This question has been posed to me several times by several friends. Honestly, I don't know the answer. There are things I'd love to do, but don't have the time or money and there are things others think I should do, but I don't have the same opinion on.
In general, I'd like to try to stick with the longer distance for as long as Gem is enjoying it. 100s make sense for us right now. Gem was the most relaxed and enjoyable than any other distance and was stronger after 50 miles than she had been on any prior ride. I can realistically make one spring and one fall ride, so doing a 100 each time won't over tax Gem and will provide maximum riding fun at each outing.
I personally believe, and I am aware that I am in the minority on this, that each horse has a limited number of miles to them and that while Gem was enjoying herself on the ride, she could care less about completions, miles attained or any awards. She likes to eat grass, be in the sunshine and have room to roam about. If she never makes it to another endurance ride, she won't be losing any sleep over it. All that to say that I am very protective of her legs and the rides I sign up for are with a purpose and not to just add more miles on.
There is a small part of me that wants to try a 25 for the win. Or even a 50 for the win. I hold Gem back a lot at rides in fear of running her down, but after her CRIs and all As throughout the entire 100, a bit of me is interested to see what she would do given the chance to just go at one of the shorter distances. See if she can blast through a 50 and still finish strong.
But then I think how awful I would feel if she came up lame or with a metabolic issue and that keeps that beast of a thought down.
Another, bigger part of me wants to try to qualify for FEI status on her. Ah...the big bad FEI word!! I won't get into it here, but Biltmore was my first real world experience with FEI riders in the US and I was surprised at how different it was than what everyone would have you believe. We are super close to qualifying for a 1* at the moment and it would only take a bit of planning to solidify it. The SE has a ton of FEI rides too and a lot of them coincide with AERC 100s, so I will be there either way. Waiting past this season would kill off our chances, so it is a now or never thing on her.
The one solid plan I have is to complete the R&T Championship ride in October. I finally wrangled up a partner for it and it is being held at Biltmore. Theresa is a more accomplished endurance rider than I am and is also a runner, so it should be a lot of fun and I want that shiny belt buckle.
Beyond that, I would like to head to Broxton the beginning of November for another 100. Gem doesn't like sand and would rather have 100 miles of paved road, so I am a bit worried about it. It has a lot of hard pack sand, but areas of softer, deep sand as well. I hope to trailer over there at some point this summer to see what it is really like before I commit to a 100 there. If I don't do that 100, then I am out of realistically reachable 100s until Biltmore again next spring which is sad, so lets hope the sand isn't too bad.
The summer will be spent having fun, trying to stay cool and maintain a basic level of conditioning to not hamper us when we go to peak again for the two fall rides I hope to hit (R&T being 30 miles will be a great conditioning ride for a 100 a month later). Now that Gem has shoes on her, I also want to head up to the NC mountains this summer to beat the heat. I've never taken Gem to ride on mountain trails before, so I am pretty excited about that.