I have been reading the discussions about the number of people attempting 100 milers and thought I would share my experience with my first 100 miler. First off, I will start by saying if I can do it anyone can. I have 4 kids 3,5,7,and 10 years old. My husband is not a horse person (until just recently, yeh! he got tired of being left behind on the weekend of my rides) and our schedules only permit 1 official ride a month. We have been away to undergrad, med school, and then residency for 11 years. When we moved home my father-in-law had been riding endurance and just asked if I would help him condition one of his horses when his wife was unable, "of course"!! I said. I had missed not riding while in school and having babies. I had the chance to ride a 25 miler with my in-laws... I was still nursing my youngest so when I left him I still needed to pump. This made for a interesting two days, me in the backc seat of the car pumping while they were arguing over directions. The horse I was riding had already been ridden in some rides so he was savy to what was going on around him, it was me who needed to learn everything. I had a great ride and was hooked.
I rode in a few more 25's until I had saved up enough money for my own horse. I still cont. to ride in 25's because I needed that time to feel comfortable with how everything flowed and worked. My goal soon became a 50 miler for my second season. I rode 3-4 times a week in our mountains,I would sneak out at 5am before anyone was awake and then try to get in the house to make breakfast before kids woke up. I tried not to ever put any stress on my husband. He was busy starting up his own practice and I knew he really did not understand the addiction and amazing feeling of floating up and down the mountains as the sun comes out to greet you.
My next season I did 50's and loved them. My horse was well and for my 3rd season I had a goal of finally attemping a 100. No one in my family that rides was prepared or simply had the desire yet to ride 100 miles. The ride I picked out was the Arabian nights ride and I was extremely nervous. I would be riding by myself, some of my family volunteered to crew for me. (I have never had a crew before!!) My husband, at this point had his own horse and would try a 50 while I rode the 100, the kids were left with my mom who was just hoping I would come back alive!!
The ride would have both FEI and AERC riders and I soon learned how many top riders were there to really compete for the top slots. At the dinner before ride meeting I was looking around and noticing all of these great riders and I turned to my husband and said do you know who they are?.. or who that is?... and then told him I thought I just needed to go back to the truck and vomit.. I was so nervous!! He just laughed and said "no I do not know who any of these people are and your FINE, you are here to ride your own ride, just chill out!! I felt completely out of my element, I mean what was I doing here riding with these great, amazing riders... I was just there to finish and hopfully not get pulled and have wasted my families time for coming up to help me!!
I was set that I just wanted to finish alive and most important with a healthy horse. I did not care how long it took me or how bad it hurt, I needed this... I needed to prove to myself that Noble and I could do this. Everyone told me that I would need someone to ride with and that it is very mental for the horse as well.
I was set that I would not let my guy waste his energy in the first half so I really held him back,( he loves to go and be in front) SO needless to say the first 40 miles were me holding Noble back so that we would have enough energy to finish, we took walking breaks, we stopped to drink, I was like a very protective mother, I did not want anything to go wrong and hurt Noble in anyway. Everything went very smooth, I forced my self to eat and drink and my guy did the same. I cannot express what it feels like to ride in the middle of the desert with nothing except stars and your best friend for company and security. We finished with all A's in about 17 hours. Yes sometimes it was uncomfortable, yes the rattle snake in the sagebrush at 11 pm was a eye opener, and I was tired, BUT I have never done anything so much fun as this in my life!! It was worth every ache, and every second of mental fatigue I had experienced. I proved to myself that I could do this, I worked hard for this, and my horse proved he was everything I already knew he was.... Wonderful, loyal, and beautiful.
I learned a lot about my abilites, my endurance and would and will do it again as many times as I can!!
Two more things I learned, I need to let my guy move out at a comfortable pace while it is cool in the morning, I really held him back because I worried he would wear out (not the case, my hand and back were very tired!!) and not all horses need a buddy at the end, some do some do not, my guy was just fine and actually did better on his own at his own speed. I am a mother of busy kids, a wife of a busy husband, I work part time,but if I can do it anyone can!! It was the best time of my life and I tell you what... Crewing looked much harder than what I got to do!