Sunday, July 15, 2007

Endurance - The Good Ol' Days

I think the biggest change in endurance today is the riders and their
expectations. When I did my first ride in the late '70s as a totally
ignorant, clueless noob, the expectation was that I was still
responsible for myself and my horse, that would take care of my horse
and myself, to the best of my ability, and I would find the trail
markings and complete the ride in good order. It only took one ride
before I realized how ill-prepared I was, how much I could be risking,
and that the learning curve better be pretty steep because I was the
one responsible in this game. On many occasions people gently pointed
out the error of my ways, and on others, I was roundly cussed-out for
stupid things I'd done that impacted the horse--Learning by the dirt
on the seat of the pants, so to speak. Everyone was willing to help in
many ways, but this was not a sport for hand-holding.

Riders rode without helmets, in jeans, didn't carry water, didn't have
Power Bars and Goo, and did other stuff that negatively affected rider
as well as the horse, but we knew it was walking on the edge, and
accepted the risks and were self-sufficient as far as possible. Nobody
was truly to blame for a day's mishaps but ourselves.

We rode some hella fun and technical rides in the Northwest--the sheep
slide on Boise Basin, down the Boiler on Wolverine, parts of Hells
Canyon and Grimes Pass, and you were on your own. There were places
you couldn't get a horse trailer in, or the vet checks were further
apart than really comfortable, or horse water might be really scary
scarce. Many, many times the only treatment for a horse was back in
camp. The standard joke was that ride manager would need to buy
another roll of ribbon for next year, since he used nearly 3/4 of a
roll marking that year's ride so be prepared to pay attention or ride
a bit longer than planned.

I kinda miss the "good 'ol days", especially when I had knees, but
many of today's riders can't, don't, and won't accept those risks for
their horse or themselves. And that's fine. I'm glad for the sake of
the horses that criteria is tougher and rides are moderated and
planned with more fail-safes in mind. That's the way it should be.
Managers should work within the expectations of riders that horse and
human safety is paramount, treatment vets should be available,
adequate water should be provided for, trails should be well marked,
and they are cognizant of the rules of the sport. Vets should be
prepared to treat a horse under field conditions to the best of their
ability. These are all good things.

HOWEVER, management still cannot eliminate all the risks. There are no
guarantees that problems won't arise with the weather, with the trail,
with the horse or human metabolism--a million thing can go wrong. It
seems there's an attitude among riders today that there should be no
risks, and there must be someone to blame if something goes wrong--and
if it isn't the vet, it's the manager, not the rider.

YOU hauled your horse to the ride. YOU paid the entry fee. YOU rode
him that day. YOU and ONLY YOU are responsible for that horse being
there. The one big thing that hasn't changed from past rides is that
YOU and ONLY YOU are still responsible for the health and safety of
your horse. People are willing to help, but it's YOU that signs that
release, and you need to think about what chances YOU may be taking
yourself and with your horse. Shtuff happens. Go with the attitude
that you're on your own. Can you do it without help? If you can, then
you're ready to ride an endurance ride. If you're expecting or
depending on someone else to get you and your horse through or rescue
you both when you do something wrong out of ignorance or bravado or
sheer stupidity, you're not ready to ride endurance.

If you don't accept the risk to your horse, you need to do things that
won't create risk for him, or take up Extreme Ironing and leave the
horse out of it. I guarantee he won't haul himself to a ride and cough
up an entry fee without you.

Grouchy old lady

PS. You kids gedoffa my lawn!

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