My Little Experiment with Grace
A few years ago I started planning walks, that turned into run/walks trying for a 5k November of 2017. This year will be the third time at that 5k. That is where the experiment part is. To apply what I learned from training/conditioning to run- and using that to condition a horse for their endurance ride.
In the past I have done well conditioning horses, and used my own ways and traditional ways to condition, though became intrigued by what I had been learning, so I wanted to see how a horse will react over not just a season of training differently, though over the longterm. So began my little experiment with Grace. Meet Grace. Or Gracie Girl, or my angel. She is a 2006 American Warmblood, more specifically, she is sired by the Trakehner Stallion (now gelding) Karino's Fire & out of our much loved little APHA mare, Baily Zippo. Grace is a good little mare, and has been a bit of a pasture pony in her life, with leisure trails being her largest adventure. Gracie is an averaged sized, just a tad over 15.1 1/2 hands tall and has the biggest puppy dog personality you would ever think a horse could have. She leaves her food to get snuggles and follows me around like an oversized puppy.
In 2018 I decided that was going to be the year she became a dependable horse, one that I could saddle and go no matter how long she had sat, and that would haul well in both of my trailers, not just the roomiest one. We accomplished those goals and over the winter I decided that neither one of us was getting much younger, so in 2019 maybe we would set a goal of Grace being a horse that can at least complete a 25+ mile ride as the turtle or to aim for a conditioning pace that allows us to finish either mid to back of the pack in the Limited Distance (LD) division of Endurance riding. There is some actual audio of Grace & I on trail during her first ever LD ride. You can listen in my podcast Endurance Horse Podcast, episode "Non-Traditional Endurance Horses" episode 24
What is so great about Endurance riding?
The sport where to finish is to win.
The AERC, American Endurance Ride Conference is the national organization for Endurance Riding in the USA. They have a lovely system of tracking the lifetime mileage of your and the horse(s) you ride.
And they give you some pretty nice kudos.
Check out some of the Lifetime awards here at AERC.
Other Bonuses of Distance Riding:
More time with your horse
Great foundation on your horse & you for training, conditioning and awesome memories.
Meeting new friends, like minded folks who love to go camping with their equine best friends.
The traveling gypsy gathering that is ride camp, complete with a family like potluck and completion awards.
No one can take away all those miles and glorious memories that you will find out there on the trails with you and your horse.
Conditioning for endurance events gives purpose to your riding with your horse.
Tons of latitude on what gear you use. Endurance riders use what works for them and their horses, there is no 'set' of gear you must have.
you will learn a LOT about taking care of yourself and your equine on the trail.
A horse that has been conditioned slowly, and gets to regularly travel over the miles tends to become a stronger animal, and in my humble opinion has a much better future in aging, than had the same horse been just let to a life of being a pasture puff.
They will become stronger, you will become stronger and you will have a lifetime of miles to reflect back on.