Endurance riders put a lot of value on a horse who "takes care of himself." Horses that require a lot of coddling and care can be exhausting to ride. Speedy turned out to be a very independent and confident fellow at endurance rides. He ate and drank without any encouragement. I couldn't keep the hay bag full enough and I frequently had to get up in the middle of the night to refill his water bucket. Horses could pass him on the trail or leave him behind, and he just didn't care. This trait alone makes an endurance horse's "price" go up. Who knew my little gray pony would have so much endurance potential?
While he ate and took care of himself like an absolute super star, speedy he was not. There was no way to over ride him. He was very careful to conserve energy. He figured that out on his first 30 mile ride. Many, many endurance horses start the race jacked up on adrenaline and end up burning far more of their gas tank's fuel than their bodies have been conditioned for. Not Speedy. He was the epitome of slow and steady. Not that I wanted to race him. Back of the pack was my goal, especially for his first few seasons. But when I did want to move out a bit faster, it took a lot of work to convince him that it was worth it!
Speedy G did his first limited distance event (Crazy Coyote 30-miler) one month before his fifth birthday (four year olds may compete in distances under 35 miles). I really wanted to wait until he was five, but this particular race was well suited for a youngster. It is flat, wide open (no cliffs to fall over), and the vet checks are all in camp or very close by.
The race went very well, but several miles from the finish, I thought we were going to need a vet while on the trail. Speedy G was dragging his toes through the sand, head hung low, and looked absolutely defeated. I kept checking his metabolic signs, but nothing other than his attitude indicated a problem. Taz's mom was riding with us. I encouraged her to ride ahead to the finish line, but she insisted on staying with us in an attempt to pull Speedy along. By this point, I was walking on foot literally dragging him behind me.
We made it to camp in the time allotted, and I quickly pulled Speedy's tack to present him to the vet as soon as possible. She cocked an eyebrow at me and told me to get Speedy G an ipod. What for? I asked. This is one bored pony, came her reply. There was nothing wrong with him. In fact, once he was back in camp, he looked as if he hadn't done a thing. He certainly didn't look as though he'd just ridden 30 miles through the desert sand. She thought he was one of the best looking horses of the day. I was shocked. I got home and ordered a new heart rate monitor. After that, I learned how to read his I think I am going to die expression for what it really was. I'm bored ...
Speedy G's endurance career was off to a good start. He completed the Git-R-Done 30-miler a month later, and then spent the summer doing more camping and trail riding. I decided that I wanted Speedy G to be very versatile. I had seen with Mickey Dee that horses frequently need a second career, so I also started taking some dressage lessons with Speedy G. At first it was just monthly, weather permitting, but during the summer of Speedy's five year old, we went once a week. The lessons probably weren't very "dressagey" as they were more about balance and control. As the fall arrived and I went back to work, we returned to once a month lessons when the weather permitted.
I was still competing on Montoya and took her to several endurance rides that summer and fall. But in January 2010, I lost her to colic and Speedy G went from back up horse to my only horse. While dealing with the sadness of losing Montoya, I took Speedy G to the Twenty Mule Team 35-miler one month later in February. We rode through some pretty horrific weather, and he once again showed what he was made of. In April we finished the Git-R-Done 55 miler with a ride time of 8 hours and 59 minutes. He still wasn't fast, but he was methodical. He caught the eye of several riders who asked if he was for sale - that always puts a smile on a rider's face. He was now six years old and ready for a full time endurance career.
I was feeling confident in Speedy's ability, and I felt that he had potential to become a "stayer" in the sport. Montoya had competed for ten years, a rarity in the endurance world. I wanted the same for Speedy G. I entered the Just Coe Crazy 55-miler, but did it with a great deal of trepidation. It was advertised as a difficult race, and with only one other 55-miler under our belt, I didn't know if Speedy G was ready. My gut was right, he wasn't. But we were in good company. The winning time was more than two hours longer than a traditional 55-miler's winning time might be. We went 45 miles or so before Speedy called it quits. You can read about it here.
I don't know how Speedy felt about it, but we've not done an endurance race since. We now show pretty regularly and are working hard to advance as high as he and I can. Who knows? Maybe the day will come when the endurance world calls us back. Or maybe the call will come for just Speedy G.