless of our chosen distance.