When I was 31 we moved onto property with horses. The landlord had an extra horse that she eventually let me train and ride and race. I was finally back into horses after a 11 year break! I missed it so much. I was always the horse obsessed little girl, but my parents said they were too expensive and so I never had one as a child, nor had the opportunity to work at ranches or anything. I don't feel like I really knew much about horses until I started riding and learning with this lady. When I finally got back into them, I realized just how much I really didn't know! I started working at a neighboring horse ranch, and read everything I could get my hands on, from the AERC website and training guides, to endurance blogs. I also found out that a lady named Eileen, that I used to work with at the vet hospital, was an endurance rider, so I contacted her and she became my mentor! She started riding with me and showed me the ropes!
The horse I got to ride was named Bella, a 19 year old little black Paso cross. She was small, but mighty! I think she was around 14.2 hh, but could go all day and all night. She never tired. Before I started riding her, she was used for Gymkhana, and mountainous trail rides so she was very fit. We conditioned and trained for 6 months in order to prepare for the race. I was so fortunate to live on the edge of Hollenbeck Preserve so I was able to train and ride 3-5 times a week. I used online programs like MapMyWalk to map out a 9 mile, 12 mile, and 15 mile loop. They were amazing training loops. The terrain was extremely varied, and went from canyons, to hills, to sand, to oak groves, to meadows and shifted between fire roads and single track trails.
I didn't "overtrain" my horse, but definitely did a lot of training. I planned to do my first ride that fall, but I had never ridden more than about 12 miles myself, so I had no idea how long or how hard a 25 mile ride would be for myself or the horse, and I wanted to be plenty prepared.
We trained all summer and I felt we were ready. I signed us up for a 25 mile Endurance Ride called the "Best of Both" (25 mile Limited Distance Race) on October 5th 2013. I ended up being taken under the wing of another lady, Phylicia, and we went together in her motorhome and horse trailer (as I didn't have one yet).
There were so many neat first experiences and things learned. Bella was strong and plenty fit all day. We started near the rear, but by mile 3 or 4 we were close to the front runners. By about 6 miles in we were in first place. We came into the vet check (at mile 12) in first place, and left in first place. There was a little trio of us that ended up riding together, Myself, Victoria, and Valerie. We rode pretty much the entire ride together and cantered in the last mile or two into base camp. Bella ate, drank, and pulsed down quickly and did great. We ended up getting first place!
I think some people might have thought I was an inexperienced person to endurance and just went out and yahoo'd my horse and overrode her, but that was only if they didn't know us! They didn't know that we had literally been training for 6 months prior to this ride. Bella was so fit, she pulsed down within a minute or two at every stop. I was also given the good advise to "ride at the speed you train at", and that's exactly what we did.
All in all it was a great ride and I learned a ton! So thankful to my mentor Eileen, and my Friend Phylicia for making it happen!
The next year we ended up moving off the property and Bella stayed with her owner.