Since I began endurance riding about 10 years ago I have been asked many questions. Many of these questions had to do with which rides do I like best, how to do something and in general things you could find in a book or by trial and error. Recently, I had the fortunate experience of introducing someone new to the sport of endurance riding and was asked the toughest question yet, “Why?”
I began to realize that putting this into words would take some time to collect my thoughts. Sure we all know “why” we love it, but when you have to put it into words, how can we do it justice?
My family has asked me this very same question. Some of them think I am crazy (and the others know I am). They just don’t understand why, why I enjoy spending endless hours in the saddle, sometimes not in the greatest weather conditions just so I can test my (and my horse’s) endurance. I think of riding my horse on top of mountains formed in the last ice age with a view stretching for miles. How the clouds slowly approach against the backdrop of blue while the trees sing when a gentle breeze blows through them. Listening to the distant call of a bird gliding along like a surfer rides a wave. Watching the sun rise, and set. How when you ride under the stars at night on a 100 you feel a peace that can’t be explained.
As an endurance rider I love my horses, and I love the outdoors. If you gave me a choice of going to a concrete theme park or to go hit the trail with my horse, the trail would win hands down. If you give me a choice of staying at a 5 star hotel or sleeping in my trailer, my trailer would win hands down. I also truly love taking care of my horses, feeding them, cleaning up after them, and tending to their every need. I love watching them turn into the incredible athletes that they have become.
My curiosity makes me need and want to see what is around the next bend or up the next hill, and it doesn’t matter how many times I do the same ride every time it is different. The same things won’t be around the same bend each and every time; sometimes the bend is even in a different spot. I like the knowledge that what matters is the experiences I take home with me.
Then there is always the adventure that keeps me coming back for more. The simple knowledge that many of these great places can only be seen by a few. I enjoy the challenge of getting to a certain place with my horse. It is worth every step, bug bite and any other discomfort along the way just to know that they will soon be forgotten, with the first aah or wow of the view or the satisfaction of completing the ride. I love the flowers and the trees that surround me. I love the way being out there makes me feel, refreshed relaxed and carefree. I love the smell of the woods, the dirt under my fingernails, and the scent of horse sweat while enjoying the rhythm of his hoof beats.
Why do you want to be an endurance rider? For me it was not an easy question to answer, and I couldn’t answer it with only one phrase, such as I love riding my horse. It goes beyond words; it’s the feelings and the enjoyment of spending time with my horse, the great outdoors and the competition.
Endurance riding is a sport that has something for everyone. You can ride alone, with your friends or family. You can start with a horse you already own or search for the ideal prospect. Most riders participate for completion rather than placing, for them riding 50 or 100 miles on a sound horse is satisfaction enough. The greatest reward of all is the bond you will form with your horse and the great feeling of accomplishment you will feel when you work together as a team.
A great place to learn more information on endurance riding is endurance.net or aerc.org.