I have fallen in love with the sport. I have been thinking about it for a few days and I think I finally figured out why. Bare with me a bit through this.
I love riding in the woods and going fast(ish) is much better than walking the whole thing. I get bored in an arena in about 4 minutes although truth be told that is more a function of not knowing really what to do in an arena besides go around it. I would bet that if I took some real lessons and had homework to work on, the arena would be a lot more interesting. But never as interesting as a nice trail. Which is why I gravitated towards things like hunter pace and endurance.
Endurance to me (or at least to this point in my experience with it) is not really all that physically challenging. Yes, I hurt like the dickens after it and I won't even try to claim that I ride as well towards the end as I do in the beginning, but I'm also not elevating my heart rate at all or pushing my muscles past the point of normal limits. To me endurance is a massive mental and psychological challenge that is rewarding in and of itself.
It is all about my preparation for the event: nutrition, hoof health, hydration, do I need to electrolyte or not, tack fit, Gem's mental preparation etc....
Crossing that finish line has less to do with my physical state than all the little details of horse management. It is the best way I know of to become a great horseperson and not just a rider.
But I got much better physical/emotional high off of crossing the finish line of a half marathon because it was all on me. It was under my own power that I went 13.1 miles in x amount of time. Nobody was dragging me along. Nobody was compensating for my weaknesses.
Enter RnT. The perfect combination of mental challenge, horsemanship and physical exertion.
It gives me that sense of accomplishment that other horse endeavors have not been able to fulfill. In fact, I think it is an even greater challenge because you have two partners out there with you to not let down. If I decide to wimp out and start to crawl my way through the event, then my partner will end up having to work even harder to make up for me. She will pass me quicker, have to tie sooner and then be on her feet way longer all because I am a snail. So I force my legs to move because they can. I also have to continue to be able to manage my horse well. I have to watch for ribbons, make sure Gem is handling the pace ok and monitor her breathing and footing. All while trying to catch up to my partner to continue making good forward progress.
Not everyone can ride a horse and not everyone can do endurance, but the vast majority of people given the properly behaved and well trained horse can actually fudge their way through a LD. A lot of horses can to. But I would bet that there are far fewer people who can ride a horse at the pace required, jump off and tie said horse to a tree and then happily take off on foot away from that horse hoping that their partner will catch up and pass them before their legs fall off. It is a high that I have not matched as of yet in any other sport.
I've been scouring the RnT calendar and unfortunately there aren't many events in this area. The next one I can get to (meaning less than 5 hours away) is at the end of August in VA. You bet I will be there. The shortest distance is 15 miles, so I better up my running game a bit. I think I've conned S into doing it with me. I'm not sure of all the details yet. There is an endurance ride coinciding with it and she had already planned to do the LD there. It is awfully close to the Biltmore 50, so I think we may go and use her other mare for it on Saturday and she is going to ride her endurance mare on Friday in the LD. I am toying with the idea of doing the LD Friday as well, but need to see where Gem is at. The 15 mile ride Saturday may be nice for her as a last long ride (with lots of breaks) before the 50 in September. Either way I will be there!!!