To Finish Is To Win

American Endurance
Ride Conference

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Endurance News -- July 2015

President's Letter
Vice President's Message
Junior/Young Rider News
Classified Advertising

President's Letter: The Best-Laid Plans

by Michael Campbell, AERC President

The full quote is: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry) from the Scottish poet Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse." It is more famously associated with John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men."

Most endurance riders are intimately familiar with the concept of the quote. Early in the ride year, you plan your season. You decide which rides to attend and which horse to take to each ride. You decide which distances to ride, perhaps setting up your horse's conditioning for a particular ride -- maybe Tevis, Old Dominion or the National Championship.

You plan days off from work and develop a budget for entry fees and travel expenses. You may plan inoculations, teeth floating and a shoeing schedule. You anticipate each ride with a training schedule and appropriate rest periods. You know where you want to be every step of the way to your goal.

Even within a single ride, you prepare a plan: beet pulp or mash after each loop, hay or alfalfa, when to administer electrolytes, how fast to ride each loop, to trot out with or without tack, whether or not to pick out your horse's feet before the trot-out. You have all the necessary items ready before you start the ride.

Even if you are not quite that compulsive in your plans and preparations, you probably have a general idea of what your expectations are for the ride year and for each ride -- and you prepare to meet those expectations. And you are disappointed when something goes awry.

And in the sport of endurance riding, something almost always goes awry. Your horse won't load and delays your departure. You have a flat on the way to the ride. A piece of tack breaks. You forget to bring some essential item. Your horse gashes his leg while unloading. Your horse loses a shoe. Your horse gets into something he's not supposed to (gorges on feed, etc.) and develops a mild colic. Your horse won't drink that day. The list goes on and on: lessons in life and endurance.

We can learn much from these lessons in life, most obviously the benefits of being prepared. But most beneficially, we can learn lessons in tolerance and acceptance of our own and our horse's best efforts.

When something goes wrong and disrupts our plans and expectations, our first reactions are disappointment and frustration. These reactions are important at first to learn from and correct the mistake. But they become futile and destructive with time. None of us can afford to spend much time with that destructive mindset.

Mature, experienced endurance riders move on quickly. At a ride, after being pulled, the rider moves on to crew for a friend or volunteer for the ride. When plans are disrupted in a ride season, the rider shifts training emphasis to another horse or helping a friend condition horses.

How you handle the "awry" is a choice and a reflection of character. Think, for a moment, of an endurance rider that you admire and respect. How does that rider handle setbacks? Our most reliable and successful riders learn the lesson and move on. They persist in the pursuit of whatever goal they had set, whether large or small, or they adjust the goal. They make the conscious choice to learn and move on. They do not let those temporary emotions control decisions of greater import like how they are going to live life.

We are all known and remembered for the choices we make. If we choose disappointment and frustration, we will be thus known. And if we choose support and encouragement of others, we are likewise known. Few are ever remembered for any specific accomplishment. We are all remembered for our service to one another whether it is great or small.

As a brief aside, there are more things in the world that can go wrong and hurt us than can go right and help us. To survive and thrive, we adapt and keep moving.

This is the character of our sport: to endure. The very name of our sport demands that we persist through hardship and ride on. This is the main attraction of endurance riding, that it builds character for everything we do in life. We learn over and over with each ride season to endure hardship and to overcome setbacks. As we learn to endure in our sport, endurance becomes a trait in our personalities which serves us well in our riding and everything else we do in our lives.

The best laid plans of mice and men and endurance riders do often go awry, every season and almost every ride. But endurance riders persist and endure because to finish is to win.

Vice President's Message: Dive in Hoof-First

by Lisa Schneider, AERC Vice President

Your very first endurance ride can often foretell how you are going to like this sport, if your horse is suitable for endurance and even if you're going to stay in the sport. That means it's critical that you set yourself up for success by doing your homework to properly condition yourself and your horse.

Choosing your first ride is just as important. Here are several factors that can influence your decision and some tips for avoiding common mistakes. Ask me how I know this? I made all of them (and more), so here's a good opportunity to learn from someone else's mistakes.

-- Choose a ride that is fairly close to home so you can minimize the travel stress and maybe even go there to train on those same trails.

-- If you can't go train there, find out what the terrain is like and train on trails that simulate that ride. One common mistake is thinking you can compensate for hilly terrain by just going faster on flatter terrain. Another common mistake is to train on hilly terrain to compensate for sand.

If the ride has water crossings, and your horse thinks he's going to drown every time he sees a puddle, then find some creek crossings to get him used to it. One creative friend purposely flooded the portion of her water-phobic horse's corral that he had to cross to get to his food. He very quickly figured out that he wasn't going to die if he walked through the puddle to get his dinner and special treats.

-- Ask the ride manager if there are any unusual things to note. Cows, rivers, or large boulders in base camp all can stress out a horse in a new environment. One ride we went to had emus next door to the base camp. I had never been close to an emu and didn't know they make an unusual sound.(Neither did our horses.) Those emus completely threw off the horses. They didn't eat, drink or do anything other than stare at the big birds with heart rates high enough to simulate climbing a mountain.

We ended up packing up and moving our rig to the other side of base camp, as far away as possible. The horses relaxed immediately. If I had known beforehand, I never would've parked there.

-- Train in weather conditions that simulate those expected at the ride. Predicting the weather must be an art and a science because the forecasters get it right significantly less often than my husband's arthritic joints. Checking multiple weather websites can help, but as we head into summer, chances are good it will be hot and/or humid. Training in the middle of the day rather than early mornings can help and working outside during the hotter parts of the day can help increase your heat tolerance.

Just be careful to keep yourself hydrated and try out various hydration products so you can use something on the ride that you know works for you. Bicycle shops, running stores, and sporting goods stores carry a big variety of sports drinks (Cytomax, PowerAde, Nuun), energy gels (Clif Shot, Hammer Gel, Gu, Honey Stinger), energy chews (Chomps, PowerBar Performance Energy Blasts, Clif Shot Blocks) and other similar products to help maintain your hydration and energy. There's even a gum that relieves dry mouth and quenches your thirst (Quench).

-- Train with other horses to simulate the excitement that will happen on ride day. Arrange to condition with groups of friends so your horse gets used to seeing strange horses and learns to handle the extra energy generated by a big group. This is a good opportunity to check that your "braking system" works and your horse knows to keep his attention on you. This situation is often when your horse's Evil Twin might show up!

-- Camping with your horse can be a bit intimidating the first time, so decide on and practice the type of horse confinement system you will use at the ride. You can tie the horse to the trailer, use a Hi-Tie, a portable corral, or electric fencing. Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, and Ken and Julie Herrera have produced excellent educational videos on this and related topics on AERC's YouTube channel.

-- So I learned all this the hard way, via the school of hard knocks. When I was about 12 years old, my family decided to make a mini-vacation out of my first endurance ride. We packed up the tent, borrowed a trailer and off we went to the beach area in San Luis Obispo, which is in central California. We camped in the woods for a few days and rode the trails around the camping area.

After stumbling on a very large and overly enthusiastic beehive, the horses were stung multiple times, we were almost bucked off, and I had a bunch of bees stuck in my turtleneck sweater. The horses and I were traumatized, especially when I couldn't get the bees out of my sweater. My mom packed mud on all my bee stings and my brothers said I looked like a mud monster.

The next day, we camped near the ocean and went for a ride on the beach. My horse spooked and dumped me into the first wave. I was wearing a sweatsuit that weighed about 500 pounds after being soaked in salt water. I struggled to get out of the water and finally got on the hard-packed sand to chase after my galloping horse. Fat chance of catching up with him!

He came back shortly, looking scared. He was fine, but I was thrashed.

The next day was the ride. My horse had been as thoroughly traumatized as had I and it's amazing he hadn't colicked by this time. His Evil Twin showed up for the ride and I had a runaway on my hands. My tack was woefully inadequate: a cheesy hackamore and an old English saddle without breast collar or crupper.

The start went straight up a mountain and then down a steep single-track trail. Forget water bottles or waist packs for snacks (I don't think they had been invented yet). I was lucky just to hang on by my fingernails. I think I even had toe cramps from gripping with everything I had. We finished the ride but I couldn't walk right, I was dehydrated, I had blisters on my hands and my back was sore from the horse pulling on me.

Somehow we survived this crazy weekend and I basked in the praise of friends at our camp and later, back at the stable. While relating the story to my friends and family, it became painfully clear that we didn't have a clue what we were doing and needed to figure things out to do better next time. Yes, it was a given that there would be a next time!

Why, you ask? I was hooked on the whole atmosphere of people who love their horses, love to ride with their friends and see new trails. I had a blast and 12,000 miles later, I'm still having a blast.

So if things don't go quite right at your first ride (or your second, or your 50th), remember each ride is always going to be different with various challenges to overcome. There will always be fun people to meet, incredibly athletic horses to see, stuff to learn and new trails to ride. Happy trails!

Junior/Young Rider News: The Ultimate Family Sport

by Terry and Nalisa Bradley

Hello, endurance friends. We would like to take a minute to introduce ourselves and let you know how honored we are to serve you on the Junior Committee. We are Terry and Nalisa Bradley. Terry was actually the first one to get involved in endurance riding at the age of 16. There was a very wise basketball coach at the high school that Terry attended. Even though Terry did not play basketball, this coach gave him some life-changing advice that he took to heart.

That advice was to go out and find a "lifetime sport." Terry was surprised that such advice would come out of the mouth of a basketball coach. Basketball was not a lifetime sport, and neither was football. Both tennis and golf were considered lifetime sports, but Terry shared no interest in either.

Terry had heard of an endurance ride held near his home in central Utah: Hell's Kitchen Canyon Endurance Ride. With a little research Terry found out that the sport was dominated by women over 40. Certainly that would qualify as a lifetime sport, and certainly a 16-year-old boy with one fast quarter horse should be able to beat a woman over 40, right?

Let us just say that was the beginning of a lifetime of education, and the schooling never ends.

We were married 25 years ago, only after Terry taught Nalisa how to ride. We have raised five children in the sport of endurance. When one of our children was once asked how old they were when they got on their first horse and rode, they could not answer the question.

Not one of our children can remember the first time they rode. They had always ridden. As babies they were carried in a little pouch on the front of Dad or Grandpa and traveled all over the mountainside. As they got older they were put on the old gelding and given the reins. Mom would lead their horse behind her own horse and they would pound out the training miles. It did not take long until the kids could control their own horses, and then the fun really began.

Summer vacations consisted of going to the various local endurance rides, building priceless memories that are still the favorite topics at family gatherings.

Even after 25-plus years, the sport of endurance continues to be a major driving force that brings the Bradley family together -- even though two of our kids are married and four out of the five are in college.

This is what we love most about the lifetime sport of endurance: what other sport is there where parents can compete right alongside their children? Most sports that involve kids require the parents to be spectators and cheer from the sidelines. There is nothing wrong with cheering from the sidelines, but there is something truly magical about competing side-by-side with your kids.

In a society where childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic, and fewer and fewer children are discovering a world outside of gaming, television, and mobile technological devices, it is sad that more families have not discovered the magic of endurance riding.

One of the greatest lessons our children learned from the sport of endurance is that they could do hard things. It was hard to go out in sub-zero temperatures to do chores because you were responsible for taking care of your horse.

It was also hard to give up time playing with friends because you needed to ride your horse and condition him for the next event. It was hard to ride multiple 50s day after day, or get up really early in the morning knowing you were not going to go to bed again until you and your horse completed 100 miles.

There were many times that the children were hungry, cold, wet, and tired, but they kept riding because five more miles meant the vet check, and the vet check would bring a moment of rest and possibly someone would give them a garbage bag to make a makeshift rain jacket to ward off the latest thunderstorm. Pulling was never an option as long as their horses were fit to continue. You just kept going because for some reason, which cannot be put into words, riding across that finish line made all the sacrifice and sore muscles worth it.

We look forward to working with the other members of the Junior Committee to achieve goals that will help promote endurance to the next generation as the ultimate family sport. Promotion of the sport is going to consist of putting together programs that help with education and mentoring our younger riders and their families how to successfully maneuver the sport of endurance year after year. The schooling never ends and there is always something new to learn.

Education will also include helping ride managers better adapt their rides to help accommodate junior riders and promote their rides to families. Many ride managers told us how much they loved seeing us show up to a ride because when the Bradleys pulled in that meant that five to seven more riders were entered on to the roster.

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences. Please feel free to email and tell us your stories, suggestions, and your concerns. Our main goal is to serve you. This is your lifetime sport and we want to see you be successful and to have an opportunity to share your success to help others become successful.

Together we can help this sport grow among our junior population. Please feel free to contact us at -- we would love to hear from you.

July 2015 Classified Advertising



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Endurance News is published monthly by American Endurance Ride Conference. Endurance News is sent without charge to AERC members as a benefit of membership in AERC. Subscriptions are also available to non-members for $40 per year within the United States, and $60 in Canada and Mexico. For those in other countries, subscriptions are available for $80. Single issues are $4 U.S.