If you follow along, you may know that I am addicted to adventure. There is nothing I love more than hopping on a plane and exploring a new place by horseback. This is what led me to reach out to the MacLeod family to attend their 3 day ride in Fort St. John, British Columbia.
I arrived at the airport and was met with the smiling faces of Makayla, as well as volunteers and officials also fresh off the plane. That’s another great thing about travelling and riding OPHs, you have time and opportunity to get to know the people behind the scenes that make it work.
I had signed up to ride 3 days on 3 of the MacLeod’s horses (from Gone with The Wind Arabians), totaling 180 miles.
We ran some errands in town and drove up to the ride site at the Doig First Nations Reserve. When I told everyone at home that I was riding in BC, they pictured mountains, but being as far east and north as it was, it was lots of flat pasture land with rivers cutting through, and surrounding forest.
We had a day before the ride and went out for a test ride, me on their lovely black stallion, Zorro (also known as Big Daddy!) He was to be my mount for 75 miles on day 3. We rode up to the beaver dam and had a bit of a swim, with Ariel hopping off to lasso a few logs that might pose a problem for riders on trail in competition.
The first day, I rode 50 miles on Medina… the black mare in the paddock (here’s the thing… they were almost all black mares lol!). I had the pleasure of riding the full distance with Angie Lavalee from Manitoba and we had a blast.
The trails were a combination of flat and fast mixed with mud bogs through forest. Typically the course is very fast but with the recent rain, we had to ride much slower to preserve our horses. My instructions were to not ride faster than 5 hours, and we finished in a little under 7.5 hours instead! Can’t change what Mother Nature throws at you, you can only ride accordingly!
I enjoyed seeing different vegetation – tall white poplar trees, bright red smurf home mushrooms, and fragrant purple wildflowers. We even saw an elk on day one. The ride felt less like a race and more like an adventure ride. It’s what I had been craving for months!
After we completed, we helped crew Tara and Ariel who were riding the 100 mile 3* race. Katja Leverman was also riding one of their horses and completed the 75 mile 2* race, earning her Elite status. The rides were all very slow, but the smart riding by everyone locked in 100% completion on day one for Gone With The Wind Arabians.
Day 2 I rode Talena, the rare bay mare in the field! She had come into heat that weekend and was generally unenthusiastic about the whole riding 55 miles thing. No matter what I did, she refused to trot much faster than 7 mph… even if her friends were disappearing around the corner. It wasn’t the easiest ride, but having Tara and Ariel riding with us made it fun and we just focused on caring for our horses and enjoying the second day of sunshine. We even rode through a herd of wild horses, saw a black bear, and got spooked by a beaver splashing in a pond just beside the trail. Like being on a big Canadian safari. We enjoyed another 100% completion rate for Gone With The Wind Arabians and Talena returned to her field happy to change into her comfy pants and grab a pint of Ben & Jerrys (so to speak)
Funny thing happened this evening… the Rodeo was going on down the road from the ride site and two poor drunks got dropped off at the ride site thinking it was the rodeo and weren’t convinced they were wrong.
Another great thing about the rodeo, we had crew pick us up Banac Burgers while we were out riding. OMG, Banac Burgers are the most delicious thing ever. I wanted to smuggle them home Jaques Clouseau style. The food the entire weekend was wonderful – from Moose roast to chili and home made Banac. Seriously, yum!
Day 3 was supposed to be Zorro’s ride, but he had banged himself up on the trailer and he just wasn’t quite right. Instead after some deliberation we decided to take out the greenies who had been brought to the ride site for exposure. I rode Drift, a big baby with a nice mind. There were a few baby moments when the saddle slipped forward on our first trot, but after a bit of a rodeo, she settled right down. I was impressed how maturely she behaved – she certainly didn’t dwell and her “spooks” were casual glances. We liked to imagine her with a low calm voice (hear Morgan Freeman narrating) “I see that stump… it was unusual”
We did have an accident toward the end of the ride which cast a shadow over the fun of the day, I have already written about it extensively so I won’t go back into it. Overall, it was a successful ride and we all completed – this brought our total completions for the weekend to 12, on 11 horses (one horse did 2 days), 100% completion. We were very proud as the overall completion rate for all rides was rather low. Likely due to the mud and the above seasonal temperatures.
Overall, the 3 day ride was fantastic. It felt great to get out on new trails and meet new riders. I was seriously impressed at how far people came to compete, I had taken for granted how many rides are within a half-day’s trailering distance from where I live in Ontario. The commitment these people have to the sport is commendable. Also, I was amazed how Tara and clan were able to put on a 3 day FEI ride with almost no help, and ride it. They are some seriously tough and talented women. The ride itself had a lot lower attendance than I was used to, which meant we got personal attention from the officials and really got to know each other. Whether you are looking to COC (which is totally possible on this course) or just looking for a bit of adventure: load up a trailer or lease a horse! This ride should be on your radar!