Sunday, February 11, 2001

Advice for Newbies - Becky Huffman

Carpe Clop Endurance Clinics - "Seize the Miles"

‘Newbie’ ~ Wear it with Pride, You are the Future of our Sport ~

… from several riders who have recently, within the last year or so, completed their first AERC rides. The questions meaning prior to their first (or first few) ride(s); `information` being either advice from someone, or information from a written source.

1. What was the most important/valuable/meaningful advice/information:

* That fat old ladies could participate.

* Electrolytes for the horse. How to pack them where to find them, and how to administer them.

* Know your horse.

* Ride your own ride.

* I bought and read (and re-read repeatedly ) two good books - "Go the Distance" by Nancy Loving, and "The Complete Guide to Endurance Riding and Competition" by Donna Snyder-Smith several months before my first ride, and I learned a lot that helped me on my first rides. I also read Ridecamp on voraciously. Also, I called Linda Parrish (she was listed as a mentor on, and she encouraged me to go ahead and give it at try at my first ride - she said that people are usually surprised at how far their horses can go if they take it slow.

* I think it was extremely helpful for me to have practiced letting my horse eat and drink and sleep tied to the trailer, at our quiet state park, before I took him to a ride where there was a lot of commotion and the time we went to a ride, he felt `safe` tied to the trailer, munching on his hay.

2. What do you wish you had known:

* That Bob didn`t need a backpack. At our first ride, Bob rode and I watched a gate. We had worked for days to be certain that he had everything he could possibly need to go 25 miles. Toiletpaper, candybars, electrolyte syringes already loaded, water, sponge, sandwiches, more candybars, and other essentials were piled into his backpack. We thought we were so clever in putting it all into something that didn`t go on the horse`s back, and thus wouldn`t bounce as much. Forgot that Bob might bounce. 1/2 mile into the ride, Bob had forgotten to zip the closure on the backpack. All other riders passed him chuckling to themselves as he dismounted and retraced his steps to gather up all of the various sundries that had bounced out along the way. He was the last person to complete the 15 mile loop, and did not complete the ride. A lesson well learned by both of us.

* I wish I had known how much fun endurance riding was a long time ago. ~ A year ago I had not a clue what endurance riding meant. I now have 150 endurance miles and 25 Limited Distance miles on my Quarter Horse, Bullet. I am gung-ho for the sport. Endurance riders are a great set of people from all walks of life. They are not out to impress anyone. They all have their own goals they want to meet.

* Not to do my first LD ride in cotton pants with a seam on the inside of the leg! The insides of my thighs were raw meat at the end (but I was so happy at completing that I didn`t notice the pain until about 3 hours later). Lesson learned: Get some tights! (which I did before my next ride).

* That my ankles were not going to hold up to riding 25 miles........I did two LDs and both times my right ankle was messed up by about 15 miles.......since then I have seen a doctor, been prescribed two ankle braces for each ankle, and I do ankle exercises I changed to a stirrup that is better for my ankles.

3. most positive experience:

* My friend who rides endurance, who gave me encouragement.

* Finishing my first 25 miler

* Me and my horse finishing our first 50 in good shape , ~ thanks to my friend for riding with me and getting us through it. She gave me invaluable tips on how to get through a ride in good shape. She gave me the confidence to go on and try my next 50 by myself.

* Meeting Marilyn Wiese at the starting line of our first ride and riding the whole ride with her and her horse Khal - we hit it off and had a blast earning our very first completion together! Between her bad ankle and my bad knee, we were quite a sight trying to trot our horses out for our completions. I think Khal and my mare Mackenzie became buddies as well. Also, I was warmed by how welcoming and friendly the other riders were around camp - when they found out it was my first time, everyone gave me lots of encouragement, and many people congratulated me afterward. People made me feel very welcome in the sport.

* Meeting Dawn Carrie right before the start of our first LD......we did that 25 miler together and rode most of our 2nd 25 miler together and we are now very good friends.

4. most negative experience:

* Other rider`s attitudes to me on the trail. ( I must look and act like a real novice)

* It still seems kind of like a closed society, if you "only are doing 25 miles"

* Seeing how some(not many) horses are run into the ground just to let their riders get all the credit for winning. The majority of the riders look out for their horse first . They want them to be

around for a long time.

* Wow...I can`t think of anything negative.

* My third ride was to be Foxfire in May...I woke up very sick that Friday morning, but went to the ride anyway, thinking that I`d be better later, since I *never* get sick - famous last words!!

Vonita Bowers still remembers me as the sick person who came to her ride! :)

* Being stalked by (name deleted, nothing to do with innocence J ) a screaming stallion, at the beginning of my first LD.......he he, ha ha, just kidding!!!!!! (note: was also the stallion & riders 1st LD)

* Having my ankles turn so badly during my two rides that I am a candidate for surgery on both of them. I hope to find non-invasive ways to strengthen and support my ankles.

other comments/observations/advice:

* Train your horses ahead of time. So that you aren`t afraid of them and they aren`t afraid of you. build trust with your mount, and be observant of your horses behavior and if something doesn`t seem right, pull them from completing the ride.

* Any breed of horse can finish an endurance ride in good shape. It just takes common sense to take care of your horse. Some breeds do better than others, but there are many individual horses in each breed that do better than others.

* Someday I want to do 50s and 100s. My dream is to do Tevis (big dream, I know). When I began my first LD, I remember thinking, "25 miles...can we do that?!?!?" It seemed so far...and I remember thinking that starting a 50 or a 100 must feel like beginning an insurmountable task. Upon completing my first few LDs, I recall thinking, "if we were doing a 50, we`d only be half done", and could not fathom going back out and doing it all again. LOL But now I can see myself doing a 50. I`ve also learned a lot about myself and my horse. She takes care of herself, but I`ve learned that she`s not going to drink a drop of water until we`ve gone 10-12 miles, although I still offer it to her at every chance (I was panicking about her not drinking on our first ride). But at about 10-12 miles, she starts trying to suck every pond or stream dry and does so for the remainder of the ride. There`s nothing like distance riding to really open your eyes to your horse`s behavior and it`s communication with you.

* Advice? Yeah...WATCH OUT - this sport is addictive!!!!! :)

* As anxious as I am to get to do more LDs and to finally do 50s and 100s, I think that doing my first two LDs showed me how much learning and work I need to do before I am adequately prepared to ride more LDs and longer. I did not like the feeling of having little control over my horse and in a ride with horses running all around and a stallion screaming (HA HA) I found that my horse and I were not able to communicate like we could when we were alone. Since those two LDs I have worked to improve my riding skills, my horsemanship, my fitness, and my communication skills (with my horse). I have taken my horse to places where there is a lot of commotion (without the pressure of it being a `competition`) and I have worked on riding issues with the help of friends and teachers. I feel like our next ride will be a lot more relaxed and fun.

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