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.

Longevity

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.

Fitness

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.

Horsemanship

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
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.

LIKE AND SHARE TO WIN US (1)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

-Solstice

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.

https://www.kyhorsepark.com/events/national-mounted-police-colloquium-0

 

If you’d like more information on the OMSSU or to have them attend your event, please visit their website (http://www.omssu.com/)  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 info@eatsleepriderepeat.com to place your order!

ontario mounted special services unit

Lee can put his foot in his mouth… while on a horse!

Could you imagine someone so flexible?  Well perhaps those fantastic trick riders we enjoyed Saturday night at Can-Am, but no, this is a little less literal.

“When are you going to do a Ride N Tie with me?” I asked about a week ago over a pint at our date-night pub.

“I would rather do a ride on my own, a bucket list item for me!”

Wait, what did he just say?!  Don’t question… just go with it!

Lee isn’t quite sure why he said this, but the foot was in and I was not about to let him spit it out.  Before the night was up I had offered him to do a charity fun ride instead, but the foot reached deeper and he insisted it had to be a competitive ride. 12 miles.  And for some reason it had to be hot?  I swear I inserted no roofies in his drink.  One thing I have learned though… if the green horse offers a nice canter… just let him canter!

The catch – he will give my sport an honest effort, but if he doesnt like it, I can never bug him to ride with me ever again.  Thats fair enough, but I added a few clauses here:

-he cant pretend not to love it just to “win” the contract

– if he LOVES it, he can’t steal my Bentley away from me, or if he does, I get a second horse (he didn’t agree to this, but we will see what goes down!).

Of course, I am not about to let him out in the forest alone with MY horse (to which he brought up that his name is also on the plate outside Bentley’s door) without some training.  Lessons and weekly practices were agreed to… is that foot out the other end yet?

The male ego is a fragile thing, so it was agreed that I would not become his coach and we booked his first lesson with Karen Briggs (my coach)… also to her surprise.  It’s going to be very difficult to butt out.

Yesterday he had his first lesson.  He manages to remember some things from the 8 times he has sat on something 4 legged with a heartbeat and Bentley actually made a great lesson horse – Lee smugly pointing out how much better behaved Bentley acted versus when I ride (for which Bentley just tells me “Hold on tight, we’re about to go FAST”).

Half an hour of walking with 2 or 3 laps of acceptable posting trot and an accidental canter stride and they were done.  Long way to go to get to 12 miles!

Will keep you posted on his progress, maybe I can even convince him to write a guest post here with all his gripes about being conned into this.

 

Never A Dull Moment

If you’re a regular follower of the blog, you will know that Sarah and I can never have just a “normal” ride together. This past weekend, despite the forecast, our goal was to do a long training ride of 40km (25 miles). Fortunately the rain held off on Sunday and we had a dry ride.

mario
Mario Kart on horseback?

Unfortunately though, the ride did not really start off well. Bentley decided that there were invisible monsters everywhere and would periodically throw Sarah a very jarring spook to the side, as well as forget how to travel in a straight line.  Splash had no ambition to go forward and also forgot how to go in a straight line as she was mesmerized by everything  happening in (empty) fields beside her rather than watch straight ahead. About 20 km in, Splash found her brain and we started having quite the pleasant ride.  Bentley, however, had decided that the water running through the ditch beside us was terrifying and wanted nothing to do with it.

Feeling a little frustrated, we decided to start heading back towards home. We had just been doing road riding and thought maybe a shortcut through one of our usual road allowances would be more stimulating for the horses. At the very least, the scenery is much nicer.  This particular allowance happens to go right through a cattle pasture so occasionally the farmer has electric fencing up, making the road allowance unpassable. If we could not get through, at the very least there was a river where the horses could get a good drink.

At the river, the horses have a drink and we start to cross. Only a few steps in., Splash comes to an abrupt halt.  A few seconds later, I feel her lift her back end and start to pee.  As I’m asking her why she couldn’t have done this a few minutes earlier when we were on land, I hear Sarah laugh and pull out her phone to take a picture. Clearly no one told Splash she’s not supposed to pee in the pool.

pee
At least her pee is a nice colour!

Carrying on our way, we do find that the farmer has put up electric fencing across the path that we need so we continue on down the creek to loop back to the road. Our loop takes us through a back field which always seems to be riddled with bones (most, if not all, belonging to cattle as I am assuming the farmer buries his deadstock back here). I have stopped to retrieve neat looking bones in the past but I made the comment that I’d only stop today if I found a skull. We went for a trot around the field and as I was nearing a corner, I saw a large white object ahead.  I assumed it was garbage of some sort but because of its size, I went to go investigate. I was quite delighted to see that it was full, completely intact cow skull. I called Sarah over as I was going to have to hand it to her so I could get back on my horse. To my surprise, it was heavier than I had expected and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get it back as we were still about 10-15km from home.

skull

 

Carrying it under my arm was going to have to do. Luckily Splash was absolutely perfect all the way home (which made up for the first part of our ride!) and now I have to decide what I want to do with this skull.  I’m open to suggestions!

carryingskull

Next weekend probably won’t see any riding as Sarah and I are at the Can Am Horse Expo in Markham and Splash will be moving to her temporary home closer to me until we get everything set up for her to move to our new house in May! If anyone knows of any good trail systems in the Listowel area, let me know! I’m always up for exploring and making new trail riding friends!

Have you created a training plan yet?

March is a tough time of year for getting out riding.  I don’t know about you, but by this time, I am no longer excited about the snow and the cold.  I find more excuses not to ride than i would have early in the winter, even though I know that now is the time to start ramping up my training.  Its just the cold…. I am so sick of it.  It has gone on long enough!  This year is particularly bad, because we had a brilliant warm snap in February, so going back to temps near -20C feel more like I am jumping into the arctic ocean than looking toward spring.

So what do I do instead? I make my plan for the year!  Its a great time to start because it will help me be accountable for the next few weeks while temps remain below 0, but it will also get me psyched up (or perhaps psyched out) because I get to see that the ride season is really not that far out and I have a clear path to get there.  Yay!

Unless you are a spreadsheet whiz/junkie like myself, you may feel a little overwhelmed, so today I will share with you what I use to plan my rides.

1. I start with my main goal and a ride calendar

Ashley and I have set our sights (or main goal in this case) on Shore to Shore in August.  I stick that baby into my spreadsheet and start working backward, using the OCTRA ride calendar.  If you aren’t from Ontario, use your local ride organization calendar.

My goal is to do more multi-day riding in preparation for Shore to Shore, as well as longer rides at a slower pace so we lose that “racey” pace we had last year.  So I go through the calendar and pick rides where I can ride 2+ days and try to maximize my distance.  Of course, I know this is a perfect world plan so I won’t be devastated if I have to drop distances or a ride altogether, but this is what I want to do.  More more more, slow slow slow.

What I will add here too, is your main goal may not be what mine is.  Maybe you want to do your first 50 or 100.  Start with the goal, the date you want to achieve it, and work back using logical stepping stones.

Here, you will also see that I have a calculated rest period.  A general rule I have derived from mentors, presentations and reading that I will use for myself is 1 day of rest for every 10 miles in competition.  I have added in 2 extra days to account for the stresses of travel and bing bang boom, I am able to calculate what day I will next be able to sit on the back of my dearest Bentley.  Double check… yup, its not after the next ride.  Whoopie!  Alternately, you could use the FEI rest guidelines.

2.  Work up to your first ride of the season

I have found once I get Bentley fit enough for the first ride, that I don’t have to do too much to keep him fit throughout the season.  In fact, rest becomes more important than work.  So I focus my training plan on what to do until that first ride so that we are ready to go.

Another rule of thumb I learned early on and tend to go by is that my total weekly miles should be approximately what I would like to do in one ride (so if my first ride will total 25 miles, I should be riding 25 miles a week on average – higher distance rides I tend to go a little lower and allow more wiggle room in the program to ensure adequate rest).  So again, I work back from the ride date and distance and try to make it work.  I try to build 5-10% each week in distance.

This is also where I can take a look to see if where I am now = where I should be based on my rate of building.  Looking at my plan here, I can go out this weekend and try to do 25 miles and say “ok yes, the plan should work” or “nope, hes too fat, maybe I should pick a shorter distance for my first ride”.  Then I adjust my plan forward and back until I come to a happy medium.  There is no late scrambling to catch up when it comes to fitness, I need to do this now!

You will also see I have colour coded everything.  I try to mix up long rides, interval training and ring work/lesson so I get our cross training in.

3. Budget

Ok, now here is something I wish I hadn’t done because nobody ever really wants to know the final number when you ask “how much is this going to cost me?”

I am not actually going to share my budget, because I know my significant other will read this and tell me “hell  no!” before I even dip the toe in, but to be fair, I like to pad my budget so I always have extra and can say “look how good I was!”.

The basics of your budget should include fixed and variable costs.  In fact, I would even say we have 2 different types of variable costs to consider when looking at our competition.  So here are some of the numbers to jot down.

Fixed Costs – these are things you have to pay whether you ride once, or go to every ride.  These would include your insurance, memberships, annual shots/teeth (though you could argue this is not so much a competition expense… like I said, I pad my budget).  This may also include things like hoof protection if you plan on using something like boots through the entire season or longer.

Variable costs (per ride/day) – These would be the things that the more rides you go to, the more you have to pay, but not necessarily dependent on how many miles you do during the ride.  In here, I would include total entry fee, people food, travel costs to and from the ride, chiropractic or massage work that you will have done before and/or after the ride (include for you and/or your horse depending on who needs it), hoof protection (if you use shoes and need to put on a new set before each ride) and probably extra food for your horse.

Some of these would be a cost per day like people food, I gave myself a budget of $30/day for my food, so if its a 3 day ride (+2 days travel), I will ensure to budget for each day. Others, like travel, will only happen once per ride no matter how many days you camp out.

Variable costs (per mile) – these are things that you will need more of the longer/more miles you ride, I might also call these consumables.  In here, I include electrolytes and other supplements (such as pro-bi and BCAA) and miscellaneous veterinary supplies that I would likely need on longer rides.

I would quantify them as a dollar per mile value based on dosing instructions (ie for electrolytes, I have previously used an estimate of $1 per mile).

This is also where I will consider wear and tear on my equipment.  I realize that I am going to ride holes through my pants, and probably break some straps here and there, so I add some padding in again with a dollar per mile value that I can set aside (if I am being good of course) and save for that rainy day that I need to replace a piece of equipment. If my equipment doesn’t break?  Oh well then… I see there are some awesome new products at the ESRR web store.. maybe I treat myself to something fun?

Lastly, I add everything up and get a total for the ride.  My fixed costs will be divided through the total amount of rides I do and the variable costs will be added.  Assuming I have done an individual line item for each ride, I can also go a step further and calculate either a dollar per day amount, or dollar per mile ridden amount.  That way, if I am running short on cash (highly likely after seeing he final number), I have a better idea which rides I should cut based on my goals – its all about value for me!


I know this may not have been the most exciting read… it takes a certain type of crazy to enjoy this dry, mathematical work, but well, I am that certain type of crazy!  The bottom line is that making the plan will help you visualize the path to your goal and determine if it is achievable with the time and resources you have at your disposal.  Then down the line, if things go awry, you can adjust and move forward rather than starting from scratch.

And hey, after looking at my budget… if you want to just give up on the math and have me to make a training plan and budget for you… well I think we could negotiate something in exchange for a donation to our Shore to Shore campaign! Lol!

Happy calculating, and happy riding all!