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[RC] How soon for first 50? - Aaron Turnage

I purchased a 5 year old pinto-cross gelding about a month ago with the intention of completing (note I said completing for now) endurance rides.  Both he and I are new to the sport.  Before I bought him, he was being ridden for about an hour every day, basic training work rather than conditioning.  More focus on steering and transitions than actual distance or speed.  This was for about a month, I have no idea what type of conditioning/training he received before that time.

Since I've had him, I've been riding 3 - 4 days a week, usually Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Due to work and daylight constraints, I ride for about an hour on Tues and Thurs.  Usually one day of arena work (circles, bending, transitions, etc) and the other day a short (3-5 miles) out on the trail at an average of about 5 mph.  I have a variety of terrain but mostly gentle rolling hills and light sand footing on these days.  On Saturday, we've been doing longer rides, up to 12 - 15 miles, usually taking about 3 hours or so.  Good energy but slightly tired upon return.  Again a variety of terrain, bigger hills on weekends, some hard-packed roads.  We walk the big ups and downs and take it easy on the hard-pack.

We are doing our first LD (30 miles) this weekend at the Rides of March.  Can't hardly wait!  Say hi if you see us, chesnut overo gelding with BIG blaze and two blue eyes, hunter green tack accessories, should be hard to miss.  We're planning on riding our own ride and not worry about placings, just finishing.  I'm very interested in doing the Derby Ditch 50 in two weeks but am concerned that I may be asking too much too soon.  I thought I'd see how he finished this ride and decide from there.  I do have the offer of a good mentor for my first 50, my training buddy Dovie (thanks!)  So, any tips or suggestions?  When do you know your horse is ready for a 50?  Signs to look for after finishing this LD to see if a 50 is reasonable?  What about heart rate?  I have a monitor I use on longer weekend rides, what signs would you look for to let you know your horse is ready for more?

Thanks, 

Crysta & Sinatra

P.S.  Diet for those interested is alfalfa hay and approx 2 lb Equine Senior on ride days.  I know, I don't care for alfalfa either but he's boarded in a 5 acre Nevada pasture (read sagebrush) with 4 other horses and that's what they all get.  He doesn't seem to like grass hay either, when I gave it to him before he spit it out.  He does eat and drink well out on the trail.