Competition extended – come visit Sarah at the Caledon Tack Swap or Ashley at the RAM Rodeo Finals in Newmarket

Scroll down… like… farther… read that post just before this one then come on back.

Check?  You know whats going on?  Cool!

I’m popping in here to let everyone know that time has NOT yet run out on our contest.  You can still post photos of you wearing our ESRR gear for a chance to win.  If you missed out on the Erin Fall Fair last weekend, we are giving you a third way to win!

Take a photo at the ESRR table at the Caledon Tack swap this weekend, or take a pic of you repping ESRR at the Dodge RAM Rodeo Finals in Newmarket, share it on our instagram or Facebook (see directions in previous post) and you are entered to win!  That easy!

PS its supposed to be cold and rainy, and I am in the notoriously cold Agriculture building… so make sure you dress appropriately (or you know… invest in an ESRR hoodie!)

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Do you like to win?!

The ride [competition] season is over for many of us… not long now and we will be curled up in a blanket dreading going out to chip ice off water troughs.  Gross.

We want to cheer you up a bit, because we still have lots of good riding time left before the snow flies, we want to treat one of our followers to a ride card holder and hot pink socks (or equivalent credit in our store).

You can enter unlimited times, let me tell you the many ways…

  • Post a photo (or many many photos!) of you wearing your ESRR branded gear on Instagram.  Tag us @team_eat_sleep_ride_repeat and use the hashtag #esrrcontest
  • Post a photo (or many many photos!) of you jumping over the ESRR jump at the Erin Fall Fair this weekend on Instagram.  Tag us @team_eat_sleep_ride_repeat and use the hashtag #esrrcontest
  • No instagram?  No problem!  Email us your photo at info@eatsleepriderepeat.com with your permission for us to use it on our social media channels.

Good luck everyone!

2017 National Mounted Police Colloquium

If you’re not already aware, Splash and I are members of the Ontario Mounted Special Services Unit. Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with a few other team members to participate in the 33rd annual National Mounted Police Colloquium at the Kentucky Horse Park. This would be my 3rd visit to the park.  The last time I was there was over 10 years ago with the Canadian Cowgirls to ride in the Kentucky Derby Parade twice and we were very fortunate to be able to be stabled at the Horse Park and participate in their daily Parade of Breeds show.  One things I noticed right off the bat was that the iconic white fencing for miles was now black.  Fun fact: black paint is wayyyyyy cheaper than white paint so it makes complete sense (and it doesn’t make the horse park look any less impressive!)

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The Colloquium consists of both training and friendly competition.  Units from all over the United States were in attendance: mounted police, search and rescue units, posse groups. We were the only ones from Canada this year. They’re going to have to change the name to National to International! There were training classes in equitation, jumping, crowd control, sign cutting (mantracking), horsemanship, formation riding, and officer safety.  Competition consisted of an equitation test, team and individual obstacle courses. There was a uniform class competition but a Class A uniform was required (which our unit does not have). The Colloquium was Hosted by Kentucky Horse Park Mounted Police and Lexington Police.  The instructors included retired RCMP, Toronto Police, US Border Patrol, and Maryland National Capital Park Police.

While any sort of vacation is good, it’s even better with horses. We had an uneventful drive down (and back) and arrived a few days early to ensure the horses were well rested before the week of activities. We went for a hack every morning on the cross country course; what a great way to start a day! The temperature during the day was very hot and humid so we tried to get rides in in the mornings and evenings when it was cooler.  The horses did seem to handle the hot temps pretty well, but they got spoiled when we went and bought fans for them while they were in their stalls.

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Head of the Lake doesn’t look so intimidating now!

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On one of our days off, we went on a farm tour, arranged by the Colloquium and got to see some pretty impressive farms.  The first one we went to was Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm. For those of you who are interested in Thoroughbred history, this farm is where Seattle Slew is now buried.  If the name sounds familiar, it could be because there are Canadian ties. The original Hill ‘n’ Dale was founded in Canada in 1960 by John Sikura Jr., the father of Hill ‘n’ Dale owner and president John G. Sikura and there is a Hill ‘n’ Dale in Aurora, Ontario, that is owned and run by by R. Glenn Sikura.

The second farm we visited was Four Winds Farm.  If I recall correctly, this farm supplies the hay to the Kentucky Horse Park police horses and is also home to a number of retired police horses.

The last farm we visited was Katierich Farms. Not only did we get to see an adorable American Pharaoh baby (for those not familiar, American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown in 2015), this farm also had an indoor track to help with breaking young race horses during the colder months.

We also toured Keeneland Race Track. While this course hosts some of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby (which is held at Churchill Downs about an hour away), most people may know Keeneland for their sales.  Their September yearling sale is the world’s largest sale of yearlings; it’s like a Barrett-Jackson auction but instead of cars, you have horses. If you want to see the cream of the crop (and horses go for more money then I’ll probably every see in my lifetime), this is it.

On to the training.  Day 1 we had classes in equitation, formation riding, and sign cutting/tracking classroom session.  In the classroom session (which actually took place outside), the US Border Patrol showed us different types of tracks and we compared how speed, number of people, disguises, time, and light all affected how we saw the tracks. On Day 2, we did jumping, crowd control,  and a practical tracking session where we were on our horses to find an “item of value”. While it was just a backpack full of horse treats, I’m sure the horses thought it was pretty valuable! Days 3 and 4 were dedicated to competition with the team obstacle challenge and equitation test on Day 3 and the individual obstacle test on Day 4.

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Would your horse be calm enough to break up this riot and escort the truck to safety?

We didn’t get any information on the obstacles until registration day and we didn’t get to see the obstacles until the day of when we did a course walk through prior to riding. That didn’t stop us from trying to recreate everything during the week though – including porta potties and bubbles!

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They do say that horses keep us humble and Splash did just that.  We had literally done the exact team obstacle course the weekend before with no issues, but we had a few bobbles that surprised me (especially when she balked at the car wash obstacle during competition yet walked right though it with no hesitation in the warm up ring!  The same thing happened with our bridges in our individual obstacle test. You wouldn’t have known that just a few minutes before she was helping lead other horses over bridges, mattresses and a water box!  As frustrating as it can be, it was a great learning experience because now I know where the holes in our training are and we can work on improving them. The only obstacle I 100% wanted to conquer was the carousel on the individual course. Not only was it visually spooky with bright colours, balloons, mirrors all inside it, and that it moved, it was also playing circus music and made a horrible racket once you started to turn it. She wasn’t crazy about approaching it from her left side but quick thinking had me try it on her other side, and she took it with little issue!

 

 

Side note – I was asked why I didn’t stop and work on the obstacles when Splash refused.  We had a 6 and a half minute time limit on both the team and individual courses and instead of timing out and receiving no score, we opted to take a lower score.

I messed up my equitation pattern by not walking down centre line at the end but I was pretty happy with my other transitions as we had been having some difficulty with that (pic of test score); love that we got a score card back so we know what to work on and improve for next time!

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Next year’s colloquium is held the last week of September but as of right now I’m not sure if I will be attending or not because I’ve been accepted to ride in Race the Wild Coast in South Africa just a few days after the clinic! There will be a bunch of fundraisers including a horse-themed paint night, massive garage sale/tack swap and more!  In the meantime, if you want to get a head start on your holiday shopping (or any shopping for that matter), use our FlipGive link to do your shopping.  It doesn’t cost you anything extra and we get $$ from FlipGive just from people using the link!  https://www.flipgive.com/teams/51832-eat-sleep-ride-repeat?fundraiser_id=167720

 

 

Racing the Wild Coast – Movie Coming Soon!

Do you have goosebumps yet?

In October 2016, team riders Sarah and Rose rode in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast from Port Edward to Kei Mouth in South Africa.  Throughout the race, they and ten other riders were filmed on their journey… the product of which will be coming soon to your screens!  Stay tuned here and at the Rockethorse site and we will keep you informed of the release date as it becomes available!

What was it like to be filmed while riding this epic race?

 

Sarah and Asad being filmed during vetting later in the race. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“I am not going to lie, I avoided the film crew at first.  I was worried that taking time to interview with them on my holds would slow down my vet checks – and having efficient vet checks and horse changes was my strategy for the race.  Any time I saw them approaching I would make myself busy… fussing over my horse or my pack.  Once I had my routine down later in the race, I took some time to let them in.”

-Sarah

Sam and Monde catch up to Sarah. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“We would be riding on a goat track the edge of a cliff with a hundred metre drop straight to the ocean.  Then we would hear the whip whip whip sound of the helicopter approaching and just think ‘oh crap, what is coming next?’  ‘don’t spook, don’t spook, don’t spook’ and of course ‘don’t look at it you fool, they told you not to and wave at the cameras.  Slap a smile on your face and pretend that your chafed damp legs aren’t stinging like a thousand wasps got in your pants.  You are having fun remember?’  Later in the race when I was alone fighting to keep Asad moving, the familiar sound of the chopper told me that Sam and Monde were closing in.  It was a telltale sign that something exciting was about to happen.”

-Sarah


Jamie following Rose on her second horse Eclipe into a vet check. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“My headlamp turned out to be water resistant, not ‘swim rivers’ water proof.  The second morning, getting ready in the dark, I was quite happy to have the camera crew following me around with their bright lights.”

-Rose

“At a certain point, I found myself looking for the camera crew when something hilarious or frustrating was happening.  It started to feel like a natural extension of whatever it is that drives me to blog in the first place.  Sometimes when I’m trying to write a blog and reconstruct an event and find the right pictures, I think how much more convenient it would be if I just had a camera crew.  That said, I don’t like seeing myself in photos or on video.  Seeing myself on video, I can’t help wondering if I look that goofy all the time.

-Rose

 


And if you are feeling motivated and inspired by the video, why not apply for a spot in the 2018 race?

Can’t make it for one reason another?  Not to worry, Ashley will do it so you don’t have to.  Help her fundraising efforts by purchasing an ESRR tee or hoodie!

Calabogie Boogie

 

I’m always excited to see new distance rides pop up in Ontario. Not only does this mean new trail to ride, but it means the sport is growing.  Last year I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Madawaska Highland Pioneer Ride and Lopin Larose (unfortunately scheduling did not allow for me to attend either of these rides this year).  Now, new trail is enough to get me out to a new ride but ride manager Pauline went above and beyond to attract riders.

This ride location was about 6 hours from me but having driven to the Eastern Ontario rides before, having a traveling buddy, and the enticement of a chocolate fountain all made it worthwhile. Something else that made this ride fun was that both mine and Sarah’s significant others agreed to come.  The area surrounding Calabogie had enough to keep the two of them occupied while we rode; golfing for Lee and off-roading trails for Clayton.

Friday morning we picked up Sarah and Bentley on our way to ride site and Bentley was very happy to see his girlfriend, even though he had just seen her the weekend previously when we went up to visit for a ride in the Dufferin Forest.

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The plan was to ride 25 miles each day but due to Splash’s headshaking rearing its ugly head again, we opted to ride in the 10 mile training ride and help with the clinic and play it by ear for the second day.

The weather for the first day of riding was lovely and ride started out great. The trail for the 10 mile ride was a mix of field, bush, road, and a bit alongside a golf course. We were told at the pre-ride talk that there was going to be a pasture to ride through (with people manning the gates at the entrance and exit) that was home to cows and a donkey. I didn’t think too much of it since we’ve ridden through cow pasture before and Splash’s best buddy at our previous barn was a mini donkey.

When we got to the first gate into the pasture, said donkey was there and kept trying to rush the gate so we waited for someone to arrive to hold the donkey. Unfortunately donkey escaped the hold on its halter and proceeded to find us in the pasture and follow the horses, spooking some of them in the process.  I will use this as a reminder to riders to request or take a picture of the important phone numbers (ride manager, trail master, farrier) in case something happens out on trail. Thanks to quick action on part of the ride manager and trail master, the trail had been rerouted around the pasture.

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PC: Wendy Webb

We finished the first 5 mile loop by ourselves with Splash’s heart rate almost at resting (probably due to slow traveling speed and the break in the middle to donkey wrangle, even though it was a warm day and she was tossing her head quite frequently).  On the second loop (same as the first), we rode with a rider on her first distance ride. We received completion for the day.

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I had no idea what the background was behind me until I saw this picture! PC: Wendy Webb

Pauline did not disappoint with the awards thanks to so many generous sponsors, even volunteers received something.  Something fun that was added to the ride courtesy of Rick Fleming and Highlands Golf Course, the VIP use of a golf cart each day was awarded to two lucky people, for which I won on Saturday night for 24 hours.

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Day 2 was rainy and while I have no problem riding in the rain (see every other ride this season!), with the slippery conditions and the head tossing, it may not be the safest so we rider optioned and volunteered to vet scribe instead (as much as I wanted to see the other trails that boasted water to take the horses in and galloping across the gold course, but I guess that means I have to come back next year!)   It is often suggested that you volunteer before your first ride but I’m of the thinking that it’s good to volunteer periodically throughout your distance riding career, not only to give back to the sport, but to keep you in touch with everything the vets are looking at.

Again, the awards/dinner was well done. It seemed like everyone walked away with something.

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This is just the prizes for ONE DAY!

Dinner provided by the onsite food truck was delicious and of course, the infamous chocolate fountain was in attendance. The festivities were held in a beautiful done up barn with a stage, sound system, bar, and games. It was a nice place just to hang out to warm up and get out of the weather.

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PC: Wendy Webb

Thank you to everyone who made this ride happen and the Jastremski family for their hospitality in hosting us and letting us ride on your land. It was an absolute blast and well worth the drive.  This ride is already on the list for next year.

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PC: Wendy Webb

Why Did She Poke the Bear?

I poked the bear because I wanted to share my experience.  I did it publicly because I believed and still believe the proper channels are broken.  While others rightfully fear retaliation and want to ride sanctioned events enough to tolerate the issues, I don’t.

I’ve been struggling all week to write this blog.  I’ve been so disillusioned.  The ‘ideas’ article isn’t quite done.  So what to post?  I wrote this as an email to some close friends and have decided to share it.  I hope you can at least get a chuckle out of it.  I did when I went back and read it today.   I really never was any good at ‘shut up and color.’


The disagreeing with me I welcome.  The agreeing, more-so.  And certainly the good conversations from both sides.  The opinions are fine.  Even the personal attacks are mostly fine.  But to call me ‘just a jockey’.  That was the last straw.  Even if I didn’t have a lifetime of horse experience and hadn’t spent 8 months researching everything endurance and training a horse for it’s first 100 mile ride and making every decision from nutrition, to shoes, to exercise schedules, to the long slow rides; to imply getting a horse through their first 100 is ‘just’ a jockey?  There’s no just about it, even IF that were the case.   The overwhelming attitude is not one that tells me this sport wants to grow or be helped.  It tells me the thin veneer of welcome to newcomers only extends to those who submit to the unwritten rules.

  1. Thou shalt not be in the top 10, or god forbid, win, your first 2-3 years.
    • If you do, you are riding too fast.
    • Or worse, racing.
  2. Thou shalt not ask that trail be marked better.  By the time you earn the right to be in the front, you’ll know the trail.
  3. Thou shalt complete a season volunteering and perhaps riding a couple LDs before you are ready to ride a 50.  Then see Rule 1.
  4. Thou shalt smilingly listen to the pontification of those with more miles than you on all thing as they are helping you. Miles = knowledge.  You know nothing.
  5. Thou shalt not speak up about any issues you see until you reach some magical number of miles, have been a ride manager, and can prove your own actions are beyond reproach.
    • Should you express an opinion prior to that, you are a whiner, you are weak, and you don’t belong in this sport.
    • Groveling and extensive listening per Rule 4, can mitigate some transgressions of Rule 5.
  6. Should you somehow tolerate paying these ‘dues’ for long enough to gain the prerequisite miles, have proof you have hand raised your horse and done all long slow miles yourself, and if you have somehow managed to keep your eyes open and not just say, ‘well, that’s the way things are’, perhaps you’ll be in a position to administer CPR and fluids to a dying sport.  Or perhaps you’ll enjoy your, ‘the rules don’t apply to me anymore’ status and your power to give your friends a free pass too much to want to change.

At the end of the day, it’s the attitude that got me.  I invited it in.  I poked the bear.  And the bear ate me.  I most likely would have quit anyway, in silence, like many I have heard from.  This way, I just got to see the true colors more quickly and clearly and saved myself time and money investing in a sport that doesn’t want to change.

The reality is it’s just a few who are rotten, but a few bad apples are enough to make the entire basket look unappetizing, especially when the rotten ones are on the top,

I didn’t follow the unwritten rules.  You told me to ‘shut up and color’ and I didn’t.  I thought I could speak out and drive positive change at the expense of some ruffled feathers.  I thought I could weather the expected abuse and personal attacks.  But I couldn’t.

Some warped, optimistic, misguided part of me thought I could make a difference.  But a bigger part recently learned a lesson.  The part of me that cried last night.  The part of me that doesn’t care anymore.  That part is now in charge.

I’m sorry.


I thought the bear had eaten me for a short time, but it turns out I was only maimed.  My next ride is hopefully going to be the Red Rock Rumble in Nevada….on a RACING MULE!!!

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HEY!  I BET YOU THOUGHT THAT WAS THE END….BUT IT’S NOT!

 

BONUS MINI-BLOG

by Ashley Tomaszewski

It seems endurance is not the only discipline that is participating in a dialogue around changing and improving the sport.  If you don’t follow the hunter/jumper scene, popular equestrian news source The Chronicle of Horse published an interview with legendary rider Katie Prudent , in which she rips American show jumping a new one.  While her main point does have to do with riders “buying” their way to the top, she also touches on the “dumbing down” of the sport.  “When I was a kid, you did junior hunters, and that was 3’6″, which is a little more than a meter. And if you wanted to do jumpers, you did the junior jumpers. But there was not low children’s jumper, children’s jumper, modified children’s jumper, low junior jumper. The way it’s been dummied down in today’s world, it’s amazing that anyone can ride at all. The sport has become for the fearful, talentless amateur. That’s what the sport has been dummied down to.”

The interwebs exploded with discussion both for and against Katie’s comments, with one letter from one of those “amateurs” really sticking out for me . Jennifer Baas put herself and her opinion out there, going up against the opinion of one of the sport’s great riders. While Jennifer said in her open letter, “I’m just Jennifer Baas. You’re Katie Monahan Prudent. You’re a legend, a leader—you can impact change.”, little did she know that her voice was the voice of many and that change is starting to take place.    In her follow up letter, she mentions that Murray Kessler (USEF President, successful businessman, father to US Olympic rider Reed Kessler), reached out to her to listen to her feedback, and give her a forum to help move her ideas along.

This is not unlike the explosion of the endurance community after Dear AERC.  Just a low mileage new rider speaking out against the legends.

I’m just Ashley Tomaszewski.

  1. just because it’s the way you used to do it, doesn’t make it right or the only way to do something. We need change and evolution; that is how things grow and become better.  Why did the dodo bird become extinct? Because it didn’t adapt to its environment.  Horse events and even disciplines could disappear if they don’t adapt to the environment around them. To quote McLain Ward, “The sport has had to change internally and because of external pressures, and the greats of any generation will adjust to what the sport is.”
  2. If someone wants to stick to the lower levels with no intention of moving up, who cares? They just want to enjoy their horse. If that’s not at least part of why you ride, you may want to reconsider your hobby choice.  Be happy they even chose the same discipline as you..  These lower level riders are the bread and butter of the industry. They are what help to fund the upper levels.
  3. If people don’t have the resources, they could have all the talent and work ethic in the world and still never make it to the big leagues.  To those that complain that LD stands for “luxury distance” or that you’re not a real distance rider unless you’re doing 50-100 milers, are you going to give me the money to buy an endurance –bred horse so I don’t have to ride my chunky cow pony?
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    Photo credit: Wendy Webb

    or are you going to add more hours to my day so that I can condition for longer rides? I didn’t think so.  You are very fortunate to be in the position you are in and some people may only ever dream of being in your shoes, so please do not look down on the riders who only do the shorter distances. They have their reasons for doing so.

The point I’m trying to get at is, put your opinion out there!  There are most likely others that are thinking the same thing you are but don’t know how to say it. Provide feedback, give suggestions for how things can be improved.  Getting the conversation started is the first step to evoking change.

Summer’s End Ride

August 19 and 20th I packed up my car and headed to Solstice’s home, at the Ganaraska Forest for the Summer’s End OCTRA ride.

This is a particularly special ride, as it started as a training clinic a few years ago and has grown both in popularity and in size as generous landowners allowed the trail to cross their properties.  I was astonished when I drove into ride camp and saw all the rigs.  It had tripled in size since I had last attended as a volunteer in 2015.

Again, I would be volunteering.  Unfortunately, until I buy a truck and trailer, I am at the mercy of those I can carpool with.  Not to get down of course, I had volunteered to be a scribe on Sunday which would have me training toward my Lay-Judge certification.  To make the weekend even sweeter, Carissa offered me to do the Ride N Tie with her.

The Ride N Tie was on Saturday, we set off with Carissa on her horse Cannon and me running alongside.  The intention was that we would trade every mile or so and stay together (to avoid leaving Cannon unsupervised!) but poor guy was having a bit of a meltdown as his girlfriend sped away ahead of us.  Long story short, while we met each other a few times on trail for our mandatory midpoint tie and once when the entire RNT race made a wrong turn, I didn’t see the pair until the end of the race when they caught us just for the finish line.  I was pretty darn proud of myself for running the full 10km trail myself, no walking, and even technically outrunning our horse!  All that training in the gym is paying off!

From there I was recruited to do Set Speed scoring and secretarial work, it was interesting to see how the computer calculated the scores and the various reporting measures that ride managers must do.

On the Sunday, I scribed for the vetrinary judges, learning the ropes in hopes of one day earning my Lay Judge credentials.  It was a great day for this, as unfortunately for the riders there were a lot of pulls for a lot of different reasons.  As I said, this was good for me because I got to test my eye for lamenesses, see some metabolic warning signs, and even a few surface factor pulls.  Needless to say, I learned a LOT.  Good news too, is despite high pull rates, there were no treatments required, things got dealt with before they became a larger problem.  The vets and riders should be proud.

Another interesting thing about being behind the scenes is seeing how riders treat the volunteers – whether things were going great or difficult.  Lots of riders are sunshine and rainbows, but there are also a lot who are outright rude to the judges.  I understand we are having trouble keeping volunteers in our sport and this would be why.  Riders, please!  Volunteer at least once as a timer, pulse person or a scribe and see it from the other side of the looking glass.

I know we get caught up in competition, dehydrated, tired, impatient, hot and cranky, but always slap on a smile and muster a “thank you” for those volunteers and judges.  Remember, in our sport the judges aren’t there to pick at you and find reason to pull you, they want to see you succeed!  If they are telling you something is going wrong or has the potential to go wrong, listen, thank them, and apply their advice.  Your horse will thank you and your performance and knowledge will improve greatly when you engage every tool in your kit – your vet checks are critical!


Thanks to Dominic Glisinski for the video of the Summer’s End trails and Myriam Zylstra for the photo of me volunteering at the ride.

5 Ways Distance Riding is the Best Horse Sport for your Money

It’s no secret that the number of participants in the horse industry has been dwindling.  Recently in Ontario, it was announced that the Cornerstone Dressage shows held at Caledon Equestrian Park are no longer going to be running due to low entries and increasing costs.  The Ontario Horse Trials Association had a sad number of entries in all divisions at their championship show this year.  Local saddle clubs are disappearing because of the lack of attendees.

There has also been commentary recently (especially with the issues surrounding Equestrian Canada), about costs to enter shows. Horseback riding is an expensive sport, unfortunately, but we need to support our local shows and associations or else they are going to disappear.   If you are looking for a cost-friendly discipline to do with your horse, look to distance riding!  I have shown at schooling shows for almost every discipline, and nothing gets you a better bang for your buck than distance riding.

 

  1. Free entry! Yes you heard that right. This year OCTRA ran a “first ride free” promotion (with some restrictions). http://www.octra.on.ca/docs/OCTRAPROMOTIONS-FirstTimeFreeRide.pdf  What other riding association gives its lower level riders a free entry fee?????

 

  1. Cheap entry fees in general. Let me break down some numbers for you.  Assuming that you don’t qualify for the free entry, here is what a normal distance ride will cost you.  Entry fees roughly run between $40-150 depending on what distance you enter. What is included in that fee?  Aside from your riding time (could be anywhere from 1 hour to 12 hours), you get a minimum of two to three times where a vet checks over your horse, your camping (you provide the horse containment. Sometimes there may be a nominal fee on top of your entry to cover camping but rarely does that happen), usually a meal of some sort (I’ve had everything from potluck, to chili, to chicken parm to stir fry), a certificate of completion, a ribbon or other prize for completing (yes, just for completing you get something! I’ve received t-shirts, camping chairs, beer, candy, stickers), water provided for your horse, and getting to ride on some awesome territory that no one else may have access to!

 

  1. Low cost paperwork requirements. To attend any OCTRA ride, the bare minimum that you need to ride is proof of insurance (it doesn’t have to be OEF, as long as you have $1,000,000 coverage), a negative EIA/coggins test, and an OCTRA membership ($45) or pay the day membership of $20.

 

  1. You can use the equipment you already have! No need to go out and buy all new clothing or tack. If it fits you and your horse and is in good repair, you can use it! The minimum requirements are a helmet, appropriate footwear, a saddle and some sort of bridle (be it traditional, bitless, or a halter). A stethoscope, stop watch with seconds (or your phone), a sponge and a bucket are all you need to crew your horse at the vet   Yes, there is technology and fancy equipment out there but you don’t have to make the investment when you are just starting out. Find out if you and your horse enjoy the sport first.

 

  1. You can grow with the sport. The thing I love most about distance riding is that there are many options to be involved depending on your goals. Want to ride for team Canada at the World Equestrian Games? You can do that. Want to spend time with your family? You can do that (either compete with them in ride n tie or have them crew for you!) Want to stay at the lower levels and just enjoy time on your horse? Do that. Want to compete for year-end awards? Do that. Want to use this sport as cross-training for your other disciplines? Do that. Unable to ride but want to learn more and help out? You can do that too (and our volunteers get awards as well!)  The possibilities are endless.

 

There are only a few rides left in the Ontario ride season but now is the perfect time to put this on your radar for next year.  Visit the OCTRA website  or join the OCTRA Facebook page  and find a mentor in your area to answer your questions, and help you plan and prepare for your first ride.  You’ll wonder why you didn’t try this sooner!

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Dear AERC

Usually I just write a blog and post it.  This one…I don’t think I’ve been through so many drafts of anything since my thesis.

At the recommendation of one of my editors, I’m going to start with this bit which I originally had at the end.  Since I’m a new writer for eatsleepriderepeat.com it’s a good chance to introduce myself so you know where to throw your stones.

Who Is This Girl?

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Well, my first endurance ride was the Mongol Derby in 2014 where I finished in the top 10 with no vet penalties.  Followed by the inaugural running of Race the Wild Coast in 2016 (3 horses over 250 miles of South Africa) where I also finished in the top ten (ok there were only 13 of us) with no vet penalties.

I have since done a number of 50+ rides in the southwest, a 50 in Florida, a 25 in Ontario put on by OCTRA, and just completed Tevis (first 100 for both me and the horse).  Aside from Tevis, they were exceptionally well run.  OCTRA in particular is growing and with good reason.

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Prior to endurance, I evented successfully at the Preliminary Level, I foxhunt and have whipped in, and have exercised horses for the track.

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I have a lot of fun.

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Original Article on My First AERC Ride (Not Published When Written)

I chose not to post the following article on my blog.  I decided I didn’t want to be crucified.  Little did I know until I had been to a few rides run by groups other than the one who ran my first ride and talked to some people just HOW crucified I would have been.  If I had posted the following article, I would have been banned from an entire series of rides and expect to be now. 

If you have done any distance riding, you have been lost or taken a wrong turn.

I rode my first sanctioned ride in early 2017 in the Pacific Southwest.   I met up with 2 experienced riders who I planned to (and did) ride with. I was so excited I woke up every hour from 2 am on thinking, ‘Is it time to get up?!’

The start was very relaxed.  In fact, as we were trotting down the road we had driven down coming into camp, I asked my friend where the start was thinking, ‘maybe we hack to the start as a warm up.’  Nope, we started back at camp.  But what about vetting in? Oh, that car sitting there had a vet in it who watched us trot as we left camp?  Hm. Ok.  There were a couple pods of riders in front of us and behind us.  Everyone in sight turned right.

A few miles later, we saw the vet car on a parallel road and heard honking.  We all wondered what they heck they could possibly be honking about.   The car cut across and came toward us on the trail.  You guessed it, we missed a turn.  Keep in mind it’s the dessert, there are no hidden side trails.  We were assured that there were at least 3 pink ribbons and it was well marked and we had just missed it.

As we backtracked we discussed.  Had we been talking?  Were we paying attention?  Where was the actual trail?  The actual trail, it turned out, was running parallel and about ¼ mile away from the trail we were on.  I was informed by my experienced friends that I would be disqualified if I cut across.  I was annoyed.  And frustrated.  And angry because it was clearly NOT clearly marked.   And I hadn’t brought my GPS.  I felt my mare start to get skittish and realized my tension was impacting her.  I took a few (ok a lot) of deep breaths and decided I would have a good time.  It was the beginning of the day.  Shit happens.  Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention.  Maybe I had relied on the lead of others and needed to take more responsibility for myself.

We managed to get through the rest of the ride without to many extra miles and I completed my first AERC 50 mile ride!!

After getting the ponies all wrapped, fed, blanketed and generally pampered, we went to the ride meeting for the 25 on Sunday.  Being all positive, I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I’m going to pay super close attention and be sure to watch the trail markers tomorrow.’

We set off the next day and went about 18 miles…then the discussion went something like this. Hm, there’s camp.  We’ve looped back around to where we came out of camp at the beginning.  There’s the paper plate that tells the 50 to go one way and the 25 to go the way we went.  And an arrow on the ground for outbound riders.  There are hoof prints everywhere!  What do the instructions say?  They say turn at unmarked road.  Does that mean no ribbons?  What’s our mileage?  18?  No way is this our turn, the mileage doesn’t make sense.  Are there any ribbons?  One little one.  Is that from the outbound trail?  I don’t know.  Does anyone have a GPS?  Yes, but the batteries are dead.  Well, if we go around that hill, the mileage will be about right.  It must be that way.

Guys?  I don’t think this is the right way.  But we haven’t seen any other turn offs.  And the instructions say, ‘unmarked.’  Ah shit, we’re wrong.

Everyone I’ve talked to has gotten lost or gone the wrong way for various reasons.  It happens, right?  It’s just part of the deal, right?  I need to pay better attention, right? (That is certainly true…see Bonus Miles)

Now we come to the ticklish bits which will have long time AERC riders bristling and new riders maybe nodding.

I replied to a post on FB that began with this,

“While the carnage in endurance racing in the ME (Middle East) sickens me, and we need to stay vigilant and persistent in our disdain for it, I also believe there is much we can do here within our own AERC ranks…regarding horse welfare. As an AERC Mentor, my main objective is to not only see that new riders have a safe and fun introduction to our sport, but more importantly, that their horse does, too.”

It then goes on to imply that new endurance riders are going too fast and don’t understand horses.  But it did mention wanting to help new riders have a safe and fun introduction.

I thought, hm, it would certainly be safer and more fun if the stress of a badly marked trail and being miles off course were removed.  The anxiety of retracing your steps, the extra distance for the horse…it would be great if trails were marked well. I couldn’t resist posting (knowing I’d be crucified) .

“as new rider, aerc could mark trails better. a lot better. and “like last year” is not helpful.  there are innumerable excuses. aerc sanctions rides. if the quality is such that new riders are traumatized and have a miserable time, that is the problem of the organization if it hopes to have healthy growth”

Yup, crucified.  Here is a sampling.

“Aerc doesn’t mark them, that’s up to ride management. Getting lost happens to the best of us. I find it’s best to ride alone or not talk too much when attending a new ride lol… And then there are those who sabotage trails :(“

Most of us just roll with the punches. Sometimes you have good luck; sometimes bad. Our ride managers do their best to provide an interesting trail and fair play for all, but they cannot control everything. Most of them welcome help before a ride and appreciate input afterwards. I don’t know if you have had one bad experience or many, but if you are truly traumatized and miserable, maybe this isn’t the sport for you. Most of us love it even though we get lost, fall off, get injured, lose shoes, pay vet bills, etc., occasionally. It’s a risky sport, but there is great joy and satisfaction when it does work out, which is most of the time.”

Wow, maybe she’s right.  Maybe this isn’t the sport for me.

Or maybe this is the kind of Pink Elephant personal attack Sarah talked about.

Everyone I talk to has at least one story like mine.  The people already committed to the sport just brush it off often saying something to the effect of, ‘it happens to all of us.’  All I hear is, ‘I went through it, now you will too.’  That sounds a lot like hazing to me.  The senior members of a group wanting to see the new members suffer like they had to suffer?  Yup, definitely a form of hazing.  I have listened to and been told of ride briefing with no better instructions than, ‘just go the same way as last year.’  One lady told me that when she asked for more detail, she was told to just follow the footprints and that if she was in front, well, she probably shouldn’t be, after all, a new rider couldn’t possibly be leading.  I have heard myself and from others the derogatory remarks about LD being ‘luxury distance’ and ‘not real endurance’.

So instead of quitting, I’m going to poke the bear.

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I support my horse habit as an aerospace engineer and my job involves process improvement.  Root cause analysis.  Corrective action.  My evaluations are often not appreciated…initially.   I will be doing a follow on article with ideas for improvement and hope to redirect the energy from this post into a constructive conversation. (I’m an eternal optimist)

This is a risky sport with many factors outside our control.  Horses lose shoes and get injured.  They come in from the field the night before a ride with a puffy leg.  We fall off.

But there are things we can control.  The concept of reducing risk is to address the things you can control.  Trail marking falls into the category of, “You can control.”  At the end of the day, I’m willing to ‘roll with the punches.’  I’m going to vote by not attending any rides put on by this group.    I hope that the AERC as a whole is not so defensive and stagnant as to be closed to improvement.

To the FB ‘Mentor’?  What can you do to help new riders and their horses have a safe and fun experience?  One thing you could do is stop hazing and be open to improvement.

To the AERC.  I hope I have succeeded in communicating my desire to be constructive.  I worry as a new member, I may be banned from rides if organizers don’t like criticism or feel that I’m somehow attacking them.  I hope this is not the case.

To my fellow ‘Green Beans’ and all the ‘Luxury Distance’ Riders.  I encourage you to speak up.  You pay your AERC dues like everyone else.  You may be new to endurance riding and you might be new to riding in general, but you aren’t stupid, just new.  Don’t get discouraged and be selective about who you go to for advice.

Revisiting the Issue After Completing Tevis

My experience with the Pacific Southwest series as my first ride was apparently not unusual, and actually went quite well considering that I’m an ‘outsider.’  I have since listened to stories of others’ experiences.  One friend from the east coast with a few thousand miles including FEI international called and was told, ‘this probably wasn’t the ride for her.’  Another crossed the finish line and there was no one there.  She rode back to camp and finally found someone.  At awards, she was placed incorrectly.  She asked that the mistake be fixed and was told, ‘no one saw you cross the finish line’ and threatened with a non-completion.  Others have been banned for criticizing.  Formal protests with AERC have been rejected.

The rules don’t apply to these rides.  They are ‘grandfathered in’ and one of ‘the originals’ and ‘can just tell if a horse has a problem (from inside the car as 12 horses trot down the road together).

Maybe the AERC doesn’t know these rides they sanction don’t follow the rules, I thought.  The reality is ½ the board members are part of what is really looking like a cult.  And a few of the ones not drinking the Kook-Aid know about it and essentially said to just sit tight, it’ll change slowly and eventually.  Maybe this article will help it along.

To the Pacific Southwest Series:  You are doing your sport a disservice.  The horse welfare may be fine.  The inner circle may know the trails.  And people can learn to use a GPS.  But there are rules of the AERC and you choose to publicly not follow them and still expect to be sanctioned.  At the risk of spreading rumors, I have heard from enough people to report that this ride series has threatened to leave the AERC and start its own club if it isn’t allowed to do things their way; ie: not by the rules of the governing body that sanctions the rides.  And you ban riders who don’t agree with your deviation to the rules.  You are a bully.

AERC, by giving that sanction knowing the rules are not being followed is disgraceful and a stain on American Endurance Riding.  It appears the AERC is being held hostage on the threat of a bully.  Someone who will take his marbles and go home if he can’t play by his own rules.  If you agree with the modified rules, change your own rules.

From a new rider.  I have since attended some exceptionally well run rides.  Thankfully, the 12 or so rides put on by this group are not representative of the AERC.  I love this sport.  I feel this story must be told so it can grow and improve.

I might not have crew, or a fancy RV, or my own horse, or 8 million AERC miles, but I have seen enough to know WE CAN DO BETTER!

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In Response

To the Newbies and Potential Newbies!  Please don’t be deterred!  Come out and ride!  If you followed the discussion on North America Endurance Green Beans, the conversation took a constructive vein for the most part (yay!)  And if you followed the one on AERC…well…that’s life.  Change is hard and scary.  Don’t let the few keep you from this amazing sport.

Not every ride will suit every rider.  The terrain and the associated challenges are totally different.  A 50 mile ride in sand on flat ground in Florida is always going to different than mountains and desert. The diversity of this sport is part of what makes it so unique and amazing.

On the Duck Rides

  • I have no horse welfare concerns. These rides are in beautiful places.  There is a lot of work that goes into them and it is a foundation stone of American Endurance Riding. And there is a lot right.    I love that GPS tracks are available (now that’s a lot of work!).   Heck, if I’m not banned, I’d still attend these rides.  If I need my hand held, at least now I know who NOT to ask.
  • I don’t think any of that makes them exempt from the rules if a sanction is to be granted.

2.1.4 Each equine will receive a substantive physical examination of metabolic and mechanical parameters before the ride,at control points within the ride and after the ride. All AERC sanctioned rides must use an AERC approved rider card for the control judge(s) to record the results of their examinations

Why didn’t I (or don’t I) file a formal complaint?  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the rides.  I am totally on board with, as one person put it, ‘ navigation/survival’.  I think the problem lies with the AERC and the attitude.  I also didn’t have any confidence a closed door conversation would be effective based on

  • Did I vet in?  No.  Did I get mentors?  Yes.  Did we all go attempt to vet it on Friday?  Yes.  Was anyone around?  No.  Is this typical.  No.  And I’m not saying there wasn’t a check, just that no one was around when we went to try (a few times).  Was I concerned for my horses welfare because of this?  No.  These rides clearly state you need to be self sufficient and responsible for your own horses welfare.  I had no doubts my horse was fine.  And no doubt the 12 checkpoints on the official (but required) vet card don’t take the place of experience and a good vet can certainly tell at a glance if there’s something truly wrong.  The experienced people I was with didn’t seem concerned about starting anyway so I went with it.

On Hazing and Being New

I’m thick skinned.  I’m not offended if high milers want to say LD riders aren’t doing real endurance.  In fact, I’m not offended by much of anything.

But I see and hear things.  And some of those things make me sad.  Some of the stories I received yesterday of people who are ‘taking a break’ or who have left the sport soon after joining make me sad. 

The conversation on the AERC group on facebook actually makes my point better than I did.

“Before you go pointing fingers at an organization and others within the sport, in a public forum; please make sure your own actions and behaviors at rides are above reproach. Or at the very least at a socially acceptable level….you shouldn’t violate rules and then call others out publicly for it. You won’t find me casting that first stone, but I’ll definitely catch it and toss it back!”

“She has not gone to many rides check her ride record and by her own account her experience is limited”

“I would encourage newbies to check ride records on the individuals making comments before drawing conclusions!”

“I think your in the wrong sport…. Like I said maybe those rides aren’t for you. Those rides are an adventure”

“..get over it. 25 miles is a training ride, not endurance.   I am perfectly aware of what LD vs endurance is. I have done both. Although I have have done LD, I still do not consider it true endurance. It is perplexing that a new person would be so critical of a sport that she is not acquainted with…”

There was some mention and many insinuations that I’ve somehow not paid my dues.  What are these dues I apparently didn’t pay?  I paid my AERC membership and ride entries.  If it’s sweat and time shoveling, I spent my childhood riding my bike to the farm and doing any and all work for the chance to ride.  More recently, I wake up before work, go to the barn, work, go to the barn….so basically Eat Sleep Ride Repeat but with the addition of Work Full Time & Do All That Other Adulting Stuff.  Am I implying you don’t do those things?  Or that huge amounts of volunteered time from very busy people goes into rides?  Nope.  Just wondering which dues it is I’ve missed.

Am I going to quit and go home to cry?  Not likely (unless I’m banned from the AERC entirely for choosing to publicly share my experience and opinion without the magical prerequisite number of AERC miles that would bestow upon me the right to an opinion).

Am I going to get more involved and do I want to see (and contribute to) positive change and growth in the sport?  Definitely.

Stay tuned for the next article on some of the ideas ESRR has for improvement as well as some of the great ideas already in place around the country.

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