Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Riding with a mentor

I do most of my serious endurance training alone. It's not that I don't like company, but I am the only endurance rider at my barn. (There is one gal who I'm getting into it, so I ride weekly with her doing whatever the four of us feel up to doing.)  I don't have a truck or trailer, and no very-local folks who I know well enough to do conditioning rides with.

All that said, I find it very helpful to 1. Find a mentor and 2. Ride with a mentor or experienced endurance rider occasionally.  If they manage to be the same person, even better!

I first rode with Funder and Dixie two years ago.  I learned all sorts of little things.
- We weren't actually going as fast as I thought.
- Confetti needed to up her trot-speed..
- .. and I needed to improve my posting so I could ride it (aka: shorter stirrups).
- Crupper is totally necessary.
- Hills are to be expected. Use the ones I have and expect them at rides.
Minor, y'know?  But very needed, too.

Funder was then kind enough to go on our first LD with us, and that was really excellent, to get on-trail advice and chatter and reassurance that we weren't totally failing and going to die.  We finished!  Sure, I screwed some stuff up, but I learned a lot and it helps to have a good example to follow.

So - two years later - back out on the trail with Funder, and the biggest difference for me is that the pace felt totally reasonable even on my non-forwards horse.  This was undoubtedly due in part to Dixie being decidedly not-forwards as well, but still!  I wasn't feeling like we had a major pace problem this time around, and that was awesome, to have that direct comparison to work with.

Water crossing #2.  We paused at a lot of water crossings.  We paused for slightly less time at the water crossing with Naked Meditating Stoner Dude.

Other notes!
- Trust the horse.  Which I do, most of the time, but not so much when it really matters and there's actual pressure.  Trust the horse.  She'll drink if she wants (and she did!  early!), and if she doesn't, trust her on that.
- Try it.  You'll be fine.  (Noted!  And I will.)  The horse is not broken.

Other lessons from Funder include 'yes, it is totally normal to run/hike down hills with your horse.'

Mentors let you ask all the ridiculous questions that come up. 'Can I do a ride right after I get back from a week-long vacation?'  'Sure you can.'   ---  'My horse is broken! again!' 'Give it a few weeks before you panic, there's plenty of time.' 

There's also the whole 'feel like you fit in and have support' sort of thing, that's hard to put into words but so very important to me anyway.  Blogging helps with that.  Mentors help with that - it's always good to have advice from experienced riders, whether or not it validates your current ideas!  Confidence can be hard to come by.  I've been very lucky that we're slowly but surely inching our way forwards with (knock on wood) so far, no major disasters.

So.  I am totally convinced that one should find a mentor.. and that if/when the opportunity arises, one should be willing to step up and mentor those newer/less experienced than you.  I had such an excellent first ride with Funder that I'm hoping to get my barn friend through her first 25 later this year, and get her addicted to the sport too!


  1. Awww, yay! I had a great mentor and I'm so glad to get to pass it along :)

  2. Mentors are THE BEST. And passing along mentorship is also THE BEST.

    "Give it a few weeks before you panic, there's plenty of time.' " is some of my favorite advice to follow. Barring something really bizarre, I do well following this advice, too. I usually ask one question before giving into that advice, "Is my horse going to die if I don't do something RIGHT NOW?" and the answer is usually, "No."

    Hurrah for mentors. =)