I’m always excited to see new distance rides pop up in Ontario. Not only does this mean new trail to ride, but it means the sport is growing. Last year I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Madawaska Highland Pioneer Ride and Lopin Larose (unfortunately scheduling did not allow for me to attend either of these rides this year). Now, new trail is enough to get me out to a new ride but ride manager Pauline went above and beyond to attract riders.
This ride location was about 6 hours from me but having driven to the Eastern Ontario rides before, having a traveling buddy, and the enticement of a chocolate fountain all made it worthwhile. Something else that made this ride fun was that both mine and Sarah’s significant others agreed to come. The area surrounding Calabogie had enough to keep the two of them occupied while we rode; golfing for Lee and off-roading trails for Clayton.
Friday morning we picked up Sarah and Bentley on our way to ride site and Bentley was very happy to see his girlfriend, even though he had just seen her the weekend previously when we went up to visit for a ride in the Dufferin Forest.
The plan was to ride 25 miles each day but due to Splash’s headshaking rearing its ugly head again, we opted to ride in the 10 mile training ride and help with the clinic and play it by ear for the second day.
The weather for the first day of riding was lovely and ride started out great. The trail for the 10 mile ride was a mix of field, bush, road, and a bit alongside a golf course. We were told at the pre-ride talk that there was going to be a pasture to ride through (with people manning the gates at the entrance and exit) that was home to cows and a donkey. I didn’t think too much of it since we’ve ridden through cow pasture before and Splash’s best buddy at our previous barn was a mini donkey.
When we got to the first gate into the pasture, said donkey was there and kept trying to rush the gate so we waited for someone to arrive to hold the donkey. Unfortunately donkey escaped the hold on its halter and proceeded to find us in the pasture and follow the horses, spooking some of them in the process. I will use this as a reminder to riders to request or take a picture of the important phone numbers (ride manager, trail master, farrier) in case something happens out on trail. Thanks to quick action on part of the ride manager and trail master, the trail had been rerouted around the pasture.
We finished the first 5 mile loop by ourselves with Splash’s heart rate almost at resting (probably due to slow traveling speed and the break in the middle to donkey wrangle, even though it was a warm day and she was tossing her head quite frequently). On the second loop (same as the first), we rode with a rider on her first distance ride. We received completion for the day.
Pauline did not disappoint with the awards thanks to so many generous sponsors, even volunteers received something. Something fun that was added to the ride courtesy of Rick Fleming and Highlands Golf Course, the VIP use of a golf cart each day was awarded to two lucky people, for which I won on Saturday night for 24 hours.
Day 2 was rainy and while I have no problem riding in the rain (see every other ride this season!), with the slippery conditions and the head tossing, it may not be the safest so we rider optioned and volunteered to vet scribe instead (as much as I wanted to see the other trails that boasted water to take the horses in and galloping across the gold course, but I guess that means I have to come back next year!) It is often suggested that you volunteer before your first ride but I’m of the thinking that it’s good to volunteer periodically throughout your distance riding career, not only to give back to the sport, but to keep you in touch with everything the vets are looking at.
Again, the awards/dinner was well done. It seemed like everyone walked away with something.
Dinner provided by the onsite food truck was delicious and of course, the infamous chocolate fountain was in attendance. The festivities were held in a beautiful done up barn with a stage, sound system, bar, and games. It was a nice place just to hang out to warm up and get out of the weather.
Thank you to everyone who made this ride happen and the Jastremski family for their hospitality in hosting us and letting us ride on your land. It was an absolute blast and well worth the drive. This ride is already on the list for next year.