Saturday, April 19, 2014

50 Miles of…um…Fun on Horseback - Full Article

A dressage rider reconnects with the freedom of riding in an endurance experience.

By Jec A. Ballou | April 11, 2014

At about the time my right hamstring seared with a pain that knifed into the deepest nerve bundles, I began to ponder whether this was actually any fun. I inventoried the tacky roof of my mouth—dry and dust-coated—my twanging hip flexors, and a back spasm that started pulsing two hours ago, now worsening. The numbers 38 kept rising through my thoughts like the blurry waves of heat that lift from hot roads, turning scenery into drugged-like hallucinations. I pictured the "3” flopped over in the middle, the "8” vibrating side to side as though it meant to taunt me. It occurred to me that maybe 38 miles was my limit. Maybe I could ride a horse for 38 miles and no farther.

We dressage riders tend to consider anything over an hour a long ride. Anything over 3 is pretty inconceivable. Hence, my pitiful state at mile 38 of a 50-mile endurance race aboard my student’s Arabian gelding. We pressed on, hurtling across a flat ridge top with an oven-like wind in my face. Under me, Louie had plenty of pep and offered to surge faster, a fact that I realized with gratitude might get us to the finish line—and a cold beer—more quickly. His hooves smacked the hard ground, his body leaned to the left as he gained speed. Our gait was now not only sloppy but bordering out of control...

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