Bonus Miles

Top ten was less than a mile away when I made a wrong turn.

I saw the 5 mile marker.  And the 4 mile marker.  And the 2 mile marker.  I got off to jog so Splash could hopefully catch her breath a little more easily in the humidity.  Each ride revealed another long stretch of lovely path in the green tunnel.  I remounted and kept watching the kilometers ridden on my borrowed watch creeping up.  Thinking I must just be a little further.

There were still blue ribbons on the right.  Things started to look a bit familiar….but this was my first time here.  Maybe I was confused.  Yup, blue ribbons still on the right.  Hm, I think I ducked under that branch before.  Maybe it was on the red loop I did first?  Yup, blue ribbons still on the right.  Wait, this is the water trough field….really?  At this point I realized I’d gone wrong.  Very, very wrong.  Near the end of the blue trail, it crosses itself.  I had somehow gone out on the loop again instead of going home.

As I was sponging Splash at the water and berating myself I had some useful thoughts. I have never really considered a time limit for a 25 mile ride.  I knew you got 12 hours for a 50…was it then 6 hours for a 25?  Probably.  And even if that wasn’t the case; it was hot, humid, and buggy.  My horse was tired and not catching her breath as well as I’d like.  A pair of set speed ladies gave me electrolytes for Splash and offered to ride the rest of their loop with me. I got on and we set off.  Within minutes I realized Splash’s breathing was too heavy for hot, humid, ‘you’re already dead last’ conditions.

The only thing left to do was get Splash home in good condition.  So we set off walking. Everyone who passed us made sure we were ok and I sent along the message that we’d be back eventually.  At the walk, Splash was still breathing hard so I figured I’d walk until she was breathing more easily.  We stopped for grass here and there to make sure she still had an appetite and digestion was still happening.  We jogged down hills together. Swatted bugs.  And talked of many thing: Of shoes—and ships – and sealing wax –of cabbages—and kings.

Let the self doubt and self berating begin.  Many of you have been there and during the walk in and back at camp there were many understanding condolences.  But that didn’t stop the record playing on my long long long walk in.  How did I not realize?  How did I not realize for SO LONG?  The blue ribbons were always on the right…right?  Should I just get back on and make Splash trot?  What’s the point of taking that risk when it’s humid like this and we’re well out of it already?  Does UBER pick up horses?  Can I send Splash back and just sit down and die right here?  Why do I even DO this?  It was dumb to leave my camel pack behind.  I should have paid more attention to the map and compass.  Well, I did want to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Maybe not this slow.  Oh, someone dropped a sponge.  Oooo, it has a huge slug in it.  I’ll take it anyway.  I wonder if I’ll just keep going around and around forever….

This is part of what makes endurance hard.  Whether it’s that last push up, or the last 5 seconds holding that yoga pose, or that last 10 km you’re walking because you made a wrong turn.

I was certainly happy to see Lily walking towards me about a mile from camp (the second time) with a bottle of water.  And laughed to see what Sarah and Ashley had left for me at that last turn where I’d gone wrong before.


I’d like to blame something.  Bentley, my original ride tweaked something so it’s his fault.  The trail crossed itself and wasn’t clearly marked.  I had rider brain (tired brain).  I’ve never been here before.   Splash knows these trails, why didn’t SHE tell me…wait, really?  I’m trying to blame the horse?  There’s always something to blame or some excuse.

At the end of the day, I made a mistake.  And I was lucky the only thing harmed was my pride.   I really would have liked to finish top 10 and knowing we ‘could have’ isn’t quite the same.  I choose to learn from my mistake.  I choose to go on and keep putting one foot in front of the other.   I will always carry hydration.  I need to pay more attention to the maps, particularly where a trail crosses itself.  And I would do well to carry my GPS so I can see my track and look at it when that nagging voice says, ‘Um, Hey…Rose….we’ve definitely seen this tree before.’

The support and camaraderie of OCTRA members helped me keep my chin up when I really wanted to curl up in the corner of the trailer and cry.  In a social media world where every invisible person feels justified in dissecting and criticizing your every choice, in person, the endurance community showed me the best of itself;  smiles, words of encouragement, understanding, sympathy and empathy.  Despite my error, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend.

Thank you Sarah, for inviting me, arranging a horse, crewing, feeding me, and being an amazing hostess.  Thank you Ashley for letting me go for an unexpectedly long ride on your mare Splash. And thank you OCTRA for being helpful, welcoming, and running a wonderful event in beautiful country.



Side note from Sarah:  I hope you all enjoyed Rose’s story!  While this is a bit of a crossover episode (she runs a blog too!) we have had long, deep conversations at the pub and have decided to merge the blogs!  Rose is training with the hopes of competing at Tevis this year and will be sharing her adventures in SoCal with our followers… so grab a popsicle… you are in for a heat wave!

Ecogold CoolFit Pad Review

When you think of the brand “Ecogold”, eventing is usually what comes to mind. But these pads are versatile enough for any discipline.

I’ve been using Ecogold pads since first starting in distance riding as I enjoyed having something that was non-slip (especially while moving quickly over varied terrain, while still being breathable). Something that is high quality is key as endurance riders put their equipment through a lot and we need it to hold up. The cheap stuff just doesn’t cut it, and that goes for all equipment I use.


Last year I found out that Ecogold makes a CoolFit pad.  From the Ecogold website: “ECOGOLD has integrated smart textiles in its CoolFit™ Saddle Pad to create an intelligent saddle pad. Smart textiles are materials that can sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli from mechanical, thermal, chemical, electric or magnetic sources. Thanks to the innovative smart textiles, the CoolFit™ saddle pad senses the sweat of the horse and reacts by reducing its temperature, providing a healthier and more comfortable ride.”

Yes, you read that right.  This pad reacts to your horse’s sweat and helps to cool it.  Now I know you are probably saying that this is what sweat does. Sweating is a cooling mechanism. But have you ever taken your saddle pad off of your horse after a hard ride or one in the heat and you can feel the heat coming off of your horse’s back?  Endurance riders want to keep their horse cool as that means lower heart rates at the vet checks (among other things). Like many things geared to the horse market, I was a little skeptical at first as to if this pad does what it claims to do. Endurance is one of the most grueling equestrian disciplines which made it perfect for testing the performance of this pad. If it worked, this would be my go-to saddle pad for distance rides.

Photo credit: Teresa Finnerty

My first endurance ride using the CoolFit pad was last October at  Lopin Larose in the gorgeous Larose Forest. With it being late October, Splash was just beginning to grow her winter woollies and the temperature was warmer than average for October.  Perfect testing conditions! The terrain on this ride is flatter than some of the others I’ve been to so I couldn’t really put  the non-slip properties to the ultimate test, but overall, my saddle did not move. Upon coming into the first vet check, my crew made the comment while removing my saddle and tack that the saddle pad felt really cold.  Perfect!  I took my horse’s heart rate and could immediately tell that it was way below the maximum threshold so we walked on over the vet minutes after getting there. I’ve used this pad on a few rides since then and every time, I am able to pretty much walk right into the vet check after coming in and removing tack.

Not only are these pads cooling, they also come with shock absorbing, removable foam inserts. The inserts are 100% breathable, allowing your horse to continue experiencing the benefits of the CoolMax layer on the underside of the saddle pad even while the shock-absorbing inserts are in place. The inserts come out and the whole pad is machine washable (bonus!) They also come in different styles and a wide variety of colours to match your flashy endurance colours of course!

ecogold cool fit

Cooling has always been a struggle for us since Splash is a very non-typical endurance type horse.  Arabians are bred to have the leaner muscles and thinner skin to allow for faster, more efficient cooling. My “built like a bulldog” stock horse just can’t compare! For anyone out there doing endurance with a thicker built horse, I highly recommend getting your hands on one of these pads.  It will make your cooling efforts much easier.

It is coming up to prime hot and humid riding season up here in Ontario and I’m actually looking forward to riding in the heat since I know I’ve got extra help in keeping her cool.

Grand River Raceway Open House

I’ve attended the races at Grand River Raceway in Elora before and while I have an idea of how the races work, I’ve never been behind the scenes at a race track before.

Grand River Raceway hosted its ninth annual backstretch Open House on May 28 and had their highest attendance yet! More than 500 people of all ages came for a rare glimpse of horse racing behind-the-scenes.


A full tour of the Open House stations included: a tour of the judges’ stand and announcer’s booth; a tour of the paddock, testing areas, starting car and track maintenance vehicles; a blacksmith station which included free horseshoes for kids compliments of System Fencing, Stalls & Equipment; a booth hosted by the Canadian Horse Racing Hall Of Fame; kids’ crafts and facepainting, and local reinsman Bob McClure hosted a station explaining the role of a racehorse driver.

Click on the picture below and hold and drag your cursor to get a 360 degree view of the paddock where the horses get tacked up and ready to race!

The most popular activity of the day was the unique opportunity to drive a racehorse with the Hands On Horses Program and the Ontario Harness Horse Association.  If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend it (and it’s free!!)

Grand River Raceway’s 2017 live racing season kicks off on June 2 at 6:35.  Even if you’re not into horse racing, Grand River Raceway has a ton of other fun activities like their popular weiner dog races (coming July 7, 2017) and Industry Day (August 7, 2017).

Visit for more information on these events and many more.

A weekend for the record books!

I have been on a bit of a roll recently with ideas for “how to’s”  on this blog, but I need to take a brief break from that to brag about my horse a bit.  I have heard a lot of top riders and trainers say that often the best performance horses are the ones who are a bit of (or complete) a jerk.  Enter Bentley.

Two weeks in a row now we have gone up to New Lowell to ride at the Danko’s farms – first for a clinic/training ride and then for a competitive ride.

So back on the 14th, with no trailer and a mission to go to the clinic to meet some new and aspiring distance riders, I saddled up, planned a route and rode Bentley to the clinic.  Bentley flipped his jerk switch to the on position and despite riding on a trail many meters from the road, gave a giant spook and bolted for the highway as I soared off the side of him.  I certainly wasn’t about to let go and managed to kick his side while in air, and circle him away from traffic as I bumped and skidded on my bouncy parts behind him on the concrete.  The shenanigans continued and upon a second attempt, he got a roar and a smack in the neck which resulted in me having a sprained hand.  He was briefly aware that there was a rider on top of him after that.

Trail to my right, highway to the left… was just a “little” spook right?!

After we arrived at the ride site, he totally simmered down… I think seeing the trailers and the vets clued him in and he got into his “zone”.  He ended up being a perfect gentleman to mentor the green horse and rider we took out on paced loops.  I do wonder if he just does this to make me appear a liar.  Needless to say however, we opted to trailer home when our friend offered a ride.

This past weekend, Ashley picked us up and we drove in early Saturday morning.  On the agenda was a somewhat aggressive total distance of 75 miles.  A 25 mile set speed (gold level) and then a 50 mile endurance ride the following day.

Saturday was beautiful weather and we went out early as we expected to be the faster of most of the riders.  The monster was back and he spooked all the way out, galloped all the way back.  All cries of “Woah” were completely ignored.  I was pissed because I knew there were lots of new riders on the trail that day and I did not want to surprise any of them.  We missed the awards that night, but I learned that he won high vet score… I didn’t tell him this because I did not want to condone his behavior.  He can be pretty damn cocky sometimes too! Haha.

Too riled up to drink, I subjected him to selfies until he took some water. He is clearly not impressed.

Sunday called for cold pouring rain.  Yuck, we did that already this year at Aprilfest!  Mother nature, why do you hate endurance riders so much?!

There was also an out-vet check so Ashley and I split our crew kits and shared through the day.  We also woke up extra early based on the hourly forecast so we could pack up our tents before the rain started – a really fantastic plan!

The map of the trail noting the out vet check

Thankfully, Bentley was in the zone this day and we rode along pleasantly, eventually settling in with Earl and Libby for the close to the entirety of the ride. Not only was he pleasant to ride this day, he was taking the lead and being responsible for others too.  He was certainly trying his hardest.

He rocked it through the twisty turny knee bashing forests, the slick muddy paths, some deep puddles and could easily kick up the gear in the beautiful open fields and tree farms.  When he is good, he is GOOD!

Throughout the day too, he pretty much walked right into the vet checks at parameters.  His recoveries were fantastic.

The plan was not to lead the pack this day, but just get the distance done, so the speed and the recoveries were a bit of a surprise to me, but I thought, hey if its working, just go for it!  The three of us remained in the lead right through to the very end when we had to discuss how we wanted to finish.  Libby and I felt it was ok to tie, but Earl thought a race-off was in order.  Ok, twist my leg!

Bentley has never been in a legitimate race off before and Earl came through the fence first.  I yelled “go Bentley! Go Go Go GO!” and he kicked in with his big engine and then kicked in further.  We nearly caught Earl, just needed a few extra meters of trail.  A very exciting finish for both of us and the onlookers.  As we crossed the line we were laughing and smiling and Bentley looked so darn pleased to have had a fun run.  What a ride!

Our sprint to the finish

We decided to stand for the Best Condition award – something we don’t usually do but are trying to practice more of.  Fifteen minutes after our finish, we had to present for the Cardiac Recovery Index portion of the BC award.  Bentley had already dropped to 44bpm!  We finished the judging and went back to camp to wait for Ashley to finish.

Again, we got caught up in what was going on at our campsite (very wet packing this time) and didn’t hear anyone calling for awards.  We did hear some cheering at one point though, so we booted it over there just in time for everyone to be yelling “Run Sarah, you got an award!”

So I ran. I received high vet score again!  Then I was surprised to learn I had also earned Best Condition!  That’s something that rarely happens to me because I teeter on the edge of lightweight to midweight and the weight can have a major impact on BC scores.  I was so proud!

Before I left however, the vets Sarah, Art and Stan surrounded me and tried to explain through my thick rider-brained fog what the paper said exactly… Bentley had earned a perfect vet score!

At first I was like “oh that’s pretty cool”, thinking it was a bit like a set speed grade 1 – a wide range that is totally achievable with hard work and smart riding.

Then they told me, that this was the first time any of them have ever awarded a perfect score!  And they are certainly not new to this game!

Our best condition scoring sheet

I am so proud of my horse, but also myself.  I have a bit of impostor syndrome when I write here – its hard to give advice when you have that self doubt, in my 6th season, I am still relatively new to this world.  Attaining this rare achievement has certainly given me a confidence boost.

As I reflect, I think about how to be successful in this sport – and its to be a manager, not just a rider.  You need to take ownership of your successes and failures and constantly be learning about yourself and your horse.  You need to be smart and studious – learn from everyone and everywhere.  You need to reach out to others, particularly experts, for help.  You need to plan everything from feeding programs to recoveries and when things don’t go according to plan, you need to have backup plans.  A good rider is not just a jockey, they are everything to their horse – and their horse is everything to them.

I am so proud of my big guy, and I guess I forgive him for nearly killing me on the highway last week!  The good ones may be a little bit more difficult, but man… are they ever worth it!



How Endurance Cross Training Can Help Your Performance Horse

Reposted from On The Horse Magazine 

Cross training has proven its benefits in human athletics but did you know it’s good for your horse too?! Like a human, horses need cardiovascular and muscular endurance to be able to perform, especially in equestrian sports like eventing, jumping, and dressage. Although, every horse benefits from a good exercise program! Endurance riders seem to have this down to a science and it’s not uncommon to hear of horses competing well into their 20’s.By incorporating endurance training into your program, your performance horse will benefit in a number of ways.


Time is something we all seem to lack but need in endless amounts. Most Endurance riders have time to condition and campaign only one horse, which means we want to do whatever it takes to keep a sound, happy horse working for a lifetime.

Longevity is one of the greatest honours in competitive distance sports with many local and national organizations giving special awards for Decade Teams, and some riders have even reached the rare, but possible achievement of a Double Decade Team. So how do these distance riders do it? The secret, is LSD.

Yup, you read it right. Ok, well you interpreted it wrong. Long Slow Distance is the greatest building block in young horse development and continuing trail success. Take a look at the below chart.

From “Is Your Horse Fit? The physiology of Conditioning”, Lori Warren, PhD, PAS

As you can see, it takes a significantly longer period of time from when your horse becomes “cardio fit” to when the muscles, bones and tendons develop.   So while your horse may be raring to run, their legs are not ready! By taking a conservative approach early in your horses’ career like a good Endurance rider, you are building solid structures that will help them stay sounder in their later years. Competing in lower level distance events can set a good foundation for your youngster.


Does your horse lose a bit of pizzazz after your second dressage test of the day? Does your jumper lack that little extra “vroom” in the jump-off? One of the main reasons that humans utilize cross-training is to increase strength and aerobic fitness so that they can maintain athletic performance over a longer period of time. Endurance horses benefit from cross-training in dressage as it improves their coordination, increases suppleness, and improves their ability to carry themselves properly over miles so that risk of injury is reduced. A show horse that trail rides regularly or does the occasional distance ride will build up its aerobic capacity and endurance which help them last over the long show weekends.

Horses that are at a good fitness level will fit up better and faster after time off as well, giving you a head start on show season preparation. By using the same “long, slow distance” conditioning that endurance riders use, muscles are worked in a different way slowly over time which reduces overworking and overloading the structures of the horse. Cardiovascular fitness and musculoskeletal strength are also enhanced. Just hacking out benefits the performance horse by assisting in avoiding injury resulting in a longer career, and the mental break helps prevent “ring sour” behaviour.

Mental Health

Training at any level is stressful, and prolonged mental fatigue can lead to an increase in evasive behaviour. Imagine if you were only allowed to run on a treadmill. Not only would it get boring after a while, you’d probably start to resent it. If you were allowed to run outside occasionally, you’d probably look forward to running and where you were going to go that day. Taking your horse out of the ring will not only prevent arena sourness, but it can rejuvenate your horses work ethic.

Trail riding is a great way to still give your horse a workout, just in a different mental environment. Hacking is a great way to expose your horse to new things and get them used to being in unfamiliar situations. This can carry over to show day as your horse will be more confident and relaxed and your warm up can be better spent on warming up muscles and preparing your horse, rather than just trying to relax them. Getting out of the groomed footing of the ring and on to varied terrain also teaches a horse to think about where he is putting his feet, which will come in handy if your horse gets a tricky distance coming into a jump.


The more you ride, the better you get to know your horse. You get to know what is normal for him and you become a better judge of his fitness.

You can also take those hours spent on trail and use it to improve your riding. Set a focus for the ride. It could be an improvement on equitation, or perhaps a skill you would like to master. You have hours on the trail to keep coming back to it and work on bettering yourself as a rider.

Then you add in the competition element, which adds more dimension. Get out to an OCTRA ride this year and you will learn so much so fast – electrolytes, cooling, nutrition, pacing. The list is truly endless. There are millions of techniques competitive riders and vets have studied and developed because they want to be better – better than their competition, but mostly better than they were last time; and Endurance is the perfect testing grounds.

On that note, taking on a distance challenge is a great way for you to take responsibility for your horses’ care. This is not a sport for the lazy or closed-minded and adding some pressure will give you a chance to rise to the occasion. Your success in this sport has nothing to do with the price tag of your horse or the colour of your jodhpurs, but the sweat equity and education you put into making it happen.

Whether you think Endurance might be your “Thing” or are just looking to add a little extra to your training program, the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA) hosts several events across the province in a wide range of distances. As a novice rider dabbling in the sport, you can enjoy “Set Speed” rides of 10km to 40km with maximum and minimum speeds to help gauge your training progress, and veterinary judges to help ensure your horse’s safety and that you are well equipped to achieve your goal.

The Importance of Routine

Like any utterly obsessed horse-person, I often find my mind tying to horses and my sport in the most unlikely situations.  Case in point, I was at the dentist not long ago, having my teeth scraped and poked.  Of course, a mental escape was necessary.  The way it went started with a bit of surprise – the lovely hygienist who was working on my teeth seemed not to follow the logical pattern – at least to me, which I thought would be left to right, top to bottom.  She worked away in one area and then switched to another, somewhere completely different.

How in the world can you ensure everything is done when the order seems, to the uneducated person, totally random?

Routine of course!  And who knows routine better than a horseperson?

I  immediately began writing this blog in my head, hey, I needed some sort of distraction right?

Your first distance ride is going to always be the hardest – everything is new – from packing, to vet checks, to camping, to navigating the trails, even just knowing how to register!  I can tell you now, it gets easier and this is thanks to routine.

Everyone’s routine is going to be a bit different, but building one the right way will help you get through the challenges above.  In fact, many of these routines you can start practicing at home before you even think about attempting your first ride.

A while back, I took a few archery lessons with intent I would someday do horseback archery.  Instead, I learned something even greater: the importance of writing down your routine.  How hard can it be to pick up a bow and shoot right?  Well, its not that hard.  The hard part is repeating your success so you can hit that bullseye every time, instead of shooting all around the target like you are caught in a hurricane.

They had us chronicle everything we did from picking up our bow, to approaching the line, loading your arrow, raising the bow, to where your eyes will focus, to how you draw back and make postural adjustments, to how you release, to how you put your bow down.  Think that is a lot to think about?  There are all sorts of micro steps in between too!  All of a sudden, shooting became very overwhelming, its not just picking up a bow and shooting is it?

So we pull out our notebooks and write each step down.  I think I started with about ten steps and eventually it became tailored to the point where I had twenty plus before I even raised my bow.  Committing it to paper will help you remember the routine.

Then, when you have a bad round, go back to your list.  Did you do everything?  Did you do it in the right order?  Is there something that needs to change in your routine? And when you have a great round, did you do your routine exactly?  If not, what do you need to add to your routine to ensure you succeed more often?

You see where I am going with all this right?

In particular, I like applying this theory to my vet checks.  Its the single most important routine during my race and I like to have it down pat.  In fact, it was the thing I was most proud of when I was riding in Race the Wild Coast and I am 100% confident in saying it helped me remain competitive throughout.

So how do you  build your routine?

  1. If you are new, start with someone else’s routine (I will give you my routine for a regular Endurance vet check in a little bit if you would like to use that).  Write it down or print it out.  If you have been doing this for a while, write down what you think you do.
  2. Try it!
  3. Review your notes, if someone else were riding your horse, using your equipment, and using your notes, would they have the same result as you?  Is everything working well as is?  Is there anything that needs to improve?
  4. Modify it.  Be as detailed as possible.  Write down EVERYTHING.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 indefinitely!

The important thing to note is we are all different.  We have different bodies and minds, different horses, equipment, setups, different goals.  While there are certain standards and proven methods, you need to tweak these to find what works best for you, and then just focus on you!

PS.  The above works not just for vet checks, but anything else you need to standardize.  Believe me, packing and prepping for the ride, setting up camp, all these things become much easier when you build your routine.  As a bonus, your horse will also thrive from knowing the routine and come to expect your next step.

So there you have it, they key to a great ride, shooting a bullseye, or even cleaning teeth.  Routine!

Sarah’s Vet Check Routine

  1. When finish line is in sight, dismount and walk in.
    1. Loosen girth while walking
    2. remove bit if applicable (attach bit to carabiner on my belt loop)
    3. Remove ride card from Ride Card Holder
    4. Call number to timer and hand them card
    5. Receive card from timer, check time
  2. Walk Bentley to water trough and offer drink
  3. Walk Bentley to crew area
  4. Begin crewing!
    1. Pull saddle and place on saddle race
    2. Offer Bentley beet pulp/grain/elyte mix (premade from previous hold or prior to start) and hay bag
    3. Check heartrate
    4. While horse eating, sponge with water side 1
    5. Sponge side 2
    6. Scrape side 1
    7. Scrape side 2
    8. Repeat 4.3-4.7 until heartrate meets parameters
    9. Add cooler/blanket if necessary
  5. Walk over to pulsing area
    1. Call out for pulse time & ensure it is written down and correct
    2. Wait in line for pulse if applicable, asking Bentley to put head down and be calm
    3. Ask Bentley to stand square and one step back to position front leg so heartrate is easy for pulse taker to access
  6. Walk to vetting line
    1. Wait in line if necessary, asking Bentley to put head down and be calm
    2. Approach available vet
    3. Tell vet any concerns and how ride is going
    4. Hold Bentley quiet as vet goes through their routine
  7. Trot out
    1. Ask Bentley to back up a step or two
    2. say “Aaaand trot!”, click twice and start jogging with loose lead
    3. Make it to the cones or when vet calls, stop, turn right 180 degrees, and repeat 2
  8. Finish vet check
  9. If I have crew, bring Bentley back to crew area and ask them to hold briefly while he eats from his mix again
    1. Go back to timers with card so I receive my out time
    2. Check time is correct and see how much longer I have
    3. Make note of next loop’s marker colours and total distance
    4. Put card back in Ride Card Holder attached to saddle
  10. If I don’t have crew, take Bentley with me to timers and do 9.1 and 9.2 THEN return to crew area and put him back in his food.
  11. Take care of me
    1. Refill water pack or bottles
    2. Eat food from cooler
    3. Pack snacks in backpack or saddle bag
    4. Use bathroom if necessary (Bentley may need to be pulled from food or ask another rider to watch)
  12. Assess equipment – do I or Bentley have any rubs or pain or is anything broken? Fix as needed
  13. Assess condition and do stretches for me and or Bentley as necessary
  14. Prepare Bentley’s food for next hold
    1. 1 Scoop beet pulp
    2. 1 scoop grain
    3. 4 scoops Mad Barn Electrolytes
    4. Chop up a few carrots or apples
    5. Add water and stir
    6. ensure hay bag is still full, top up if need be
  15. Fill water buckets for next hold
  16. Ten minutes to out time
    1. Grab fresh saddle pad from stack and place on back
    2. Put on saddle and do up girth loosely
    3. Walk Bentley over to water trough again to offer another drink
  17. Five minutes to out time
    1. Double check everything in crewing area is set for next hold
    2. Tighten girth
    3. Put bit back in (if necessary)
    4. mount from mounting block
  18. One minute to out time
    1. Approach timers
    2. Call out number and your out time, wait for confirmation
    3. Watch the clock, the get going!  Woo hoo!



April showers bring…soggy endurance riders??

The plan for the first ride of the season was to do the 10km ride n tie on Saturday and 40km LD on Sunday.  We would have liked to do the 80km endurance ride but boyfriend and I moving into new house and my truck and trailer were needed to move the larger furniture.

Saturday was chilly but fortunately no rain; perfect running weather! Clayton was determined to beat Splash as he did at the last ride n tie we did together at the Summer’s End ride last year in the Ganaraska Forest. It was going to be interesting because he’s been training on flat roads and the Dufferin Forest is sandy and full of hills.

I love a horse that knows its job.  Splash knows the ride n tie course at the Dufferin and even when I’m not competing in ride n tie, any time I’m on the part of the trail that the ride n tie uses, she tries to GO!  She was nice and quick to our trade off point and stood still while Clayton mounted up. She walked into the vet check calmly for him and was quiet while he dismounted and ran off.  Pulsing down pretty quickly (and Splash knowing the course) allowed us to catch up to the team that had passed us during the vet check.  I caught up to Clayton who was still trucking right along a great pace, although starting to feel those hills.  I passed him but slowed down as we were coming out of the forest as I could see Wendy (the ride photographer) ahead and wanted a picture of the two of us.

ride n tie
Photo credit: Wendy Webb

Not far from the finish line, Clayton broke into a sprint to try and beat Splash so we cantered alongside him for a bit (just to get his hopes up) before we pulled away and crossed the finish line before him. Next time, Clay! I will update this once I unpack my truck and find my scorecard, but we finished in roughly 55 minutes, which is a personal record!

Sunday was a miserable day.  Cold and wet weather is no fun for anything, especially riding.  However, we are distance riders and unlike many other horse events, ours are not cancelled for rain. Days like these have their own sets of challenges.  While the cooler weather helps with bringing the horse’s temperature down, you also have to be cautious of horses stiffening up, much like humans can when exercising in cold, wet weather.  The ground is also slicker, especially with all the fallen leaves still in the forest.

The only goal we had for today was to finish (which is always a goal, but sometimes I will have others such as better heart rates, faster speeds, etc.)  as I haven’t been able to ride as often as I wanted to and was just using this as a training ride.  We ended up riding with Dominic and Liza the whole way as the two paints seemed to get along and match each other’s pace well. It was nice to have someone to talk to as it makes the ride go by a lot quicker and it keeps morale up, especially with the weather!

Paint power! Blurry because we were moving so fast haha.

Although Splash drank well at every opportunity, she was still receiving B’s for her hydration levels at the vet checks.  She didn’t pee all day until the end of the ride which means although she was drinking, her body was using everything she was taking in.  Even though it was a cool day, I should have kept upped her electrolytes to encourage her to drink even more. Electrolytes are almost always a bit of experimenting and this is where knowing your horse and what is their “normal” comes into play. Lesson learned and we have something to work with for the next race to improve that hydration score!


The neat thing about this ride is that it is the first time an LD (limited distance) ride was offered in Ontario.  Although I do find the set speed discipline great for teaching pacing, especially for those new to the sport,  I really enjoyed the LD format for where I am now in my distance riding career. For the days I don’t quite feel like riding 80km, the LD provides a great alternative without having to really alter our 80km routine. We can go our pace without having to worry whether we are too fast or too slow for the set speed time (the 6 hours to complete the LD is more than enough time), plus we get the AERC miles in addition to the OCTRA ones.


Again, I’ll have to pull my scorecard to see what the actual final results were but we did finish somewhere in the top ten as we stood for BC (best condition) for the practice more than anything.


While everything is drying out, planning for the next event is taking place, the first of two Coates Creek rides. The plan is to do the 40km set speed ride on the Saturday and the 80km endurance ride on the Sunday, making this the most miles we’ve ever completed in one weekend.  If we manage to complete both of these rides successfully, it will also put us over our lifetime distance mileage of 500 miles!


If you haven’t already, head over to our Facebook page for another great contest! All you have to do is like our page, and like and share the post. Easy at that! You have until the end of the week do enter.


Two years old

Two years have flown by, but I can still remember the day prince was born. He’s turning out to be a pretty amazing little horse, except now he’s not so little. With the dam being a paint 13″3 and a stud being an Arab 15″2, he’s already 14″1, he’s definitely going to be a good height.


So far Prince has shown twice in halter classes last year and I really hope this year he can do a lot more. Since he was born he has always been taught different things like having saddle pads on his back or lunging. This past winter Prince has been learning how to ground drive as well as work on the ground with no attachment to me; liberty.



I couldn’t be more happy with how much he wants to learn and how much he loves being not only around me, but around everyone. If anyone goes into his field 90% of the time he will stop whatever he’s doing to come and get attention.

Today is prince’s birthday and I couldn’t be happier of the decision to bring him into the world, since I was little my dream was to have a foal and watch it grow; this journey has just begun and I’m so excited to watch him grow up.

algonquin 2016 ipod 091


Just recently marked a big stepping stone in Prince’s life, I got on him and rode him around. He walks around very nicely with me on his back and someone in the middle lunging him around and I think he enjoys it too. He always stares at you if you’re riding another horse so now that I’ve ridden him a couple times he thinks he’s a big horse and shows it off a lot too.



So happy birthday Prince, or shall I say my prince charming.


Packing tips for your first competitive distance ride (of the season, or ever!)

In case you missed my post about creating a training plan, I will let you know, I am pretty anal when it comes to my preparation.  It should come as no surprise, that lists are one of my best friends.  In fact, I will occasionally make lists of lists that need to be made.  Of course, it is never enough either to just make one list and stick with it, nope, it needs to be refreshed and fine tuned every year, every ride, multiple times before the ride.

So as I prepare my lists for our first ride of the season (little under 2 weeks away at this point), I am going to share some tips for those of you who want to make your own lists, and my lists for those of you who don’t.

Making your to do list

You have 2 weeks before open season… what do you need to do?

  1. Memberships all paid up?  Do I have my membership cards or do I need to follow up or print them out?
  2. Insurance – have I bought this?  Do I have my policies and certificates printed out?
  3. Vet checks – is my Coggins certificate within limits?  Do I need update my vaccinations? Are there any nigging lamenesses or issues that you need to nip now before you get into competition?
  4. Ride flyer and entry form – printed, completed and paid?
  5. All of the above printed and filed thoughtfully in a binder, ready to present at registration?
  6. Will your horse need shoes, boots, trim?
  7. Is all your tack working comfortably for your and your horse?  Does anything need repair? Is it clean? Do you have enough clean saddle pads
  8. How are you getting to the ride?  If you have your own truck and trailer, has everything been certified?
  9. How are you going to contain your horse?  Is everything in good repair?
  10. Do you have all the horse food, electrolytes, water buckets, grooming tool etc that you need? Or is it time to hit up your local feed and tack shops (or tack swaps… come visit ESRR at Caledon this weekend!


Making your packing list

Things get pretty crazy when packing for a ride and we all fear forgetting something important.

  1. Pick categories for your list first.  I structure my categories either around the activity or by where it will be packed (and if you are really keen, why not do both?!!!).  What categories have I picked?  Camping stuff, riding stuff, horse stuff, overnight, ESRR, meals
  2. Sub-lists!  OMG, here is where we get into the lists of lists (within other lists of course, because packing list is on my to do list… oh my pulse is rising!)  This is where I start adding in the “where is it packed” question.  Take my “camping stuff” category – in my camping gear I have a cooler and a kitchen tote – both of which will contain other stuff.  Food, utensils etc.  I find if I break it down into these sub categories, I am less likely to forget something pesky.  Under horse stuff, I may have a saddle bag listed, but what do I want to pack in that saddle bag?
  3. Make a meal plan – this is a simple table with the meals as row headers and the days as column headers.  Fill in what you want to eat and bing bang boom, you can pull those guys out and put them in your coolers and kitchen totes.  Yessss.
  4. Have 2 of everything horsey.  I learned this from my friend Linda – things like brushes, stethoscopes etc you should have two (or even 3) of everything.  One lives at home and never gets to travel.  The other lives in your trailer, so you never have to worry about forgetting it.  If you want to go as far as a third (which of course, I have), put together a crewing tote – anything you need at the vet checks when you cant come back to your trailer – syringes, elytes, stethoscopes, clean saddle pads, brushes, feed tubs.
  5. Relating back to point #4 – get in the habit of putting everything back where it belongs.  If you always keep X Y and Z in your saddle bag, you can rest easy knowing it will be there when you need it.  If it breaks or is used up?  Replace immediately or put it on your to do list!
  6. Use technology – when you go do your test ride 2 weeks before, save some voice notes as you go through your pack and ride to remind you what you are missing.  Caveat – if you use something with terrible speech to text recognition, you may just want to go back to pen and paper – you may not remember that “find like your lights” means find electrolytes or that “find sad Spanish” is find saddle sponge”
  7. Colour code – I use colour codes to indicate where I can find said item when it comes time to pack.  If Ashley has it (in trailer) its in pink. If its in the barn, its green and beige (our barn is green and beige), if its black, its in my house, if its highlighted in gold, its in my car, if its red – well I have no clue where it is and better get searching!
  8. Check the weather forecast – this is likely going to change what you need to pack.  Adjust accordingly and perhaps even plan for all seasons.

Shopping list

This is perhaps the easiest part here.  I dont have to even make you a list of tips because guess what, you already have the tools to make your shopping list!  Just go back to your meal plans and packing list and pull from there.


Lastly, start packing everything you can now because things you forgot will always pop the more time goes by… give yourself a fighting chance!


Ok so maybe I once again pulled out a bit of a dry post, but hopefully this will help you get going for your first ride.  Are you ready yet?

Ontario Mounted Special Services Unit

In addition to endurance, Splash will soon be holding another side job as a member of the Ontario Mounted Special Services Unit (OMSSU).

ontario mounted special services unit

The OMSSU offers the following services:

  • Wilderness, rural & urban/suburban searches for missing/lost persons
  • Disaster response ground teams & manpower assistance
  • Assist with large animal rescue that results from natural or man made disaster
  • Mounted Perimeter Patrols for large restricted access areas
  • Community Relations and Safety Events
  • Wilderness Educational Programs
  • Private functions
  • Honor Guard / Funeral Ceremonies
  • Emergency Response
  • Trail Patrol


In addition to training throughout the year, the OMSSU is excited to be attending the Civilian Service Horse Sensory Program this July 14-16, 2017 at the REACH Centre in Clinton, Ontario.  Training will be offered in obstacle, sensory, equitation, self defense on horseback for trail riders, search and rescue/recovery and, large animal technical rescue.  Auditing is available for the weekend.

ontario mounted special services unit


In September, Splash and I will be heading down to the Kentucky Horse Park for the National Mounted Police Colloquium for further training and to compete against other mounted police units in equitation and obstacle courses.


If you’d like more information on the OMSSU or to have them attend your event, please visit their website (  and Facebook page.

The OMSSU is also selling commemorative keychains to celebrate Canada’s 150 Birthday for $10 each as a fundraiser for their group. Pick up, delivery (within reason) and shipping (at your cost) are all available. Send an email to to place your order!

ontario mounted special services unit