Wednesday, July 30, 2014

5 Q's with Mel

While I have several posts in intermediate stages, I reached a point where I didn't really have anything ready to post about this week.  And then Mel saved me:)  She set up a blog hop that I will happily use to fill my blogging void.  So read on to learn more about yours truly...

Name:  Gail Jewel Thuner

Age:  39 (I think - it gets harder and harder to remember how old I am as I get older and older.)

Family Status:  Married, with one almost 2-year-old daughter, 1 German Shepherd Dog, and 1 Friesian horse

1.  How long have you been riding?  Endurance?

I think the first time I was on a pony was when I was 2, and I think I was horse crazy from that point on.  I rode on and off when I could until I was 11 and finally convinced my parents that the "horse phase" was not something I was going to grow out of.  Since then, I've always ridden and always (except for a few months) had at least one horse.  I started out doing 4-H and local open shows, mostly competing in Western events, but later adding hunter hack type English classes.

Then, I took a break from showing during college and grad school, but started back competing in Western pleasure once I entered the working world.  The abuse that many Western pleasure horses endured was something I didn't like being around, though.  And after I rehabilitated one of those abused horses and won a Western pleasure class (at a small, local show, nothing spectacular, but it still felt good), I changed disciplines to dressage and cross-country jumping for fun.  I enjoyed both and had a great time, but my life with my rehabilitated abused horse was not to be.  He first developed navicular disease (or syndrome or disorder or whatever they're calling caudal heal pain accompanied by bone lesions these days) and shortly thereafter shattered his left hock while playing out in the pasture.  The hock was irreparable and the horse that I adored and thought I'd have forever had to be put down.

I was able to keep riding other people's horses while I first grieved and then searched for a new horse.  Nimo ended up being that horse.  I bought him as a yearling and kept riding other horses until he was 3 and I started him under saddle.  I stuck with dressage for quite a few years, but eventually it just wasn't satisfying anymore and last year I decided to try endurance riding.  I haven't done a full-length endurance ride yet, but Nimo and I did complete an Intro ride last fall and I hope we'll do an LD this fall.

2.  What does a normal training week look like for you?

Ha!  I wish I could have a normal week!  My goal is to ride 3-4 times a week with 1-2 dressage sessions and 1-2 trail rides, with one of the trail rides being 10 plus miles.  And I'd like to throw in a lungeing or ground work session too.  In reality, some weeks come pretty close to my goal while other weeks are a complete disaster.  I really struggle with balancing life while raising a young child, finding time to at least speak to my husband periodically, working part-time, and riding.  (And let's not forget the crazy weather!)  Luckily, conditioning for endurance doesn't seem to be as scientific as some would lead you to believe and Nimo has still be able to improve his fitness levels.

3.  Any advice for endurance riding spouses?

I'm really lucky in that my husband is really supportive of my efforts.  That may be, in part, because he's seen the kind of horrible person I become when I don't get regular riding in, but it's also because he recognizes what a sacrifice it can be to have a baby.  We love our daughter dearly, but having a baby dramatically changes the amount of time you have to do anything for yourself or by yourself and because I stay home with my daughter, I can go days without speaking to adults and the most reading I usually get in is Goodnight Moon and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?  As our daughter gets older, I will probably get more time for myself, but for now, spending an evening or several hours riding on the weekend is about the only thing that keeps me from having a meltdown.

So, I guess my advice applies before the marriage even begins.  Make sure you marry someone whose whole world doesn't depend on you spending time with him (or her) and make sure that if you have a baby, you've worked out how responsibilities are going to be shared ahead of time.  (And for those control freaks like me, make sure your soon-to-be spouse is trainable, so you can teach him what he needs to know before you leave the baby at home alone with him.)  I know a lot of women who tell me their husbands would never "tolerate" what my husband does (me being gone to ride a lot) and that their husbands wouldn't babysit nearly as much.  My feeling is that if both parents aren't committed to having a baby, it's not something that should be done, and just because I had a baby doesn't mean that I have to give up every single thing that is important to me.  I've given up a lot, but I made it clear from the moment that I met my husband that giving up my horse is never going to happen, not even if I end up with no legs and no arms or blind, or whatever.  Being with horses is such a fundamental part of who I am, I cannot live without them.

4.  Where will this sport be in 10 years?

I have no idea.  I'm so new, I don't even know if I can complete a real ride yet.  Yet far be it from me to limit myself to only having opinions about topics on which I am an expert:)  So here goes...From what I've learned so far, it seems like endurance riders (and endurance rides) are getting more gadgets to track mileage and monitor the horse, so I would expect that in 10 years, it will be rare to see someone riding without digital assistance.  I also suspect there will be fewer one day 100s because of space and resource issues.  And I think that the number of rules regarding what you can and can't do on rides will be twice as many as now.  One thing I love about endurance is the openness of the sport:  Ride any horse in any tack with any rider and as long as you keep your horse in good shape, you can compete.  (I realize I've simplified a bit, but hopefully you get the idea.)  The problem with competitions is that people can't help themselves but ride too hard or too fast or too many miles and somehow create a situation that is bad for themselves, other riders, and their horses.  And regulating bodies can't help themselves but to create more rules to prevent the bad stuff from happening, and in the end, you get something like the United States Equestrian Association or the FEI and hundreds of pages of rules.  I'll save my full opinion about bureaucracies for another post, but I do worry that much of what I love about endurance will be lost with the passage of time.

5.  What was your best race and why (AERC endurance – or if you are primary in another discipline, than your best ride in that sport)?

This is a tough question.  I haven't competed in anything for so long, I have trouble remembering many of the highlights and I have yet to complete my first real endurance ride.  So, I think I'll go with my best training ride so far.  Hands down, it was the one I did at Graves Mountain last month.  That was the ride where I finally realized that we can do an actual endurance ride.  After six hours in the saddle on a mountain, with a major thunderstorm drenching us for the last couple of hours, it became clear to me that both my horse and I have what it takes to do this endurance thing.

Bonus question:  What's your favorite beer?

I despise beer.  I will only drink it if there is nothing else available, and even then, I might skip it.  I much prefer a nice Moscato or Riesling wine, although these days, any alcohol at all usually puts me to sleep faster than I can imagine.

1 comment:

  1. I had a hard time with the beer question too, because like you, I'd take a nice glass of wine any night of the week :). Also I just realized I should put my own blog into the blog hop since it doesn't show up. LOL. A bit of a learning curve with this....

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