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Going the Distance: You’re gonna need a horse

Horse Nation’s endurance editor Sharalyn Hay is back this week with some advice about the most important piece of the endurance equation.

From Sharalyn:

OK… in my first two posts I wrote about packing for your first endurance race because that’s what I happened to be doing at the time (and we all know it’s all about me, don’t ya know?).

I’m going to remedy that problem today. Let’s talk about buying a horse. And not just any old nag, either. You will need something that is going to be as enthusiastic about going 50 (or 75, or 100) miles as you are. At least, you will be enthusiastic until about mile 27 and then it’s all about just getting to the next vet check. By the way, I recommend someone at the vet check who will squash all protests that you are not fit to continue and throw your butt back on your horse anyway. But that’s another post for later.

So, you need a horse.

Now, traditionally, Arabians have ruled the roost when it comes to this sport. However, any horse of any breed can do this sport. No really. They can. This past weekend I saw a myriad of breeds happily toting their riders around the various distances. The horse you select just has to like being out on the trail as much as you do. Remember, personality is way more important when selecting your equine partner than breed is. For instance, a horse that bucks for the first 10 miles and generally pitches an unholy fit when asked to ride alone is going to be way less fun than one who just plugs along at the assigned pace and is happy with you as company and could care less which way the trailer (or the next patch of food) is.

So, you need a horse with the appropriate attitude.

Seems easy enough, right? Well, not as easy as you would think. Recently I’ve been helping a friend look for an endurance prospect. She is on a budget and a bit out of shape so she has been searching for something that she can get in shape with. She has looked at Arabs, Quarter Horses, National Show Horses (a SaddlebredxArab), Morgans, Quarabs (Quarter HorsexArab), Morabs (MorganxArab) and grade horses. The breed hasn’t been important. She just wants something that is appropriate to her size (she is about 6′) and her skill level.

She has even gone as far as to have two of them vetted out and was disappointed each time. The first had ring bone and the second had a hoof problem (can’t exactly remember what the problem was, per se) and he was suitable for light riding but not for the kind of riding she’d like to be doing someday. By the way, I totally recommend a vet check when you are looking to buy. Unless you can afford more than one. If this one doesn’t work out then it can be a pasture puff while you search for your next prospect. I got lucky. I bought my current horse as a yearling and after trying many different types of things, this just happened to be the sport that he loved best (not a huge surprise… he is an Arab, after all).

So, you need a horse with the appropriate attitude that can do the job.

After vetting out two no-gos, my friend was starting to get a little discouraged. Then she saw on Craiglist (I know, I know… not my first place to look either) a very nice-sounding Arab that was in her price range, had the endurance attitude and was sane. My friend called and chatted with the owner and made an appointment to see the horse… we’ll just call him Sane. When Friend went out to see Sane it happened to be a windy day. The horse seemed completely unfazed by the weather but the owner thought it was better for Friend to not ride that day. So she made yet another appointment to actually ride the horse next time. After that, Friend wanted to try Sane out on the trails and invited Flash and I to join them. Sane was, well, sane and Friend thought she had a winner. And then she realized that she wasn’t just dealing with an owner, she was up against CrazyLady.

CrazyLady wanted Friend to take lessons with her trainer (shouldn’t my friend decide who she wants to train with?), keep the horse in training with her trainer (again, isn’t that up to my friend?), approve of the place Sane would live (not against this one at all) and the demands went on and on. After trying to jump through all the hoops, Friend decided that Sane just wasn’t worth it.

So, you need a horse with the appropriate attitude that can do the job and is not owned by crazy people.

For my friend, the search continues. But she is seeing a very nice prospect this weekend and I hope that she’ll be saddling up soon and joining Flash and I on the trail.

Speaking of which, it’s time to ride. And remember… to finish is to win.

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