It’s a little over three hours’ drive all the way to Ottawa, but gosh was it worth it. The Ottawa Valley Hunt Club does drag hunting and, for people that don’t know about hunting, a drag hunt is a set path the hounds follow that the “fox” has been. This is much faster than live hunting since the hounds aren’t spending time looking for a scent. There were so many jumps in Ottawa set up and so many lovely views. Instead of driving up on the day of the hunt we decided to drive up the day before to get the ponies ready without a rush and so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 4am. At the hunt we got to meet so many new people and even people that have ridden in an OCTRA event.
Whenever I jump Desi I’m always slightly worried she’ll stop since so many times she has done this before. Luckily for me that thought never crossed her mind, or else I seriously would have gotten hurt. Many of the jumps we were galloping over to stay with the rest of the field, but we didn’t really have to encourage them on any either they were ready and raring to go. There were so many jumps I couldn’t even count, logs, tires, brush and even drops. The one benefit Ottawa has compared to us is that it’s very flat so the chases can be a lot faster and longer since they don’t have to deal with hills.
The weather couldn’t have been better for a November day. Just mainly wind since it’s so flat, but because we were moving almost all of the time we warmed up very quickly.
We got home at around 8 and then I had to wake up the next day for my first day of work at a coffee/bake shop in Port Hope. Well… I’m still working at the shop 3 weeks later for knowing nothing about coffee or espresso I think I’m doing pretty good.
Throughout Race the Wild Coast, Sam, Monde and I led the group and we eventually dueled it out in a 500m sprint for the glory at the finish line. While it was very exciting to call myself a “leader” or “winner”, this race was more about the adventure than a win. If you are considering entering and expect to win, here are some of the things you will miss out on or quirks you can expect in your adventure.
1. Sleeping in
I think we seriously surprised the Rockethorse crew with how early we got in every day. We rode FAST given the obstacles we faced. This meant that we got in most days at 3pm-4pm instead of the 5-6ish they were expecting. Originally the rules were stated that the time we rode in at would be the time we rode out at to keep you form being penalized at the end of the day – so if we arrived at the maximum end point at 3pm in the afternoon, we would technically go out at 3am.
Does that sound as awful to you as it did to me? I am not an early riser and generally need an hour of stretching, complaining and coffee to do anything before sunrise.
Thankfully, they modified the rules as we went, adding holds on to all so that we wouldn’t leave any earlier than 5am. This was more of a safety thing, as they didn’t want us swimming the rivers in the dark (rightfully so!). So that was better… but Sam and I still set our alarms for 3:30 to get all our stuff ready in time… and she got the pleasure of hearing me whine, and huff and puff to put on damp tights in the dark.
Related to above. We were up so early neither our stomachs wanted to eat, nor was there much to pick from… it would NOT be fair to ask the crew to get up at 2am to serve us! Nope nope nope! There were lots of lovely snacks – peanuts, biltong, fruit and granola bars. So for 4 days us leaders subsisted on that. Considerably better options than mutton soup and airag, but we did get a little tired of peanuts by day 4!
We also got to hear from the mid to back of the pack riders, who happened to arrive in a vet check just in time to get omelettes. We were super jealous! BTW the food is amazing on this trip, so I would recommending not being a leader, just for the culinary delights!
3. You found the problems first
I believe it was day 3 when we set out before dawn along a road and after about half an hour, we came to a padlocked gate with nowhere around. Apparently we had also beat the park rangers. Thankfully, I had brought along a phone and was able to call for help. Joe (one of the organizers) came to our rescue a little while later and we were able to laugh about it, but poor Louise had just caught up to us and was held at the gate for fair timing. I can only imagine her horse must have been P-Oed to be left behind.
Another time, the rangers were at the gate, but seemed a bit confused about us being there and wanted us to sign liability waivers (was supposed to be worked out in advance, but I think we still surprised them). It was a pretty funny delay, filling out liability forms on horseback. Not sure if the people behind us had this issue or if it was sorted by then.
Sometimes trees were down or the navigation needed some modification. There were a few times we spent a lot of time searching for a new route, when the people behind us could follow our hoofprints. The best was when a tree was down at less than chest height and Monde went off on foot to find a new route. He found one in less than half an hour, and I swear… to get us through, he chopped down a tree with ANOTHER TREE!
3. You miss out on some great stories about gettin’ ‘er done
We have tonnes of good stories from the trip, and everyone’s were a little different, but listening to the other riders, it sounds like the best stories come from riders who got the short straw of horses, or perhaps had more bad luck come their way. Ingenuity and humor lead to the best memories.
My favorite story was that of Malcolm, who was trailing significantly and whose horse just wanted to quit. Clever as he is, he found a young boy who would run along with him and encourage the horse forward for a few Rand (currency) per kilometer – until he had to get home to be in bed because it was a school night.
4. You spend a lot of time staring at a purple line
Navigation in the race is along tracks, not waypoints, and it can be very trick to see where you need to go. There are lots of cattle tracks and hidden entrances, so you need to ride with your GPS in your hand almost all the time. Even riding as a team of 3, we all needed out GPSes out and would pipe up to the leader occasionally “NOOO RIGHHHT!” because it was very easy to get on a wrong track.
I would say this goes for everyone who rode, but as I mentioned above, those behind us would have tracks to follow, which I am sure would help take the eyes to the beautiful scenery a little more frequently. In other words, I can’t wait for the documentary so I can see all the things I missed when staring at the purple line!
5. You are constantly surprising people
At one point during the race, I complimented Barry (one of the Rockethorse Organizers), on how smoothly everything was running. He had a good laugh at me! Honestly, things seemed to run so smoothly from our perspective as riders, but it sounded like they had a bit of a time keeping up with us.
There were a few vet checks where we arrived before they had a chance to set up. The crew were amazing about making it work and prioritizing, we barely knew they had been there not ten minutes before we arrived. Good people can iron out kinks and make it look easy.
We also arrived at one camp where the tents were not yet set up (of course we volunteered to help, but the amazing crew insisted!), apparently the van and trailer had been sideswiped on the highway and pretty much totaled. How is that for a kink?! Again, it seemed like no big deal to us riders because of how quick and efficient the crew were.
Lastly, and this was a good laugh for us, the finish line. Apparently, everyone was expecting us to come from much more inland than we did. So to the surprise of everyone waiting at the line, we popped out close to the water! There was a bit of a mad scramble to get the cameras and the drone within range to capture our finish, and they got us just in time, but I can only imagine the heart palpitations they must have had, thinking they weren’t going to capture the winner for the documentary!
So there you have it. These are by no means complaints or regrets. I am so proud of myself to have stuck it out in the lead and to have raced a good race. I could not have been happier with the result. However, now that that has checked off the bucket list, I would definitely return and do the same trail as one of the 10 day trips they offer so I can just go and enjoy. If you are considering it, I would recommend you also do both… the scenery is worth a trip itself, but the thrill of racing and the self discovery when tackling the challenges set forth in a race environment are totally different and worth it too! Its amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it!
In October 2016, I raced in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast, a 350km self-guided adventure race along the eastern coast of South Africa. These are my stories from my adventure. If you enjoy my writing, please consider supporting my adventures through one of the following links:
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In the past, my adventures were written day by day, stage by stage, or in another similar logical order. I would like to introduce chaos with my posts about this race… because, well that is just what I feel like!
So instead of telling you what happened when (Ashley did a pretty good job of doing that while I was there, and the documentary should have this basis covered too!), I am going to choose a few topics and cover them. So if you have any questions about certain aspects of the race, please comment them below and I will make sure I write a post about it!
In the meantime, I have been campaigning around magazines to publish my story, so I do need something about my overall experience. So to whet your appetite, here is the quick and dirty about my experience in the race.
Waiting for my airport transfer, hopped up on coffee and excitement, I broke a sweat. In only a few hours I would be meeting up with my best friends from around the globe to take part in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast.
We had all signed on and pinched our pennies to ride 350km in an endurance race style event from Port Edward to Kei Mouth, South Africa, one of the most beautiful and untouched places in the country.
We met in the airport Steers restaurant and all anxiety dissipated as we caught up and met the new additions to our group – 13 riders in total, most of whom had a Mongol Derby under their belt. This was not your regular crowd of pony trekkers, but to us it felt like we were about to embark on a fun vacation instead of a remarkable race.
We really had no idea what to expect on our way to base camp, and were pleasantly surprised to find it well appointed from comfortable cots to camping showers fueled by campfires.
For the next 3 days we drew and tested our random team of horses, learned about the course and race rules in detail, and refined our riding kits – the 5kg of gear we were allowed to carry with us for the entire 5 days allotted to riding.
I drew a formidable team of 2 Boerpoerd horses and one young arab. Gerber would be my first ride, he was easygoing and sure footed, a great confidence booster, ensuring that I wouln’t have drama at the starting line. Ramkat was my second horse, he would ride the shortest distance, but would have to climb the most hills and swim the most rivers. He was so bold and clever! Asad was to be my last horse, more endurance type supposed to help me speed through the flatter sections toward the end of the race. Our training ride didn’t go so well, he was very spooky and I was worried about how he would handle after I was exhausted from 3 days of riding.
On race day, we had a very unexciting start on the beach, everyone quietly passing the line together. We all stayed together for the first leg of the race. After the first vet check, the group split into 2 and I remained with the leaders. Through the next leg, we lost another one or 2 to the other pack. Gerber and I came in again with the leaders and vetted down quickly, allowing us to be one of the first out in the morning.
Day 2 was slow, we had the most difficult terrain to ride on, and the morning rain caused everything to be slippery. 29 kms took over 4 hours to complete, but we had lots of beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way.
We had our first horse change, where the vetting area quickly became chaotic. Horses in and horses out! I was second through the horse change, and Ramkat was turbo charged! I was tossed an egg sandwich as I swung my leg over his back, and galloped off with a look of determination and egg sandwich on my face. We quickly caught up to Monde, the leader, and the 2 of us decided to ride together as we passed through the town of Port St. Johns – a hippie beach town where even at 10am there were already drunk parties through the streets. Sam Jones, 2014 Mongol Derby winner caught up to us partway through town and the 3 of us rode on. African music blared out of parked cars and people cheered at us, trying to get us to sprint and race for their entertainment. I’m sure they were disappointed. After all of that, Monde asked me “hey Sarah, do you want to fix your bit now?” I had no clue that I had forgotten to attach my bit to the reins, and had just ridden a fresh “machine” of a horse through the town. Oops!
The 3 of us stayed together for the remaining legs that day, which included our first swim and several other climbs and descents which made us think “they have to be joking.” We arrived into the finish camp for the night way sooner than the organizers had expected, and we had to have a mandatory delay in the morning so we wouldn’t be swimming rivers in the dark!
The 3 of us went out first again in the morning, and determined that having to wake up at 3am isnt the only downside to being the leaders, we came across a gate that was padlocked shut! Thankfully, I had brought a phone and we soon had help arrive. Halfway through this day, we got our 3rd and final horses. Fresh and nervous, Asad gave me some bucks and wiggles on our way out, but settled nicely as soon as we stuck him behind Sam’s horse’s bum. We did try to lead once, and in 2 strides, he had 2 major spooks and Sam and Monde agreed that this horse should not be our leader!
We spent the rest of the day with a butt in our face, but moving well, and again we came in so early that we required a delay the following morning.
Day 4 and we knew based on the pace we had set, we would be finishing this day. Almost a bit bittersweet as I don’t think any of us were ready to be done riding. We ended up with a slower pace than expected, in the morning there were some navigational problems (such as a fallen tree which required some rerouting, Monde spent close to a half hour finding a route for us and we were so grateful!).
With 2 legs to go, both Sam and Monde’s horses had lost a shoe and they were required to wait a half hour for the farrier to arrive. I set out on my own, in the lead, but not confident after Asad’s behaviour the previous day. I wanted to try, see if he had lost some of his greenness. Unfortunately, my fears were met with a 5mph giraffe trot as he looked everywhere except where we were going, and refusing to move out on his own. He was wasting a lot of his energy spooking and I was wasting a lot of energy trying to get him forward. At one point, exhausted, I broke down and cried on an endless beach. Growling and crying “why wont you just move!!!”. I had held it together until the thought crossed my mind that I might finish my journey hating this horse and being miserable. After riding for 4 fabulous days, I didn’t want my adventure to end on a sour note.
I was actually relieved when I looked back over my shoulder and saw Sam and Monde just behind me. Sam reached over and gave me a hug. Together we can get this done! I tucked Asad in behind them again and once again, he was forward and happy and clearly not as tired as I was!
The last leg went smoothly together, and we agreed that on the final stretch of beach, when we saw the finish flags, it would be a gallop to determine place. The horses kicked up their heels, and for a sweet 500m, Asad gave me his first honest effort of the race (haha). We couldn’t quite catch Sam and Monde however, as they were first to the beach and their horses were nice and fast! We finished 3rd by 20 seconds and I couldn’t have been happier. Monde took the win and Sam earned 2nd.
Asad was actually the first to pass the vet check, which made me very proud, and all 3 of us immediately took our horses to the river to cool. We were so proud of ourselves and so was the crew, we had just proven their long standing dream of running this race was possible. We remained for the rest of the day to cheer on the other riders as they came across the finish line, and cheered on the final rider who came in alone on day 5.
Whether you are a competitive distance rider or just want to enjoy some amazing horses, company and scenery while challenging your limits, this race should be on your radar. It will be held annually and applications for 2017 are now open. They also filmed us throughout the race and are hoping to have a documentary ready for February 2017. If you want to find out more about either, please click the following links for more info:
On another note, if you enjoy my writing and want to share some love my way, consider tossing a few dollars my way as a donation or by purchasing Eat Sleep Ride Repeat apparel by clicking the link below:
Your contribution will help me to pay off the small debt I accrued to participate in this race, which will help me focus on a new adventure for 2017 so I can keep sharing my stories with you! Thanks so much!
The last ride of the OCTRA season was held on October 16, 2016 in the Larose Forest at the eastern end of Ontario. It was quite a long drive for me (about 6 hours one way) but I like supporting new rides. There aren’t very many in Ontario so the more we get, the better. Plus I like riding new trails J This wasn’t the first time I’ve attended an OCTRA ride by myself but it was going to be my first 50 mile ride without a crew. Lucky for me, my mother and her boyfriend came to crew for me (he lives in Ottawa so it wasn’t far for them). I was a little apprehensive about driving this far to do a 50 mile race since Splash had a minor colic episode both days of Oktoberfest (2 weeks before) and after hunting the week before. She has never coliced in the 7 years I’ve had her and there wasn’t anything consistent about these two outings. The fecal test came back clear but vet recommended deworming for tapeworms again. Fecal tests aren’t entirely accurate for tapeworm infestation. A blood test is recommended for that. I had dewormed for tapeworms in the summer but tapeworms are known to cause a large percentage of minor spasmodic colics. I guess we were going to find out if that helped!
Splash settled in quickly at base camp and was eating and drinking much better than she had at Oktoberfest or hunting. I figured we were off to a good start! The organizers gave a fantastic and (thorough!) pre-ride talk. The trails were described in great detail (directions, markers, terrain, landmarks, etc.). I felt confident in tackling them the next day. The forecast was unseasonably warm for the middle of October (there was a humidex!) with some rain, but the rain was very considerate to keep to a minimum throughout the day and only pour when the ride was complete.
The organizers/trail masters did a great job considering what was thrown at them just a few short days before the ride (having to move base camp and re-mark/reroute trails). Base camp, crewing area, vet area, etc. were tight on space due to last minute location change but everyone made it work. Trails were very well marked although the plain yellow flags were hard to see at some spots due to the yellow leaves. This would be a great ride to do a first 50 at. It was very flat, easy terrain and the majority of the trails are specific to equestrian use. -I personally liked the longer loops (I believe it worked out to be three loops of 19 miles, 19 miles, and 12.5 miles). The loops were originally supposed to be 16 miles, 19 miles, 16 miles but having to change trails at the last minute most likely lead to the change. Since the first loop was longer than expected, the last loop was made shorter.
The trails consisted of forest and very quiet gravel roads. The footing in the forest was forest floor with a few roots and the gravel was not the large, sharp stones. It is very possible to do this ride barefoot (and there were a few of the top ten 50 mile riders who rode unshod horses). There were a few bridges on trail but were large and safe for equestrian use. The colours in the forest at that time of year were quite vibrant and I found myself looking around at the scenery a lot when I probably should have been looking for my next arrow or trail marker! Check out one of my short helmet cam videos from the ride:
Splash felt incredible the entire ride, pulsing down quicker than normal (at set speed levels 2-3 minutes after arriving at crew/vet area), which I have never been able to accomplish before. This was the first test of the CoolFit pad that I received from Ecogold and did it ever help! If you haven’t heard of these before, you need to check them out. The material that the pad is made out of reacts with the horse’s sweat to keep the horse’s back cool. Check out the video here: https://ecogold.ca/ecogolds-coolfit-saddle-pad-update-intelligent-saddle-pad-keeps-horse-cooler/. Obviously one test by me is not 100% scientific proof but I have never been able to cool my horse out that quickly and you could actually feel how cold the pad was immediately after I took it off my horse. I am very interested to know how it performs in the middle of summer when temps are in the 30’s-40’s with the high humidity.
Since I wasn’t having any issues with cooling Splash down, we picked up the pace a little bit; fast enough for a 6th place finish. Even better, no colic issues (not even any signs!).
The food at the end was hot, filling, and delicious (exactly what you want after riding all day) and the ribbons and prizes were awesome and greatly appreciated! This was a great way to end the ride season and I highly recommend attending this ride next year.
October 22nd was my first joint hunt, Beaver meadow hunt club (my hunt club) and Toronto North York. The last couple of hunts I’ve ridden at I’ve unfortunately fallen off at, not gotten hurt, but an unplanned dismount definitely took place. First on what I thought my most trusted mount was, but apparently not Angel decided to run my through the trees instead of going over a jump. The next time I tried another horse, the one that is “safe for everyone,” well apparently not this time. It wasn’t really Liza’s fault there was a dip in the ground and she found it. We were cantering threw this field and I did a summersault over the front of her successfully landing on my feet, with everyone watching me. I looked down at the ground on the right side of me and began to laugh with everyone asking if I was okay, to a response of “oh my gosh that was such a rush.”
Well third times a charm? This hunt was very close to the Dufferin forest, so for where I live it’s about a 3.5hr drive. Instead of driving up on the day we drove up the day before and stayed at a very nice ranch that does horseback trail riding and has a nice little place for sleeping in. When we woke up in the morning it was snowing, not super hard, but still, Snow? Really? The hunt was great, sadly I only got to jump two coops, but I was still very happy how my third horse did. Desi did amazing, only refusing once but getting over it the second time on one and then going straight over the second jump.
I’d also like to put in this post of how happy and proud I am of my teammate Sarah for doing amazing at her South Africa race. No matter where she placed, to travel thousands of kilometers to a new place. Somewhere with a new culture, horses you haven’t seen before let alone ridden before and many other differences compared to Canada. For coming third that is amazing, congratulations.
Sarah’s mount for the last leg of the race was Asad. Today of all days, he earned his nickname “Asshat”. Sarah was one of the leaders of the race, along with Sam and Monde. Unfortunately Sam and Monde each lost a front shoe off of their horses at one of the checks, leaving Sarah to continue out on her own. If she had been on any other horse, she could have very well gained a huge lead over them and had gone on to win the race. However, young Asad had a “baby brain” day. He had a tendency to be herd bound so was not too impressed when he had to go out by himself. Add in a ton of spooking and Sarah was having probably one of the worst rides of her life. If she could even get Asad to go forward, he did so with his head up in the air like a giraffe and moved at most 5 miles per hour. This continued for about 15km before Sam and Monde caught up.
Despite the trackers showing them quite far apart, the three rode together for most of the last day. Sarah said she didn’t know what she would have done if she had been out there all by herself. The team approach to the end of the race proved very helpful in getting all three across the finish line as each rider brought something to the table. Monde had a touch screen gps, which proved quite useless when wet, so Sarah was able to help them navigate. Sam provided the encouragement and motivation for them to pick up the pace and keep going. Asad quite liked Monde’s horse and was happy to keep up with the group. At times when the trail looked like it reached a dead end or it seemed like there was no way around, the three minds working together problem solved to get them through.
When they neared the end of the race, all three decided to have a gallop-off for the winner, partly for fun and partly to add a little excitement for the cameras all around. (*Side note* If you weren’t aware already, the organizers of this race were filming every aspect in order to create a documentary when all is said and done. There is going to be some amazing footage and we can’t wait for it to be completed!) Even though Asad was happy to go forward to follow his buddies, he wasn’t quite fast enough to win, coming in third only a few seconds behind Sam in second and Monde in first.
Sarah is feeling pretty good (now that she’s had a bath and is relaxing in a gorgeous guest house with a view of the beach!). We’ll have to wait for her to return to civilization to get her recollection of the events but one thing she mentioned is that for anyone thinking about trying this race next year, go in with no expectations. This is more a horse race than a rider race; your ride is completely dependent on the horses you are given. Part of the reason she was getting frustrated with Asad today was that she had ridden two superb endurance horses before him and had expected more out of Asad, forgetting he was the youngster of her bunch. Had she received three different horses, her ride would have been completely different.
Two of her memorable moments from the race are seeing dolphins playing in the water while she was riding down the beach and riding along the cliffs with Monde with very steep, long drop-offs and the helicopter right beside them filming. She was quite surprised at how close the helicopters got and how quickly the horses adapted to them.
She will be enjoying a party tomorrow, then relaxing on a day off and visiting old friends in South Africa from the last time she was there and then she’ll be on a plane back to Canada.
I hadn’t received my daily call/text from Sarah but from following the tracker and the RocketHorse Racing Facebook page, she has successfully completed Day 2. It was a little worrisome for a while as her tracker had stopped but the one on her horse was still going. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t get my daily call/text, I was concerned that something had happened but all was well. The tracker had just stopped working but the issues have been fixed. Rain was in the forecast today so riders were already wet heading into a day of swimming. The temperature today is around 20 degrees Celsius.
Today’s big challenge was swimming across the Umgazana River. Due to long periods of riding in wet clothes, Sarah said she was having a rough go from chafing, plus she had sand in her pants for the whole 75km. Hills were also a challenge this day as they seemed to just go on and on forever. You would think that you were at the top but over a crest and there was still more. Her horse, Ramkat, took them like a champ. Even though she could tell it tired him, he still had a ton of gas in the tank.
They are down to 11 riders as competitor Damyan has retired due to knee issues.
Sarah currently tied for first with Monde and Sam Jones (winner of the 2014 Mongol Derby, the year Sarah competed). The way the timing works with this race is that the time you come in is the time you leave. Since Sarah finished at 3:51pm today, she will head out at 3:51am tomorrow.
Day 3 of Race the Wild Coast
Day 3 consisted of a beach ride along the coast to Agate Terrace where there will be the last horse change of the race. Sarah will switch from her superstar Ramkat to the young gun Asad (who she has been calling Asshat due to his antics). The next leg of the race will include a swim across the Mngazana to the Kraal where they will be another vet check, then it is on to Hluleka, where the overnight camp will be.
Since the frontrunners got to start Day 3 so early, they made it to the reserve where the horses were kept before race staff, only to find the entrance padlocked. After some calls and rushing around, they were able to start on time. Asad gave Sarah some troubles throughout the day with spooking, bucking, and running full tilt with his head in the air. He refused to leave one vet check due to a pig in his sights. Not one to quit, Sarah convinced him that it was not a horse-eating pig and they took off. Despite Asad’s asshattery, he proved to be a very good swimmer.
Day 4 should be the last day of racing for the frontrunners (some of the slower riders may take an extra day to cross the finish line). Sarah is currently sitting in third and will go out at 5:09AM South African time. Some of the slower riders will have a 3 hour hold to avoid the high tide at the Mbashe River.
Only 90km left to the finish at Kei Mouth! Go Sarah Go!!
The weather for the first day of the race was overcast and fairly uneventful. Sarah started off riding Gerber, her nice steady eddy, which was a very good strategic move as although Gerber is not the fastest horse, he is very surefooted and reliable, which came in handy when traversing the incredibly rocky terrain. While other horses were leaping off of the rock ledges, Gerber carefully manoeuvred himself and Sarah quickly, comfortably, and safely and were able to keep up with the other horses. We’ll have to see if she ends up bringing this one back on the plane with her!
There wasn’t much swimming to do today; just some wading, which Sarah wasn’t complaining about as it was not the warmest day. Day 2, however, will have more swimming as competitors will have to cross the Umgazana River.
75 kilometers of the course is complete and Sarah is in good spirits. She starts off Day 2 with Gerber and will switch to Ramkat part way through (who, hopefully, is having a better day than he was during pre-race training and keeps his spooking/bucking to a minimum!) 12 of the 13 competitors will continue on to Day 2 as rider Anthony has withdrawn from the race. Sarah currently sits in 3rd heading into the second day. I will post Day 2 updates as soon as I hear from Sarah.
Race The Wild Coast officially kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9am South Africa time or 3am EST. We get that you’re probably not that hard-core about getting up at 3am to watch Sarah’s tracker on the live stream (http://rockethorse.sportraxs.com/) but keep an eye on our website and our Facebook page for updates at the end of each day as Sarah will be calling/texting me to regale the day’s adventures.
The two days prior to the start of the race is race training. Here, competitors will get to meet their randomly selected teams of horses, go over the rules of the race, attend a detailed course briefing, test out their kit and tack, and get a chance to test out their horses and practice their swimming skills.
Horses are randomly assigned in groups of three. Each team is pretty evenly matched with each horse having its own strengths and weaknesses. Sarah’s team consists of Gerber (far left), a strong, steady-eddy, who may not be the fastest, but he’ll get you there safely; Ramkat (middle), Sarah’s favourite, who is fast, agile, and will just keep going; and lastly, Asad (far right), the stereotypical young Arab, who can be quite spooky, but is on his game when he’s having a good day.
Kit and Tack
Sarah found out that the accommodations at each check point were going to be more substantial than previously thought so she was able to lighten the load of the maximum 5kg she was allowed to carry with her. She didn’t mention having any issues with tack, however, those participants with a touchscreen gps were finding it very difficult as the water was wreaking havoc with the functionality of the machines (luckily, Sarah’s is not touchscreen!)
At the Mongol Derby, the satellite trackers they were given worked on a point to point basis. She was able to set it and go, free to choose her own path to get to the points. This time around, the trackers are continual and she will have to stay on a fairly set path. This means not only will she have to pack extra batteries since having the tracker on all the time will drain it faster, she will also have to ride with it in her hand more often rather than putting it in her pack until she gets to the points. Couple that with some hot horses and tough terrain, it looks like Sarah will have to get used to riding one handed pretty quickly. The riders each have a satellite tracker, as well as each of the horses. If we see Sarah’s tracker separate from her horse’s tracker, I’ll most likely be getting a phone call from her asking where on the map her horse is headed!
Over the two days, participants will have the opportunity to give their team a test ride. Not far from base camp was a spot to practice wading into the water. At these spots, the horses aren’t fully swimming but the water was up to rider knees. Then riders rode through some fields, up and down hills, and through a bit of forest to get to a lagoon where they could practice their swimming (out to the sand bar and back).
Sarah didn’t mention having much difficulty with Gerber, which makes sense by the way she described him. Asad gave her a bit of trouble when it came to the swimming part. Long story short: he’s a bad swimmer. He kept launching himself while trying to swim instead of gracefully paddling along. The tricky part here is going to be staying on as riders were told they needed to drop their stirrups for the swimming portions. He seemed to get the hint (sort of) with a few more attempts, so here’s hoping he has a good day when it’s Sarah’s turn to ride him.
On day one of training, Sarah was already trying to figure out if/how she could get Ramkat back to Canada. “This is a Tevis horse”, she kept saying to me, while telling me how brilliant of a swimmer he was and how he scaled a rock face straight up with no hesitation. After Day 2’s ride, she might have changed her mind. They are filming this race for a documentary so there are cameras and drones all over. With a chopper flying overhead, Ramkat did a nasty spook, buck and spin and unseated Sarah. She landed in some soft sand and the only thing hurt was her pride. Ramkat took off back to ride camp (not far away), leaving Sarah to do the walk of shame back to camp (with footage of this being caught by a drone flying above).
She isn’t connected to wifi and won’t be until the end of the race but expect some amazing helmet cam footage as I’m told the views are just incredible. A storm rolled in Thursday night (with some of the loudest thunder Sarah’s ever heard) but prior to it hitting, Sarah captured a moment of swimming with one of her horses and the lightning striking over in the distance.