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[RC] Getting a horse ready for its first endurance ride - long - Cunningham, Marci

I thought newby ridecampers might enjoy reading about my experience in getting my youngster ready for her first endurance ride. ?I am one of those old timers who don’t believe that horses need a full year or two of LD rides before moving up to 50’s. ?Aul Ablaze is out of my retired endurance mare and by a non-endurance stallion that has bloodlines similar to several highly successful endurance horses. ?His forte is dressage and sport horse and has movement to die for. ?Blaze was born and raised in a pasture and I am fortunate to have irrigated pasture all year long. ?I ponied her briefly as a 3 year old and sent her to a trainer shortly after she turned 4. ?She stayed with him for 2½ months, and he did a wonderful job with her, and then I brought her home. ?I immediately started riding her on trails along with some arena work. ?During the summer with longer days, I was able to ride a couple of times during the week and on the weekend. ?We didn’t ride far but I exposed her to lots of different things such as bridges, rivers, bicyclists and hikers, and quail in the bushes. ?Once the days got shorter I didn’t ride during the week since I work full time and only rode on the weekends. ?I also have another endurance horse that is 15 and approaching 5,000 miles and Blaze is to be my replacement for him.? In November, December and January I rode her on some 10 to 15 mile training rides. ?


In February of this year I took her to the 20 Mule Team 35 mile LD and rode with two friends. ?I purposefully set this ride up for success in that we started late after everyone else and had two horses to pace us. ?She wasn’t a perfect angel and did her share of pulling whenever she saw horses ahead so I was sure glad I was wearing gloves.? A few other riders started later than us and she had to deal with horses passing us. ?The great thing about this ride was that it was all one loop and we didn’t return to camp until the finish. ?She learned a lot on this ride and was tired at the end. ?She took extra time to pulse down at the vet checks but that was due mainly to the excitement from all that was happening around her. ?By the last vet check she figured out that drinking water was a good thing.? It was her first experience camping in corrals at my trailer and since she had friends around her she never was frantic. ?It took us 6¼ hours to finish the 35 mile ride and I was pleased with the time.


In May, after she turned 5, I took her to her first 50 which was a limited entry ride so it wasn’t too big or overwhelming. ?Since it was a 2 day ride I also took my gelding and rode each horse one day. ?Blaze was ridden the first day and we took 9½ horses to complete. ?Again I had friends to ride with who were going the same pace and the whole experience was non stressful. ?We started after everyone else and she was much improved from the February ride. ?This ride had lots of hills and was a good workout. ?Again she was tired at the end, but no more than she was from the 35 mile LD.? She was EDPP’ing like a pro.? I don’t expect my horses not to be tired after going 50 miles because I don’t train hard and I like to use real endurance rides as part of my training regimen.? In June I took both horses to a 5 day ride in Nevada and my plan was to ride each horse 2 days.? I rode Blaze on Monday and Thursday and Koztarr on Tuesday and Friday and I took Wednesday off.? On Monday we spent 10½ hours on the trail and on Thursday it took us 9 hours to complete. ?I had a friend to pace with each day and Blaze again learned so much from the experience. ?She started the ride at a walk with the rest of the pack, learned to drink from little streams and she tailed my riding companion as she was leading her horse up a steep hill on the first day. ?We may or may not go to a ride in the fall but we will be starting up again in January for sure and I think she will be capable of doing a 100 the following season when she turns 7 but I try not to plan that far in advance. ?


I highly recommend multi day rides for starting new horses as the stress level is almost non existent. ?Most riders start out at a walk and aren’t in too much of a hurry to go faster until the horses are well warmed up.? Newby riders might think that they don’t know anyone who they can ride with but if they ask at the ride meeting often there will be someone who will volunteer.? I strongly encourage new riders to leave camp after the start to avoid the stress and commotion of the crowds and there are many veteran riders who do the same thing.? Even if you don’t have any close multi day rides consider finding one to go to. ?The Nevada ride was a 12 hour haul and we took 2 days going but came home in 1 day. ?I will also add that I started endurance in my early 30’s and have been at it for close to 25 years. ?


Happy Trails,

Marci Cunningham

Bakersfield CA