All posts by ashleytomaszewski

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.

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)

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

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!

6 Reasons to Get Out and Try Distance Riding

Thinking about trying your first distance ride this year or are a bit nervous to? Here are a few reasons why you should get out and try one!

More bang for your buck

Horse shows are expensive.  You pay hundreds of dollars for a few minutes in the ring for a ribbon. If you’re looking to still experience the competition but at a cheaper price, consider trying competitive distance.  Your entry fee gets you riding for a few hours, camping, dinner (most of the time), at minimum 2-3 veterinary checks throughout the day (plus the vets are there if you think something is not quite right after the ride), and some sort of token of achievement (certificate of completion, ribbon, t-shirt, medal, whatever ride management decides. Heck, I’ve received a small turtle patch once for coming in last in a 50 mile ride!)

camping1

 

Any horse can do it!

Distance riding is not just for Arabians.  Yes, they are purpose-bred for this sport but any horse is capable of doing distance riding.  At OCTRA rides you will see everything from kids riding ponies, to western riders and their trusty stock horse, to even draft and draft crosses!! If you are riding regularly, you should be able to handle a shorter set speed ride. For reference, in a regular 45 minute dressage lesson, my gps watch usually tracks me as having ridden roughly 4-5 miles. You can make the maximum time allowed in a bronze level set speed ride by just walking and trotting at a good working, forward pace.

You can compete against yourself or other riders

ride2

The most often heard concern I hear from other riders is that they are nervous to try distance riding because they don’t want to race.  Distance riding (and even endurance riding) is not all about racing. In fact, the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), one of the distance riding sanctioning bodies, has the motto “To Finish Is To Win”.  You get to choose what you want to make this sport.  It is not always a race.  There are different disciplines within distance riding depending on what your goals are.  With Set Speed, you are only competing against yourself and a grade of fitness. Can your horse complete X distance, in X range of time, with the lowest heart rate. CTR steps up the competition a little more with every horse travelling at the same speed over the same distance. The winner of a CTR is the horse that completed the course in the allotted time, in the best condition as determined by the total point score following the post-ride exam. Points are deducted for such things as bell boots and protective boots, rubs, girth galls, soreness on the horse, etc.) Ride n Tie and Endurance are races by definition (first over the finish line wins) BUT horses still have to pass through a number of veterinary checks before, during and after the ride and their heart rates must come down to a certain level in a set amount of time or else you are disqualified.

Excellent cross training

Preparing and training for distance riding is a great cross training tool for both you and your horse.  A fitter horse means a better jumper round or dressage test as your horse won’t tire as quickly and he will have better ground manners as your horse will have to get used to different people touching him (pulse takers, veterinarians, etc.). You will also be more fit which will help you not tire as quickly on those long horse show days. You will also learn to problem solve quickly as anything can happen out on the trail when you are out there for that long and you will gain mental toughness.  A hunter course will seem like a piece of cake after doing a distance ride!  Trail training will also help prevent burnout/boredom for you and your horse. Going around and around a ring with the same four walls can get boring after a while.  Getting out on the trail gives you and horse a mental break and can rejuvenate your riding. Riding over different terrain is also good for your horse as he will use different muscles and learn to think about where he is putting his feet.

Boost your horsemanship skills

 Does your barn have a stethoscope and do you know how to use it? Do you know what your horse’s normal heart rate is? Not only will this help you in distance riding, but it could also mean the difference between a major and minor health issue.  At a distance ride, your horse will have to pass a number of veterinary checks to ensure your horse is fit to continue. The vets will check things like capillary refill time, mucus membrane, jugular refill time, skin pinch test for hydration, soreness in the back, anal tone, gut sounds, heart rate, and lameness. Knowing what is normal for your horse is important as if you catch a problem early enough, most of the time it is easier to fix. For example, at a ride last year although I completed the ride successfully and the vet didn’t see anything unusual at my last vet check, I knew something wasn’t quite right.  I asked the vet to recheck and sure enough my horse was in the early stages of a gas colic. A quick shot of banamine and some handwalking and everything was fine.  This does not mean the vets are not doing their job at the vet checks.  They only get to see your horse for a few minutes out of the entire day and everything could be fine at that moment in time.  I take care of my horse at home, and I’m with my horse all day so I have a better idea about what is and isn’t normal for her.  Don’t ever feel like you are discounting the vets by returning to them to double check something. That is what they are there for.  Sarah’s horse Bentley likes to squeeze out every last drop of pee so even when he is fully hydrated at home, the last little bit out is a darker colour.  Normally this would indicate that a horse is severely dehydrated but since Sarah sees Bentley often and knows that he does this every time, it is not too much of a concern. She knows the normal colour and can tell the vets this.

vetcheck1
Photo credit to Ian Haggerty
You will also learn how to fit up/condition a horse properly. You can take these skills and carry them over to any discipline to ensure your horse is in shape enough to perform the required task and as an added bonus, they are less likely to hurt themselves than if they were unfit. Additionally, you will learn how to calm your horse and lower his heart rate quickly. There is a lot going on at a distance ride with horses coming and going in the pit crew areas, horses being trotted out in the vet checks, and people walking around. While fitness is the biggest factor in lowering the heart rate after exercise, there are a few tips and tricks that distance riders use to gain their horse’s focus and get him to relax and be calm.  Sometimes those few extra beats can make or break your vet check.

The people

There are always going to be bad apples everywhere but distance riding seems to attract really good people who care about their animals, are out for a fun time, and enjoy helping others,  When I showed up to my first distance ride, I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as the ride secretary asked me if this was my first ride. She paired me up with an experienced rider who had put forth their name as someone who would assist new riders to the sport.  It made my first ride much less stressful. I had someone to talk to on the trail to ask questions as they came up and showed me some tips along the way. A great way to get into this sport is to volunteer at an event first. Not only will you get to see how they are run, you will be introduced to people who are willing to act as mentors. This sport is built on mentorship.  By finding a mentor, you will have all of the knowledge of an experienced distance rider to help you with a training and conditioning program, what feed, supplements, electrolytes to use, help with entering rides, and if your mentor is close to you, a riding buddy! You will also find at rides that pretty much everyone is willing to help you out and answer your questions.  When you sign up for a ride, mark on your entry form that you are a first time rider or just new to the sport and put a green ribbon on yourself and your horse.  People will find out that you are new and are more willing to assist you if you need it.

The great thing about this sport is that family and friends can get involved too though pit crewing, volunteering, or even as ride n tie team members. It’s not unusual to see entire families out at rides enjoying the outdoors, horses, and camaraderie.

try

 

If you’re curious about trying a new exciting sport, please contact the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team at info@eatsleepriderepeat.com.  We’d be more than happy to give you more information and put you in touch with a mentor in your area.  We will also be at the System Fencing 30th Anniversary sale so come by to talk with us and watch some helmet cam videos from Sarah’s adventure to South Africa for Race the Wild Coast,

 

 

OCTRA AGM AND AWARDS BANQUET

This past weekend, OCTRA held their annual AGM and awards banquet in Coburg, Ontario since this is pretty central to most OCTRA members.

The vendor area was full of fantastic tables with many items available and people to talk to. We had the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat table all set up with our merchandise, copies of On The Horse Magazine with Sarah gracing the cover as feature rider and Ashley’s article on ride n tie (which were all snapped up quickly!) and Sarah’s computer running helmet cam footage from her Race the Wild Coast experience.  It was great to catch up with many members and see some new faces.

The AGM part of the day was well attended, most likely due to some hot issues on the agenda. Personally, I find it great that this club is made up of members who are passionate about this sport and are looking for ways to change and improve it.

The banquet was delicious, as always with enough food to feed a small army.  No one ever goes hungry. A big shout out to the awards committee for organizing the awards part of the evening. The ribbons, plaques, trophies, etc. are always gorgeous and make for great ways to remember the achievements of the year. A very big thank you to Wendy Webb of Wendy Webb Photography for the stunning photographs of all the award winners!

The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team took home a number of recognitions.  Ashley and her brother Alex were recognized for their provincial championship ride n tie win. The team also took home second place for overall senior ride n tie team.

Sarah and Bentley received new badges recognizing their 1000 miles in competition.

sarah

Both Bentley and Splash received an award for top ten overall high point horse (10th and 6th respectively). In order to qualify for this award, horses must compete in three out of the four distance disciplines: set speed, ride n tie, competitive trail riding (CTR) and endurance).

topten

Even though proxy voting is now allowed, you’d really be missing out if you don’t attend next year! Even if you are not up for any awards, it’s still a great opportunity to catch up and reminisce about the past season, plan for the upcoming season, and just have a good time!

octra agm

Be Careful what You Wish For

The winter time is a bit slow for us as the weather sometimes prohibits us from riding as much as we would like to and there just aren’t as many events going on.  This lack of excitement makes for some pretty boring blog posts (or quite interesting ones, as we desperately try to create content that you guys want to read). Well, knowing I had an upcoming post today, I told Sarah that something epic had to happen on our ride this weekend so that I’d have something good to write about.  We decided to ride up to the Mansfield ski hill to watch the skiers thinking if nothing out of the ordinary happened, it would at least make for something different. Little did we know….

It started off innocently enough. After not being able to ride Splash for about a week and half due to weather and my schedule not cooperating, I figured she’d be a little hot to trot (which she was), which lead to a bit of handwalking and ground work until she regained her brain back.  Dealing with anxious horses on footing which was slippery in spots was not something I wanted to be on her back for.

mansfield ski hill
The cute colourful herd we passed

Luckily up ahead was the massive uphill climb we’d have to do to get to the top of the ski hill. If you have never walked up this hill, you’d still appreciate its steepness if you drove up it.  Both Splash and Bentley were quite eager to get to the top, trotting away furiously.  Splash currently looks like she’s pregnant with twins and this caught up to her about halfway up the hill, where she slowed to a walk and calmly strolled up the rest of the way. When we reached the top, Sarah was chatting away with a driver who had pulled over to the side. As that driver pulled away, another was coming up the hill.

We waited for her to turn the corner into the cute little subdivision before we continued on our adventure.  As Sarah and I are chatting about the conversation between Sarah and the driver, we hear a loud CRASH! We look over and the car that had just turned the corner had rammed her little hatchback into the snow bank. Sarah and I looked at each other trying to figure out what we could do to help. As the driver got out of the car, we rode over and asked if we could call anyone for her.  She said not to worry. This was the second time she had done this today. (Who does that!?)  She had been distracted looking at our horses and just kept turning the wheel.  The nose of the little car was jammed in the snow bank really well and there was no way we were going to be able to push her out.  Once we established everyone was ok and that there wasn’t anything we could do, we continued on our ride.

mansfield ski hill
My stealthy attempt at getting a picture of the car in the snow

We reached a spot on the hill where we could see the skiers and at first the horses were quite content and interested to watch these human-like things glide by. Eventually Bentley had had enough and we continued on our trek. As we passed by the scene of the earlier accident, there were a number of people with shovels and trucks attempting to help get the car unstuck.  After some groundwork and leaving the excitement behind, Bentley came back to earth and the rest of our ride was pretty uneventful.

Some lovely views and a little boogie around the fields made for a great way to end the ride.  Sarah and I were both excited to see the current baseline of fitness that our horses have despite not really being able to work much this winter.  Long walks in the deep snow have really helped that. The horses are shedding so here’s hoping spring is on the way shortly!

mansfield ski hill

Shore to Shore Pioneer Ride

With February fast approaching, many riders (including the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team) is busy planning the upcoming 2017 competition season.

We are proud to announce that the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team will be participating in the Shore to Shore endurance race in Michigan this summer.

The Shore to Shore ride takes place on the Michigan Shore to Shore Trail. This trail is 350 km long and rungs between Empire on Lake Michigan to Oscoda and Lake Huron.  This trail is only open to hikers and horseback riders and there are a number of equine campgrounds along the trail.

shore to shore trail

The Shore to Shore race does not take place in an exotic location but is exciting in its own way. Due to costs and other factors with transporting horses overseas, many of the ultra endurance races like the Mongol Derby or Race the Wild Coast provide horses for you (note horses). This time we will be using only one horse, our own, to complete the course.

Our crew will be essential to our success. Camp will move daily as this is a point to point race so we will need someone to drive the trucks and trailers to the new locations and set up camp. The vet checks are also at different points along the trail so our crew will have to meet us at each one to assist in cooling down the horses and preparing them for the veterinary checks. If anyone is interested in crewing for us, we aren’t going to say no! If you are looking at getting into the sport of endurance/distance riding, this will be a great hands on opportunity.

 

Here are a few videos showing what parts of the trail look like:

 

https://youtu.be/2dry_2nUiaE https://youtu.be/2dry_2nUiaE

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVfIiR8G7PM

 

This blog written by someone who has hiked the trail has absolutely gorgeous photos of the scenery along the trail. http://ericshikes.blogspot.ca/2016/11/michigan-shore-to-shore-trail-mckinley.html   We cannot wait to ride in this race!

 

Like anything of this nature, this will not be a cheap endeavour.  Please visit our online store to purchase Eat Sleep Ride Repeat gear to help us fund our team to get to this ride.  If you are interested in sponsoring the team, please contact Sarah or Ashley at cuthbertson.sarah@gmail.com or ashley.tomaszewski@live.com for more details.

Horse Day at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week

Thanks to a recommendation from her sponsor, Mad Barn, Sarah was invited to speak at Horse Day  during the 51st Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week on the topic of travel and horses.

horse day

Our drive up was not at all  bad, despite what the radio station was telling everyone.  The event suffered unusually low turnout for the event but those who attended were very engaged.

Sarah shared stories and her experiences from travelling to Mongolia for the Mongol Derby, herding horses in Iceland and recently competing in South Africa for Race the Wild Coast. Attendees were treated to some never before seen helmet cam footage which we will be sharing here and on our Facebook page in the coming weeks.

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Sarah’s talk received many compliments and there was never a quiet moment at the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat booth as people were excited to hear more about her adventures in Mongolia, Iceland and South Africa and what the next plans were.

The only suggestion we have to improve the event is that we would have loved to have more time to talk with visitors to our booth. The trade show and speaker area were in the same room so while it was great to be able to man the booth and listen to the presentations, many great conversations were cut short because the next speaker was about to begin.

It was great to see familiar faces and make new friends and especially nice to see so many people not only interested in the travel stories but wanting to know more about how to get into endurance and distance riding.

horse day

We would like to thank the organizers, staff, volunteers, and anyone else who made this event possible. The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team would love to be back next year, hopefully with some more fantastic stories, this time from our adventure from Shore to Shore!

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Dreaming of Summer

Dealing with the cold weather and all this snow had me daydreaming about the summer. Longer days, warmer temperatures and trail riding all day. For my friend Nicky’s birthday this past year, I decided to take her up to Horse Country Campground for a girls weekend. I had been to this campground a few years ago for a clinic and had been wanting to go back to explore more of the trails.

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The drive took us roughly 5 hours so it’s definitely not a day trip if you are coming from southwestern Ontario (but it is definitely worth the drive). The only downside to this place is that the trails are basically unrideable if there is a lot of rain. The trails are mostly clay and rock so they get very slippery when wet. We booked this trip back in April for August so there was no way to anticipate what the weather was going to do.  Unfortunately, even though Ontario experienced one of the driest summers, it had to rain the entire weekend we had booked.

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All dressed up to ride in the rain,  complete with water pistol!

We arrived in the early afternoon so there wasn’t a lot of time to get out on the trails before dark after setting up camp so we played around on the obstacle course that is set up. There are all sorts of obstacles and at different levels of difficulty. It was great to see the improvements and additions to the course since the last time I was there.

 

We did manage to get out on the trails for a bit the first full day we were there.  The plan was to ride to the swimming hole and take the horses swimming then continue on to find this little tiki bar which boasted free beer (pretty good incentive for a long ride!) The swimming hole was quite easy to find. There were a few picnic tables, a place to tie the horses and a place to go to the washroom.  The footing into the water was great and it was very inviting.  The views were incredible as well! It was a little chilly with the sprinkling of rain but this would be a fantastic spot to go and cool down after a long ride.

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On to the tiki bar! While meant for the white water rafters after their jaunt down the river, we were told we would be welcomed there as well.  While the staff had given us pretty good directions the day before, the map doesn’t show individual trails so coming to forks or open spaces led to a bit of confusion.  We did see some signs for the tiki bar but upon arriving at the rafting resort, the signs stopped and no one we asked knew where the bar was. Oh well. The rain was starting to come down a little heavier now so we decided to make our way back to the campsite.

 

The rain was even worse our second full day there so after breakfast, we headed out for a drive. The town of Renfrew is a short drive away so if you are in need of any extra supplies or are looking for something to do on a rainy day, this is an option. There are also many activities on the resort to do (although they would have been much more fun in better weather), such as a beach,  hot tub, pool, recreation centre, bungee jumping, restaurant and bar, white water rafting just to name a few.

 

The staff at Horse Country Campground is very friendly and helpful. The reservation was easy to set up, checking in was a breeze, and since it was a quiet weekend there, we were given new pens to put the horses in when the ones they were in got too soupy from the rain. The pens are quite large but if you have two horses that don’t know each other or don’t get along, you will have to either get a site with two pens or bring your own. There are water taps at the sites but I recommend bringing a hose with you as it makes it easier to fill water buckets.

 

I still have to ride to the brew pub so there will definitely be another trip to visit Horse Country Campground!  It is worth the drive but perhaps next time I will book closer to the date to avoid any weather-related disappointments!

For more information about Horse Country Campground, you can visit their website at http://www.horsecountrycampground.com/