I was at the beginning of my warm-up which means that I was riding Speedy completely on the buckle feeling each of his hind feet swing up and forward underneath me. I was enjoying the motion of my own hips rising and falling as he carried me around the arena. I lifted my outside hand and gently pulled my elbow back to let him know I wanted him to turn down the long side.
It occurred to me right then that I am a dressage rider, no longer an outsider admiring the view. It was a little like looking through a telescope as a child. At first, we simply marvel at the billions of stars in the sky, but they are just a mysterious jumble of lights. Then one day, you look through the telescope, and you are able to make sense of some of the lights. You recognize an order: you see Orion the Hunter, Queen Cassiopeia, and the Big Dipper. You acknowledge that there is an infinite amount of space yet to learn, but you feel a sense of delight at being able to recognize some of it.
When I was still competing in endurance, it wasn't until I had completed my 1,000th race mile that I felt this sense of belonging. Never mind that I had ridden thousands and thousands of conditioning miles long before my 1,000th race mile; those didn't count. Anyone can get their horse through a 5 or 10 mile ride. It's the 50-milers and the 100-milers that really show what you and your horse are made of.
No one in the sport made me feel that way. Every endurance rider journeys through the sport differently. Everyone has a different set of goals and a different agenda. For me, it was a test of how far I could go. Once I reached one thousand miles, I knew there was no limit for me. I could go as far as I wanted. I was an endurance rider.
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