Here is a story of learning a new sport, pushing yourself, and overcoming enormous challenges. It’s an inspiring story because it reflects hope, salvation, and endurance. Brittney started out knowing nothing about endurance riding and didn’t even have a horse to ride. But God opened doors for her. And provided a cute little half Arabian from a kill pen and a tenacity to finish the season with a 50-mile ride.
Brittney and Tuck’s story is not only inspiring, but shows how much a small spark can turn into a life-changing experience. It all depends on how much you’re willing- willing to put in the time, effort, and sacrifice to be out there when it’s uncomfortable and cold and you’re tired. She didn’t do it alone though, supported by her family and friends- she and the little horse Tuck have made everyone proud.
How did you get started in endurance riding?
A few years ago, I helped take on Oak Grove Riding Club and tried to persuade my family to become a Playday family, but my husband said he’d be more interested in endurance riding. That was the first time I’d ever heard of endurance in relation to horses and had no idea what it was. Not long after that, I was helping host an equine bodywork clinic at Oak Grove and a gentleman brought one of his Arabian broodmares. He mentioned he bred and raised desert Arabians for endurance. I was able to visit with him for a few minutes to get more info to share with my husband and he suggested I look up AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference). I remember him talking about Tevis also, a 100 mile ride in the mountains somewhere. At that point, I thought that was the only 100 mile ride in the country or world for all I knew. So I made a point of finding AERC on Facebook.
I started seeing “Cougar Rock ” photos while scrolling Facebook from people competing at Tevis and thought I’d sure like to get one of those photos someday! After some digging and research, I found out that I was Facebook friends with some people who were already doing endurance. At the BCHNWA camp-out in August 2021 at Devil’s Den, my family parked next to Julie Moore, who I only really knew through Facebook. I asked her to just talk endurance so I could get a better feel for it and she was very helpful to indulge my curiosities.
The following month, I went to ride another friend’s horse who she had done one 25 mile ride on. My friend couldn’t ride anymore after back surgery, but didn’t want to see her horses go to waste. So I started going out a couple times a week to ride/train myself and that little mare. Fast forward to February, a couple weeks before my first scheduled 25 mile ride, and there were concerns over the mare retaining fluid in her hocks. After being seen by a professional, we all decided it would be best if she stuck trail rides rather than competition miles. I let Julie know that I still planned to go to the ride as a volunteer so I could learn the ropes, but that I no longer had a horse to compete on and that’s when she suggested I meet one of her horses.
Also, tell us about your borrowed horse, Tuck.
Well, Julie’s little horse that she wanted me to meet is Tuck. She had rescued him as a half-Arabian from a kill pen in 2021. I met him the Sunday before my first scheduled 25 mile ride and we kept up with a few legit endurance riders for 18 miles – a nice “exercise” ride for them. I kept thinking, “these horses just keep going!” I’m accustom to laid back, trail riding quarter horses, so it was an entirely new riding experience for me. You didn’t have to continuously ask them to go or fight to keep them in gait. They were trotting machines! That was also the most miles I’d done in a single day, at least within a few hours’ time. I saw Tuck for the 2nd time the following Saturday in Oklahoma for our first ever LD ride where we placed in the Top Ten.
Tuck is short, maybe 14.1-14.2 hands, fairly narrow, and has so much heart. He’s a cute little sorrel with some serious herd bound issues and hollers all the time for other horses – my biggest pet peeve with him. Tuck absolutely LOVES endurance. He’s forward moving, chasing that trail with his ears perked forward and just looks so dang happy doing it – it’s adorable. I’m not sure what his previous life was like or why he ended up at the kill pen, but I have no doubt that Julie helped him find his passion and purpose in this world. He’s no doubt an endurance horse.
What does the training entail and how difficult is it to complete the training period to become an endurance team?
Training and conditioning for us is mostly trail riding at this point. We bounce back and forth between slow hill work over a few miles or maintained faster pace along roads for several miles. Several people cross train doing dressage or other disciplines and activities with their horses as well. It’s pretty common to hear “any horse that is in shape can do 25 miles”, but I’d certainly make sure the horse has more go than whoa and can pulse down after exercise fairly quickly. I’ve heard several times that it takes 2-3 years to build an endurance horse – as far as strengthening tendons, muscles, etc. So although a horse could plow through 25-50 miles if they’re super athletic, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll pulse down in time, be fit to continue, or have overall good recovery. Lots of miles, hill work, and learning to use their body properly makes a good endurance horse.
what are some of the highs and lows you’ve experienced during that time?
Tuck’s soundness has been my biggest stressor and worry, but finishing the season like we did, his soundness has also been my biggest victory. Aside from our first ride when Tuck was barefoot and until we pulled his shoes to try glue-ons, Tuck would come up “off” at the vet checks. He would move stiffly and was short strided, sometimes moving his head all around. I think it was a combination of steel shoes, long toes, and not being fully “legged up” for as fast as he was wanting to go. So we made changes to his hooves as well as slowed him down to a more relaxed trot, and we’ve had phenomenal improvements in our vet scores since implementing those changes. There were a few rides where I wasn’t sure he’d get a completion and then we finished our last ride of 50 miles with all A’s.
My own personal struggle has been learning to ride in a way that is beneficial to him over that many miles while not completely wrecking my body. I have a terrible habit of holding all my tension in my traps, so I’d end up terribly sore after rides. I’m better able to relax and not ride so tense anymore, which is amazing. I also used 3 different saddles on him over the course of the season and had to adjust to those and how they held me on him. It’s taken some focused riding to learn how to finish a ride without sore knees, shin splints, bruised legs, etc. In the beginning, 25 miles in the saddle wore me out once the adrenaline died off. I wasn’t near as sore as I had expected and Tuck still had energy left at the end of our 50.
Greatest challenge that you’ve overcome?
My greatest challenge was not only deciding to start endurance, but also to continue in endurance. I had given a lot of myself to different people, riding groups, etc. and had also experienced great trauma and loss in the last few years. It seemed incredibly selfish, but I got to where I just needed to do something for me – something that would challenge me and something I’d have to really work at, while still enjoying it. Well, my happy place is in the saddle and endurance requires me to be in the saddle for hours at a time. Plus, Tuck and I usually ride solo, so it’s usually just me, Tuck, and God zipping down the trails – there’s not much else that beats that feeling for me. I’ve struggled internally these past couple months over whether I should continue in endurance or just be thankful for the season and maybe come back to it later. I’m now fully at peace with my decision to continue and hoping to get my daughter and husband to join me for an endurance ride one day soon!
Future plans with endurance riding?
This entire experience has been a whirlwind adventure for me, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ride! When I first started, I thought it would take 1-2 years before we’d be doing 50s. I even thought LDs were pretty great, and I’d be happy just sticking to those. After finishing the season 2nd in our region for LD miles and 2nd LD Rookie in the nation, plus knowing Tuck is good and fit for 50s, I’m going to try for Endurance Rookie of the nation next season. Why not, right?!? Tuck continues to blow me away and there’s no denying that he loves it, so I’m going to ride the little power pony as often as I can, with completions being our goal next year. Did I mention getting to travel and ride horses all over the country, because that’s a thing! I’m hoping to travel to at least 1 different state I’ve not ridden in for a ride each year. I’ve done Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Kansas, but have my sights on Colorado, Utah, and Wisconsin. I might have a 5 year Tevis goal that I’m dreamin’ and schemin’ towards. We’ll see!
I’m also hoping to add Tuck to my personal herd when all the stars align in my favor.
Any tips or horsemanship advice?
I’ve tried to be a sponge this year and absorb all that I can. I learn something at every ride I go to, just listening to people do their thing and coach others at vet checks. For example, to lower your horse’s heart rate, put their bum down hill to relieve pressure from all their innards on their lungs, which will allow them to take deeper breaths and slow their heart rate. Also, rub them at the base of their ears to help them relax and lower their head below their withers to release endorphins and lower their heart rate. If you need to check heart rate, make sure they’re standing with their left front leg out forward to better hear with a stethoscope. After heavy exercise, DO NOT throw cold water over your hot horse’s bum as you could cause muscle cramps. Instead, focus on the neck, chest, no further than halfway down their back, and up under their hind legs where the big veins are to cool them down.
If anyone thinks they’re even remotely interested in endurance, I absolutely cannot recommend this sport enough. The entire sport revolves around the horse’s health, wellness, and God given athletic ability. Learn to be the best horseman you can for your horse to carry you hundreds of miles and be fit to continue once you’ve finished. I don’t know of any other sport or discipline focusing sole on the horse like I’ve seen in endurance. In fact, some of the most sought after awards and accomplishments are “Best Condition” which focuses on the horse and “Decade Team” which is the same horse and rider competing together for 10 years. Not to mention the family-like community in the endurance world. These are people you end up camping next to and riding with several times a year, so you get to know them pretty well. Most everyone I’ve met has been incredibly helpful, encouraging, and willing to share advice to help you and your horse be successful. Just go volunteer at a ride sometime!
I’ve been around and taken part in all kinds of horse activities throughout my life, but there’s nothing else quite like endurance. I’m forever grateful to have been given this opportunity and know that I’m better for it and my horses will benefit from it as well.
I want to thank Brittney for agreeing to this interview. If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to subscribe so we can notify you when new articles are released. Thanks for being here!