Category Archives: Rider – Ashley

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!

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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.

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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!)

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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

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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

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/

 

 

Jingle All The Way

It all started out last weekend when Sarah and I set out to discover some new trail she had found on Google maps.  When it turned out to be a dead end, we decided to ride down the road a little ways to see if there was another entrance.  As we were riding along, we came across a sign on the trail.

jingle

Naturally, curiosity got the best of us and we continued down the road with bets on what could possibly be up ahead. Was it a party or just someone providing motivation for whoever travelled this back road? A few miles up at the next intersection was a sign for Laura’s Christmas Trees in the same font as our motivational sign.  At first this wasn’t very exciting but upon further reflection we put two and two together. Usually Christmas tree farms have hot chocolate and what a nice treat that would be after being out on the trail for a few hours.  We decided that upon getting back home that we could contact them to see if it was ok to bring our horses over for a visit.  Not only were they happy to have us ride the horses over, there was indeed hot chocolate.

jingle

Our ride started out innocently enough, with the only goal of the day being to ride to the Christmas Tree Farm. We found a quick way to get from one side of the Dufferin Forest to the other so it took no time at all to get to our destination. We were greeted by lots of smiles and gladly accepted a hot drink. Both Splash and Bentley were very well behaved with the new sights, sounds and people milling about.

jingle

Also, fun fact: how fitting that we rode to a Christmas tree farm on Christmas Tree Day. It must be legit because there is an actual Christmas Tree Day Act (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/15c12)

Upon leaving Laura’s Christmas Tree Farm, we decided to continue down the back road to see where it led to. Seeing snowmobile trail signs, we figured it would lead to a trail system somewhere. Our travels took us down a very wet and muddy road allowance (which unfortunately also seemed to be an illegal dumping ground). Very sad as the area was quite pretty.  We eventually came to a T intersection and could see a trail system on the other side of a fence.  Looking closer, there was a trail on our side of the fence running along the road so naturally, we decided to follow the trail, wondering if there would be a break in the fence.  As we moved down the trail, we noticed that the signs on the fence were in both English and French, leading us to deduce that this must be some sort of government property. A short while later, an army vehicle passed us.  We had ridden all the way to base Borden! Once the trail on our side of the fence ended, we figured it was probably time to start heading home so that we could make it back before dusk.  Looking both ways at one of the intersections we crossed, we saw a little roadside stand, so of course we had to go check it out.

jingle

Some children were selling homemade Christmas crafts and more hot chocolate! After refuelling on more hot chocolate and chatting with them and their family, we were on our way again. Finding our way back into the Dufferin Forest, we played around a bit on the trails before making our way home.

For what was supposed to be a relatively calm ride, it was quite exciting and eventful. Even in the off season, it’s never a boring ride!

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Lopin’ Larose

The last ride of the OCTRA season was held on October 16, 2016 in the Larose Forest at the eastern end of Ontario. It was quite a long drive for me (about 6 hours one way) but I like supporting new rides. There aren’t very many in Ontario so the more we get, the better. Plus I like riding new trails J This wasn’t the first time I’ve attended an OCTRA ride by myself but it was going to be my first 50 mile ride without a crew. Lucky for me, my mother and her boyfriend came to crew for me (he lives in Ottawa so it wasn’t far for them). I was a little apprehensive about driving this far to do a 50 mile race since Splash had a minor colic episode both days of Oktoberfest (2 weeks before) and after hunting the week before. She has never coliced in the 7 years I’ve had her and there wasn’t anything consistent about these two outings. The fecal test came back clear but vet recommended deworming for tapeworms again. Fecal tests aren’t entirely accurate for tapeworm infestation. A blood test is recommended for that. I had dewormed for tapeworms in the summer but tapeworms are known to cause a large percentage of minor spasmodic colics. I guess we were going to find out if that helped!

Splash settled in quickly at base camp and was eating and drinking much better than she had at Oktoberfest or hunting. I figured we were off to a good start! The organizers gave a fantastic and (thorough!) pre-ride talk.  The trails were described in great detail (directions, markers, terrain, landmarks, etc.). I felt confident in tackling them the next day. The forecast was unseasonably warm for the middle of October (there was a humidex!) with some rain, but the rain was very considerate to keep to a minimum throughout the day and only pour when the ride was complete.

lopin larose
Photo credit to Loving Memories Photography

The organizers/trail masters did a great job considering what was thrown at them just a few short days before the ride (having to move base camp and re-mark/reroute trails). Base camp, crewing area, vet area, etc. were tight on space due to last minute location change but everyone made it work. Trails were very well marked although the plain yellow flags were hard to see at some spots due to the yellow leaves. This would be a great ride to do a first 50 at.  It was very flat, easy terrain and the majority of the trails are specific to equestrian use. -I personally liked the longer loops (I believe it worked out to be three loops of 19 miles, 19 miles, and 12.5 miles). The loops were originally supposed to be 16 miles, 19 miles, 16 miles but having to change trails at the last minute most likely lead to the change.  Since the first loop was longer than expected, the last loop was made shorter.

The trails consisted of forest and very quiet gravel roads. The footing in the forest was forest floor with a few roots and the gravel was not the large, sharp stones.  It is very possible to do this ride barefoot (and there were a few of the top ten 50 mile riders who rode unshod horses). There were a few bridges on trail but were large and safe for equestrian use. The colours in the forest at that time of year were quite vibrant and I found myself looking around at the scenery a lot when I probably should have been looking for my next arrow or trail marker! Check out one of my short helmet cam videos from the ride:

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Splash felt incredible the entire ride, pulsing down quicker than normal (at set speed levels 2-3 minutes after arriving at crew/vet area), which I have never been able to accomplish before. This was the first test of the CoolFit pad that I received from Ecogold and did it ever help! If you haven’t heard of these before, you need to check them out.  The material that the pad is made out of reacts with the horse’s sweat to keep the horse’s back cool. Check out the video here: https://ecogold.ca/ecogolds-coolfit-saddle-pad-update-intelligent-saddle-pad-keeps-horse-cooler/. Obviously one test by me is not 100% scientific proof but I have never been able to cool my horse out that quickly and you could actually feel how cold the pad was immediately after I took it off my horse. I am very interested to know how it performs in the middle of summer when temps are in the 30’s-40’s with the high humidity.

ecogold
Ecogold CoolFit Pad

Since I wasn’t having any issues with cooling Splash down, we picked up the pace a little bit; fast enough for a 6th place finish. Even better, no colic issues (not even any signs!).

lopin larose
Photo credit to Hoofprints Photography

The food at the end was hot, filling, and delicious (exactly what you want after riding all day) and the ribbons and prizes were awesome and greatly appreciated! This was a great way to end the ride season and I highly recommend attending this ride next year.