Pushing the young horses is definately a mistake. I tend to take
things very slow, but I would figure the following:
Age 4 - do a couple of slow 25 mile rides. Teach the horse that
going slow and easy is alright. Learn what a ride is all about.
Teach the horse to ignore the other horses and not run with them
but to ride your ride.
Age 5 - You might start out with a 25, but if your goal is longer
riders, move up to the 50 mile rides. TO FINISH is to Win.
Remember this. Use the 50 mile rides as training rides.
Age 6 - With a good horse, now you can move to competing in the
50 mile rides. Rate your horse. Rate yourself. If your horse
is going well, you can increase the speed and see just how good
your horse is.
Age 7 - Do 50 mile rides until you can finish the ride and still
have lots of horse left over. If at the end of a 50 both you and
the horse are just warmed up, then think about an easy 100.
Age 8 - You've done your ground work. Look for a couple of easy
100s. If you can get through the easy ones, then think about the
Age 9 - You can try some of the harder 100s. You can try to
compete at the easier 100s.
Age 10 - Go for it. Age 10 through late teens are the best
years for long distance competition.
Mind you, if you buy a non-endurance horse full grown, add the age of the
horse to the age numbers above. (Buy a 10 year old, first
year only do 25s, at 11, do some 50s, etc.)
To finish a 100 mile ride: one set of numbers I heard was:
Use 25% of your horse during the first 50 miles.
Use 25% of your horse during the next 25 miles.
Use the last 50% of your horse during the last 25 miles.
So, until you are really fresh at the end of 50 miles, you
might not be ready to go on to longer distances.
What do those of you who regularly do 100s think about the above
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