Show Days

From riding my coach’s horse Beau, to riding my own horses in both endurance and mounted games, I would say I’m pretty busy. This past weekend was quite busy, with having a show each day this weekend. Over the whole weekend Beau was a good boy. With some classes better than others because you can’t be perfect all the time right?

Friday was Lindsay Ex. This was my first Morgan show ever. We competed in 4 classes getting 2nd,3rd,1st,2nd. Most of the classes had about five people in it, with some pretty good competition too. There was also tough competition in the Saturday Roseneath Fair. Friday was quite the cold day though. All the girls riding for my coach we huddled up in the trailer pretty much until we showed at 11. Luckily Saturday was much better. It was cold in the morning, but it got warmer as the day went on.

At the RoseneathFair we got 5th,2nd,1st,2nd,3rd. Both Friday and Saturday were flat class only, so Beau wasn’t super happy, he’d much rather be jumping. Sunday we competed in two divisions hack and x-rail. For the flat part of the we did relatively the same as the other day. For the jumping part Beau was in his glory. Out of 11 we got 2 in hunter over fences and 3 in equitation over fences.

So what next? This weekend I have Oktoberfest. 14 miles Saturday and 50 miles Sunday on Linda Klarner’s horse Jack. I can’t wait to see how much better he is compared to his first ever 50 mile. Boy I really hope it doesn’t rain, October rains aren’t exactly the warmest showers you could say. I don’t especially like feeling cold and wet for a whole day either.

Have a great weekend, TGIF.

-Solstice

SeeHorse Device Review

I won a SeeHorse device back in April and finally received it in August. I was very excited to try it out as the way the device was portrayed, I was expecting it to take my endurance training to a whole other level.  I took it for a test ride a few weeks ago and nothing really seemed to work as it should, plus the battery died after about an hour so I decided to really read up on it and make sure I understood the instructions that came with it and set out to perform a real test.

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First things off, the size.  While not huge, it is rather large and does have a little bit of weight to it.  The instructions say to put it as close to the browband as possible so I attached to the throatlatch just above the buckle so the device wouldn’t slide down.  There really isn’t a way to get it nice and snug so the device could move freely up and down the throatlatch (which it did multiple times and flipped around when my horse shook her head). Splash did not seem overly thrilled with this device on and at one point, shook her head so violently that the device came off the bridle.  Due to the weight of it, my throatlatch also moved throughout the ride and the buckle was under my horse’s jowl by the time my ride was done.

 

Once attached to my horse, the next step was to sync to the app.  Now the app is only available on iPhone or Android devices, so Blackberry users, you are out of luck. You need your data and Bluetooth on in order to sync to the app (which was a fairly easy process) but it kills the iPhone battery like crazy.  You do need a log in name and password which you have to provide to SeeHorse when you purchase the device so they can set it up for you.  I wasn’t super crazy about another party knowing my password so make sure to pick a password that you don’t use for anything else.  One thing I would like to suggest to SeeHorse is to have an option to keep yourself logged in so you don’t have to log in every time you use the app.  It was also a pain when riding as locking your phone not only stops the device from recording, you have to log in again. I also had some issues getting the app to work again after locking my phone as the pulse counter kept sitting at zero even though the graph at the bottom was still moving (also don’t know why there’s a graph at the bottom.  It doesn’t tell you what it is showing and you can’t go back and look at it after a ride).  I don’t know about you, but I don’t ride with my phone on and in my hand, especially when I’m doing trot or gallop sets. Plus that kills the battery even more!  For the sake of this experiment, I did ride with my phone open and in my hand the entire time (which was quite fun with a frisky horse!)

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After my phone was synced with the device and calibrated, I checked to see what the resting pulse was, figuring this was a good parameter to start with since I am well aware of what Splash’s resting heart rate is due to this being checked at every endurance ride.  Normal horse heart rates average between 28-44 beats per minute.  At competition, Splash’s resting heart rate is anywhere from 36-42 so I was very surprised to see 24 on the screen. I figured the device needed some more time to get adjusted so I hopped on and walked down the driveway towards the trails.

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Now, the trails I train on at home are anything but flat.  We have lots of rolling hills and some steep climbs so I was hoping to see what Splash’s heart rate spiked to as we tackled these hills. Needless to say I was disappointed when the number on the screen didn’t waiver from the high 40s.  Either my horse is extremely fit or the app is extremely wrong. The highest I was able to get the app to record was 72 beats per minute but when looking at the results from the whole ride, not only did the heart rate jump from 58 to 72, it dropped back down to 52 in about a minute and the activity tracker has me standing the entire time.

 

In addition to checking pulse, the device is supposedly able to track respiratory rate, steps, activity and temperature.  The respiratory rate feature doesn’t work when you attach it to the bridle for whatever reason so another test will be done where I will lunge my horse with the device attached to her using the belly band that came with it.  Temperature was another failure with my horse’s temperature range going from 84.08 F at the lowest to 99.82 F at the highest. The normal range for a horse is 99-101 F so my horse was apparently dead for most of the ride.  The step counter was the only thing that was even remotely accurate at it clocked me travelling 13.74km (roughly 8.5 miles), My gps watch had me at 8.15 miles but I started the app before the watch as it took some time to find the satellites.

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The activity tracker was also a joke.  Even though it had counted me travelling around 8.5 miles, the activity tracker shows me as “standing” or “walking” for the majority of my ride.  Perhaps the leaps of my horse were counted as teleportation?  The app did track us as “catering” once or twice, although I’m not sure what we were “catering”. A wedding or bar mitzvah perhaps?  Very odd considering the majority of the ride we were trotting and the app didn’t show us as trotting once.

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Overall, I am very disappointed in how this device works.  I was very excited to get one since on paper, it sounded like an extremely useful tool for endurance training. What makes my frustration worse is that these devices retail for $499 (before taxes and shipping!) At that price, you would expect it to actually do what it is claimed to do! I invite SeeHorse to come out and demo this device for me because I’m either doing something very wrong or this device is not worth even $20.

 

Better late then never!

September 10 I was supposed to go to a mounted games meet in Newmarket, but unfortunately rain loves to happen on the weekends so sadly it was canceled. The 11th was another horse show for me and Beau. The show was in Bethany at Sky haven. They have a huge arena and outdoor ring with beautiful jumps from your dreams.

I decided to compete in the hack division and 2″3. With 4 classes in both divisions. In the hack division Beau would not cooperate whatsoever. I ask for a halt and he backs up, I ask for a walk and he canters I ask for a straight line and he goes sideways. So to say the least he had a lot of energy. By the last hack class he was starting to get better, but was still being a bit of a bum. I was so mad and frustrated I was almost ready to cry, I literally asked myself why I ride this horse.

We had our warm up for our jumping course early so we could take his bridle off for him to eat. Luckily this worked out in my favour; I think taking off his bridle calmed him down. I started my flat section of my 2″3 division and he was much calmer by that time and did much better. Like most judges though they prefer big clunky horses with no brain rather than a horse that actually has something fancy with a stride. So we didn’t place in the hunter flat portion. Equitation was next and boy was it a challenge.

We went for around 5 minutes to get down to 6 out of 11 and then we went for another 5 minutes. We had to do sitting trot, collected canter and halts in the first group. The top six then became much harder. With having to do sitting trot without stirrups for what seemed like forever, we crossed the diagonal and then finally pick up our stirrups with no instructions of what pace. Many people stopped or walked, but she never said to stop. I continued trotting along picking up my stirrups and posting on.

Can you guess what I came? 1st!! I couldn’t believe it. For our jumping class Beau did great. Happily jumping over every jump and getting every canter lead around the whole course. To say the least I was happy to tell myself this is why I ride this horse.

-Solstice

Massie Autumn Colours Ride

Getting off Jack to jog the roads - he's barefoot on all 4 and I rode him in the rope halter for most of the miles.
Getting off Jack to jog the roads – he’s barefoot on all 4 and I rode him in the rope halter for most of the miles.

On the Labour day long weekend (September 3-5, 2016), I rode my friend Linda’s horse Jack for 3 days, culminating 80 miles (128km) of riding on one horse… my first “pioneer” ride of sorts.   I finished up on Monday with Trixie and Bentley to total 100 miles of riding (160km).

Yes, it was a lot of riding, but the real catch was I was riding in my full kit for Race the Wild Coast.  I wanted it to be the real test while I still have time to tweak things.  I rode with the fenders and stirrups I intend on wearing, the clothes I intend on wearing, and my backpack full of “stuff” (my kit list isn’t 100% complete as I still wait for things ordered online and some resulting changes from the test).  Every morning I packed up my gear into their waterproof pouches before saddling up, and every night I unpacked my meager allowance to sleep in the bed I have selected with the painkillers I had rationed.

For the most part, it went really well, but we did have some hiccups!

Day 1 was a 25 mile ride which ended up being closer to 26…27…30???  Linda and I got lost, as well as every other rider.  The ride manager does a great job of making the best use of a small space, but it results in a lot of switchbacks, crossing trail, 2 way traffic trail, and other trail in your sightline.  Our particular issue was we missed a turn that wasn’t well marked (apparently this happened to most riders, and was thankfully corrected for the following days).  All of a sudden, we saw a marker that said “2km to home.”  Knowing our last marker had said 10km (of a 20km loop) and had been about 15 minutes ago… we knew something was wrong!  Instead of doubling back the way we came, we redid the portion of the loop again (we were at an intersection of 2 way trail that was a lolipop), and with the words from ride talk ringing in our ears, kept our eyes peeled in the top corner.

Linda saw the markers and our conversation went a bit like this:

“Wait, Sarah, here is the turn!”  “what, I don’t see it, where?” “In the forest, to the left” ” but there is a fence there, do we go over the fence?” “I think so!” But there are no arrows at this turn, and there’s a ribbon on the right up here”  “but look into the forest over there, an arrow”

So we went over the fence and into the new trail (no path had yet been worn down) and sure enough, we found the 9 or so km we had been missing.  Because the trail was tight, when we missed the turn, we ended up on the part of the trail where the 9kms was supposed to finish, blissfully ignorant to the fact we missed the toughest part of the trail.

Needless to say, we didn’t make that mistake again.  But wow, was it ever tough trail.  Its a bit of a mind game… you go and you complete a 50 mile ride in a little over 5 hours at another venue, and then it takes you about the same time to do 25 miles here!  Lots of twisty turning forest, rocks, and difficult climbs.  Even by day 3 where we galloped all the fields and missed no turns, our speed for the 25 mile distance was nowhere near what it would be at the other rides.  Its frustrating at first, but becomes a relief in the end – no longer racing your peers or the clock, you just get it done.  I think we needed that, and we had such a great time riding these trails.

As for my body, I was surprised how well I handled the task.  Day 2 I was a bit sore from my new equipment – some bruising on the inside of my calves since I usually use boots not fenders, and lots of bruising on my thighs because Linda’s saddle has bucking rolls I kept posting into, shoulders a bit stiff from the backpack, but it was not enough to get me to stop.  Miraculously, my body had become accustomed to these things by day 3 where I felt the best and the perkiest of all 3 days!  I certainly got stronger every day, which is very encouraging because I had not believed myself to be as fit as I should – my weight being the main factor (I had lost lots of weight prior to the derby, not so much this time!), but the endurance is there and I feel like I am in a good place mentally too.

Day 4 – or back to real life at the office, nobody even suspected I had ridden 100 miles that weekend.  I felt great.  Ready to do another 100… or more!  Bring it!

(and to that I will bid you adieu to go back to weighing tiny toothpastes and spooning diaper rash ointment into tiny jars)

Enjoy today’s daily helmet cam from the Massie Ride, and subscribe to my youtube channel to get something like this every day!

Good Times in the Ganny

Our most recent competition was at the Summer’s End ride where we rode in ride n tie in the Ganaraska Forest. I’ve always enjoyed the Ganaraska trails.  They are well maintained, sandy trails with minimal rocks and with just enough hills to keep it interesting.

This ride was hosted by ESRR’s own Solstice Pecile and her family. I had previous commitments that weekend so I only rode in the 12 mile ride n tie as I need it to qualify for the provincial championships in October.

My regular ride n tie partner is my younger brother, who is a marathon runner however, my boyfriend has just gotten back into running and wanted to give it a try (and who am I to discourage my non-horsie significant other from coming to a horse competition, let alone ride in it). The big key thing here is he is not a fan of horses AT ALL. He has ridden my horse a few times before but it has been almost a year since he has ridden last. Luckily his strength is running and mine is riding so we each got to do the majority of what our interests were.

With the ride n ties, the only mandatory switch is at the halfway vet check so our strategy was to run/ride beside each other for the first 6 miles then while I cooled my horse off and did the vet check, Clayton would continue on running until the end.

One thing I really liked about this ride is the format in which they did the ride n tie. I really liked the idea of staggered start times. There is less congestion at the start of the race (when all horses and runners are starting together) and on the trail. You also really have to ride smart since you have no idea how fast the other teams are going.

It was rather hot and humid but the awesome ride managers put out a kiddie pool for people (which Clayton very much appreciated at the end of the run) and made sure there was ample water available for the horses.

For the first 6 miles Splash felt really lazy but it worked out so that we could stay with Clayton

At the first check it took a little while to get her heart rate down as it was quite warm and there’s a lot of muscle on my horse for the heat to escape through but we passed the check fine.  She seemed to realize what was going on now and really perked up for the second loop, where we cantered/galloped most of the way, only stopping at the water troughs for a quick drink and sponge off.

Even though Clayton had about a 15 minute head start on us going out of the second loop, we did manage to see him at a point along the trail where the trail loops back, which gave me a good indication of how far ahead he was of us.  We never did catch up to him but Splash and I managed to close the 15 minute gap down to about 7 minutes.  Overall, we completed the 12 mile/20km course in 1 hour and 57 minutes.

It was very nice to see so many kids out doing the 6 mile one with parents and/or siblings.  This is a great way to get your kids involved in horses and give them a goal to work towards while keeping fit (and it gets rid of all that excess energy they seem to have!)

Out of 3 teams, we finished first, about five minutes ahead of the team in second. While I was just out to get the miles, if anyone knows my boyfriend, you will know that he’s super competitive so I was happy that we won (so I didn’t have to listen to him grumble on the two and a half hour drive home!) Plus it makes him more excited to try these events again.

Our next event is this weekend at the Massie Autumn Colours ride where we’ll be doing another 12 mile ride n tie, this time with my younger brother.  Will we be able to beat the time from last weekend?

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Two for the show

Starting last fall I started riding my coach’s horses. I started showing for her in spring of this year riding her 6 year old Morgan gelding Beau. This year I’ve been mainly showing flat, with some jumping shows. Before me Beau has not really done any showing and this year he’s done so well. He’s been getting a whole lot of 1st, 2nd and 3rd against some good competition.

This past competition went very well. We got three 1st and a 2nd in our four flat classes. The weekend was quite rainy so many people didn’t participate in this show. My coach decided to enter Beau and I in some hunter jumping classes. We have competed in jumping 2 times before, but only at cross rail level. I was entered in hunter hack, low hunter 2”3 and baby hunter 2”6. The first jumping class was horrible, Beau thought that the brush boxes were monsters so stopped and refused to go over the first jump on our first try. Our second try was much more successful, getting over the jump, but by a mile.

Our 2”3 class was much better after the first few jumps, but our 2”6 class was phenomenal. Beau got every lead and didn’t knock down a jump. He even did a flying lead change in the middle of two jumps and can you believe it we got first! So now we have another show this next weekend doing 2”, hopefully it’s big enough.

 

-Solstice

Mongol Time of Year

If you follow this blog, chances are you also follow the Mongol Derby.  It has now wrapped up and the 2016 riders are on their way home for some much needed R&R, but I thought, in the spirit of the Derby, I would re-share my stories from when I went in 2014.

Unfortunately, I chose to withdraw with all my body parts attached… still no regrets, it was the right choice for me at the time.  However, I still managed to have quite the adventure and wrote about it in great detail here.  I am forever thankful to have met such amazing people at this race, people who have become a recurring part of my adventures and who feel close despite living at all the corners of the world.

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Without further ado, here are some links!

Arriving in UB –  in his deep Swedish voice, he responded casually “I saw a dead body”

A visit to the Black Market – Sam Jones pretty much orchestrated the whole thing

Pre-race training: In the Classroom – The medics said something about bugs on the steppe who would shoot their eggs into your eyes

PRE-RACE TRAINING ON THE STEPPE – DAY 1 – ABE –  We got to the horse line and it hit me: I had no clue what I was doing.

PRE-RACE TRAINING DAY 2 – BORIS – they were 6-12 year olds who all could outride us in a heartbeat

GETTING TO THE START LINE – I was asked if I wanted a different horse.  No way!  I wanted this jackass

LEG 1: CHIPMUNK – I galloped Chipmunk as fast as he could carry me after the loose horse

LEG 2: (DUD)LEY – to my horror, felt a tug on my head.  I watched my GoPro be WHIPPED TO THE GROUND

LEG 3 – ELECTRO –  I would say “hey, can I ride with you!” but Electro strongly said “Nope” and galloped on

SOMETIMES IT HURTS TO MAKE SMART DECISIONS – Would I get lucky enough to select such an understanding horse 25 more times?

MOVING ON – Mongolians must know the perfect distance from bathroom to civilization to sufficiently ensure no “details” are seen

DAY 3 – PICKING UP GOATS AND SICKIES – Little did she know, the power of Mongolian Dance Yodel was still to come

DAY 4 – BACK TO UB – “What is this?  Tramadol?  Oh its nice!  What is this? Tramadol, Oh its nice!”

DAY 5: RETURN TO THE STEPPES – It tastes like a very tart yogurt mixed with blue cheese.

DAY 5.5 – THE CABIN AND MY GOOD SLEEP – it was very clear that we would not fit in – 18 riders sharing one bitty cabin

DAY 6 – TASTY TREATS AND THE MOUNTAIN PASS – halfway through our dumplings we were told “uhh, its not mushroom…. Its INTESTINE”

DAY 7: CATCHING THE FRONT-RUNNERS & JESS’S CAT FRIEND – they had brought the couch outside the cabin in order to tether the cat to it!

DAY 8 – FINISH CAMP, AND AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER. – Seriously, it was the size of my hand! I batted it off with some sort of “blearghhha!” utterance, and all of a sudden, I was 50 metres up the mountain

DAY 9 – MORE FINISH, AND MORE CAMEL RIDING – Breaking News: Goat wins the Mongol Derby!

THE FINAL DAY OF RIDING, WITH THE BACK OF THE PACK – We weren’t left on the steps this time, all us party vanners were invited up to receive the ceremonial Deel

Madawaska Highlands Pioneer Ride of Canadians

I am very fortunate to live in an area that is central to the majority of the OCTRA events (heck, three of them are practically in my backyard). However, I’m always up for exploring new trail.  The Madawaska Highlands Ride of Canadians was at brand new location to OCTRA so I decided to check it out.  This was my furthest ride this season at over 4 hours of travel time. The ride was also in the middle of the week so unfortunately, I had to make the trip by myself. Normally, this is not an issue but after attending the ride talk, we were told that the veterinary/control check half way through the course was an away check. All of the rides I have done to date have all of the control checks back at base camp, making it easy to set up (especially when you’re alone). The ride managers had arranged for a vehicle to take items out to the check but since I was planning on leaving right after the ride, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to have to wait for the truck to come back with my stuff.  I want to give a massive shout out and thank you to Dianne Moore for crewing!!  It gave me one less thing to worry about!

Due to our timeline and amount of travel, we did 25 mile ride with the plan to just go nice and slow since we had lost a shoe at the last ride and didn’t want a repeat. While I was hoping for a nice, relaxing ride, just over a mile into the ride, Splash and Maribel’s horse both slammed on the brakes.  As they walked very cautiously forward, a small black bear crossed the trail in front of us. It didn’t seem to be bothered by the horses but our two were still on edge for about the next 10 minutes.  I was kicking myself for not having the Go Pro turned on because I wasn’t expecting so much excitement right at the start of the race!

It was tough and challenging course. They weren’t kidding about the rocks! I heard many people talking about how hilly it was but I didn’t find it that hilly (could be because my training grounds are incredibly hilly!) The trail was made up of mostly logging road/atv trail with forested parts.  The landscape was incredible (that view at the first vet check!!!)

Here is a little sneak peak at the trail a few miles from the vet check.  Again, had I thought to keep the helmet cam on at all times, you would have been treated to the view coming into the vet check. If anything, this ride taught me to be prepared for anything!

This was a placed ride (as opposed to graded) and although I completed I’m not sure of my placing as I left before awards ceremony took place (downside to living far from a ride site but I can’t complain as I am close to the majority of OCTRA rides).  My next ride will be Summer’s End. Participating in the 12 mile ride n tie (my boyfriend’s first ride and tie!) which should be exciting.

As you are reading this, I will be headed up for a relaxing weekend of trail riding at Horse Country Campground (not far from the site of the Madawaska Highlands ride) which I will be blogging about next time. Happy trails!

Something ’bout the North

Through the years of doing endurance in AERC and OCTRA I have learned each ride has its challenges. Some challenges are much harder than others, some are more difficult for different people. Our first pioneer ride up in Madawaska was very challenging. From winding roads, to the hills and the rocks it was for sure a test of the best. At the second vet check, the girl I was riding with for the first 25 miles looked down at her horse’s foot realizing there was no shoe on her left foot. The shoe was pulled straight out of the foot, luckily not hurting the horse or making her lame, but making the proper decision to pull because of this problem.

My horse was not the most motivated creature at this ride after we didn’t have a friend to go out with she slowed down a lot, making me have to continue to encourage her forward. At 9 miles from the second stop Earle Baxter caught up with me, boy was I happy as Angel was being a bum: walking the slowest walk she could possibly do, telling me she was tired every step, I hate it when horses are like that. Once she had a friend she thought she could race all the way home. Having to go over all the hills, makes like you’ve done the 50 twice.

At the end I ended up coming first, but overall I was just happy I completed because it was only a 50% completion rate. Now the stress begins for our competition, mounted games practice and let’s just say so much more. Well, nobody can say I had a boring summer!

 

-Solstice