Monday, April 2, 2012

Ride endurance, become a demonstrably better person

Yall, I am quite pleased with how well I've got my shit together lately, and I think it's all because of endurance.

I coasted through the first thirty years of my life, honestly. School was easy and I never had to try very hard, and it never actually caught up to me, even in law school. It's not like I did all that well, but I wasn't at the bottom of my class or anything, and I didn't have much follow-through. You know how it goes - at the beginning of the semester/year, you make grand plans and fill out a Dayrunner full of exactly what you need to do to pace yourself and fully comprehend all the material, but about three weeks in that all falls by the wayside until the week before finals, when you suddenly attempt to cram the whole semester's worth of education into your brain. If you're at all good at test-taking, it's not hard to pass, and it's honestly easier to cram than to diligently study a little every day.

And even when I first got into horses, I did the same careless stuff. Forget to check the weather and ride in the rain. Put off buying hay til you're down to your last couple flakes. Take the bridle home and oil it, then forget it at home and ride in a halter. You know, normal stuff.

Then I started going on longer rides, and thinking very deeply about the logistics of ridecamping, and my actions started having immediate consequences. Forget my water? I can ride three hours anyway and get miserably dehydrated, or scratch the ride (I was boarding at the time) and have to reschedule it. Wear the wrong clothes and suffer. Worry that my suffering was hurting my riding and therefore my horse.

And the sheer amount of planning was pretty daunting. It would've been an easier road if I had an Arab. It would've been an easier road if I had a trainer - but endurance trainers are few and far between, and one of the reasons I picked endurance was because you don't need a special horse or a trainer. How many miles had I done that week? When was my next rest day, when was my next long ride, when should those things happen? Do I need boots? A crupper? Electrolytes? Supplements? Riding clothes? I was the only person who could answer those questions.

At first I just made up the answers and guessed at the gear we'd need, but gradually, I started dialing it in to more accurate answers. My poor husband and my poor mentors suffered patiently through my figuring it out process, and I like to think that I've become much less annoying these days. ;)

When the training at home turned into trailering out and ridecamping, the stakes went up again. I was somewhat ready for it at that point, and to date I have not forgotten the horse, saddle, bridle, or water. (I think I've forgotten everything else at least once, but those are the really crucial elements.) I gradually figured out what needed to go on the lists, and how to pack and check off the lists, and how much time it took to do each of the bazillion discrete tasks you need to do to finish a ride.

And at some point, all these newfound organizational skills started to bleed over into normal life. Moving from Ohio to Nevada (pre-endurance) was very spur of the moment. We got it done, but it didn't go perfectly smoothly, and I didn't do some crucial tracking on some long-term elements (it took three weeks for my truck to ship, and four weeks for my horse to ship - the shippers screwed up, but I didn't follow up either!) Moving from the Reno apartment to our house (post-endurance) went much better. I got about 75% of our stuff packed in the three weeks before the move, much to my husband's consternation. (I don't think he really planned on living with a tower of boxes in the dining nook.) And now I'm getting ready to move again, and I am on the ball.

I've had a pretty good idea of my boarding options and price ranges for two months. I got all those barn tours done over the weekend. We have a plan for finding a house. The property manager came today, and I know what my next steps are there. I've got a couple of moving companies coming tomorrow to estimate the move. The house is show-quality clean, and it's been clean for three weeks. I know who I need to call and when I need to call them. I'm on it.

And again, I blame/credit this all to endurance. For one of my first rides, I just threw a bunch of shit in a duffel bag and went haring off to a ride, and when I came back the house was destroyed and there was no food and all the clothes were dirty and I was exhausted and it sucked. The next ride I did, I made sure I had some easy to cook food in the fridge and some clean clothes waiting (in the dryer) for when I got home, and life was much better. The ride after that, I actually folded all the clean laundry and I washed the sheets before I left, and it was heavenly. It was like some basic life lesson finally clicked: If you prepare properly ahead of time, things will magically be much better.

If you, too, would like to become a better person, I suggest that you take up some overwhelmingly complicated hobby, such as endurance riding. :)

21 comments:

  1. All true things. I came home to clean sheets on the bed, and easily-prepped food...except that we ended up listening to The Splendid Table on the drive home and got hungry for steaks so Jim cooked some of those instead of the easy stuff.

    But hey, having an endurance spouse is another part of being a better person, right?

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  2. Great post!
    And I completely agree. Amazing how a hobby can change your whole routine of life.

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  3. Clean sheets... that has GOT to be one of the best feelings there is, slipping into a bed with clean sheets after an exhausting day (preferably an exhausted in a good way, day with horses) :)

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  4. Great post! I'm glad endurance has helped other areas of your life! Your description of your first thirty years sounds a lot like mine (minus law school)... In my 30's I've become more organized and focused. Lists and plans are my best friends... ;-) I'm just dabbling in endurance and have yet to leave the property for a ride, but I'm hoping my slightly OCD list making and planning will be an asset.

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  5. That was a great post, Funder. I don't do endurance--as you know--but having hauled horses all over the western United States to compete at various events, as well as ridden all through the Sierra Nevada Mts on multi-day pack trips pretty much did the same thing for me. I'd venture to say that becoming sincerely dedicated to any horse sport will offer these benefits.

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  6. I would never infer that your becoming a better person is because you don't hang around lawyers as much any more. Oh, like hell I wouldn't.

    My horse has made ME a better person.

    Bill

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  7. Oh yeah- never feel obligated to post any of my comments. I know I am a jerk...
    Bill

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  8. Horses make life so much better in so many wonderful, and sometimes surprising, ways...as is evidenced by your better planning! I'll bet Dixie loves it too, now that you remember everything you need for a long ride!

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  9. Ah yes. Like you, I have become much more organized and much better at planning ahead, and for the most part I owe it to my animals. That human-animal connection, and knowing if you are stressed they will be stressed, is a great motivator.

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  10. Very cool post! My sister and I were just discussing the other day how horses improved our lives. She said "If only I'd had him while I was in high school" lol.

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  11. Hrm... I think I'm still in the adapting stage. Got most of the horse things worked out but still doing things like throwing clothes in a duffle. I do always do all my laundry before a ride though and pre-pack all foods. I'm also learning how to manage work better so that I can ride. So... I'm evolving? It is pretty cool though how endurance makes us better people. I wonder if I can prescribe it to others? ..."Ride as many miles as you can weekly until your planning improves or you keel over from exhaustion and have to be institutionalized..."

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  12. Funder's new career: life coach. All your clients will need is a horse and a trail...

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  13. Hey Funder -- Found a helmet cover to match your new riding tights... http://www.helmetcovers.com/images/happyface.jpg

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  14. Gosh maybe I should take up endurance riding!

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  15. Endurance has definitely changed me for the better in ways I don't think any other discipline would have. You can't fake it... y'know?

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  16. I don't do endurance but I do think being the caretaker for horses has had the same effects on me. I HAVE to do a good job of planning and organizing because otherwise my life would be a constant crisis. These habits have bled over into my personal life and I have become an almost annoyingly organized person. Jason said to me once "can't you be a little less perfect sometimes?" I didn't take that as a complement!

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  17. You're all grown up! In the nicest way, of course.

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  18. The ONLY place I'm organized is in my barn and on the road (with horses). Other than that mayhem leads me and chaos follows.

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  19. What's funny is that endurance helped me in the OTHER direction. It inserted so much needed reality into my highly organized, pre-planned life. In some ways I think that's why I was able to control my anxiety successfully for so many years because I had a very real place to channel it, with real consequences if I screwed up - instead of make up consequences that were just in my head. and it helped me deal with the unexpected and unplanned. I've actually been able to do LESS lists and LESS planning which is HUGE because I really over do it in that department. It helped me to function and gave me something to obsess about that wasn't about how I looked, how clean my house was, etc. AND it made me more social - I can sorta function in real-life conversations now, and I BLOG. Oh yeah - let's hear it for endurance!

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  20. Yep, Yep, and Yep. Love it! Very nice post!!!!!!

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