Endurance is a relatively “easy” sport to prepare for: get the miles in over the terrain you plan to compete on. Yes, there are a ton of intricacies that go into such a simple plan, but all in all there really isn’t that much more to it. Ride a lot on as varied a terrain as you can find.
I took my endurance conditioning very seriously and laid out strict plans in the weeks leading up to a race: how many miles at what pace on which days over which terrain. Life got in the way a bit, but in general I was pretty good at keeping to it. The nice thing with endurance, the way I did it anyway, was that I only needed to leg Gemmie up within a certain period of time for a specific race and since I only did 2 races a year that left a large chunk of time to toodle around or not ride at all if I couldn’t fit it in without adding more stress to my life.
Now that I am attempting to try my hat at eventing I am finding that my approach is…um…well..not very good at all.
For simplicity sake I am going to take out the fact that there are really three different sports to train for all at once and just focus on the fact that there is a lot to learn. This sport isn’t about just getting the miles in (and before someone goes and gets their panties in a big old twist, I do fully understand that endurance isn’t just about getting the miles in, but well lets be real..it kind of is), it is about learning, improving and perfecting a million skills all at once. In both the horse and rider.
Not riding Gem in two weeks prior to my lessons last week was stupid. It was necessary for my mental survival over the last two weeks and enhanced by my current lack of riding space at home, seriously dude mow the freaking weed pasture already!, but while in the past a two week hiatus could easily be made up for with a little bit of extra time out on trail, I found out the hard way that two weeks off isn’t going to get either of us anywhere now.
The thought struck me when I was watching YL ride her and noticed how incredibly unbalanced and out of shape for this she truly is. Yes, she can trot and canter down the trail for 50+ miles, but carrying herself in a deliberate and careful manner while not falling all over herself on the circle is a much different skill and one she is not currently fit enough for.
The point was driven home even harder when I took her cross country. Now, I’ll give myself a small break and admit that Gem is a totally different animal out in the open versus in the arena, but I highly doubt my warm up and subsequent ride would have gone anywhere near as well had we not just had a lesson two days prior. Riding her more frequently not only gets her energy out, but helps to solidify the concepts I am trying to get her to learn.
One day a week on the trail was sufficient in endurance for us to finish with all As and mid pack on pretty much any distance. The things I changed for the 100 were the pace and length of the conditioning rides and how far out I began to leg her up, but I still rode on trail once a week only. This just isn’t going to work in eventing. I am going to need to ride her more often even if it is for only a half an hour to work on halt transitions or walking or whatever. It is a big shift from my norm and hopefully some things will smooth out in my life to allow for it in the near future. The biggest thing is the guy mowing the darn field so I can ride at home again.
It is interesting though. I shifted my focus to eventing due to a perceived easier ability to do it. No more 45 minute haul one way to a trail head and 4+ hours spent on trail. I figured an hour spent riding at home would be an hour away from the kiddo instead of an all day trail excursion. While that is true on a pure time basis, the fact is that overall I actually need to be spending at least, if not more, time in the saddle for eventing versus endurance. It is still easier for me to do. Even when I trailer to RB to ride in the arena it is still only a 30 minute trailer ride and kiddo tends to love to come along and dig in the various arenas or walk the small trail looking for snakes, turtles and spiders. Hubby doesn’t mind coming because he knows it is an hour of riding time versus 4+ and we all generally have a great time. I just need to kick myself in the pants a bit to do it more frequently to set us both up better.