No Rest for the Endurance/Eventing Weary

Not only has Hilda Donahue climbed to the four-star level of eventing, she’s also a well-known and highly ranked FEI Endurance rider. Not one to choose sleep over pursuing her passion, Hilda competed in a 100 mile FEI ride yesterday, only to turn around to compete at Rocking Horse today. How’s that for insanity in the middle? Many thanks to Hilda for catching us up in this guest blog!

Hilda Donahue and SR Mirage. Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

Hilda Donahue and SR Mirage. Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

All of us eventers are ridiculously and admirably committed to our wonderful sport — sometimes we take extreme measures to participate.

I believe I qualify.

You see, as I write this (actually I am dictating it into my phone), it is 2:30 a.m. and I am driving back from having just completed an FEI 100 mile ride all day and am now on my way to coach at Rocking Horse Winter 3 Horse Trials. Red on the right, white on the left, INSANITY in the middle.

I am feeling the insanity, but of course am a die-hard eventer at heart and could not entertain the idea of missing this event. One of the many positives (let’s overlook the 4 a.m. start on Friday and no sleep tonight) is that I should be well warmed up to trot down center line later today!

The route for the 100-mile ride. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

The route for the 100-mile ride. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

What a thrill it was earlier to ride SR Mirage all day with multiple vet checks. Mirage was a star and finished third out of approximately 23 starters — some are still out there riding!

There are many several similarities between eventers and endurance riders (I am omitting the UAE endurance scene — that’s a totally different world. I rode a 100 miler in Dubai last year.).

Endurance riders, like us, are extremely hands on, taking incredible care of their partners.

Endurance riders, like event riders, pool together to help each other.

Endurance riders are quick to “rider option” (that is, in endurance language, to withdraw) if they feel things are just not right, knowing that there is always another day.

Horses in the cool out box. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

Horses in the cool out box. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

For those of you unfamiliar with this sport, there is a huge amount of strategy involved from calculating your speed to handling terrain features and weather. Knowing your horse’s vitals is critical, as is being able to easily get your horse to pulse down. For this, their pulse has to be 64 or less, otherwise you are “pulled” — endurance lingo for eliminated. Indeed, you can be pulled for many reasons: insufficient gut sounds, tack rubs, gait abnormalities.

Knowing how to effectively balance your horse’s electrolyte intake, calories and water during the ride is of immense importance too.

I hope you enjoy a few of the scenes from today and now I need to get focused on some dressage tests…

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