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[RC] 10+ years, PAC and overriding - Joe Long

We're seeing here a phenonemon where a discussion of the very real
problem of horse deaths at high-profile rides produces the false
impression that horses at high-profile rides are commonly ridden to
death's door by "big guns" who care only about winning.  While there
are some riders at all levels of our sport who put winning a race
above the welfare of their horse, they are (fortunately) few.  They
are the reason that the vets have the authority to pull a horse if the
rider does not, but please lets not disparage high-profile events, or
racing at these events, due to the actions of a few.

Racing is not the problem.  Racing is an integral part of our sport,
and has been not only from its beginning, but for thousands of years.
When people seek to compete and measure themselves and their mounts
not just against the trail, but against other competitors, getting
there first is a time-honored and meaningful way to do it.  We in
endurance have been remarkably successful in finding a format that
allows long-distance RACING to be done safely.  Is it 100% safe, no,
nothing in this life is, but the incidence of serious injury and death
for our horses is actually remarkably low.

We must, of course, always continue to work to make it lower still, as
low as we reasonably can.  That does not mean we should disparage
those who race, at any level, or try to remove racing from our sport.

Now, for the 10+ years:  Kahlil Khai competed in 18 ride seasons (17
consecutive) for a total of 11, 525 miles.  Most of those were RACING
miles, at everything from backyard 50's to the Race of Champions, in
seven AERC Regions and about 25 States.  Over 10,000 of those miles
were Top Ten, over 9,500 of those miles were Top Five, with many First
Places and Best Conditions.

He suffered a bowed tendon in the spring of his fourth ride season,
and was given six months off.  We returned to the trail in the fall
with a slow-paced 50, and moved up to Top Ten and a BC by the end of
the season.

One of the ways I approached keeping him healthy all those years was
to alternate our ride seasons.  One year "on," next year "off."  That
is, one year we'd ride an aggressive schedule going for Regional and
National Championships (up to 1900 miles in one season), followed by a
year where we'd do only a few hundred miles of rides.  

I'd use a 50 as a "warmup" one week before a major 100.  Of course, I
always believed in resting him between rides, we did very little
conditioning during an active ride season, mainly easy "toneup" rides
to keep him limber.

I mostly avoided the "fad" diets and stuck to basic feeds.  I did NOT
electrolyte AT ALL for conditioning rides, no matter how hot or humid
-- I wanted his body to adapt to conserving electrolytes!  After all,
that's the basic principle of conditioning, to stress the body so that
it adapts to the stress!  I did preload starting the evening before a
ride, and used some at vet checks (almost never anywhere else on the
trail), and only in moderation there.

One other little "trick" that I think helped us:  Jackie Mitchell (a
pioneer SE rider) once observed that "It isn't the running fast that
does the damage, it's the sudden stop [at the end]."  I think she had
something there.  So I never follow the adage during conditioning to
walk the horse home the last mile.  I come in from a conditioning ride
keeping the pace right up to the last 100 yards or so, so that the
horse gets used to suddenly stopping his exercise!  That fits with the
principle that I never ask my horse to do something in competition
that he hasn't done in training.

It's also due to that principle that I believe in conditioning
downhill at the pace you expect to ride downhill during a ride.  I
reject the idea that "there are only so many downhill miles in a
horse's legs, you must save them for the ride."  I do try to get off
(when I can) downhill during a ride, but I make sure to include
trotting and even cantering downhill during conditioning.

I could go on, but this is already pretty long, so I won't.


Joe Long


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[RC] More posts on PAC & Adios, KimFue