Limited Distance to Fifties - A Green Bean's Journey

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Jeanette is a long-time Riding Warehouse customer, dating back to our early years as Long Riders Gear. She competes in endurance and competitive trail in the New England region and is an AERC Green Beans member. She started in the sport with her big-hearted Spanish Arabian, Rio, and currently competes with a Trakehner-Shagya cross named Tariff whom she describes as the Fabio of her NE region. Jeanette and Tariff placed 1st at the Vermont Moonlight 50 the past two years and we’re grateful for her enthusiasm to share her experience transitioning from LDs to 50s.

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Moving on up from LDs to 50-miles

Standing in line for coffee the morning of my first 50-mile endurance ride in June 2015, Steve Rojek (who has ridden a staggering 50,000 endurance and competitive trail miles) stood behind me and asked, “Are you nervous for your first 50?” After a quick look back at the two years of 25-30 mile endurance and competitive trail rides I’d completed, I looked at Steve, smiled, and said, “Looks like I’m going to ride my horse all day, and I can’t imagine anything I’d like to do more”.

Truth is, like a lot of new distance riders, I stressed plenty up to that point over increasing from 30 to 50-mile competitions. My big worries were hurting my sweet and willing Arab gelding, Rio, and not completing the ride. It hadn’t been that long since 15 miles seemed like a pretty long ride through Vermont’s Green Mountains, where every trail is either going up or down!

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Cooling down is a crucial part of helping your horse pulse down at vet checks PC: Karen Poltynski

It's all about the horse

So I stayed with LD (limited distance) rides long enough to feel satisfied that Rio was happy and functioning very well at 25 and 30 miles. In those two years, I discovered some important management needs for my horse. Rio needed chiropractic to correct a pelvic misalignment due to an earlier fence jumping incident and a four-week shoeing cycle due to somewhat sloppy stifles. At rides, I also paid attention to my horse and did my best to learn what was normal for him so I’d know if he was getting in trouble at the longer distances. I learned his normal heart rate, how fast his heart rate recovered after work, how well he ate during rides, when he normally drank, if he changed his way of going when he was tired, and how well he traveled to and from rides. I adjusted Rio’s feed intake as his workload increased and discovered he doesn’t mind Perform ‘n Win electrolytes added to his mashes.

Endurance riding mentors are key

Those years were before the existence of the Green Bean Program, a group designed to provide riders with less than 1,000 AERC miles with an opportunity to join a team, compete and learn with others new to the sport. I now belong to this fabulous group where we can share thoughts about electrolyte use, training strategy, and offer encouragement to fellow riders.

Rio and I started out on our own, however. I volunteered to crew the Vermont 100 for an amazing rider and her Quarab, Whitey, to learn what I could about getting a horse through the longer distances. That night, I learned to crew in waterproof footwear because Quarter Horses may need an actual river of water at holds to pulse down. I was also fortunate in having Donna Shrader (recipient of the AERC Volunteer Service Award in 2015 with her late husband Buck Shrader), offer to mentor me via email after I made a random mentor request on social media. Though I had never met her, she offered sage advice which was mostly along the lines of: do lots and lots of slow, long-distance miles and never increase your mileage or speed in the same ride.

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Never push your horse too hard and always have fun! PC: Deb Whorf

The value of limited distance rides

During those years of LDs, I created a list that allowed me to pack systematically by location (truck, trailer, and designated bag or totes), and I settled on carrying gear with me in an Easycare Stowaway Saddlebag with room for two water bottles, a knife, electrolytes for me, and diabetes essentials including an emergency syringe and fruit chews. I also took to strapping Cashel ankle holsters on each calf so I would always have my cell phone, my insulin pump, and some fast-acting carbohydrates on my body in the event I was separated from my horse.

Most importantly, I found fun! I rode the limited distance rides long enough to dissolve stress and worry about competing. Some folks say green beans often wait longer than we need to before moving up to the 50-mile distance, and this is probably true. I sure waited a while, but on the morning of my first 50 I looked forward to the day and knew it would be fun!

A worthwhile journey... are you ready?

That morning of my first fifty-miler, between saddling up and double-checking that my crew had feed, electrolytes, and directions to the fly-bys (designated places on the trail where crew can sponge, offer water and electrolytes to the horse, or food to riders) an experienced rider offered this advice: “On a ride, your horse’s energy is like toothpaste, once you squeeze it out of the tube, you can’t get it back”. I rode a little slower than usual and as a result started the last 13-mile loop with lots of horse left, cantering for a few miles and finishing in 10th place with a ride time of just over nine hours.

Moving up to 50 miles is different for horse and rider, but I’m glad I did what I did with Rio. The mileage has never hurt him, and we always have fun motoring down the trail!

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Nothing like a surprise mimosa to celebrate a great ride! PC: Greg Weber
 
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