Endurance: It's Not Just The Race
by Teresa Frame
I do not think there could be a happier fourteen year-old girl than me. I get out of a day of school on Friday to spend a weekend doing what I love most: riding horses. I want to share what it is like to go to an endurance ride.
The races are usually on a Saturday. Depending on where we are going, we try to leave early enough to get there and set up camp and rest the horses. The races will start between six and eight on Saturday morning.
After three plus hours of pulling a horse trailer, two stops for the horses and four bathroom stops for little sister, we finally pull into the campground7. The first thing we do is try to find the perfect campsite. One that is not too downhill, in the shade but with enough sunlight to stay warm, close enough to water, but far enough away from the outhouse. Once we have that, the rest is easy. Get the horse out of the trailer (which should not be hard, depending on the horse) and take his leg wraps off. Finally, we set up a high line to tie the horses. Some set up electric fences or fancy fence paddocks.
Then I have to register my horse. I have to be sure not to forget my coggins. When I register, I am given a number. If I wanted to be normal, I would write the number on my horse's rear in one color and go to the vet check for the pre-race exam, but my sisters and myself like to write the number in one color and then decorate the horse in many other colors. It has somehow become tradition for us to cover my dad's white horse with pink polka dots while he is not looking.
Once I get my horse vetted, I can go back to the campsite and brush, feed, and electrolyte my horse. After that is done, I can hang out. I like to go visit friends I only see at endurance races. Endurance races are great places to meet new people and visit old friends. We like to share new stuff we've learned and are always willing to give advice or a helping hand to new people. I remember my first race and everybody was so nice and gave me lots of tips on how to do things better.
The next part is the ride meeting, that is always the night before the race. Be sure to pay close attention at the ride meetings because they always have information, such as where to start, how long the hold times are at the vet checks, what a horse's pulse rate has to be to continue and where to be careful on different parts of the trail. One time they said not to ride on the bridge in the pine trees. Obviously, someone did not listen, because by the time we got there several boards had been broken through. Luckily, it was only a small ditch.
By the time the meeting is over, it is dark and we are tired, but we cannot sleep yet. We have to get all our tack ready for tomorrow. That includes making sure everything is secured including my saddlebag. In my saddlebag, I will need my map, easyboot, vetwrap, granola bars, hoof pick, baling twine (fixes everything), first aid kit, and a pocketknife. Oh yeah, and I need to have my ride card in there too. I always forget that. After I mix my horses feed for the morning, then I can go to bed.
This is probably the time I am most nervous. The night before a race, I usually cannot sleep. But not to worry, it all goes away by morning.
I set my alarm two hours before I have to wake up, so I can feed my horses. I do not want to feed them right before I ride. After I feed, I lay back down. The next thing I know... "BEEP, BEEP, BEEP." It feels like I just went to sleep five minutes ago.
Now I am awake for the second time to eat my breakfast. I usually have chocolate milk and a banana. Do you know how sometimes your side will start hurting? That means your body has used up its potassium. I eat bananas so that will not happen.
Now I get my horse ready to go. While grooming, I am sure to braid her mane. This serves a couple of purposes. It keeps her cooler, makes it easier to sponger her neck, and it looks pretty.
I have to be careful of the time, I do not want everyone to leave without me. I put my water bottle in and mount up, being sure not to forget my helmet.
I go to the starting line and wait for the time to start. If I were racing to win, then I would need to get in front of the pack. If my motto is "to finish is to win," then I will hang back a little and try not to let mud get kicked in my face.
Now that I have started the race, I could tell you a million stories about the fun and adventures of the next ten hours, but I will leave you with the wisdom I try to remember out on the trail: be sure to signal for a sudden stop, be nice to the pit crew, go to the bathroom when I get the chance, be courteous, be nice to the horse, and have fun.
(Teresa Frame is a fourteen year old who rides endurance for Rosemark Arabians. She is a member of the Mid South Arabian Horse Association and the American Endurance Ride Conference. Her last race was the Nationals in which she completed the race in just under ten hours...riding with a broken ankle. For more information you can contact her by email at TCFArab@aol.com).
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