I had a lot of fun at the Endurance Conference for us (I can say “us” now!) Pacific Northwest riders. I went to as many talks and panels as possible and took notes. Because once a nerd/geek, always a nerd? Anyway, my plan is to write up some of what I learned this weekend, and my continuing thoughts about such things.
I also got some personalized advice from endurance-oldtimers (not that they were all old, just that they were experienced folks with lots of knowledge to share). Most useful is the advice I received on taking care of myself, since I know heat exhaustion is a real problem with me. I’ll relate some of that too, because I’m sure there are other Green Beans like me out there who have or will have similar issues with heat stroke and dehydration...
The endurance community continues to “wow” me. Chiefly, I am drawn in by how concerned the people in this sport are with equine welfare. The emphasis on listening to your horse’s needs first – with respect to comfort, health, and even their emotional needs – is something I am very attracted to. There are certainly bad eggs, but in general what I’ve seen in the endurance community is that these bad eggs are not tolerated as a whole. And having veterinary oversight does help, as does the general willingness for endurance folks to jump in and help and offer advice at any sign of trouble. This is a huge difference when I see the direction top-level dressage is going (it turns my stomach, to be perfectly honest). In dressage and many other equestrian sports right now things that I don’t like are WINNING at the top competitive level. And that’s not okay. I think in many other sports a good-natured horse can be forced to perform and rely on natural athletic ability rather than emotional investment. That’s not enough for me, ultimately, though I do see a difference in the "I don't want to" of a lazy horse versus a truly unhappy horse.
I do think this difference is in large part because endurance is HARD for both horse and rider. If the horse doesn’t enjoy this sport, you can’t be successful. Also, when you spend such a long time with your horse, a partnership develops unlike any other relationship in the world. I know for me, personally, something changed and deepened in my relationship with Deli when we rode out for miles and miles aloe in the wilderness. We gained the superhero power of telepathy, in a sense.
I still have that tentative goal of trying Deli in an LD someday if I am sure she can do it physically. We won’t know if she enjoys this until we try, and she is certainly the athletic type with the trail-loving brain that could very well succeed at the LD level. Beyond the LD level? I don’t know – that depends on Deli and what she seems to want/enjoy if we get to that point.
My goals for 2015 and Deli are a bit smaller – more trail riding, horse camping, and working on general fitness and health (mental and physical). I’m working on letting things happen as they happen, because my hope is that I will soon get a job offer that will require a big move. Which would mean Deli is going to sit (quite happily, I assure you) while I fuss with all the human parts of a Big Life Change. That’s okay.
Otherwise, Deli is doing really well. She is happy and getting more fit now that we are in a safe drama-free place. I’ve been working hard on getting her feet in really good shape with my own trimming efforts and have been happy with the results so far. One difficulty we are having right now is nebulous saddle fit issues that I’ll probably muse on in a future post.
Next post: examples of what to pack in your vet bag from the PNER conference 2015 gurus!
Last time: Another barn move and New Year musings.