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[RC] Encouraging more 100 mile starts - KimFue

Instead of focusing on changing the 100 mile ride structure to accomodate de- elevators, mileage credit, and subsudizing 100 mile entries,  we can address why some people aren't trying 100s.  It seems that aside from the rider worrying about their own capability to go 100 miles it seems that one of the number one concerns is that many, many riders do not feel their horse is ready to do a 100 or that they are worried that they may hurt their horse doing a 100.
It would be nice if riders who have successfully completed 100 address these two concerns on ridecamp as well as the others mentioned in this discussion.  From my 100 mile experiences, I will address these two concerns.  Please realize that my 100 mile record is only average (probably a little less then 50% completion)  and I feel that my ability is about that of the average rider.  I have never been blessed with a "one in a million horse" that I feel can just go out and do it.  I rate my horses average to above average.  I have never ridden or owned a horse that doesn't have a quirk or issues that I have to work around.
1. Horse being ready for their first 100 -  I have never been sure that any horse I started in their first 100 was really ready to finish that distance. I will say it again....I WAS NOT SURE THAT MY HORSE COULD FINISH A 100.   None of these horses had ever done a 75 before moving on to the 100 mile distance.  I have taken 4 horses through their first 100.  All of them were able to complete a 100 by their second ride season.  All of them had a successful first 100.  They didn't need thousands of miles before entering their first 100.  I didn't have thousands of miles of experience before entering my first 100.....less than 400.  The most miles one of my horses had before their first 100 was 410 the least number of miles was 165.  In my eyes, these were not perfect candidates for the 100 mile distance as they all had quirks or issues BUT they were still able to finish 100 miles. 
2. Hurting the Horse- This seems to be be a real concern with many riders.  But I want you to think about this.  How are you going to hurt your horse by entering the horse in a 100?  How is this any different then thinking that you may hurt your horse if you move up from a 25 to a 50.  If you ride to your horse's ability, if you ride to finish and not place, if you pay attention to subtle signs that something may be wrong, there is a very minimal chance that you are going to hurt your horse by riding further and longer.   Even if you find you have to pull your horse after the 50 mile point because of lameness or metabolics, it doesn't mean that you have hurt your horse any more then if your horse is pulled in a 50 or a 25 mile ride or whatever distance you normally compete at.
Here are a couple suggestions I have for trying your first 100-
1. Pick a 100 mile ride that has terrain you/your horse are comfortable riding on. 
2. Do your last few training rides or last couple 50s at what you imagine your horse's 100 mile pace should be.  In other words, practice riding a little slower especially if you have a horse that is used to Top Tenning 50s.  Chances are that horse won't be able to maintain that pace in a 100.  You the rider need to know what that pace feels like before you are in the 100 so you don't make the mistake of going too fast the first half of the ride and not ending up with enough horse at the end.  Better yet when training, don't worry about how far (meaning miles) your training rides are but how many hours are spent in the saddle.
3. If night riding is a concern that is keeping you from riding a 100 get confident that your horse can travel in the dark and YOU trust your horse in the dark .  Plan a night ride near home on safe trails, leave before dark so that you can ease into the darkness.  Out and backs work great for this because you have already seen the trail in the light or dusk that day.  Also, plan this ride with a friend...better yet a friend who has ridden in the dark before.
4. Be mentally prepared to do 100 miles.  Everyone prepares in a different way. PRACTICE  RIDING IN THE MOMENT.  One mind game that works for me is focusing only on small segments of the ride at a time.  If I am only at 15 miles I refuse to allow myself to think about the 65 mile point or that I may still be out on the trail 15 hours from now.  That might bum out even the most hard core 100 miler especially if ride conditions, like weather, aren't great.  Ride vet check to vet check.
5. JUST DO IT!!  I know that there are those reading this post that have no desire to ever do a 100 mile ride.  This is not for you.  But for those of you that want to do one and are planning on doing one remember not to let your planned schedules, elaborate training programs for the 100 miler, etc. get in the way of actually DOING the 100.  Even if you don't finish your first 100 or even your second 100 you are learning things about your horse and yourself that you would not learn by just staying at the 50 mile distance. 
Kim Fuess
AERC #6648