It wasn’t necessarily my best idea, but it seemed like a good training endeavour (for myself) to let my OTTB (OT) run as fast as he wanted through the single track trail at Golden Ears Park in Maple Ridge, B.C. My initial thought was that I should get used to not having steering or speed control while riding.
On the Adventurists website the author describes the Mongolian riding style as much different than the North American style of complete control. In fact, Mongolians “leave the horse a great amount of freedom in a given situation whilst they perform other tasks. They do not expect to completely control the horse but trust it to do its job and find the best way through. Therefore, if a western rider gets on a Mongolian horse and expects absolute control the Mongolian horses essentially rebel.”
I’ve also watched quite a few videos online about prior race competitors and their first rides on the Mongolian horses. I can only assume that the horses were rebelling from western control by trying to behead their riders by running under the tether ropes at break neck speed. Surely, if the new riders simply trusted their horses, they would have found a better way across the wide open steppe.
Luckily the trail I was training on has a significant elevation gain, which kept OT’s speed to a minimum, which further reduced any other possible risks of harm. It was exhilarating to say the least – dodging branches, suffering knee bruises, scratching my new helmet, getting leaves ground into my sunglasses and destroying stirrups. It reminded me of the times when my brother and I would race through the trees on the family farm in Alberta. He would be on his motorbike (Suzuki 80) and I was riding my chestnut Welsh pony, Sunrise. On the straight-a-ways he could gain significant speed, but it was through the single track that Sunrise excelled. As long as I saw the tree branches coming, I could duck down on either side of his neck and avoid getting ripped off. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was training for the Mongol Derby.
I’ve entered OT into three 50-mile endurance races and we finished one. A 50-miler is significantly different than a 25-mile limited distance. OT was a rock star in the 25-milers and finished every one in the top 5. I have found that I needed to learn what was the optimal pace for OT, which varied on the terrain, the weather, electrolytes and how he felt that particular day. Plus, we needed to train for long slow distance to develop his bones and tendons. This type of training is much different than what he endured on the racetrack at a very young age, only to be injured and retired at three years old.
I am at a crossroads with respect to training myself for the Mongol Derby while continuing training for my endurance horses for 50-milers. Both OT and Jamison, my Arab, need to continue long slow distance training next year to build up their strength and avoid injuries. While this will give me lots of time in the saddle (on the weekends and holidays as I still have a full-time job during the week), it won’t improve my ability to ride several horses for 12 hours a day at much faster speeds – day after day.
Since it is dark when I leave my house in the morning and dark when I leave the office, my best bet during the winter will be to spend more time at the gym. I’ve heard a lot about Crossfit and the quick results that can be achieved in a short period of time. So I have made an appointment to try out Crossfit on Wednesday. If any equestrians out there have tried Crossfit as cross training, please leave a comment on this page and let me know how it worked out for you. Any and all advice is appreciated.