Ok, so it wasn't my first endurance ride I'd seen. A few years ago, about twelve of my friends and I who were out on a trail ride in Henryville, IN stumbled onto the trails where riders from an endurance ride were on their way across the course. I was proud to be riding my Egyptian Arabian, seeing all those in tip-top shape Arabians (and other breeds), going along the trail at a trot or canter most of the time. The riders and horses are athletes, who cover miles and miles of trail, in a variety of conditions. So at my "first" endurance ride it was cool to meet some riders, admire their horses, and have a great trail ride with friends for a few hours on a sunny, spring day!
My second and most recent endurance ride was totally on purpose, as I've looked into opportunities to shoot equine events through my education in photography proceeds (always, always learning!) and for fun also! I found the Top of the Rock ride via search online, which happens to be near my barn where I board my horse - how convenient! So needless to say, I was excited to try something new with the camera and have the comfort of being in familiar territory.
The first day was cool and rainy, which was absolutely not supposed to happen per all the local weather stations until the day before the first scheduled day of riding, which was Friday. That was ok, because I was meeting a fellow equine photographer, Peter Demott, who I'd met through the world of Facebook and was attending the ride with his wife, who was competing. He has been a photographer for a healthy number of years and has attended endurance rides for almost as many. I was so grateful and humbled to meet him , getting to talk photography and horses. I also learned Mr. Demott has a great following in the equine world, for being a photographer and well, just being a super nice person! So thank you Peter!
We attempted to get some shots of the ride, but between the rain drops and me fumbling through being nervous with a new camera body that I was literally learning after having for a whole two days (lesson learned!) we didn't succeed. After I left the venue for the day, Peter and the riders did get a few hours of sunshine and warmth, so it did turn out good for part of the day.
The second day I went to the event with my camera (yep, the new one - I grumbled at myself the night before and read the manual as much as I could…) and hiked down the trail. Excitement and nerves were with me so hence some fumbling on my own account - I got past that eventually. Rider were coming back from their first loop and I started clicking, and the nerves dissipated. Honestly, I was excited to be there the whole day - outside on a sunny, 70 degree day, on trails in the beautiful spring forest, with my camera, admiring horses and riders. Anyway, despite being a pretty setting, shadows are a challenge in a forest setting when taking photographs. Timing, spacing and good hiking shoes/boots help that.
The riders looked to be enjoying such a lovely morning themselves, glad to rid of the rain and gloom of the previous day. It also means less gear to worry about and probably an easier time keeping horses comfortable during the event. It turned out to be a fantastic day for everyone. As riders passed we exchanged hello's and I appreciated the "Thanks for being here!" from several of them!
It was also amazing to see riders of all ages, from very young to seasoned riders who have thousands of miles under their saddles. This particular event had riders on a 25 mile or 50 mile course, with check-in with the veterinarian in between loops (being on the course for a certain distance - and please forgive me if I misstate terminology and feel free to correct. I soaked up a lot of information in 24 hours!).
I also met some riders who were competing in their first endurance event - how exciting to meet them and be there for such a time! I could tell they were having a great ride and I'm betting they will be on the event circuit in the future.
I hiked a couple, few miles out on the trail and saw some amazing views of the southern Indiana hillside. The damage from the 2012 tornado is still very evident with the snapped tree trunks amidst the younger trees encroaching towards the sun.
Towards the end of the day and after the event had concluded, I talked with riders and saw their horses resting in their temporary corrals. A relaxed atmosphere had fallen over the campground, with it's residents engaging in friendly exchanges and laughter. Have I mentioned how nice folks were and lovely to talk with?!
In summary, I will definitely attend more endurance rides and look forward to seeing my new friends at the events. I don't think my 28 year old Arabian is up to 25 miles but he is just down the hill from the campground. May in the fall I will have my camera gear in my saddle bags :)