All posts by ashleytomaszewski

You Might Be An Endurance Rider if…

*cover photo courtesy of Wendy Webb photography

Well, I did have the idea to write a humorous “you might be an endurance rider if” article for you, a la Jeff Foxworthy, but the recent issue of the AERC magazine has me changing the tone.

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I’ve been humming and hawing about whether or not to renew my AERC membership this year as I have been a little disappointed with what views the organization has chosen to support.

When I first discovered this sport, I was in love. It seemed like everyone was so welcoming and we could work at our own pace (which for the most part it is, in my region anyways). I couldn’t tell enough people about endurance/distance riding and how awesome it was. But the more I delve into it, the darker it seems to be.

“We want to encourage new members, but they can’t be top tenning because they must not know enough about conditioning and pacing.”

“We want new people to try out this sport but we have to tell them they aren’t tough enough or not cut out for it because they don’t want to ride 50 miles or they don’t want to ride in the rain.”

I thought this was just the opinion of a few endurance riders but the president’s letter in the recent issue of Endurance News has prompted me to write this.

I thought his letter was going to be a cute little fluff piece, much like my originally planned article was going to be. However, one line in his letter made me do a double take.

“We need to look at the negative signs that a person is not suited to the sport of endurance.”

Why? Why do we need to look at the negative? Why not look at ways of how can we make it fun for new people and make them want to try it. A two hour training ride is going to be a bit much for some people who aren’t used to it. Why not start them out smaller? Once they get their feet wet at an intro 6 mile ride, maybe they’ll be bitten by the bug and want to try an LD, and maybe a 50 miler after that?

Paul Latiolais, you claim that this is a good time to recruit new members but you are pushing many away with your attitude that seems to be shared among many members of your organization.

No, not everyone is going to enjoy distance riding. But that is the beauty of the horse world. There are so many disciplines to choose from. Believe me, I’ve tried almost all of them. But we need to be encouraging people to step out of their comfort zone and at least give it a try rather than putting them down and calling them weak.

It’s not just equestrian sports that is suffering a decline in participation.  This article from CBC looks into why youth enrollment in sports is declining, but it can be applied to why sport enrollment in general has decreased.

The basic gist of the article is that there is too much focus on the elite athletes and not enough support given at the grassroots level. Sure the upper levels of any sport are exciting, but those athletes had to start somewhere. If those athletes didn’t get the support and encouragement they needed, would they have gotten to the level they’re at.

*Personal side note: as a child, I was terrified of animals to the point of being scared to go to the park to play because of squirrels.  Two years ago, I completed my first FEI endurance ride. Without the right support, who knows if I would have even been in the horse industry.*

From the article, “Nearly three quarters of Canadians — 73 per cent — agree, saying that children’s sports have become too focused on winning at the exclusion of fun and fair play, according to the study.”  We see this in the horse industry. Kids (and adults) are pushed to get into showing or competing, they burn out because it’s not fun, and they leave the industry entirely. Would these people still be in the industry today if they were told that they could try new things out and just have fun?

We need to be encouraging people to try out distance riding instead of pushing them away. I can only speak for my region in Ontario as that is the only location I have done distance riding, but the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association offers 6 mile “training rides”. It is a fantastic opportunity for people to try the sport.  Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do a 6 mile ride if they ride regularly. I’ve worn my GPS watch in a regular 1 hour dressage lesson and I easily go 3-4 miles in that hour. They even offered a “first ride free” program for the lower distances last year to get people to try it.

One of our ESRR members, Sarah, was at the University of Guelph Equine Symposium this past weeked, where youth engagement and retention in horse sport was discussed.  We can’t wait to hear the results of this conference and will be sharing them with you guys as well.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

I would love to hear what other regions (and other discipline associations) are doing to encourage increased participation in equine sports. Either comment here or on our social media channels with your ideas.  Let’s work together to help keep this industry flourishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle – Rita Mae Brown

With the popularity of shows like “Downton Abbey” depicting glamorous and exciting hunting scenes with women riding sidesaddle, the discipline is seeing a resurgence in those looking to learn how to ride as a beginner, to those more experienced riders wanting to be able to hunt sitting aside.

Thanks to the Ontario Sidesaddle Association hosting a clinic this past weekend, I (along with many others) were able to bring our own horses and learn all about fitting and riding in sidesaddles.

The clinic was held at Hopewell Creek Stables in Breslau, just outside of Kitchener. Participants were divided into groups of 4-5 in 2 hour-long sessions, which started out with fitting the saddles.

The organizers brought a number of saddles to try on and make sure they fit both horse and rider. It’s difficult in a clinic situation to have something that perfectly fits every horse and rider but small adjustments could be made so that both horse and rider are comfortable.

Saddles were placed on a saddle stand to allow riders to get a feel for how to sit properly in the saddle, so as not to give the horse any discomfort. If you have any holes or bad habits in your riding, they will come out when you ride sidesaddle! If you lean or are a crooked rider, it is amplified in a sidesaddle. fitting

One of the hardest things for me to get over was that while your left foot (the one in the stirrup) keeps the normal “heels down” position, your right foot is meant to be “toes down”. My muscle memory kept wanting to revert (as you can see in the picture) but the different positioning allows you to “lock” yourself into the saddle better. It was explained that if you lifted your left thigh into the block, pointed your right foot toes down and put your right shoulder back, you could ride a buck all day and be laughing (luckily we didn’t have to put that to the test!) but just trying it out while sitting there, you felt more secure in the saddle.

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After finding saddles that fit the rider, saddles were fitted to the horse.   While some came with a specific girth, most of them used a regular jumping saddle girth. Different from other saddles, a side saddle also includes an overgirth that holds the flaps down and a balancing strap to provide stability.

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Mounting also proved to be a challenge as the sole stirrup is designed to break away from the saddle with weight. A leg up is the easiest way to get on, or a short horse and really tall mounting block!

Once mounted, we all proceeded to walk around the arena, getting used to the saddle while sitting astride (note, these saddles are not comfortable when riding normally!) Once horse and rider were ready, we swung our legs over.  For those that know Splash, she can be incredibly lazy and requires a lot of leg to ride. This proved to be challenge as I lost half of my aids but using a whip as a leg when needed helped. We worked on our equitation, sitting straight and square in the saddle and keeping our legs in the proper position. When we all felt comfortable, we picked up a trot.

Luckily Splash’s trot is like sitting on a couch so we didn’t get jarred around too much. Sitting trot is much easier than the posting trot so kudos to those that ride side saddle on a springy horse!

We also got to try a bit of canter, which was really hard without that extra leg on the side, we managed to get a few strides.  Funny enough, the canter was much easier to ride than the trot, I’m guessing because of the motion.  It almost felt as if it was locking you into the saddle even more; making you feel more secure.

apron

We also got to play dress up and try on a few riding aprons, just to complete the look.

If you ever get the chance to try out one of these saddles, I highly recommend it.  It really gives you an appreciation for those that do it and make it look so easy (I’m talking to you fox hunters!)

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

It’s that time of year where you see tons of companies doing giveaways and contests on social media so we here at Eat Sleep Ride Repeat jumped on the bandwagon.  We gave away an awesome Icebreaker Merino baselayer and a tshirt to one our lucky social media followers. Watch the video below to find out who won:

 

Not our lucky winner? You can still score a great deal on Eat Sleep Ride Repeat Clothing.

*BOXING WEEK SPECIAL*

Pick any two items from our current inventory and the second is half price* when you pay with etransfer or cash. Email your orders to info@eatsleepriderepeat.com before January 2nd to qualify. Everything is first come first served! Don’t wait!

https://squareup.com/store/eat-sleep-ride-repeat
*discount taken off of lowest price item*

 

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more fun stuff and future contests!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teameatsleepriderepeat/

Instagram: @team_eat_sleep_ride_repeat

Twitter: @eatsleep_ride1

Cures to beat the winter blahs

The end of daylight savings time is the bane of my existence.  My work schedule only allows me to ride in the evenings and on weekends, and even then, I am at the mercy of the weather gods as I do not have an indoor arena. Keeping my horse at home means I am, more often than not, riding alone. Needless to say, I need to get creative this time of year, otherwise, I’m going to go a little crazy!

 

First things first, my trusty headlamp comes out of storage. Riding while holding a flashlight becomes a little cumbersome, plus if your horse decides to spook, having your hands free to grab the reins is always a good idea!

winter riding

In terms of clothing, Kerrits Pro Fleece Cross Over Breeches and my Eat Sleep Ride Repeat merino base layer, paired with my Ariat Bromont boots, are my go to’s to keep toasty on those chilly rides, because as long as is it not a blizzard, you can bet I’ll be out there riding!

winter riding

If your riding area is limited (or if you are not comfortable venturing out into the dark on your own), arena exercises by yourself or with barn mates are a great way to break up the monotony of just going around in circles in the arena.  Find some dressage patterns to practice and master or create a pas de deux to music! Build some obstacles (Pinterest has a ton of great ideas) and work on desensitizing. Set goals each time you work with your horse so that it gives you something to work towards. It could be as simple as just having fun!

Why Haven’t You Tried This Yet?

While we are all endurance riders here at Eat Sleep Ride Repeat, we do dabble in other disciplines and try to keep up to date with what is going on in other parts of the horse world.

A recent article on Eventing Connect (https://eventingconnect.today/2017/10/09/grow-eventing-holly-jacks-smithers-kicks-it-off-in-ontario-with-a-practical-approach/) spoke to the state of eventing in Ontario.  Many events saw a large drop in entries; one show cancelling altogether. We all know that if there are no participants, there will be less events for us to go to.  So rather than sit on their laurels and watch the sport of eventing fade off into the sunset, people are doing something about it.  Canadian eventing team member Holly Jacks-Smither has taken it upon herself to introduce new people to the sport of eventing, in hopes that the interest will spark and grow into a future competitor, keeping the sport alive.  She is offering to anyone who wants to try cross country schooling a first time free lesson. Who doesn’t like free stuff?!

 

OCTRA tried something along those lines this year with their first ride free program, offering to pay the entry fee for riders who have never competed in a distance riding event before. While we haven’t seen the exact numbers of people who have taken OCTRA up on this offer, we would like to know “what is stopping you from attending a distance ride”? Is it the cost? Is it just the fear of the unknown and trying something new? Do you feel underprepared or in the need of more distance riding clinics/lessons? We want to hear from you!

 

Here are just a few of the things you are missing out on!

 

 

 

 

2017 National Mounted Police Colloquium

If you’re not already aware, Splash and I are members of the Ontario Mounted Special Services Unit. Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with a few other team members to participate in the 33rd annual National Mounted Police Colloquium at the Kentucky Horse Park. This would be my 3rd visit to the park.  The last time I was there was over 10 years ago with the Canadian Cowgirls to ride in the Kentucky Derby Parade twice and we were very fortunate to be able to be stabled at the Horse Park and participate in their daily Parade of Breeds show.  One things I noticed right off the bat was that the iconic white fencing for miles was now black.  Fun fact: black paint is wayyyyyy cheaper than white paint so it makes complete sense (and it doesn’t make the horse park look any less impressive!)

kentucky

The Colloquium consists of both training and friendly competition.  Units from all over the United States were in attendance: mounted police, search and rescue units, posse groups. We were the only ones from Canada this year. They’re going to have to change the name to National to International! There were training classes in equitation, jumping, crowd control, sign cutting (mantracking), horsemanship, formation riding, and officer safety.  Competition consisted of an equitation test, team and individual obstacle courses. There was a uniform class competition but a Class A uniform was required (which our unit does not have). The Colloquium was Hosted by Kentucky Horse Park Mounted Police and Lexington Police.  The instructors included retired RCMP, Toronto Police, US Border Patrol, and Maryland National Capital Park Police.

While any sort of vacation is good, it’s even better with horses. We had an uneventful drive down (and back) and arrived a few days early to ensure the horses were well rested before the week of activities. We went for a hack every morning on the cross country course; what a great way to start a day! The temperature during the day was very hot and humid so we tried to get rides in in the mornings and evenings when it was cooler.  The horses did seem to handle the hot temps pretty well, but they got spoiled when we went and bought fans for them while they were in their stalls.

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Head of the Lake doesn’t look so intimidating now!

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On one of our days off, we went on a farm tour, arranged by the Colloquium and got to see some pretty impressive farms.  The first one we went to was Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm. For those of you who are interested in Thoroughbred history, this farm is where Seattle Slew is now buried.  If the name sounds familiar, it could be because there are Canadian ties. The original Hill ‘n’ Dale was founded in Canada in 1960 by John Sikura Jr., the father of Hill ‘n’ Dale owner and president John G. Sikura and there is a Hill ‘n’ Dale in Aurora, Ontario, that is owned and run by by R. Glenn Sikura.

The second farm we visited was Four Winds Farm.  If I recall correctly, this farm supplies the hay to the Kentucky Horse Park police horses and is also home to a number of retired police horses.

The last farm we visited was Katierich Farms. Not only did we get to see an adorable American Pharaoh baby (for those not familiar, American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown in 2015), this farm also had an indoor track to help with breaking young race horses during the colder months.

We also toured Keeneland Race Track. While this course hosts some of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby (which is held at Churchill Downs about an hour away), most people may know Keeneland for their sales.  Their September yearling sale is the world’s largest sale of yearlings; it’s like a Barrett-Jackson auction but instead of cars, you have horses. If you want to see the cream of the crop (and horses go for more money then I’ll probably every see in my lifetime), this is it.

On to the training.  Day 1 we had classes in equitation, formation riding, and sign cutting/tracking classroom session.  In the classroom session (which actually took place outside), the US Border Patrol showed us different types of tracks and we compared how speed, number of people, disguises, time, and light all affected how we saw the tracks. On Day 2, we did jumping, crowd control,  and a practical tracking session where we were on our horses to find an “item of value”. While it was just a backpack full of horse treats, I’m sure the horses thought it was pretty valuable! Days 3 and 4 were dedicated to competition with the team obstacle challenge and equitation test on Day 3 and the individual obstacle test on Day 4.

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Would your horse be calm enough to break up this riot and escort the truck to safety?

We didn’t get any information on the obstacles until registration day and we didn’t get to see the obstacles until the day of when we did a course walk through prior to riding. That didn’t stop us from trying to recreate everything during the week though – including porta potties and bubbles!

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They do say that horses keep us humble and Splash did just that.  We had literally done the exact team obstacle course the weekend before with no issues, but we had a few bobbles that surprised me (especially when she balked at the car wash obstacle during competition yet walked right though it with no hesitation in the warm up ring!  The same thing happened with our bridges in our individual obstacle test. You wouldn’t have known that just a few minutes before she was helping lead other horses over bridges, mattresses and a water box!  As frustrating as it can be, it was a great learning experience because now I know where the holes in our training are and we can work on improving them. The only obstacle I 100% wanted to conquer was the carousel on the individual course. Not only was it visually spooky with bright colours, balloons, mirrors all inside it, and that it moved, it was also playing circus music and made a horrible racket once you started to turn it. She wasn’t crazy about approaching it from her left side but quick thinking had me try it on her other side, and she took it with little issue!

 

 

Side note – I was asked why I didn’t stop and work on the obstacles when Splash refused.  We had a 6 and a half minute time limit on both the team and individual courses and instead of timing out and receiving no score, we opted to take a lower score.

I messed up my equitation pattern by not walking down centre line at the end but I was pretty happy with my other transitions as we had been having some difficulty with that (pic of test score); love that we got a score card back so we know what to work on and improve for next time!

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Next year’s colloquium is held the last week of September but as of right now I’m not sure if I will be attending or not because I’ve been accepted to ride in Race the Wild Coast in South Africa just a few days after the clinic! There will be a bunch of fundraisers including a horse-themed paint night, massive garage sale/tack swap and more!  In the meantime, if you want to get a head start on your holiday shopping (or any shopping for that matter), use our FlipGive link to do your shopping.  It doesn’t cost you anything extra and we get $$ from FlipGive just from people using the link!  https://www.flipgive.com/teams/51832-eat-sleep-ride-repeat?fundraiser_id=167720

 

 

Calabogie Boogie

 

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.

calabogie

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.

donkey
PC: Wendy Webb

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.

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I had no idea what the background was behind me until I saw this picture! PC: Wendy Webb

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.

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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.

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This is just the prizes for ONE DAY!

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.

calabogie
PC: Wendy Webb

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.

calabogie
PC: Wendy Webb

5 Ways Distance Riding is the Best Horse Sport for your Money

It’s no secret that the number of participants in the horse industry has been dwindling.  Recently in Ontario, it was announced that the Cornerstone Dressage shows held at Caledon Equestrian Park are no longer going to be running due to low entries and increasing costs.  The Ontario Horse Trials Association had a sad number of entries in all divisions at their championship show this year.  Local saddle clubs are disappearing because of the lack of attendees.

There has also been commentary recently (especially with the issues surrounding Equestrian Canada), about costs to enter shows. Horseback riding is an expensive sport, unfortunately, but we need to support our local shows and associations or else they are going to disappear.   If you are looking for a cost-friendly discipline to do with your horse, look to distance riding!  I have shown at schooling shows for almost every discipline, and nothing gets you a better bang for your buck than distance riding.

 

  1. Free entry! Yes you heard that right. This year OCTRA ran a “first ride free” promotion (with some restrictions). http://www.octra.on.ca/docs/OCTRAPROMOTIONS-FirstTimeFreeRide.pdf  What other riding association gives its lower level riders a free entry fee?????

 

  1. Cheap entry fees in general. Let me break down some numbers for you.  Assuming that you don’t qualify for the free entry, here is what a normal distance ride will cost you.  Entry fees roughly run between $40-150 depending on what distance you enter. What is included in that fee?  Aside from your riding time (could be anywhere from 1 hour to 12 hours), you get a minimum of two to three times where a vet checks over your horse, your camping (you provide the horse containment. Sometimes there may be a nominal fee on top of your entry to cover camping but rarely does that happen), usually a meal of some sort (I’ve had everything from potluck, to chili, to chicken parm to stir fry), a certificate of completion, a ribbon or other prize for completing (yes, just for completing you get something! I’ve received t-shirts, camping chairs, beer, candy, stickers), water provided for your horse, and getting to ride on some awesome territory that no one else may have access to!

 

  1. Low cost paperwork requirements. To attend any OCTRA ride, the bare minimum that you need to ride is proof of insurance (it doesn’t have to be OEF, as long as you have $1,000,000 coverage), a negative EIA/coggins test, and an OCTRA membership ($45) or pay the day membership of $20.

 

  1. You can use the equipment you already have! No need to go out and buy all new clothing or tack. If it fits you and your horse and is in good repair, you can use it! The minimum requirements are a helmet, appropriate footwear, a saddle and some sort of bridle (be it traditional, bitless, or a halter). A stethoscope, stop watch with seconds (or your phone), a sponge and a bucket are all you need to crew your horse at the vet   Yes, there is technology and fancy equipment out there but you don’t have to make the investment when you are just starting out. Find out if you and your horse enjoy the sport first.

 

  1. You can grow with the sport. The thing I love most about distance riding is that there are many options to be involved depending on your goals. Want to ride for team Canada at the World Equestrian Games? You can do that. Want to spend time with your family? You can do that (either compete with them in ride n tie or have them crew for you!) Want to stay at the lower levels and just enjoy time on your horse? Do that. Want to compete for year-end awards? Do that. Want to use this sport as cross-training for your other disciplines? Do that. Unable to ride but want to learn more and help out? You can do that too (and our volunteers get awards as well!)  The possibilities are endless.

 

There are only a few rides left in the Ontario ride season but now is the perfect time to put this on your radar for next year.  Visit the OCTRA website  or join the OCTRA Facebook page  and find a mentor in your area to answer your questions, and help you plan and prepare for your first ride.  You’ll wonder why you didn’t try this sooner!

OCTRA-logo-white-clearoutside

These are few of my favourite things

Wine, horses, food, and friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.

peller estates

Now in its 3rd year, the Wellington-Waterloo Hunt Club Peller Estates Wine Ride is one of the club’s most popular fundraising events, with all money raised going to support the club’s hounds.  Despite having such a wet summer in Ontario this year, the sun shone down on 40 horses and riders as they enjoyed good company, beautiful scenery, outstanding wines and a spectacular meal, while raising over $3,500 for the hounds.

peller estates
Photo credit to Alison Gittens

Riders were treated to a stirrup cup and toast to hosts Jeff Peller and family on the Peller Estates Winery lawn. After a photo shoot commemorate the occasion, the ride took participants down lovely scenic trails, past Fort George National Historic Site, down the Niagara Parkway trail along the Niagara River to Riverview Cellars Estate Winery where riders were treated to taste a variety of wines, paired with meats and cheeses.

niagara trail

Next on the tour was a stop at Frogpond Farm Organic Winery, where the hospitality continued, with riders being presented with various wines to taste, and snacks to keep rider’s appetites at bay until the next meal.

And what a feast it was!  Back at Peller Estates, riders were treated to a delicious 3 course gourmet meal created by Chef Jason Parsons, which consisted of a pickled beetroot, goat cheese and arugula salad and potato and black kale soup for the starter, choice of either spring salmon or angus beef striploin for an entrée, and a bittersweet ganache bar for dessert (with all courses being paired with an appropriate wine from Peller Estates, of course!)

peller estates
Photo credit to Alison Gittens

Many thanks to the wineries for their hospitality, Alison Gittens for capturing the day in beautiful photographs, and Jeff Peller and family for being such wonderful hosts and for putting this event on.  It’s already on my calendar for next year!

 

It’s like barrel racing, but with guns

It sounds pretty redneck but it is one of the fastest growing equestrian disciplines.  A horse, guns, balloons, and a stopwatch and BANG! You have cowboy mounted shooting.

I have been wanting to try this sport for a few years now.  While I was participating in the St. Tite Rodeo in St. Tite, Quebec with the Canadian Cowgirls drill team, the cowboy mounted shooting  association in Quebec gave a little demo.  If you’ve never seen it before, it is thrilling! The general gist of the event is to race around a pattern, shooting balloons in a certain order with the best precision and fastest time.  Seconds are added for missing balloons, going off course, knocking over any barrels, etc.

Why haven’t I tried this before? Well Ontario has much stricter gun laws than the US and most of the other provinces so there is a lot of red tape to cut through. Arenas need to be licensed as shooting ranges and many venues are not willing to put the time or effort in.  Thanks to Britt Needham, a cowboy mounted shooter from Saskatchewan who now calls Ontario home, this sport is getting its start in this province!  I attended a 2 day clinic just north of Orangeville to get a feel for what the sport is like and to learn more about it.  (Side note: one of the rules for Ontario is going to be that you have participated as a rider in one of these clinics before you are allowed to compete in Ontario. I highly suggest giving the Ontario Cowboy Mounted Shooting Facebook page a like so that you can keep up to date on upcoming clinics and events. https://www.facebook.com/ontariocmsa/)

cowboy mounted shooting

 

Day one of the clinic focussed on rules, regulations, and just getting a feel for the guns.  You might be interested to know that Mounted Shooters use .45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800’s. Single action revolvers must be cocked each time before firing by drawing the hammer back.  They also shoot brass cartridges filled with black powder that can break a balloon up to about 15 feet.  No live rounds are used and are prohibited at competitions. Any one and any horse can compete.  There are men’s and women’s divisions from levels 1-6. There is also a youth division.  They ride the same pattern that the grown-ups do, but they may shoot Hollywood cap pistols, engaging each target as if they were shooting real blanks. They then shoot the real McCoy (.45’s with blanks) at balloons, from the ground while standing stationary with mom or dad at their side.

Day two got participants learning about patterns and getting to ride a mock one. Even though Splash was having a bad day (it started off with a rodeo as soon as I put the saddle on so you can imagine how the rest of the day went), I had a ton of fun, learned a lot, and met some great people.  Even if you don’t think you will ever compete in a mounted shooting event, it is really neat to try out a different discipline, especially one like this, in a safe environment with knowledgable instructors to help set you and your horse up for success.