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k s swigart

For my last post when I stated that '50 miles is not considered
"classic" distance in endurance any more than 6 furlongs is
considered a "classic" distance in TB racing.'

I am sorry if there are endurance riders who consider
50 miles a "classic" endurance distance just because most people
(myself included) ride 50 mile rides.

Most people who own Thoroughbreds never have a horse that can
"go around two turns" but they still don't consider 6 furlongs
a classic distance, no matter how many races the horse wins
..and most people own a late model car, but they still don't
consider their 96 Ford Taurus a classic car.

It deeply saddens me that there is anybody out there who thinks
that 50 miles is a classic distance in endurance (and, to be
honest, it never occurred to me that there was).  It saddens me
because it it just one more indication that the sport of
endurance is moving in a direction that I don't care for (i.e.
shorter distances in less time).

I first became interested in endurance because of an article in
_Practical Horseman_ about Lari Shea's journey to win the Tevis
Cup, and was inspired...THAT was a sport that I could get in to.
THAT was a goal that I could pursue (with my horse that didn't
want to be an eventer, he wanted to be a trail horse :)).

Lest you think that I am one of those "old timers" who says "back
in the days of real endurance when we only had 100 milers..." I
am a relative newcomer to the sport (about 9 years) with
relatively few miles to my credit (about 2,800), of which...wait
now...a mere 100 (yes that is ONE hundred) are miles I have
earned in a one day 100.

I have learned a lot from the 100 milers that I haven't finished:

I learned that even horses that can go 50 miles barefoot, cannot
go 100 miles barefoot.

I learned that EasyBoots don't stay on barefeet very well if you
don't glue them on...and one bare foot is worse than four.

I learned that no matter how good your horse is doing, you can't
ride another 40 miles in a freezing rain/snow storm wearing
nothing more than a blue denim jacket...and prudent people don't
even try (with the sub lesson being..."Plan for snow and always
bring foul weather gear even if you are going to a ride in
San Diego in June.")

I learned that good gut sounds don't mean anything if your horse
isn't eating well.

I learned that even 5 more miles is too much to ask your horse
to go if the horse isn't having any fun (with the sub lesson
being that you don't have to leave the vet check at your out
time...which I already knew, but had forgotten after 18 hours
in the saddle:)).

I learned that if you don't train on the flat...don't race on the
flat.  You can get away with that for 50 miles, but not for 100.

And what I learned from the one that I did finish..."100 miles
is A LOT further than 50" and when I told this to Mike
Tomlinson (the head vet at the ride) his response was, "Yes, and
it is more than just twice as far."

I would rather ride 55 miles of a 100 miler and not complete than
I would finish a 50 miler...and I would learn more too.  In the
AERC we have the motto, "To finish is to win" and if winning
is too easy, the victory is hollow.

I may never finish another 100 miler in my life, I may fall off
my horse and break my neck and never ride another horse in my
life, but you will NEVER get me to say that 50 miles is a classic
endurance distance just because it is all I (and most other people)
do.  Will I ever win Tevis?  Probably not.  Will I ever win that
National 100 Mile Award?  Probably not.  Will I ever even be in
contention?  Probably not.  Does that mean that I want the AERC
to change the format so I can win it?  Most definitely not!  If
winning is too easy, the victory is hollow.

Classic endurance horses have to go 100 miles in the same way
that classic thoroughbreds have to go around two turns.  The
ones we revere and speak of as great go the distance. And one
of the reasons we hold them in awe is because so few can....

..go the distance.

So if anybody was offended because I said that 50 miles is not a
classic distance in endurance, I am deeply sorry.  Not just
because you were offended...but because I am sorry to know that
such people even exist.

Here's to hoping that 50 miles is never considered a classic
endurance distance (at least not in my lifetime) and that they
never shorten the Belmont, just because most horses can't go
that far.

And if you want to slap me because I
think this, you are welcome to...tomorrow I leave for the Fall
XP and will be there all week.  If you miss me there, I will be
at the Outlaw Trail (where I will personally congratulate Sharon
and Crockett for their victories last week--two truely great
endurance riders with many truely great endurance horses). To
make it easy to recognize me...I will be the one in the shitty
old Ford truck and wearing a navy blue Greek sailor's cap.

Orange County, Calif.

p.s.  I am still absolutley floored by the one contention that this
was a good Championship format because it makes the Championship
available to everybody not just those who dedicate themselves
to it.  If a good format is one that makes it so any member can
become national champion without riding their butt off all year
long...why don't we just draw straws...then everybody would
have the same chance?

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