A Change is as Good as a Rest in Ride & Tie

K.S. Swigart recommends Ride & Tie as a way to become a better endurance rider: it most definitely provides a better understanding of just what it is we are asking of our horses, and just what it is we can do to help them.
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K.S. Swigart recommends Ride & Tie as a way to become a better endurance rider: it most definitely provides a better understanding of just what it is we are asking of our horses, and just what it is we can do to help them.

I had a great time at the Swanton Pacific Ride & Tie in September 2003, and truly appreciated the moral support, encouragement, and offers of things to eat or drink along the way from all the endurance riders we shared the seventy-five mile trail with. As my partner Carol Ruprecht described it to her friends, it was like having a mounted cheering squad.

I would also like to suggest to those of you who are saying, "I could never do anything like that," you are probably wrong. It wasn't really that hard. This is not a case of false modesty, nor am I so great a "runner" that it was easy for me. It's a simple truth: it wasn't really that hard.

I must confess that before the event, when I thought about doing a 75 mile ride & tie in its entirety, I also thought I must be crazy. However, when I broke it down into its components (and being as analytically anal as I am, I even set up an excel spreadsheet to do the math for me), the whole thing became eminently doable.

I did not have to run 75 miles; I did not even have to run the 37.5 miles that was my share on the ground. If I had thought of it that way, it would seem impossible. I am not even marginally in condition to run 37.5 miles. Other than the long ties into the vet checks (which we deliberately planned so the horse would have plenty of time to eat, drink and recover) I was never on the ground for more than a mile at a time.

Other than a lovely trail down through the redwoods, so easy to jog down that there was no reason not to, I never actually RAN for more than a few hundred yards at a time -- well maybe a few other easy down grades, but not much, and certainly not anything that was difficult. Any time the running started to get even a little hard, I stopped running and walked instead. Actually, I stopped running BEFORE the running got even a little bit hard.

When even the walking was too much, I stopped and took a breather. While Carol and I probably did split the time on the ground equally, and I probably did cover about 37.5 miles on the ground, I spent about 1/3 of that distance actually running and not walking. So yes, I ran a total of about 12 miles. But that was over a period of about 14 1/2 hours. Running 12 miles over that amount of time suddenly becomes quite do-able, even if the rest of the time is spent riding a horse, walking, or eating at the vet check.

At the BC judging the next day, Melody Wong asked, "What do you do to condition for this?" To which I responded, "Well really, not all that much. I run for the train."

The way I condition for ride & tie is to jog at the times in my regular life when I would otherwise be walking. So, instead of walking down to turn on the horse water, I run. Instead of walking through Union Station from the subway to the train, I run, even if I am not late. I did do several shorter Ride & Ties before this one (and I can recommend that, just so you can work out the equipment requirements.)

We guessed it would take about 14 hours elapsed time, and reasonably speaking, since the horse had to cover the whole 75 miles herself, she wouldn't be able to do it in much less time than that. I plugged that number into my spreadsheet, figuring I would have to cover about half of it on the ground and would get to ride the other half. To finish in 14 hours I would have to average about 3.5 mph while on the ground and about 10 mph while on the horse.

Three and a half miles per hour? Hell, I can walk that fast. Ten mph on the horse? Understanding that is the average speed the horse needed to do WHILE it was being ridden, this too became something not all that difficult.

And if we both proceeded at those speeds, the horse would spend 6 1/2 hours standing around tied to a tree (or, considering the way we worked it, three of that 6 1/2 hours was standing around at the vet checks eating and drinking).

Despite the fact that I hate running (the only thing I like about running is stopping running), ride & tie is great fun. As I told Carol while we were on the course, "The whole event was very much like a long walk in the park interspersed with short bouts of jogging where the terrain was suited to it, further interspersed with the fun of zipping along on a great horse."

Admittedly, I was a bit stiff and sore the next day. But I bet I wasn't any stiffer or sorer than at least half of the other endurance riders who did the same course. Ever heard the old maxim, "A change is as good as a rest?" In a ride & tie you get to do lots of changing during the event so everybody (including the horse) gets lots of rest, despite the fact that it seems non-stop.

So, for all of you who say, "I could never do something like that," I can only say again, "Don't think like that. It really isn't as hard as you think."

I encourage endurance riders to try it, because there is one thing that I CAN say. The horses think that this is about as much fun as there is.