My lazy little mare is finally getting fit and turning into a nice riding horse! We did a 20 mile endurance ride yesterday and Gola was A Horse With A Mission, very excited at the start and just powering along for the whole ride. It was a beautiful route, over very "English" countryside with gentle chalk hills, lots of pasture, old hedgerows and some pretty little villages (Ridgeway ride, near Swindon). We had to slow down for the last 2 miles as this ride had a maximum speed of 8mph but Gola felt as if she could have gone a lot further and quite a bit faster.
She passed the final vetting with no problems, but by that time it was very windy and pouring down with rain, so her heart rates were pretty bad (48 before and 56 after the trot-up), but as all horses were tucked up with cold and some even shivering during the vetting, I am not too worried about this.
That was our first "proper" ride of the season and I'm very pleased we passed.
A very happy Jana and Gola
Story by Jana Crewett
(Photos from a 15 mile Pleasure Ride in February, 15 Miles at 7.1 mph. Photos copyright Eric Jones.)
This shows my little mare Gola frá Húsey and me during our first successful attempt at a 30 mile ride on 25.4.99, at Epping Forest near London. It was hot, it was boring (we did about 25 miles without meeting another horse) and Gola had one very loose shoe after 28 miles, but she passed with a respectable speed (7.2mph) and heart rate (50 - not bad considering she hadn't been walked or cooled off but spent all the time between finish and vet at the farrier having a shoe replaced!).
The photo was done by a professional photographer, "copyright Peter Orr".
John Parke and Remington
This is a photograph the ride vet took of Remington and me in front of the
assay office in Shakespeare, New Mexico at the finish of the 285 mi. Renegade
5 Day Ride. Don't we look happy to be done?
My Icelandic horse Remington passed the three thousand career mile mark at
Randy Eiland's Renegade Ride in New Mexico a week or two ago. This ride
covers 285 miles over five days, from Texas accross southern New Mexico to
near the Arizona border. Miscellaneous things I recall (from Renegade, not
the whole three thousand miles):
Day I, a fifty five miler, started near El Paso, Texas and followed much of
the same ground we covered in a 100 miler last November. Most of the ride was
sandy with an enormous number of rocks in the hills near the end. Many riders
were troubled throughout the five days about how to protect their horses' feet
from rocks with pads or Easyboots without having problems with sand intrusion.
Temperatures reached the 90's. I rode with my buddy Richard Fuess and his
stallion Jake. Jake's easy moving gaits are so beautiful to watch. We were
very impressed with the near infinite variety of thorny bushes and cacti
defining this part of New Mexico. Our rig arrived at camp later than we did,
no doubt helped by the fact I had disabled both the brakes and the lights of
Richard's 38 ft. trailer by accidentally pulling the plug off the connection
cable earlier. Many people helped us with blankets, hay and especially beer.
Day II, a sixty miler, started with an intense rock field for the first ten or
fifteen miles. There were some hills although the whole day, like the other
days, had a cumulative climb of only around 1,500 ft. according to my
altimeter watch. I began to count the rocks. I think there were 9,028,806
rocks on the trail overall by my calculations. Randy may have a better count.
Assistant vet Nancy Cryder (sp.?) was very friendly, helpful and generally
adorable. (Head vet Barney Fleming is always those things too but maybe too
grizzled to call adorable.) We saw a lot of dead cows. We rode into
Columbus, the site of Pancho Villa's infamous raid, after dark. I was too
tired to go raiding the bars accross the border with most of the other riders.
Day III, also a sixty miler, mostly followed the border. US Army units were
constructing a new road and were very accomodating about stopping their
machinery to let us pass. Still, John Teeter had a big adventure which
Stephanie will probably describe in her next post. After lunch we climbed
some more hills with more rocks. I began to name the rocks. Ugly names. The
weather started to get stormy. There was rain and even snow at the finish for
some people. Short little Remington looked so cute getting down on his knees
to reach the water at the bottom of the tank two miles from the finish, I took
out my camera to take a picture. It broke. Watering your horse within two
mile of the finish, by the way, is an example of the kind of horse management
that works at multi-days. You have to do things that may not be necessary
today but will help the horse for the next day. When Barney finished checking
Rem for completion, I told him he had just vetted in the world's first 3,000
mile Icelandic endurance horse. I sure wished my camera hadn't died twenty
Day IV, a fifty five miler, headed back to the Mexican border with a climb
through the rocks. The border here consists of a two strand barbwire cow
fence with a cowpath on our side. Not very intimidating. By noontime, I
began to talk to the rocks. Ada Carr was very helpful at the lunch vet check
like she was every day. She began to sound like she wants an Icelandic, too.
We rode through Little Hatchita, an interesting mining ghost town. I finished
after dark again and had a temper tantrum over something minor, thus violating
my cardinal principle that any critical comments at a ride should be expressed
in a brief, calm manner and be accompanied by either a constructive suggestion
or offer of assistance to busy ride personnel. Oh well, consistency is the
hobgoblin of small minds, or something like that per Emerson.
Day V, another fifty five miler, started with another climb through rocks.
The rocks began to talk to me. It's good there wasn't a Day VI. Later, Kat
Swigart from our list said to me that she hadn't noticed any rocks. I
remember feeling glad that her father was at the ride to take her home. After
a long day we finished at the ghost town of Shakespeare, a registered National
Historical Site with a 150 year history. After Nancy vetted Remington in, the
town's owner and last remaining resident Janaloo Hill gave me a personal tour
while Nancy played with Rem. I was having too much fun to notice that my
trailer ride to our final base camp at the fairgrounds in Lordsburg had just
left. We were now faced with at least a one hour wait for the next available
trailer as it was getting dark, windy and cold. So I re-tightened the girth,
climbed back up and said to Remington, "Shall we?" He voted with his feet and
trotted down the hill to Lordsburg. As we proceeded through Lordsburg looking
for the fairgrounds, I observed that many neighborhoods needed urban renewal
but was glad most people kept their dogs tied up. I finally stopped a drunk
on a bicycle at an intersection to ask directions. He told me to turn right
and go on down the road until I hit the fairgrounds, right behind the Fiesta
Club. It's funny what non horse people use as landmarks. We got to camp
after dark just in time to go to the awards banquet .......... at the Fiesta
The banquet was wonderful. Sharon Dumas was the overall winner on time,
overall Best Condition winner and a very happy girl. Randy had humorous
things to say about everybody and passed out lovely Tarahumara Indian pottery
cooking bowls as ride awards to the twenty seven horse and rider teams,
including us, who managed to complete all five days. Randy's rides, like
other multi-day rides, go to the core of what endurance riding is all about.
I just didn't have the heart to tell him that his Renegade Ride was the site
of the completion of the AERC's first 5 mile point to point Limited Distance
Ride by Remington and me.
See the story on Endurance.Net
We've just returned from the Mt. Charleston endurance ride north of Las
Vegas, Nevada. I took both Skjoldur and Remington. The idea was to enter
both horses in the 75 mile ride on Saturday. Although Remington has done 100
milers before, Skjoldur had never gone more than 55 miles in one day. This
ride is also known for its constant ascents and descents (one rider told me
she would bet there isn't more than 5 feet of flat terrain on the whole
ride), so I thought it would be a good test to see if the horses are fit
enough for Tevis.
I didn't have a rider for Skjoldur, so I ran an ad on the endurance list!
There were many responses from people who wanted to try an Icelandic horse.
Lori Cox from Flagstaff, Arizona, was the first to contact me so we made
arrangements to meet at the ride. Lori has ridden endurance for years on her
two Arabs. Lori told me she lives near someone with an Icelandic. Anybody
know who this might be?
The original plan was to get to the ride site at noon Friday so the horses
and I could get some rest. Oh well. After spending a full day on business
in LA, we finally arrived in camp at 3:30 in the morning Saturday. I fed the
horses and changed clothes because I still needed to see the vet for the
pre-ride exam. Start time was at 5:30 a.m. Lori came out of the darkness at
4:30 a.m. and asked if I was John Parke. I said, "I think so." How's that
for a blind date!
I made some oatmeal for breakfast but never had time to eat it. Once we
sorted out what tack goes where in the dark and introduced Lori to Skjoldur,
we set off in a rush about ten minutes past the start time. What an
auspicious beginning. The entire ride was single track through wilderness.
The first part went up and down over seventeen ridges before the climbing got
serious. The trail twisted back and forth thousands of times through the
pinon pines and juniper. It was very exciting to do this at full speed.
Lori said, "I've got to get one of these." She and Skjoldur even led Rem and
me for the first ten miles. We eventually reached a beautiful meadow
surrounded by huge, gnarled ponderosa pines. The view of the nearby
snow-streaked granite peaks was spectacular. We then headed back to the
first vet check.
Each of the four vet checks was back in camp after a three mile climb. This
ascent into the vet check makes it harder for the horses to pulse down. The
mandatory hold times wouldn't start until the horses reached criteria of 64
beats per minute. (If you don't reach criteria in 30 minutes you and your
horse are pulled.) Remington took a few minutes to get down to 64 while
Skjoldur reached criteria right away. Lori told me he checked in a 48! It
went on like this all day. Skjoldur must have a very big ticker.
Lori was a great sport all day. She spent a lot of time talking with
Skjoldur. She loved his super smooth ride. We trotted most of the time
because the rocks, sand and constant ups,downs and turns kept us from
cantering. Lori even got off and ran some of the time like I do. Me, I kept
falling asleep in the saddle.
We still had a 13 mile and then an 8 mile loop as it neared dark. Lori
suggested that we put Easyboots on the horses since Skjoldur was beginning to
act a little ouchy from all the rocks. We put them on and it made all the
difference in the world. We did the 13 mile loop through some difficult
canyons in an hour and a half. We had done each loop at least one mile an
hour faster than the previous loop. Unfortunately the last loop started down
a steep ravine in the pitch dark. We walked this on the horses. We both
figured we were better off on them than off since we couldn't see anything.
When we hit the trail back to camp it was time to fly. We got in around
11:15 p.m. in seventh and eighth place (of course, only eight horses
finished). The horses passed their post ride vet check in great shape.
Skjoldur had done his first 75 miler. Lori helped me put the blankets on and
feed the horses. Lori told me her friends said she was crazy to want to go
75 miles on a strange horse. I told her they were right. I gave her a hug,
congratulated her and said goodbye. I went to bed at midnight and slept
very, very soundly.
as I always have "problems" with other riders and sometimes vets (I'm not
doing endurance with Soti but other kind of "long-distance-riding
competition" - slower speed but finding the way using a map) because Soti
has often rather high "breathing rates" I was really looking forward to your
answer to Hope's question - but now I'm "confused".
You said: "they receive full body clips, including the face, before every endurance
and even during lulls between races if they are going on serious
conditioning rides. Remington has been clipped at least once a month for
the last three
How can you do that? Don't you have a winter when it's cold and/or wet? Do
you keep him in a stable when it's raining or is he (almost always) covered
by a blanket?
You said: I have heard about panting in
Icelandics but have not observed anything excessive in my horses.
I also know few (!!) Icelandics that never show that panting - without any
difference of being "conditioned" or not - but with Soti I can ride and ride
and ride ... - he will be "panting". (Well, I don't clip him).
We live in a relatively mild climate. I cover Remington with a waterproof,
breathable insulated blanket when it is rainy or particularly cold. This is
a minor inconvenience.
A couple of years ago a young lady brought the Icelandic she was riding over
to me and me if I knew what was wrong with it. The horse was breathing
really hard and had an elevated pulse when I slapped a heart rate monitor on
it. It had also been galloped for the last half hour, had a heavy winter
coat and was wearing a noseband cranked really tight. Under those adverse
circumstances no reasonable person could have come to any conclusions about
that horse's respiratory system or the breed's breathing ability in general.
Three months ago while I was giving Remington a little break, I starting
bringing Skjoldur back into condition so that I could campaign him this year
as well. One afternoon we rode up a trail which climbs 3,200 feet in six
miles. He was really huffing and puffing. Since he hadn't been clipped for
a few months, I couldn't tell if his heavy coat was the problem or whether he
was still a little out of shape. So I clipped him and went back the next
week. He did much better.
My point is that you have to isolate all of the potential variables before
you can judge the breed's, or even a particular horse's, inherent respiratory
ability. My two horses which I use for endurance are compared at vet checks
not to other Icelandics but to the couple of thousand Arabian horses which
have been specifically conditioned for endurance racing in this country.
Yesterday both horses completed an endurance ride featuring 9,270 feet of
cumulative elevation gain according to my altimeter watch, the most I've ever
measured for a fifty mile ride. We galloped in at the finish, passing four
other horses in the last mile and a half. Neither horse displayed any
unusally heavy breathing at any point. (Skjoldur's only problem was that he
kept tolting when he would be trotted out at vet checks; the boy needs more
training for this at home.)
Hope asked me what I do to combat heat and whether vets at endurance rides
were knowledgeable about the "special respiration" of Icelandics. I don't
know whether Icelandics as whole have a breathing problem or not. I just
know I've never seen it in Icelandics which have been conditioned and clipped
to put them on an equal footing with other horses asked to do the same work.
I've been told over and over again for the last four years what my horse or
Icelandic horses supposedly can't do. I've learned never to apologize for
some flaw in Icelandic horses until I'm convinced it really exists.
It sounds from your post that you are doing competitive mounted orienteering
on Soti. I would think Icelandics would be perfect for this. I enjoy the
personality of older Icelandics and really admire you for giving your 19 year
old the chance to share something you like and show what he can do. Please
tell us more about your rides. If a little transatlantic detective work
might help, I would be glad to try to figure out any specific respiration
issues you notice if you don't mind providing more information.
Three things make an enormous difference for cooling my Icelandics. One,
they receive full body clips, including the face, before every endurance ride
and even during lulls between races if they are going on serious conditioning
rides. Remington has been clipped at least once a month for the last three
years. Second, they do a lot of hard conditioning work in the heat and
hills. Skjoldur has only raced at multidays as a mount for other members of
my family but has been conditioned for a good two years. Third, I use a
sponge and scoop to wet them down at water stops and try to avoid overriding
them. Although strategy number one is a response to the unique hairiness of
Icelandics, strategies two and three are common to Arabs and other horses.
Vets who haven't seen Remington before sometimes think he is too fat or that
the tolt he does at first when I trot him out is some kind of lameness. We
have had no problem with vets who have seen him more than once or twice. I
don't mean to sound stupid or rude but I am not sure I am knowledgeable about
Icelandics and their special respiration. I have heard about panting in
Icelandics but have not observed anything excessive in my horses. I wonder
how much supposedly unique Icelandic rapid breathing is really nothing more
than a lack of clipping and adequate conditioning. This would seem to be
more a rider preparation issue than some handicap in the breed's
cardiovascular system. I apologize in advance if this offends anyone.
By Ellen Hansen
I just read your very interesting article about clipping
Icelandics and the "huffing and puffing"...I just wanted to share my
findings with my gelding Nokkvi fra Enni. We live in BC, Canada and have
few hot days...his winter coat is usually gone by early June and he is
shiny and slick...by then we finished the conditioning after a three to
four month winter break or very light riding. He always breathes very
hard in the beginning of a ride and then slows down after he is warmed
up a little bit. All in all he always breathes more or faster than my
other horses (Icelandics and Non Icelandics) but NEVER or rarely sweats,
no matter how much we ride or how fast the average speed is. We ride
about four to five times a week, usually one to two hours with one
weekly three to four hour mountain ride. He is very well conditioned
and in top shape, has no more hair than other breeds, is healthy and
still breathes more, yet doesn't sweat. So I personally decided that
this is just his personal way to deal with the stress of exercise and
wasn't too concerned about it.
I don't do Endurance or CTR, although I'd love to - but we are too far
north and I don't feel like traveling thousands of km to compete. Still
we do conditioning and and riding equivalent to these disciplines and I
find Icelandics to be absolutely wonderful for it. How did you make your
choice to do Endurance on Iceys instead of Arabs (which everybody seems
I'd love to hear some words from you.
A photo of Sorti fra Bitru, my beautiful Icelandic gelding that
has quite a story to tell, too.
On John Parkes" inspiration, I went to an
endurance race this weekend past to check out
the endurance ride scene. I was impressed big
time. It was a blast.
I went into it as a green horn entirely. I
had read a book on endurance racing and I of
course had read the Congress Quarterly articles
that John had written about endurance riding.
That night I arrived to register for the
race, I walked about asking newbie questions of
everyone as I clutched that Quarterly issue to my
breast and read and re-read the epistle that John
Parke authored on riding hills in particular.
On arriving at the race site, a State
Park in Illinois, I checked in and placed myself in
their hands declaring that I was a total newbie.
People at the ride were real good at getting me
set to go in the race. They had a riders meeting
the evening before the race to go over aspects of
the race that was to start the next morning at
I had picked our most fit horse to take
to the race. I took a 10 year old gelding named
Ljufur. The rules of the race necessitate that you
have a fit horse. There is a maximum time limit set
for the distance of each race you enter which
means that you have got to keep moving along
the course of the race at a good clip.
This endurance racing is not a sport for
fat pasture pet-horses. In fact, you should see
some of the fitness of these horses that do this
race circuit regularly.
The real front running horses are
specimens to behold. They mostly look like lean
long-distance Olympic runners. Muscled and
defined without an ounce of fat extra. This is not
a sport for American Quarter horses! In fact, of
the 50 or so horses, I am not sure there was one
AQH there. I imagine that they have too much
muscle to pump blood through to survive in
There seem to be two groups of riders
within the ride. One group consists of the front
runners who are trying to come in first or with
placings. These people and horses follow the
curcuit of endurance rides nearly full time. The
second group of riders is just trying to survive the
course of the ride with a horse that is judged to be
fit and sound by the race vets at the end.
The big constraint for either group of
riders is that you make it the whole distance of the
race, without previously being pulled from the
race by the race vets. At the end, you still must
complete the ride with a fit and sound horse at the
end. If not, you rode the distance for naught!
This endurance racing is really fun to
be in the middle of. You have to keep your head
in the ride all the time. The twin constraints are
always over you. You must keep moving along to
come in at the end under the maximum time limit
for the distance of the ride, yet you have to gauge
it so that you do not run your horse down
physically such that you would fail the vet check
at the finish line.
From what I could see, about a quarter
of the 50 or so people riding were pulled from their
races by the race vets. So it is not easy to
complete even with horses that are fit.
Certainly you would just embarrass
yourself to show up with a fat pasture horse.
I chose a short distance race. I picked
what they call a 30 mile limited distance race.
The maximum time allowed for the race was
around 6 and a half hours. There were other
distance rides going on at the sametime.
Regardless, the maximum time limit necessitates
riding along at about a 6 mile an hour clip. How
you pace your ride depending on how you chose
to pace yourself with walking and also the
required vet checks which hold you in the middle
of the races. Generally you are moving along at a
good trot or tolt much of the time you are riding.
My strategy was to ride a conservative
ride holding back. There was a pack of people
bringing up the tail of the ride fighting, as it were,
to be the last one in with a fit horse. That worked
fine as a beginning strategy. I survived the race
with my horse still fit at the end. In the end I was
quite satisfied. Even though I was dead last, our
ride was better than about a quarter of the horses
that started the race.
In the first half of the 30 miles I was real
comfortable with the folks I was riding along with
at the rear of the ride. We were moving along
doing our ride at the rear talking and
commiserating as we went along. To my surprise,
all of my compatriots at the end of the ride were
pulled during their vet check halfway through the
ride. When I started out again after the midway
hold time for vet checking I was by myself at the
rear of the 30 mile ride.
Right before the ride started, I got
goofed up with my ride time by getting advice from
someone who was riding a 25 mile. With great
certainty they told me that I had 6 hours to finish
the 30 miles of my ride which according to them
included the 45 minute vet hold in the middle. In
fact the ride gave about 6 hours 50 minutes for
the 30 mile ride.
On my wrist watch I had my timers
ticking away while, newbie that I was, am pacing
my ride for coming in under 6 hours. I rode the
first 15 of the ride in 2 and a half hours. Then
they held people for the midway vet check for a
mandatory 45 minutes. So I left the midway point
with what I thought was less than half of my
allotted time for the 30 miles left. My horse was
doing really fine at that point.
However, I thought for the second half
of the race, I had to pick up my rate to come in
under what I thought was my maximum time of 6
hours. So with the Epistle of Parke in my mind, I
was really reading the roll and lay of the
landscape. Either walking up or down hills or
tearing up and down hills according to their
gradation, jumping off and walking where ever the
hills dictated and also jumping off at stream
crossings to sling water on my horse to help cool
him and keep him from dehydrating.
The trail went through a mix of woods
with ravines and creeks and also around prairie
edges running along a river with its bluffs. The
trail itself was generally a mess. It has been
raining buckets here in the mid-west in the last
couple of weeks. Low spots on the trail where
greasy with mud. Horses and riders were covered
and soaked with mud.
At one point the 50 milers caught up
and passed our 30 mile ride. One guy who came
up behind me while I was tolting along on the roll
of a part of the trail up in the prairies. He stayed
behind me for a while and called ahead to me
complaining in a fun way that I was not working
hard enough blazing along in tolt on my horse. So
I converted to trot for him just to show that we
also can suffer like everyone else.
This guy was riding along with his wife
at the head of the 50 milers. We rode along
together at my speed and we talked for about five
minutes. I got off my horse to walk a hill at one
point and these folks passed by. The hill was
short and when I remounted I joined up behind
Their horses were awesomely fit. Hers
was a Spanish Mustang and his an Arab. They
picked up their speed again and moved along at
a ripping trot. I rode along with them again for
another 5 minutes bringing up their rear at their
speed. It was too fast for the fitness of my horse
but I wanted to experience the rate that the front
runners were going at. We did fine but then at a
point I slowed down to not over run the condition
of my own horse.
I did not know it then but it turned out
that this guy I was riding with was the national
champion endurance rider last year. Also on the
ride was this years high miles rider, with over
1200 miles so far successfully completed in
endurance riding for the current year. They rode
their own rides and I rode my own ride at the end
of the line.
In the end, at the end, I was real
satisfied to have finished fit, particularly riding
along thinking my 30- mile time limit was the limit
for the 25-milers.
Endurance riding with an Icelandic
horse was a real curiosity for people at the ride.
People were real pleased that we came to the
ride and they were also quite pleased that we
survived the ride. A lot of people came by
afterwards to congradulate us, impressed with my
Best Regards from Iowa,
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