Thursday, January 01, 1998

Why is it called endurance? (long true story) - Nicco Murphy

I noticed that my friend`s dog was about to trod on a rattle snake as we took our evening walk along the top of a local hill. Calling her now would probably just stop her right on top of the rattler so I let her go on. These snakes rarely seem to strike the first person on the trail and take time to warm up to a biting fit. The dog made it over safely stepping on and waking the snake in the process. At this point I noticed that the dog`s master, George, had not noticed the recently somnolent serpent and so warned him several times to stop and definitely do not proceed on his current course, emphasizing the warning with appropriate gesticulations and explitives. After the fact though I realized that telling him to speed up would have illicited the response that I was looking for. He is a management type you see, one of the breed specifically chosen for the inability to follow instructions nor give them.

Up to this point I had been explaining to him what endurance racing involved. I explained that you have to get up really early to prepare the horse. Preparation involved watering, feeding, grooming and installing tack. At his request, I went on to explain that tack included special hoof boots, support boots, telemetric devices, a light weight saddle and its attachments. It had to be made clear that the saddle had to be light weight because of the weight of the cantle bag plus contents (food and cell phone), pommel bag plus contents (medikit, GPS and vet card) and water bottles attached to the saddle. One has to presoak the sponge too, so that it is soft and soaks water during the ride, "sponge..." he repeated like a policeman taking notes at a crime scene.

Ignoring George`s quizical look, I rushed on to explain that of course it doesn`t take as long to get ready as it used to since I figured how to put that goop in the hoof boots and stick them on in less than an hour and that they hardly come off more than once per ride now a days.

"Boots?", he did more mental note taking. "Yes, the ones for the hooves and ones the ones for the lower part of the leg", I responded. "Ah those towels", he`d seen quilted shipping boots one day when watching our horses unload from a trailer. "No, no those are shipping boots, we have to take those off first so that we can put on the support boots (a software reboot as oppose to a hardware reset which involves the shoes), of course you have to put lubricant on the legs first to prevent the support boots from chaffing the legs and then you have to put the suppport boot covers on to protect the support boots. It`s a nuisance to have to clean the lubricant off ones hands before you can do much else otherwise everything gets sticky. I often wondered if I could find some lubrcant goop that will work with the HRM", I was rambling.

"HRM?", we were going uphill now and he is only capable of short bursts of conversation in between gasps under these conditions. "Yes it tells me the horse`s heart rate, have to put that on before you tighten the cinch. You attach it to the breast strap which goes on before you stick the saddle on and attaches to the saddle. Next we hook up the bridle and spritz a final shot of fly spray on any spots that we missed the first time and we are set to go."

His face gradually took on a more enlightened look, "So that`s why it`s called endurance..." It was at this point that the diamond back struck and fortunately, for the snake, it missed. As is typical of his species George has developed a very thick skin and a score may have damaged the snake`s dentures and any injected venom would only have slightly increased the vitriolic quality of George`s humour. The snake looked confused, George had finally registered it`s presence by by the rattling noises but not pin pointed it`s location and was doing an Irish jig in a circle around the snake. Quite odd really, watching an Englishman doing and Irish jig around a snake doing Exorcist impressions.

"Yes," I replied as the rattler unwound itself and slunk off into the bushes slightly cross eyed, "those who truely understand the sport, realise that it is called endurance not because of the paltry fifty or hundred miles that would be travelled that day but because of the years and thousands of miles of preparation leading to that point. Jolly smashing sunset today, eh what George?". He agreed and wondered aloud if the bangers and smash were ready yet.

Nicco Murphy, San Diego County

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