Monday Media Q: 50 or LD first?
|January 9, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Equine Endurance|
Sometimes I see a great question on social media that already has so many responses that I feel like adding my voice to the thread isn’t worth it, or I have so much to say that it doesn’t fit into a comment. For those questions that I think are especially interesting or important, I’m going to start a new series this year where I share my thoughts here. Feel free to comment if you have a different opinion!
Here’s this week’s question:
Assuming a “well conditioned mature horse”, I don’t see any reason to start in an LD unless there are other mitigating factors. Some good reasons to start with LD’s could include:
- Rider has a physical problem that prevents them from realistically finishing a 50.
- Horse has a history of some sort of issue that makes a fifty mile finish unlikely.
- Rider has no interest in doing longer rides such as 50s or 100s.
- Rider is new to the sport and has never done an endurance ride before.
In general, I think there is no reason to take your well-conditioned mature mount to an LD. LD’s are great for young and not-well-conditioned mounts. They are great for I’ve-been-inside-all-winter-and-despretely-need-a-motivating-event. LD’s have value but they are not a necessary stepping stone towards a 50.
Don’t misunderstand me – if you love LD’s and want to do LDs….then do them. Even on your mature and well-conditioned horse. But, there is no specific reason you have to do an LD before doing a 50.
In fact, I think there are a couple of good reasons to skip the LD’s if your goal is to eventually do longer distances such as 50s or (especially) 100s.
We know that expectation plays a huge role in human athletic performance. I think it’s reasonable to assume that our horses have some sort of self-regulation based on expectation too. I’ve seen it numerous times with my endurance mounts. They “learn” the distances. Along with figuring out how vet checks work and our expectations of them at rides, they are trying to figure out what their job is. Once I did a distance 2-3 times, the horse had “figured it out”. They would stop asking the question of “how far are we going?” and instead start asking “how fast can I go?”.
I didn’t want my horses to stop asking the first question until the answer was “100 miles”. The only way to keep them asking it was to not let them establish an expectation of an LD distance.
I think the benefits are skipping LD’s and going straight to 50s (in a mature, well-conditioned mount) are:
- Establishing expectations and work ethic early.
- Saves money
- Riding an LD at home in training builds confidence in yourself and the horse and is a great way to prepare for the rigors of an endurance ride – regardless of the distance you are riding.
The potential risks?
- If you have misjudged your horses physical or mental conditioning there is a higher risk of injury or burnout in a 50 than an LD.
I think a more experienced endurance rider is able to better to judge the fitness/readiness of their mount, minimizing the risk, and this might explain why many of us choose to skip LD’s.
IMO first-time endurance riders should always do an LD, no exception. Because their well-behaved pony is going to morph into an uncontrollable rank mount, and the rider’s going to panic before they get 100 feet down the trail. For the first 5 miles they will be saying “what the hell was I thinking, is my horse ever going to calm down?” They’ll get to the halfway point of the LD, maybe the horsey is a little better, but they’ll probably think of quitting right there. Luckily someone will talk them into continuing, by saying “it’s only a couple more hours”. So they will continue, and it gets better, and they finish the whole thing in 6 hours, their body doesn’t hurt TOO much, and they are excited about doing more.
Now, add 6 more hours onto that very first ride if they attempt a 50… what are the chances of a happy rider and horse at the end, ready to do more?
I think that there is rarely anything that is a must, including that your first ride has to be an LD. I think it’s very much dependent on the personality of the person, and if they are new to the sport of Endurance specifically or new to the sport of horses in general. I did a marathon is my first running race and I did a 50 miler as my first endurance ride. In both of those things I think it was the appropriate choice for me and anything less would’ve left me feeling unmotivated. I knew I could finish an LD. I didn’t know whether I could finish a 50 and the excitement of the unknown is what kept me going when things got tough.
KarenT makes good points. I try to avoid “always” and “never”, but I highly recommend that new distance riders start with a shorter event–maybe even the 12-miler. Yeah, really.
Because you don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s sooooo much easier for things-not-known to turn the day completely pearshaped if your day is a 50-miler. If you get back to camp and still have tons of energy left over, you can use that energy as a ride volunteer, and you will learn even more!
And yeah, I know of lots of people who swear that everyone should “just” start with 50’s (or 100’s) like they did in the olden days. (I try to avoid “just” also.) We aren’t all the same. These aren’t the olden days. Best practices have changed. New riders don’t necessarily know now what “everyone” knew then.
And there’s no good reason to make learning harder than it has to be (for horse or rider) unless you want to be closer friends with the Bad Idea Fairy (which I don’t recommend).
JMO, YMMV, etc. etc.
I think we are getting off topic a bit? The question asked (that I copied and pasted verbatim) is why people are skipping LD distances and going straight to 50s. It doesn’t talk about new riders to the sport although I acknowledge that being new is a good reason to choose an LD. I think there are valid reasons to skip LDs when when bringing along a mature and well conditioned mount, which was the intensition of the post.
On the new rider thing and getting off topic…..i don’t think people should “just” do 50s as much as I don’t think people “must” do an LD. I’m grateful that in this organization we have the freedom to choose which distance is appropriate to start their horses (and themselves) at. it wasn’t the first 35 miles of my first fifty that made me fall in love with endurance. It was the last 12 miles I rode (and then getting pulled overtime at mile 47). For lots of people that sounds awful. For some people, including myself, the risk and discomfort is worth it. for myself, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn by starting in LDs (but I would probably have a cleaner ride record). however, if someone asks me “what distance should I start with, my recommendation would be an LD. Because if they are asking that question, than they probably aren’t going to be happy doing a fifty as their first ride.
If you think you can do a (50, 100, whatever) you probably can. If you think you can’t , you probably can’t.
Thanks for the in depth answer! I posted that question on AERC. I’ve only got 310 LD miles under my belt but I’m ready to move up to 50’s and hopefully Tevis by 2020. I’ve got a 12 year old Arab that was recently gelded. He wasn’t broke until recently but he did spend a lot of time strengthening tendons and ligaments as a stallion running the fence line. If I can get him conditioned by the middle of the endurance season I’d like to get him started with some slow easy 50’s because I want him to learn his job early on and not get any ideas about racing. I may do a catch ride or two for my first 50 but when we are both ready I’m going to go for it! I will seek out an experienced mentor who can help me decide when my horse is ready. I expect to hear some criticism from some riding buddies who took the LD route but that’s ok… I’ve got to ride my own ride. Now, if I can just get the ground to thaw so we can get some more riding in.
I’m getting cabin fever myself here in California while it rain rain rains. :(. I feel like I’m never going to see the trails again!!!! (I know, melodramatic. But I’m going crazy stuff inside). Best of luck for this season and beyond. And THANK YOU for coming by and reading and commenting. I’m really flattered.
Strictly speaking for myself, the conundrum is – horse is physically mature, but I think mentally/emotionally
an adolescent. Trailering and camping skills are dismal. Will *I* be able to safely manage her on the trails
with multiple horses in front/behind/passing? Probably- if it’s only 25-30 miles. Questionable if longer.
So- still not sure what distance we’ll begin with. I would like her to get tired enough to STAND QUIETLY
AT THE DAMN TRAILER, though…..
I enjoyed your post and wondered if you would comment on a slightly different situation. I have a 17 year old foxtrotter who only completed one 25 mile LD last season due to his developing some medical issues. He was very fit at the time and could have done a longer distance, but he had terrible race brain for the first loop. Much better on the second loop. I am considering doing the Michigan Shore to Shore ride (not the endurance ride) on him in June, as long as his medical issues are completely resolved and I am able to condition him sufficiently. In case you’re not familiar with it, this is a 250 mile ride done over 10 days. I plan an average speed of 5 mph. I was hoping this would improve his race brain, but I don’t want to reduce our chances of eventually completing 50 mile endurance rides because he gets too “fixed” on this distance. BTW I’m also a DVM (small animal internist, semi-retired); I used to run, but now I just ride.