Bottom line, I love endurance too much to not support the various wonderful aspects of it. I am forever amazed that anyone could discount anyone's effort in getting themselves and their horse to and giving their best shot at an AERC ride, whether it's 25 miles or 100. I started AERC as a sponsored junior riding LDs 12 years ago and the value of those shorter rides as a mental training tool for the horse and mental (and perhaps physical) training tool for the rider was driven home for me. There are myriad reasons why riders choose to keep themselves and/or their horses in LDs, and those should be acknowledged and respected just as avidly as we cheer on those who jump to ever farther distances.
Personally I love multi-day 50s and am aiming for my first 75 and 100 miler this year with my coming 9 yr old Rushcreek. In the last paddock on the right here in my stable yard, however, resides a beloved little bay who stands 14 hands high on his four hooves but a million miles tall in my heart.
Blaze was advertised as a 14.3 hand Arabian, 12-14 years old. He is in fact a 14 hand Arabian(x?) and I've had him since 2009 so that makes him now 17-19, let's say 18! No papers, past mostly unknown, and who cares! He is the greatest.
I have failed miserably on him (read that story here!), Top 10'd on him, sorted cows, trotted gymkhanas, given many a "First time on a Horse" ride, and just generally enjoyed the hell out of life with this little bay guy over the years. He's a picky eater and is an okay drinker at the best of times. He has an old injury, a 1" "knob" on the inside of his left hind fetlock that causes him to interfere with any hoof protection no matter how I change his angles, so he goes totally barefoot in the hind, even in LDs, and has never had an issue. He looks "fancy" when he moves which translates to kidney-failure-inducing loftiness--I simply am not exaggerating when I say that 30 miles on him exhausts me physically more than multiday 50s on my mare. He tends to get mentally attached to others and get a bit silly to get it done, but at this point that is easily managed into a happy mid pack LD finish. His slow trot is 8.5 mph, he has a huge stride and a totally game canter and looking out from between his eagerly pricked little ears you can feel him yearning to stride ever faster and see what's around that next corner.
Wild West 2013, Blaze completed Days 1 and 3
So COULD Blaze complete 50 milers? No doubt. But the intense management it would require to keep him hydrated and going for 25 more miles as a stressy/picky eater, along with the risk to his bare hind hooves, and the look he gives me after 30 miles finished with a solid vet card and CRIs, which still always suggests Contented Doneness--make me sure that he quite enjoys his late teens career as all around awesome and occasional LD horse. You know how if you listen just right, your horses tell you things?
Every time I sign up for an LD I battle that inner voice saying that the time/money isn't worth it for that short a ride. But a few times a year I end up marking that LD box and writing down Blaze's name anyway, because it IS worth the effort and money, for love of the sport, and for my beloved boy getting out and doing what he so clearly enjoys. Neither of us want him to go 50 miles but that doesn't make his enjoyment or contribution any less than my 50 miler gelding. I've got 4 LDs mapped out for Blaze and I this year to tip me over to that 500 mile patch, and that should put Blaze at about 300 LD miles. Regardless of the numbers, we're sure to keep having fun, and I encourage others to not only do the same but be supportive of all horses and riders out on the trail--who knows what they have overcome to get there and good for them for even saddling up!
Now that I'm off my soapbox, here's the pics from riding with Blaze and N and Willow yesterday. Willow was in rare form wandering off the trail in search of who knows what! Mares, haha! I discovered that I favor Blaze's right diagonal posting the trot too but also that he is nowhere near as one sided and hard to ride in the left diagonal as Scrappy was. Interesting!
Look N I made Willow look like stout pony in a picture, bahaha!
back to the trailer after 13 miles