Category Archives: Rider – Ashley

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!

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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!

 

 

 

 

Dear AERC – Part 2. The Ideas

The following article is a collaboration from all of us at ESRR.

We at ESRR share our successes and failures.  We love this sport and we want it to grow and improve.  We have been addressing some very controversial topics recently.  There has been good conversation.  The Green Bean Movement is alive and well.  There are a lot of great mentors.   And tons of other goodness.

This post is about ideas.  Here are some of ours.  And we want to hear yours!

  1. Equal enforcement (or non-enforcement) of rules – This one is very polar- some say “yes, I have been there before” and others say “what are you talking about, this never happens.”  This shows that there is no standardization.  If there is no standard enforcement of rules, it looks bad on the organization as a whole.  Example, not every rider in the Group 7 middle east is going to ride til their horse drops dead, but the few bad apples taint how we see their entire region.  The terrain will be different, and the climate, and many other things (we love the variety).  People love and embrace the flexibility that you can do things in a ton of different ways and ride your own ride.  How do we do we keep the variety and still have a sanction mean the same thing across the board? – R & S
  2. Ride Rating System (difficulty)  & feedback form – the beauty of endurance is its done through many different terrains and climates. ESRR tries its best to review rides we attend and share information we think might be relevant for someone considering that ride, but we only get so far. Those who are going to a ride for the first time (no matter how many times they have ridden elsewhere) could benefit from more knowledge.  Better preparation will lead to better completions.  While we don’t have a set formula for this, we want to open up discussion on what you would like to see rated – things like trail surfaces, average temperatures, quantity and type of trail markers, shade in ride camp… hey even the ride meal if you want to go that far.  What do you want to know before deciding to go to a certain ride?  Get creative and tell us in the comments!  Our vision would be that for new rides, this is completed by the ride manager and/or trail master, and as the ride continues, riders can rate the various factors.  How do we do this? Perhaps a sliding scale? Maybe checking all boxes that apply?  Surveys are great, but something that can be public and found in one place (rather than googling the $4!+ out of something).  -S
  3. Ride Review System – The USEA does a great job on this.  Of course the AERC suggests you talk to the ride management.  And says there is already a process in  place (to pay them) to consider your grievances.  Or that you can ‘vote’ by attending or not attending.  But new riders are not likely to speak up.  And few are willing to pay to have their concern heard.  The AERC at the organization level would benefit from event feedback to understand what members like/don’t like and perhaps when there are consistent issues that merit review of event sanctions. -R
  4. Terminology –
    1. Are you an endurance rider even if it’s <50 miles?  While the intent of comments like, ‘it’s ONLY an LD’ may be benign and traditionally ‘endurance distance’ starts at 50 and involves physiological changes to the horse, what’s the real harm in letting everyone in under 50 mile rides be endurance riders too? – R
    2. Race vs ride… why is “race” a dirty word? (PS my boss is more likely to give me the day off if I say I am going to a race).  Do marathoners say they are entering in a run?  Maybe… i have never run one. Anyone want to weigh in on this? – S
  5. Veterinary grading standardization – A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of scribing for and training under some particularly wonderful vets (story to follow).  One thing that I found remarkable was we had a sit down at the start and discussed what would constitute a mark outside of perfect – what EXACTLY is a B skin tent (assign it a value in seconds), how long should we wait for gut sounds before we give them a – or a 0 (and what exactly is the difference between a + and – and 0, or do we even bother with using the 0?), what is going to constitute a re-check?  This was great, it meant that we were judging a little harder on the riders, but it meant that everyone was treated fairly.  This would be great to see across the board – not just setting a standard for a ride, but for every ride.  Continuing education plays a huge role here.  And riders, take judging courses and study under the vets as their scribes so you can learn exactly what they are looking for and know when you are getting a fair shake (also helps to understand that vets DO want to see you complete!) – S
  6. Rider skills development program – having done a lot of publicity for our local club, I first came up with this idea when doing Ride N Tie demos at the Royal Winter Fair – I want to learn to ride, I think I might like RNT/END, where can I learn?  Ugh… huge barrier here.  There is no such thing in our neck of the woods where you can start as an up-down rider with the goal of riding endurance. Whenever this comes up I have to refer them to a hunter or dressage or western barn… and do they ever end up in our sport?  I haven’t heard of one yet… no they get sucked into something else.  So what I would like to develop is a system of levels that can take someone from never touched a horse to first ride (and eventually beyond).  Like what the pony club does.  A list of skills, broken down in a logical path, that we can give to trainers in other disciplines to help them bring along new riders and have them be competent alone on trail and managing their horse.  Eventually, I would like to extend this to the higher levels – work in things like better equitation, presentation, advanced crewing skills.  Things that will take you from competent to great.  So again, please comment away with what you think the skills required to be competent and great are – because I need the collective experience of all AERC to build this.  -S
  7. Trail delegate – someone unbiased to check the trail conditions and marking prior to the ride start.  Basically we would like to see someone representative of AERC on site to ensure that the  it meets the standards/guidelines that AERC sets out, that the marking and/or GPS are correct, and that there are no safety concerns with the course (FEI does this).  We never expect it to be perfect, and no doubt we love a challenge, but some hazards are unnecessary.  Notice a trend here?  You should!  Standards and enforcement, enforcement and standards.  -S
  8. Safety – Two sides to this one –
    • First is that helmets should be mandatory.  No excuses.  We don’t care if the ride is older than AERC and is too old to change.  Its a hot region?  Great, lots of helmets have amazing ventilation these days (and can be used as a bucket to dump water on your head at the troughs and holds!).  No more black velvet hunt caps.  Too itchy or uncomfortable?  Its endurance… endure it.  It’s my decision and only affects me –   Nope, it affects everyone who rides with you and has to clean your carcass off the trail, it affects your family who has to feed you through a tube and change your diapers for the rest of your life, and it affects your horse who may get caught in limbo when you can’t take care of it.  Grow up and buckle up.  – S
    • The other side, paramedics or dedicated first aider on site (not riding or tasked with other jobs).  I recently talked to someone who surveyed riders to see if they would pay an extra $5 to have a paramedic on site for their ride.  The response was overwhelmingly no.  Seriously? Do you know what difference it could make (especially in remote locations) to have a paramedic onsite vs having to wait for them to arrive on scene?  In some cases it could literally be life or death.  We spend a lot of money to be able to compete in this sport, what is an extra $5 really?   I would like to see a rule put in across the board mandating this.  It shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be the new standard. – S
  9. Mandatory Volunteering – in my area many of the small, local saddle clubs and associations are becoming defunct and no longer putting on events because there isn’t enough manpower to go around.  To tackle this, some are requiring that riders volunteer at at least one event in order to be eligible for year end awards, whether it is the rider themselves or someone the rider designates, such as a friend or family member. Not only does this help address the lack of volunteers that many events seem to encounter, it also gives the participant a better idea of how much work goes into making an event happen. – A
  10. Cavalry – Like Old Dominion offers.  “The concept of the cavalry is to mimic the rigors and primitive conditions a lone calvary rider would have faced in crossing the wilds of uninhabited territory far from human intervention. The modern test of a solitary horse and rider is to compete on their own, without help, across 100 miles of natural countryside.”  Perhaps in some areas where there is no grass hay would be part of what is provided.  New riders don’t always have crew.  Maybe it would be good to recognize the extra effort needed.   – R
  11. Outreach – What do we need (besides ponies) to have our events?  Land!  And access to land!  I see cyclists and hikers with more sway to influence policies.  And make trails.  Granted there are WAY more of them…so until there are more of us, can we coordinate with any other horse groups with a common interest?  Foxhunting and Eventing comes to mind.  Maybe we all benefit if we pull together!  This ties into #6.  In the off season, both eventers and foxhunters would benefit from endurance riding!  Let’s invite them! – R

What are your ideas?  What does your favourite ride do?

Even little things like putting your ribbons in bottles to keep the cows from eating them is an idea worth sharing!

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.

kentucky

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

kentucky

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!

kentucky

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

 

 

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.

Civilian Service Horse Sensory Program

As you may remember from a previous post, Splash and I joined the Ontario Mounted Special Services Unit (OMSSU). From July 14-16 , we participated in the first clinic of its kind in Ontario: the Civilian Service Horse Sensory Program.  While this clinic was open to anyone, it was mandatory training for members of the OMSSU and we had equitation and obstacle/sensory testing that we needed to pass in order to become full members of the unit.

Many topics were covered throughout the weekend.  Friday evening, Wendy Swackhammer of Wellington County Livestock Emergency Response gave us a crash course into what goes into livestock rescue, from seeing all of the various tools used, to learning different techniques to putting strapping on a horse to help it move, to how to contain a loose horse safely.

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Saturday and Sunday were both mounted portions.  First thing Saturday morning, we had formation riding instruction with Toronto Mounted Police officers Constable Houston and Constable McCarthy. Luckily Splash remembered her drill riding training however, I did initially find it difficult to learn the new commands as police drill training had different names for things than we did on the Canadian Cowgirls but once I understood what was being asked and I could translate back into what I knew, we were good to go! An excellent way to start the day!

omssu
Photo credit to Happy Hoof Photography

Next was an equitation session with retired RCMP Jerry Mayo, which we had both days. While I had initially expected these sessions to be basically a demonstration of what he wanted us to do, then to us go practice it and to have him assist if we were having difficulty, they ran more like a question and answer period.  While there was not as much riding and practicing in these sessions as I had hoped for, it was interesting to watch people work through specific issues they were having and to watch their progression as they utilized the instruction Jerry was giving them.

After this, Captain Lisa Rakes of the Kentucky Horse Park Mounted Police walked us through self defense on horseback, particularly useful to me as I often ride alone. We learned what to do to keep us as safe as possible and what to do if someone tries to attack.  One thing I found interesting about this was if someone grabs your leg to push you off your horse, stay flexible and don’t stiffen up. The more you stiffen and try to brace yourself, the less balance you have and are able to be pushed off easier.

After lunch we had an obstacle course ride/test. While the pattern was relatively simple, the end goal was to test how calm and maneuverable your horse is. Last session of the day was fire prevention. One of the exercises on Friday as part of the large animal rescue session was to walk around the barn at the REACH Centre and pick out the good, the bad, and the ugly (an excellent practice to do in your own barn!)  While the REACH Centre is fairly new, it was shocking to all of us that although they have a state of the art sprinkler system installed, there wasn’t a fire extinguisher to be seen! In the light of recent barn fires in the area, there were many good takeaways from this session and the one on Sunday, including having a fire extinguisher within arm’s reach of every exit and to have a plan established and practised should there ever be an emergency.

A dinner reception was held Saturday evening to swear all of the new OMSSU members in. The dinner was delicious and catered by a member of our own team (thanks Dee!). A professional chef on the team is a great asset as we know we will never starve!

omssu
Photo credit to Happy Hoof Photography

Sunday was one of my favourite days as we participated in a search and rescue training session and an advanced obstacle/sensory class.  Search and rescue was one of my main reasons for wanting to join the OMSSU and we will be partaking in Canadian and National certification in the spring.  For this particular session, we were given an in-class debriefing on the different type of search techniques that can be implemented and what sort of things to consider when participating in a search, then we set out to do a mock run. It was amazing how much ground we could cover in such a short period of time and we did find our missing target! Horses can be such an asset to searches as they can cover ground faster and can go many places that people, vehicles, or atvs can go!

The last sensory session of the day proved to be interesting as Splash decided that she didn’t want to have any part of anything, even though she had done almost all of the obstacles previously.  While it can be quite frustrating, we just took it as another training opportunity. Horses can have off days too and it is good to know what tools and tactics you have and are useful if this ever happens again. Once she decided that life wasn’t so bad, she happily tried her best at the various obstacles in the ring.  She really surprised me when she quickly understood what was being asked of her when she was presented with the riot cart (designed to simulate having to push through a crowd), considering her initial mood and that she had never seen one of these before. With only a little bit of coaxing, she quickly figured out that all she had to do was push it with her chest and the cart moved.

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This weekend was not only fantastic for training but to get to work more together with the team as a whole (as we are spread out all over the province) and to see what we need to work on before Kentucky.

Thank you to all of the incredible instructors and to Cindy Fuerth for having this vision. I’m super excited to see where this takes us and lots of things are already in the works.

If you are interested in participating in this one of a kind workshop next year, the dates have already been set for June 22-24, 2018 at the REACH Centre in Clinton, Ontario.

The (New) Greatest Show on Earth

Thanks to a contest run by Horse Canada magazine, I found myself to be the lucky recipient of two Gold VIP tickets to Cavalia’s Odysseo.  I had the opportunity to see the show a few years back, the last time it came to Ontario. This time, however, I was going to be treated to a gourmet buffet before the show (with open bar!), desserts and coffee at intermission, VIP lounge access, meet and greet with some of the performers, a stable tour after the show, souvenir program, and VIP seating.

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If you’ve never seen Cavalia before, the best way to describe it is like Cirque de Soleil with horses.  Along with high energy acrobatics and aerial stunts, and stunning high-tech theatrics, audience members are also treated to liberty acts, trick riding,  and beautiful displays of horsemanship.

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La Grande Aventure / Credits : Dan Harper

As all horse people know, horses have a mind of their own and don’t always follow the script.  There were a few times some of the liberty horses tried to steal the show but the cast never once reprimanded them; only incorporating it into the act, letting the horse’s personalities come through.

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LIBERTÉ / CREDITS : JAK WONDERLY

 

Having been an equestrian performer myself with the Canadian Cowgirls, it takes a lot to impress me now, having seen many acts from all over the world. Cavalia kept me captivated the entire time and my heart was in my throat for a few of the trick riding moves.  (Skip to about 2:12 in the video to see a tease of why!)

After showing this video to my very non-horsie boyfriend, I was surprised at his reaction that it was something he would enjoy going to see.  Whether you are a horse person or just a lover of horses, I can’t recommend this show enough.  The show is on until July 16th. You can purchase tickets here: https://cavalia.com/mississauga/#anchor-calendar.

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VIP Lounge

Fun facts: Cavalia travels with 65 horses (16 of which are stallions!)and they are rotated throughout the touring schedule.  When travelling, they eat the same Quebec hay they would get at home and the team has the same farrier which they fly in when needed.

10K tons of stone, dirt and sand are required to build the massive 17,000 square foot stage. An underground drain system creates an impressive 40k gallon lake. At the end of the tour, the sand is often donated to a local equine charity.

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CAROSELLO / CREDITS : DAN HARPER

The iconic white Big Top ten is the equivalent size of an NFL football field!

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13 breeds are represented in the show, including the Appaloosa, Arabian, Quarter Horse, Canadian Horse, Canadian Warmblood, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Selle Français and Spanish Purebred

Ecogold CoolFit Pad Review

When you think of the brand “Ecogold”, eventing is usually what comes to mind. But these pads are versatile enough for any discipline.

I’ve been using Ecogold pads since first starting in distance riding as I enjoyed having something that was non-slip (especially while moving quickly over varied terrain, while still being breathable). Something that is high quality is key as endurance riders put their equipment through a lot and we need it to hold up. The cheap stuff just doesn’t cut it, and that goes for all equipment I use.

 

Last year I found out that Ecogold makes a CoolFit pad.  From the Ecogold website: “ECOGOLD has integrated smart textiles in its CoolFit™ Saddle Pad to create an intelligent saddle pad. Smart textiles are materials that can sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli from mechanical, thermal, chemical, electric or magnetic sources. Thanks to the innovative smart textiles, the CoolFit™ saddle pad senses the sweat of the horse and reacts by reducing its temperature, providing a healthier and more comfortable ride.”

Yes, you read that right.  This pad reacts to your horse’s sweat and helps to cool it.  Now I know you are probably saying that this is what sweat does. Sweating is a cooling mechanism. But have you ever taken your saddle pad off of your horse after a hard ride or one in the heat and you can feel the heat coming off of your horse’s back?  Endurance riders want to keep their horse cool as that means lower heart rates at the vet checks (among other things). Like many things geared to the horse market, I was a little skeptical at first as to if this pad does what it claims to do. Endurance is one of the most grueling equestrian disciplines which made it perfect for testing the performance of this pad. If it worked, this would be my go-to saddle pad for distance rides.

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Photo credit: Teresa Finnerty

My first endurance ride using the CoolFit pad was last October at  Lopin Larose in the gorgeous Larose Forest. With it being late October, Splash was just beginning to grow her winter woollies and the temperature was warmer than average for October.  Perfect testing conditions! The terrain on this ride is flatter than some of the others I’ve been to so I couldn’t really put  the non-slip properties to the ultimate test, but overall, my saddle did not move. Upon coming into the first vet check, my crew made the comment while removing my saddle and tack that the saddle pad felt really cold.  Perfect!  I took my horse’s heart rate and could immediately tell that it was way below the maximum threshold so we walked on over the vet minutes after getting there. I’ve used this pad on a few rides since then and every time, I am able to pretty much walk right into the vet check after coming in and removing tack.

Not only are these pads cooling, they also come with shock absorbing, removable foam inserts. The inserts are 100% breathable, allowing your horse to continue experiencing the benefits of the CoolMax layer on the underside of the saddle pad even while the shock-absorbing inserts are in place. The inserts come out and the whole pad is machine washable (bonus!) They also come in different styles and a wide variety of colours to match your flashy endurance colours of course!

ecogold cool fit

Cooling has always been a struggle for us since Splash is a very non-typical endurance type horse.  Arabians are bred to have the leaner muscles and thinner skin to allow for faster, more efficient cooling. My “built like a bulldog” stock horse just can’t compare! For anyone out there doing endurance with a thicker built horse, I highly recommend getting your hands on one of these pads.  It will make your cooling efforts much easier.

It is coming up to prime hot and humid riding season up here in Ontario and I’m actually looking forward to riding in the heat since I know I’ve got extra help in keeping her cool.