I chickened out on bringing my horse to the Endurance 101 clinic I’d signed up for because the weather looked downright dastardly and considering our last camping trip with Mustang Henry was in the snow with a potential wolf-guard dog fight outside the tent, I really wanted to wait for better conditions to give it a go again. So I drove from my middle-of-nowhere ranch 3 hours southeast-ish over to the middle-of-nowhere BLM ground where the clinic was being held. I knew no one and was the only person there without a horse. (There were really only a handful of people there though, due to the weather.) The clinician was a rough-around-the-edges no-bullshit type who judged me for not bringing my horse and didn’t really have an outline or a plan and dispensed a fair amount of information anyway. I asked a lot of questions which is not something I typically do but I’d just driven 3 hours and was now standing in the driving raw wind unable to feel my fingers or toes and missing my favorite basketball team’s tournament game to do so, so I was going to get my money’s worth, dammit. We covered nutrition, gear, saddle-fitting (I wish I had gotten an audio recording and or video of the two active endurance riders there talking about all their tack as proof that you always need more for skeptical boyfriends), conditioning, course marking, pulsing and vet checks, and probably some other stuff. A local farrier gave a presentation on the leg which was fascinating but not particularly endurance-related. I still don’t really understand when shoes or boots are required in this sport, but I have a feeling you just know.
After lunch there was a little more chatting and then those with horses began to saddle up for a 10 mile ride. I began to seriously regret not bringing a horse, because even with my plentiful nerves it’s difficult to watch a bunch of people mount up and ride off without you. But on the plus side I got to get back into my warm car and head home.
We were given a cd with a ludicrous amount of files on it providing information beyond what was presented. There is more than I can tackle in a few days, and probably the answers to all the questions I didn’t ask are contained within.
My biggest take-home from the trip was that probably the best way to get going in this sport is to ride (DUH). I am very good at listening to my nerves above all else and making excuses, but this really would have been a perfect small-scale opportunity to introduce my horse to a setting that involves trailers and horses parked in the middle of nowhere and setting out on a group ride with some guidance. I really did us both a disservice by leaving him home, garbage-y weather be damned. The good take-home was that the people were by and large nice, and welcoming, and encouraging. Two of the ladies I met were probably not destined for getting into endurance events, but were interested in getting together to ride this summer anyway. Having some people to ride with would really perk up my confidence and interest.
We got home in daylight but were exhausted and it was sideways-wet-snowing out, so I didn’t do anything with Henry. But Sunday brightened up and after a little arena warm-up we went about 2 miles up the dirt road, turned around and came back, riding for more than an hour and interspersing some nice trot. On the downhill toward home he insisted twice that we should try to canter but I said hey, young man, let’s take it easy this trip and leave the fast gears for the uphill. Out-and-back rides on a dirt road with potential traffic are not ideal, but until the ground firms up it’s the best we can do. I hope to get in a 5+ mile ride before the week is out.
There’s an endurance ride at the same site as the clinic the second weekend in May. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll be ready for our first LD (25 mi), but at the very least we are going to go camp, get experience and exposure, and RIDE.