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Fire horse, endurance riding

By Andy Siefert

Mon, Mar 18th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Endurance rider Barry Saylor and Paddy crossing the Black River in Wisconsin. Photo submitted

By Andy Seifert

Fillmore County resident Barry Saylor is a horse endurance rider. Horses, is what he does. “It’s all I do. I don’t do tennis or play golf. I do horses,” Saylor said.

Saylor’s horses are Paddy and Mini. He prefers short names. “It’s important for me to have something that rolls off the tongue,” he said. “Easy.”

Paddy is 11-years-old and Mini is 10-years-old. They’re Arabians and according to Saylor, both are at their peak for endurance riding.

“Mini is the dominant one,” Saylor said, “Mellow. He’s come a long way from when I got him.”

“Paddy,” Saylor added, “is hot, explosive. He’s got as much fire in his belly as any horse I’ve ever ridden.” But Saylor, passionate about his horses, agreed that he has a bit of that fire inside him too. “I like that fire,” he said. “Everyone has to ride the horse that they like.”

Saylor has been involved with horses on and off throughout his life. However, his spark for endurance riding was ignited fairly recently. In 2002, Saylor completed his first race, a 30-mile ride at Spirit Mountain Recreation Area in Duluth. He took first place. “If I didn’t like it before,” he said, “I was hooked at that point. I enjoy competition. That’s why endurance runners turn to endurance riding.”

Saylor compared endurance riding to running as a way to define the basics like warming up, setting goals and conditioning.

“Let me tell you how the endurance rides go,” Saylor said. “You have a pre-ride vet check. You ride out and back a ways so the vet can see how the horse moves, front and back. From that point, you’re good to go with your ride card. They’ll say ‘trail’s open’ and people go. The important thing is to warm your horse up.”

Saylor explained that a runner wouldn’t begin sprinting without loosening up and getting the blood flowing.

Then, the long ride begins. Typical endurance rides are 50 to 100 miles. Saylor agreed that endurance riding isn’t for everyone. “If you love to ride, and have your butt in the saddle, it’s the way to go … it’s a lot of looking between the horses ears.”

There’s a lot of work that goes on before and after the endurance ride. Saylor has a few specific rules he uses. “The first rule,” Saylor said, “is ride your horse, not your ego … because if you’re riding your ego, you’re going to win at all costs. The one who’s going to suffer is your animal.

“I’m a real believer in conditioning,” Saylor added. He has ridden more than 20,000 miles in the saddle, combining time spent conditioning and competing. “I ride 12 months out of the year,” Saylor said. “That’s horsemanship.”

Endurance riding is not easy. Saylor was bucked off his thoroughbred filly, or female horse, eight years ago. “She came up over top of me and stomped my back,” Saylor said. “I broke some ribs. There was a big oak tree. I crawled over to it and gradually stood up. Oh god, it hurt.”

But for Saylor, it’s worth it. “When I get on that horse, “ he said, “it makes me complete. It’s fun.”

Saylor was excited for the riding season this year. “I’m going to Fort Collins this weekend to get a trailer,” he said. “It’s not new but new to me.” More than that, Saylor is excited to continue working with Mini toward his goal: the 100-mile-endurance-ride.

“Doing a hundred is a goal I’ve had for a long time,” Saylor said. “You need to have the right horse and I think Mini is it. Our relationship is growing … I think within a couple years, he’s going to be that horse.” Fall 2014, Saylor plans on putting the fire to the test.

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