I happen to read this at a point where, returning from a very enjoyable, albeit snowy, training ride, I have made myself a cup of coffee and am feeling very mellow.
This is why I do endurance (20 years now) and how I explain it to the 'locals' who think I just go out there and 'ram around':
I have shown horses since I could sit up straight. When I was a kid, I thought that was the most perfect place on earth. At 21, someone challenged me to do a distance ride on my Arab show horse. After training for months, I found that this was the closest I had ever been to a horse- he was happier than he had ever been, and I was more relaxed. After that ride, except for one summer where I campaigned an open jumper for someone, I never went back to the show ring.
Riding my horse for hours through the beautiful forests and hills around here has given me an inner confidence and a serene, very happy outlook on life. I am sure there are many people who can express this better than I can, but I know that when I took several years off to pursue a career, there was a big whole in my life. Getting on a horse and traveling the countryside - just he and I, has filled that void- having a goal to reach (putting on several thousand endurance miles) has been the icing on the cake
In endurance there are no subjective calls. You have to care for your teammate and meet requirements that are concrete and obvious- no one can manipulate them and no one can imagine them. It doesn't matter if you have an $1800 saddle or a $100 saddle- you do not have a better chance of reaching perimeters! How fast you go has to do with how close to the edge of those requirements you wish to get, or can get.
You can do endurance slow and have achievable goals that are as important to you as if your goals were to come in first, and NO one, I mean NO ONE, will tell you that you are not worthy, or didn't do your best, or were less than perfect - there are no extra 'points off' for doing it your way, as long as you met the veterinary requirements. If your goal was to finish 50 or 100 miles with a happy, healthy horse, then you have won. If you set out to make a winner and you do two years of LSD during competition, then you have won.
In endurance you can set your own goals and not always be judged - and I am not necessarily comparing this sport to other horse sports, but comparing it to life. In a high profile, high pressure career, I was being constantly judged. There were 'performance reviews' and annual charts and figures of my performance, always being judged by someone. In endurance it is me and my horse against the trail that day- 'win or lose' is in my mind. I have won rides and felt bad that I didn't do things quite right, and I have come in second to last and been exhilarated.
Love this sport.
Laura Hayes NE AERC #