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Kathy Mayeda writes:

I probably have as many “miles” as a ride volunteer as I do a rider in endurance.  I can’t emphasize enough that if you really want an education in endurance riding that you hang around and volunteer at rides.  Some of the things you see and hear at the vet checks are real eye openers.  I’ve also crewed at Tevis for a few years and know that it’s an intimidating ride.  If I hadn’t crewed it, I probably would have attempted to ride it and not be properly prepared.  A 25 mile LD ride would not have taught me this!


Your experience as a volunteer is a great idea, but please don't discount having a first time rider doing a 25, as opposed to a 50, for their first ride.  Especially if this is the horse's first ride.
Even if you train really well, before the endurance ride, you just never know how your horse is going to act at their first ride.  I've done it with three different horses that I own and each time, they turn into a creature I hardly recognize.
The horse's adrenaline is flowing like a wild creek when they get to a ride and see a hundred or more strange horses all camped next to them.  And when you mount up for the start of the run, that calm mare or gelding suddenly has turned into a wild stallion ready to mate.
My point is, the 25 is safer for the horse.  Yea, you probably will ride with less experienced riders than if you were in the 50, but those riders aren't controlling your horse.  You are, hopefully.  You want to find out how your horse handles the experience and the odds are more in his favor if you start him out in the shorter distance.  I don't have the decades of endurance experience that others on ridecamp have, but I've never seen a horse under a tree on an IV who only did 25 miles.  I know I'll get contradicted on that one, but if you stop and think about it, the less miles you put on a horse at your first ride, the better his chances of recovery.
I did LD's for an entire year before I considered my first 50.  Actually, my daughter pushed me into the 50's cause I had no intention of going there on my own.  But I do enjoy 50's now, even though I know they are a bit much for my Saddlebred.  And it's always that last loop that can get him into trouble.  I've never had to worry about him completing a 25.
I know Dance Line is not the right breed to use for my comparisons here; but he has taught me you should ease into the longer distances, and you must put the horse ahead of the run.  I know my idea of requiring a rider and horse to complete one 25 before being allowed to enter their first 50 will never come to light.  And that's OK; it was just an idea, I'm not married to it.  But I do think it's good advice to give to new riders with new horses.  I'm convinced if that girl at the NASTR ride would have done an LD, instead of a 50, as their first ride, that mare would be alive today.

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