Debbie Schultz of Harleysville, PA finishes a 75-mile ride in South Carolina on her Arabian, TR Notablymishaah. The gelding, rescued from slaughter as a two year old, has completed twenty 100 mile rides with his 56 year old owner, who makes her living transporting horses.
Debbie Schultz of Harleysville, PA is being recognized by the American Endurance Ride Council for completing twenty, 100-mile rides on her Arabian TR Notablymishaah.
Schultz was originally a hunter rider when she was introduced to endurance riding by friends. "I didnít like being in a ring. I liked the fox hunting part but those jumps got bigger and bigger. I would do it, but my heart would be in my throat," she said.
Friends introduced Schultz to endurance riding, and she knew this was the sport for her. "At that point it was so - wow, that these horses carry you for 50 miles and the bond that you develop with that horse over 50 miles, Iíd just never experienced that," she said. "The whole motto of endurance is Ďto finish is to winí. Youíre so proud after doing 50 miles with the same horse. I just loved that."
Once she had decided that endurance was the sport for her, Schultz was prepared to make a serious commitment to be competitive. "I had been riding other peopleís horses for years and decided it was time to have one of my own," Schultz said. "I did the hunter jumpers for years and years. When I got into endurance I realized I had to get an Arabian."
Rescued as a Two Year Old
Responding to an online advertisement, Schultz found TR Notablymishaah in New Jersey. "He had been rescued from an auction by the gal that owned him. She got him as a two-year-old. He was going to go to the killers," Schultz said.
While the Arabian proved to be a good horse, he was not well suited to the work his owner wanted to do. "She was big into dressage and combined driving," Schultz explained. "He just didnít like pulling a carriage, but he loved to be out on the trail and go, go, go. Heíd never done endurance, but she thought he would be a good prospect."
One of the things that has always been among TR Notablymishaahís best assets is his strength at the walk. "Itís his attitude and he has the most incredible walk. In endurance, a lot of times we have to walk when the terrain is very rugged and up hill. His walk is so powerful and ground covering," Schultz said. "He doesnít fit the typical Arabian mold. Heís very big and muscular, heís rock solid, he looks like a quarter horse."
Endurance training can be a time consuming process as you gradually build a horseís fitness. TR Notablymishaah did not need long to get started, taking on a limited distance ride in 2006, in his first year with Schultz, and moving on to 50 mile rides the next year. "Because this horse had had several years of being ridden and trained and because he was already 5 coming 6, I took him to just one limited distance, 25-mile ride and he just sailed through it. He was ready for 50," Schultz said.
Winning Through Attrition
Even at fifty miles, her horse was soon showing her that he was able to do more. In 2008 the pair completed three 100 mile rides. "His recoveries are great. He did so incredibly well at the 50s. Iím always pulling back - its whoa instead of go," Schultz said. "We started 100s and went very very slowly. I think thatís the key to his success. Invariably I go slow and we end up winning through attrition. Most people are highly competitive and they go out fast. I wave goodbye and at mile 70 or 80 their horses have been over ridden. Thatís how weíve done well. I always start in the middle of the pack or sometimes dead last but we end up in the front."
Schultz reports that she typically does five to seven 100 mile rides each year, and she has always done well. She has finished in the ERCís top ten in the featherweight division each year with this horse except one year where she took time off for a shoulder surgery.
Schultz is supported in her sport by Paul, her husband of 32 years, even though he does not become directly involved in her competitions. "He has never been to one of my races. His thing is golf," she said, adding that he takes care of the animals while she is gone, allowing her to travel. "He loves the horses from the ground, he has no desire to ride them."
For many years she was a teacher, but Schultz now works transporting horses. By being in that business, she is able to travel easily to events. Her favorite is Old Dominion, considered the most challenging endurance race in the east. "Itís very tough. It is a lot of mountains, itís crossing the Shenandoah River - you swim across with your horse - itís incredible," she said.
TR Notablymishaah is now 12, with more years of competition ahead of him. "I am very lucky to be able to take him further distances to rides," Schultz said. "I try not to think too far ahead. In our sport weíre riding vet check to vet check."
Schultz is 56 and proud to be competing. "I can be my age and beat kids half my age. This is the only sport I know where three generations can be riding in the same event," she said.