I don’t have to tell you this, because you already know, but riding is its own reward. I like doing the whole horse show thing, but I can say without a doubt that if I had to choose between competing and riding just for fun, fun would take a decisive victory.
But, as I’ve probably said a few dozen times on this blog, trail riding around the farm on ol’ reliable Snoopy can get a little stale. It’s always good to be in the saddle and I’m certainly grateful for any time I get to spend with my beloved pony. But we’ve got limited places to ride and since Snoopy is a distinguished, mature horse, he (usually) doesn’t resort to the kind of curveball throwing that younger, greener horses like to do to make any ride more interesting.
I love riding, but I do miss our showing days when we had concrete goals to work toward. So to fill that void, I signed up for the American Morgan Horse Association’s (AMHA) Pathways program. This is a program where you record any time you spend riding or driving your horse in a non-competitive situation (so schooling or trail riding count, but competitive trail or showing do not.) At certain benchmarks, you send your records to the AMHA, and you get some sort of prize, plus a certificate or a patch for your saddle.
|Here’s the water bottle I earned by logging 75 non-competitive hours in the saddle. Yes, I have taken my Christmas decorations down since taking this photo.|
The Pathways program is open to AMHA members riding registered Morgans or half-Morgans, but there are a lot of other similar things for people who ride other breeds. The American Quarter Horse Association has a simply titled Horseback Riding Program that works the same way as Pathways. Theirs has divisions for people riding registered Quarter Horses and those who ride horses of any other breed, although you do have to be an AQHA member to enroll, regardless of what breed you’re riding.
The American Paint Horse Association has Ride America. The Arabian Horse Association has a Frequent Rider Program. The Appaloosa Horse Club has its Saddle Log Program. I recently read an article about the Wisconsin Horse Council’s Ride Wisconsin, which works pretty much the same way as the breed organizations’ programs, so maybe other state horse councils have similar things.
I don’t know why I didn’t sign up for Pathways sooner. Who knows how many hours I’d have logged by now if I’d started when I was an AMHA youth member back in the olden days (you know, the 90s)? No point in looking backwards, though. I’m at about 90 hours right now, and the next benchmark is 150. I could easily get there by the end of 2014 if I ride a little more than an hour a week. No problem. The benchmark after that is 300, which I could reach this year if I ride over four hours each week, but that might be stretching it.
I will say that I think it’s much easier to keep track of hours in the age of the smartphone. I track all my rides using an app called CardioTrainer. There are lots of similar fitness apps out there that will keep track of how long your ride was and how far you rode along with other fun stats like your average speed and how many calories you burned. (I find that it seriously overestimates the calories, but it’s nice to pretend that I burn off the caloric equivalent of a large slice of pizza every time I ride my horse at a walk around the farm.) That data is always with me, so even if I forget to update my Pathways log sheet for months on end, I can easily go back and fill it in with the info recorded on the app.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever participated in one of these programs. And if you haven’t, I encourage you to look into it. Riding is its own reward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t score OTHER rewards along with it.
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