Category Archives: Rider – Sarah

New Challenges

If you are a long time follower of this blog, or you just have been cruising through the archives, you probably already know that myself and the other fine women who write here are adventure addicts and crave challenges.  It’s not uncommon for us to have already planned the “next” adventure before the current one is already up.

While I do have a few specific events on the calendar for 2018 that should provide great stories, photos and video, its my ongoing challenge that I want to share with you today!  In 2018, I plan to Race Under Saddle.

In case you don’t already know what this is, check out my post from two years ago when I did the fitness test and seminar.

So what have I been doing to train so far?  I am so glad you asked!

Fitness

The demands of racing at the track are very different from endurance riding.  In fact, after I did the seminar two years ago while “Endurance Fit”, my legs collapsed as I dismounted and I cried at the sight of stairs for the next full week.  The fitness test suggested by RUS Ontario is  3 km run in 15 min, 1 minute push ups, 1 minute sit ups, 1 minute jump squats, 2 minute plank, 2 minute wall sit.

I have been going to OrangeTheory for over a year now and my overall fitness has improved immensely both in performance and body composition.  I have no doubt in my mind that I can ace the fitness test! Of course, I prefer to be over-prepared.  Thankfully, through the studio, I have access to personal trainers who are helping me kill my legs in anticipation of racing.  Within the last month I have hit several personal bests – 500 consecutive bodyweight squats, 6.1 km run within the allotted 30 minutes with 2-4% incline intervals, and 440 watts on the indoor water row machines.

Education

I have been following RUS Rider Karoline østergaard Nielsen to Woodbine about once a week to get learn how things work at the track and have her answer all of my burning questions about racing.  I have even been able to put my hands on a few horses and help groom and harness them.  Even better, I have had the joy of going to the winner’s circle a few times!

At some point this spring, I hear there will be another fitness test and seminar and I am compiling a long list of questions to ask other riders and trainers as well.  Horses are always horses, but there are so many differences to learn about racing from Endurance, but I am hoping my unique perspective and skills from Endurance will give me a good headstart and add some training value as well.

Horses

It’s about time I start schmoozing with owners and trainers to find some horses to ride!  In my visits to the track I am meeting a few new people and putting bugs in ears.

I realize this is probably going to be my toughest obstacle in Racing Under Saddle.  Not only am I an outsider to the racing world, but RUS is still relatively new and it’s hard enough for experienced riders to find trainers willing to let them ride their trotters.

Thankfully, I do have a bit of a start here!  I was introduced to Marilyn and Cash this weekend and got up there for a short ride.  Cash is a former RUS horse who was looking for work.  Unlike the horses who are currently in training and racing, he’s unfit and will need me to come up with a training plan for him.  I am pretty confident that I can come up with a good plan to build his baseline fitness (from my experience in Endurance), and I can use what I am learning by shadowing other riders and my own athletic experiences to plan a program focused on speed and power. DIY training doesn’t scare me.

I am not sure if Cash and I will go all the way to the track, but it will be a great opportunity for me to practice on a horse that has done RUS before and based on the sparkle in his eye after our ride yesterday, I think it will make him happy too!  We are going to see how training goes before deciding on our goals.  In the meantime, I am going to keep looking for a few more horses to add into my program as well.

Riding Style

When I hopped on Cash yesterday, I was reminded that I should basically be expecting the opposite from him than Bentley.  As we walked around in the snow, his head got high and I got nervous – on Bentley it means I am about to go for a bolt, but the trotters are trained to work with their head in the air.  In fact, the higher Cash’s head got, the more I felt his body relax!  It’s going to take a lot of retraining my mind.  Should make for interesting rides going back and forth between the two.

As for the balance and my legs, I am working out of my jumping saddle right now.  For the first few rides I plan to ride as I normally would, and after we are a little more comfortable and we need to work on speed, I will start bringing up my stirrups until I am ready to start riding with racing equipment.

Equipment

This is always the fun part for me… all the various toys!  At some point I am going to start shopping for a saddle, body protector, silks, and likely some specialty stuff I don’t even know I need yet.  I have already been dreaming up designs and colours for my silks.  Not sure if I will be doing any fundraising yet.  Stay tuned there!

 


 

So there you have it!  With most of my adventures or challenges that I take on, I get a lot of people telling me that I must be crazy/fearless.  While perhaps there may be a few screws loose up there, for the most part there is method behind my madness.  Having good preparation goes a long way!

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The Basic Trail Guide for a First Time Distance Rider

Article originally appears in Equestrian Ontario Magazine, December 2017 (pick yours up at your local Ontario tack shop today… FREE!)


If you have been following our series, you are likely now on your horse, looking down the open trail from the start line, about to embark on your first 6 or 12 mile distance ride!  Congrats!  Now all you have to do is ride!  Right?

Oh my friend, we still have a long way to go in this series!  First, put down the magazine, you shouldn’t be reading and riding.  Just kidding.  Silliness aside, I am going to take you through some of the things you will need to know while on the trail.  Of course, be sure to visit www.OCTRA.on.ca to make sure you read the full rulebook.

How the trail is marked

During the ride talk, the trailmaster will tell you how the trail has been marked.  Usually this is with a certain colour of ribbon, and if you are lucky, your ride will consist of more than one trail.  Pay attention that you follow the ribbons in the correct order (ie do the pink loop then the white loop, not the reverse!).  Turns may be marked with arrows or sometimes different colour ribbons.  Make sure you know what to look for.  At most of the rides here in Ontario, ribbons will always be on your righthand side and turns marked with arrows.  This will help you to follow the trail in the correct direction.  You don’t get credit for riding the course backwards!

Where did the ribbons go?

Oh dear, are you lost?  It happens to the best of us, particularly as you compete more often and become complacent… I get lost way more now than when I first started!  In any case, if you all of a sudden find that you are off trail, or you just haven’t seen a ribbon in a while, turn around!  Retrace your steps until you see a ribbon in your colour. Look around to see if you missed an arrow.  If you don’t see a turn, ride forward, back on the path you were already on… very slowly!  Pay close attention to look for additional ribbons and if you see trail crossings, quickly look down them to see if you can spot a ribbon.  The trails in Ontario are marked wonderfully, but nature and nosy neighbors sometimes remove or displace markings.  I once made a turn onto private property because the neighbor had spotted our horsey arrows and re-purposed them to direct us off trail and down the driveway to their garage sale.  At that point, I wasn’t in a mood to purchase the used halter they were offering us haha!

Other riders on Trail

One of the unique things about our sport is that all distances will run concurrently.  That person that just passed you on trail might be a Team Canada rider or have 40,000+ miles in competition.  How cool is that?!  This does however pose a small threat to new riders and horses.  First, be aware of what other distances are on trail that day.  Is it just the other 12 milers?  Or is there a FEI world qualifier running alongside you?  FYI, that second one is probably not the best place for your first ride.  Knowing what other rides are happening will give you an idea if any riders may be racing.  Whether they are going for gold or not, common courtesy is for them to call out ahead that they are coming and ask if its ok to pass and at what gait.  Let them know it’s your first ride and what you are comfortable with (this is where your green ribbon comes in handy too).

If your horse wants to run off after the other horse you can use it as an opportunity to school your dressage.  Ask for lateral work, turn the horse around and ask him to back up on the trail, anything to engage his brain again.  If you are nervous, you can get off and handwalk down the trail in most disciplines.  This is why I always recommend distance riders to cross train with Dressage lessons!  It’s nice to have buttons on trail.

Figuring out your distance

You are going to get tired, and your poor brain is going to start asking you questions like “are we there yet?”  Being able to estimate your distance will also be a valuable tool as you start trying to improve your performance by balancing your speed with your horses recoveries (which is the founding principle of all competitive distance rides).

The easiest way is to carry a GPS sportswatch, but you don’t need this and those things are expensive!  You can use running apps on your phone as well, but given it’s your first ride, you may have your hands full with an excited steed!  The best way is a simple watch and homework.  If you have mapped and tracked your training rides, you should have a good idea of the speed your horse walks and trots at and what your usual pace is.  If you usually travel 4mph at home and you intend to do this at your first 12 mile ride, you can expect it will take you 3 hours plus any time holds in the middle.  Some of the better marked trails will even give you a countdown… 5 miles to home… 4 miles to home… and so forth.


Hopefully this quick guide will keep you on track for your first ride.  Things will never go completely according to plan, but if you prepare with education and training you are off to a great start!

15 Types of People You’ve Definitely Seen at an Endurance Ride

1. The Old Hat

The distance between this rider’s legs doesn’t change when they dismount, and they have more miles under their girth than a migratory bird.  Their horse never seems to break from its perfect 10mph trot and never seems to be all too taxed.  The fountain of youth may be dry, but the fountain of knowledge is overflowing.  They can still outride their younger counterparts and never seem to complain.

2. The Child Prodigy

They may not yet be tall enough to ride a rollercoaster, but that won’t stop them from riding 50 miles on the back of their plucky pony.  Chances are, they still have more riding experience than the riders triple their age. They campaign the social media forums looking for a sponsor – nab them up ASAP and enjoy sing alongs down the trail.

3.  The Student

This person may be short on practical experience, but they have read every article, every rule, and been to every clinic offered for the past 5 years.  They have a notebook filled with training notes and guides that they may even carry in their saddle bags.  They have been dreaming of this for years and finally have the means to bring a horse out to a real ride.  While they may look a little tired and physically overwhelmed, they know exactly how their scorecard works, what their cutoff or optimum time is, and will happily share their booksmarts with newbies and old hats alike.

4. The Socialite

This rider knows every other rider, volunteer and official on site and makes a point to visit everyone before the weekend is over.  They stay out late at the campfire with a thermos full of wine and a bag of snacks to share. They also the one organizing the fun unofficial events and parties before the ride starts and during the off season.  Watch out newbie, The Socialite will notice you the moment you arrive at ride camp!

5.  The Dabbler

With their matching embroidered saddle pad, fly bonnet, polos and glittering Charles Owen helmet its clear this rider is out for their first taste of trail.  They may not have a crew kit or a suitable enclosure for their 17h warmblood, but they are keen and smiling and their perfect equitation will save them grief through the next 12 miles.

6. The Ride Mom/Dad

This rider always notices when someone is having a bad day and offers a welcome hug and sympathetic ear when things aren’t going your way.  They also have the best food and makes sure that everyone within a 50m radius of their campsite has food and shelter, and has probably already topped up your horse’s water for the night.

7.  The Celebrity

The rider with the Je Ne Sais Quoi.  They warm up and everyone stops to stare.  Not only are their dressage skills on point, they also always look composed and put together.  They probably smell fabulous and seem to never sweat or get beet pulp in their hair or clothes.  They never seem to talk to others, but watching them in a hold is like a live action mineral water commercial.

8.  The Livestreamer

You don’t know how, but this rider manages a steady stream of social media updates from the back of their horse – mileage countdowns, selfies, between the ear shots, placings, vetting results, and deep realizations about themselves and the world around them… getting deeper the more miles whiz by.  You never actually see them on trail but you follow their updates religiously.  They also seem to know and post where any other rider is at any given time.  How they stay on top of it is a mystery to all.

9. Mr./Ms. I’m in the Zone

This rider has everything planned and timed to a tee.  The moment they see the timer they get a steely focus and everything flows like clockwork.  They have already managed to clear the vet check and are reviewing their scorecard before you have even remembered which pocket you stuck your vet card in.

10.  The Riding Couple

They are #relationshipgoals of every rider with an unhorsey spouse.  While they are technically two people, you will never see them separate on trail or at a check and they may even rider option their own ride when the other fails the vet check.  Four legs are better than two, and eight is just perfect for these riders.

11.  The Slightly Absent Minded

Arrive late? Check!  Forget a major piece of equipment?  Checkaroo!  Rides 6 miles of the trail backwards?  You better bet that’s a big fat check too!  This rider seems to come completely unprepared but manages to get through the ride through pure dedication and effort.

12. The Observer

This rider never seems to actually ride, but is always present… whether crewing, volunteering, or just out for the party.  They have been in the sport longer than anyone else and is watching everyone come through camp armed with tips and advice for riders.  Thank goodness for this person to cut through your Rider Brain and smack you upside your ego when things are starting to get NQR.

13.  The Turtle

This rider paid good money for a full day of riding and will damn well get it.  Maybe they will get warnings from officials and be lapped by the front runners, but  they carry along their merry way and enjoy the ride.  They notice things the other’s don’t along the trail, stop to bring home fruits and mushrooms foraged from the forest floor, and spend a little extra time in their holds scritching their animals.

14.  The Dream Team

The rider or group of riders who show up with a full squad of support crew.  Everyone is dressed in team colours and everyone is assigned a specific task, the crew area looks like something out of Nascar.  Chances are, the horses all look alike and maybe the riders do too.  They line up before the race for a photo that can only be taken in full panorama mode.

15.  The Fashionista

You better bet this rider has everything in matching colours – tack, clothing, buckets, saddle stand, trailer, grease pens.  Everyone knows this is HER colour and wouldn’t dare replicating the look.  Like a superhero, shiny bright spandex plays a large role in her success… in fact, you are pretty sure you once saw her go into a portapottie and come out Wonder Woman.

 16. The DIYer

This person always seems to travel alone, probably cavalry style with everything they need for the race and the night attached to their bodies.  They live off next to nothing, yet somehow they have everything you could possibly need and most likely forgot stuffed into their saddle bags.  Crew? They don’t need no stinkin’ crew!  They’ve got this.

Take advantage of cold and flu season – show your helmet some love!

Us equestrians are a tough sort.  All that time in the barn getting filthy and we get to brag about how our immune system is almost that of a superhero.  But alas, every superhero has a kryptonite.  Mine is children, so when exposed to the young’uns at a family holiday gathering, I immediately fell into a shell of myself.

Also, like most equestrians, I cannot sit still for very long.  Even if I am sick.  Netflix binge and afternoon naps will only get me so far.  It’s hard to entertain a sick equestrian.

So I finally got around to something I have been putting off – decorating my new helmet.  I will have to say, this is a bit of an emotional time for me (the DayQuill highs were not helping) as my current helmet has seen me through so many fond memories.  Its hard to put away, even though I know that all those fond memories means the helmet will not perform as intended (its old and has taken a lot of branches).  I have had this unblemished new helmet, exact same make and model as the previous, sitting on the shelf since International Helmet Awareness Day in September.  Not quite ready to say goodbye.

The design had been in planning for a while.  After I purchased my new helmet, I set about the internet to find decals that would easily adhere to the helmet without damaging it.  My previous helmet, I had made a stencil and cut out duct tape (Red Green style) to make a giant maple leaf in the back, but this time I wanted something a little more foolproof.

I found decals on Etsy, and messaged the seller about getting custom decals – both in sizing and colour.  She could do it, and the price was great!  The decals arrived in the mail shortly after and of course, they sat beside my untouched helmet for a while.

I highly recommend the decals, they were super easy to apply, looked great and are difficult to remove.  The gold has a nice shine to it and it makes the job look a lot more professional than my duct tape!

Its like a temporary tattoo for my helmet!
Cutting the base of the decals helped to make it look more natural around the visor

If you are ready to customize your helmet, here are a few tips:

  • Clean your helmet with soap and water first to remove grime then wipe the entire area with rubbing alcohol and let dry before applying anything with an adhesive
  • Be aware of different materials – the visor and or vents may not adhere as well so you will likely want to avoid them
  • Plan your design and cut your decals according to the vents and curves that you are accommodating.  Make sure to buy or make extra decals in case you make mistakes cutting
  • If you are using raised decorations like rhinestones or studs, be careful where you place them – of you deflect a lot of branches with your helmet, they are more likely to be removed.  Put these more along the side or back of your helmet.
  • If you plan on using paint, make sure that the chemicals will not degrade the materials of your helmet – you want to stay safe.
  • If you are nervous or unsure of your design, practice with an old helmet first – remember, you should be replacing them at least every 5 years anyway!
  • The dollar store has lots of great colours of tape, adhesive rhinestones, and other decorations that will help you make your helmet as unique as you are, and keep the price low!

Happy decorating everyone!

-Sarah

@esrr_sarah

Your First Competitive Distance Ride

Article originally appeared in the October issue of Equestrian Ontario (formerly On The Horse) Magazine. See it here or pick one up in your local Ontario tack shop today!

 


 

If you have been following along with our series, you may be keen to load up your trailer and hit the trails with Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA) for your first ride.  Great! Can’t wait to see you there!  By now, you should have been preparing yourself and your horse by:

  • Reading and understanding the rules for the specific discipline you are entering
  • Attending a training clinic and/or reading lots of articles about endurance riding
  • Conditioning your horse with LSD (Long Slow Distance)
  • Training trail and vet check skills
  • Reaching out to a mentor for advice and/or volunteering at a ride to see how it works
  • Compiling all necessary paperwork
  • Picking a beginner friendly ride

If you haven’t checked all of these boxes, make sure you go back and do so!  You can find good tidbits in our previous articles, on our website www.EatSleepRideRepeat.com and on the OCTRA website www.OCTRA.on.ca

Fill out your Entry

The OCTRA website has a calendar of events with ride flyers for each upcoming event.  Take a look through and find a ride that appeals to you.  For your first ride, you may want to consider doing only one day and keeping it close to home so you are not required to camp.  An inexperienced horse may not camp well and you want your first ride to be a positive training experience for him.  Keep it short, fun and as easy on him as possible – the riding is the easy part!

From the ride flyer, you will get information about how to enter.  Some rides will have online entry, others you will need to print and fill out a form and either mail or scan and email to the ride secretary.  Make sure to read the flyer carefully to make sure you understand the entry fee and whether you must add on any fees such as day membership, camping fees, extra meal tickets, or late fees.  Send your payment along with your entry.  Also in the package you send, include a scan or photocopy of your negative EIA test, your insurance card, and any required memberships.  Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you tick the box that says you are a rookie/first time rider!  

At the Ride

Once you have arrived at the ride site, take the time to find a good parking spot.  For your first time, we recommend that you stay away from the main camping and vetting areas as they can get pretty chaotic and could upset your horse for his first time.  There are often signs or people who can direct you.

Once you have parked and unloaded (or if your horse isn’t ready to be left alone while tied, he might still be aboard the trailer), take a walk of the grounds.  Take note where the following important areas are:

  • Secretary and registration desk – look for a horse trailer with no horses… and a line of people out the back
  • Vetting area/lanes and pulse timer (usually right beside each other) – look for a large rectangle of flat ground, marked with cones.  You will see lanes for trotting, and an area on one side where the horses will line up and be vetted
  • Crewing area – look for water troughs with lots of buckets and pop-up tents set out near them, usually close to the vetting area or start/finish lines
  • Starting line and finish line timer (often the same place) – look for signs, a single pop-up tent with a big clock in it.
ridecamp
A Google Earth view of what a typical ride camp would look like.

Register with the secretary

Now that you know where they are located, grab your binder of documents.  Yes, you should have a binder!  Even if you sent in a complete entry in advance, keep a paper copy on you just in case.  It will help you breeze through registration!

The secretary will give you a ride package.  This will typically include your ride card, information about the schedule (such as when ride talk is), your meal tickets, informational brochures from the rides, sponsors, and sometimes charts that you can use to calculate your ride times.

Ask for a green ribbon for your horses tail (and maybe one for you too!) to let other riders and volunteers know that you may need a little help along the way.  

Attend the Ride Talk

This is where the ride manager and members of the management team (such as vets and trail managers) will sit down with riders and talk about the course and expectations for the day.  The important information you will receive here is

  • How the trail is marked and in what order to do the trail (often loops marked with different colours of ribbon on the right)
  • Veterinary parameters for your particular ride
  • Hold times
  • Any particularly challenging aspects of the trail whether it be obstacles or navigational
  • Ride camp etiquette – things like where to dispose of your manure, and other do/do not’s

Does your ride package tell you all that stuff in a pretty brochure?  Attend anyway.  Sometimes things change last minute and the vets will change requirements to suit the weather or trail conditions.  Also this is your chance to meet other riders, ask questions to ride management, and maybe even find someone to partner with on trail (a mentor – look for someone with an orange ribbon or bandana).

Vet your horse

We are going to dedicate another full article to this, so check back in the following issues of Equestrian Ontario Magazine.  The short version is to bring your ride card and your horse to the vetting area where a vet or lay judge will check your horse’s vitals and assess their gait to ensure that the horse is fit to start. If you have any concerns, ask the judge questions – they aren’t there to penalize you, but to ensure your horse has the best possible conditions for completion. Once your horse has been approved, ask for your number to be put on your horses flank (find this on your ride card).

Get your ride time

You will be required to find the timer at the start or finish line and register with them.  Show them your completed vet card.  Some rides are a shotgun start and some are staggered.  Find out what time you will be out and what the process for starting is.

Set up your crew area

Another article we will get to later!  Keep checking back

Get Riding!

Tack up, mount up, warm up, offer your horse water at the trough, check-in with the timer again.  

Breathe.  Ride.  Enjoy!

11 Reasons to Love Love Love Autumn Riding

  1. The colours (duh!)

Do I even have to say anything here?  Yeah green is nice and fresh, but nothing beats the vibrant reds and yellows of the season.  Plus, it goes with all my tack.

2. The BIG trot

Cooler weather + endurance season fit horse = wheeeeeee!!!!!!!!  The giant gaits and frisky snorts are pretty much my favourite thing ever.  Catch that air!

 

3.  Chase the spotlight

The days are short.  Change out those old batteries in your headlamp and hit the trail in the dark.  It may seem scary at first, so stay close to home, but the feeling is unbeatable.  Bentley and I play chase the spotlight, I just point my light where I want to go and he goes (of course at the big trot).  For all the times your coach reminds you to “look where you want to go, not at your hands.”

4. Flannel, Wool and Pockets

Don’t get me wrong, I love my summer clothes, but once the weather dips enough for me to put on a sweater, I relish all the pockets that come along with them.  Seriously, why don’t they make more (and affordable) riding tights with good cargo pockets.  Give me like 20 down my legs please!  Vests, hoodies, jackets, so many options for storing phones and treats!  Then add in the cozy comfort of a nice flannel or wool baselayer or jacket and…. oh I am melting with comfort.

5. Change of Focus

Winter I think of my upcoming season and set my goals.  Spring I am implementing the training plans I made in winter, bringing both myself and my horse up to condition.  Summer is compete compete compete.  Fall is just about fun.  We play around in other disciplines (Bentley loves to jump and seems to know once Oktoberfest is done, he goes jumping!), go for leisurely rides, and just hang out in the paddock and play.  What a relief!

 

6. Halloween

Bentley got to be a big bag of garbage for Halloween this year. Not insinuating anything here!!!

No animal in my household is allowed to get past October 31 without being completely humiliated.  As an adrenaline junkie, I like to push my limits of how much I can get away with before said animal turns around and bites me in the ass.

7. No Stirrups November

You mean you DON’T love this?  Whats wrong with you?!  Maybe I am a little masochistic, maybe I am just addicted to the great feeling that comes with improvement.  Either way, my advice for those of you thinking about how sore your muscles are going to be tomorrow: that’s tomorrow’s problem.  Pull those leathers right out, lube up your thighs and lady bits with some body glide, and stock up on painkillers.  You can do this!

8. Hunts, Hunter Paces and Fun Shows

Going to a real hunt is still on my bucket list… maybe this year we will get there, but I have been to hunter paces and love it.  I think Bentley did too, despite being very confused.  I could practically hear his thoughts through the back of his head “Oh boy, time to ride!  Wait, who cleared this trail, they did a lousy job, all these big logs to jump.  Weird place for a hold, here’s my left leg forward… where is your stethoscope?  Isn’t it early to start drinking Sarah? I haven’t even dumped you yet.  What, its over already?  Can I go again… and like ten times faster?  That was fun!”

9. Fur Coats & Blanket Season

Nothing cuter than when all the horses get their furry winter coats… thick enough to bury cold fingers in. Mmmmmmm.  Add to that blankets… oh yes they are a pain when you have to change them as quick as the weather changes, or when they shred them to bits, but if you have a grey horse like me, you appreciate how clean your horse remains from the neck down November through March.

10. Apples and Carrots

Ever notice that in Autumn you can get giant bags of carrots super cheap?!  Not to mention all the free snacks growing on the trees down the trail.  Bentley knows where every apple tree is on our route and will drag me to them… even in the dark and I have no clue why he’s beelining it into the woods.  Cheers my friend, get your winter potbelly on.  You have earned it.

11. Critters

Cute chubby animals are everywhere (not just beneath our saddles).  Deer, coyotes, grouse, turkey, porcupine, skunks, raccoons… I have seen them all within the last few weeks.  Every time I go to the forest I swear the chipmunks have multiplied at a rate that could only be explained by mitosis.  Once I saw one pop out the side of a very steep hill (poorly placed exit you idiot) and roll a good 20 feet down the hill, desperately grasping at all the loose leaves on the ground with no avail.  I laughed.  I laughed so hard.  Nature can be so stupid, thank goodness its not just us people!  I will treasure that memory.  Busy critters make for great entertainment, and there is no busier time of year than Autumn.  Plus, the mosquitoes are (mostly) gone!

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!

Racing the Wild Coast – Movie Coming Soon!

Do you have goosebumps yet?

In October 2016, team riders Sarah and Rose rode in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast from Port Edward to Kei Mouth in South Africa.  Throughout the race, they and ten other riders were filmed on their journey… the product of which will be coming soon to your screens!  Stay tuned here and at the Rockethorse site and we will keep you informed of the release date as it becomes available!

What was it like to be filmed while riding this epic race?

 

Sarah and Asad being filmed during vetting later in the race. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“I am not going to lie, I avoided the film crew at first.  I was worried that taking time to interview with them on my holds would slow down my vet checks – and having efficient vet checks and horse changes was my strategy for the race.  Any time I saw them approaching I would make myself busy… fussing over my horse or my pack.  Once I had my routine down later in the race, I took some time to let them in.”

-Sarah

Sam and Monde catch up to Sarah. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“We would be riding on a goat track the edge of a cliff with a hundred metre drop straight to the ocean.  Then we would hear the whip whip whip sound of the helicopter approaching and just think ‘oh crap, what is coming next?’  ‘don’t spook, don’t spook, don’t spook’ and of course ‘don’t look at it you fool, they told you not to and wave at the cameras.  Slap a smile on your face and pretend that your chafed damp legs aren’t stinging like a thousand wasps got in your pants.  You are having fun remember?’  Later in the race when I was alone fighting to keep Asad moving, the familiar sound of the chopper told me that Sam and Monde were closing in.  It was a telltale sign that something exciting was about to happen.”

-Sarah


Jamie following Rose on her second horse Eclipe into a vet check. Photo courtesy of Rockethorse Racing.

“My headlamp turned out to be water resistant, not ‘swim rivers’ water proof.  The second morning, getting ready in the dark, I was quite happy to have the camera crew following me around with their bright lights.”

-Rose

“At a certain point, I found myself looking for the camera crew when something hilarious or frustrating was happening.  It started to feel like a natural extension of whatever it is that drives me to blog in the first place.  Sometimes when I’m trying to write a blog and reconstruct an event and find the right pictures, I think how much more convenient it would be if I just had a camera crew.  That said, I don’t like seeing myself in photos or on video.  Seeing myself on video, I can’t help wondering if I look that goofy all the time.

-Rose

 


And if you are feeling motivated and inspired by the video, why not apply for a spot in the 2018 race?

Can’t make it for one reason another?  Not to worry, Ashley will do it so you don’t have to.  Help her fundraising efforts by purchasing an ESRR tee or hoodie!

Summer’s End Ride

August 19 and 20th I packed up my car and headed to Solstice’s home, at the Ganaraska Forest for the Summer’s End OCTRA ride.

This is a particularly special ride, as it started as a training clinic a few years ago and has grown both in popularity and in size as generous landowners allowed the trail to cross their properties.  I was astonished when I drove into ride camp and saw all the rigs.  It had tripled in size since I had last attended as a volunteer in 2015.

Again, I would be volunteering.  Unfortunately, until I buy a truck and trailer, I am at the mercy of those I can carpool with.  Not to get down of course, I had volunteered to be a scribe on Sunday which would have me training toward my Lay-Judge certification.  To make the weekend even sweeter, Carissa offered me to do the Ride N Tie with her.

The Ride N Tie was on Saturday, we set off with Carissa on her horse Cannon and me running alongside.  The intention was that we would trade every mile or so and stay together (to avoid leaving Cannon unsupervised!) but poor guy was having a bit of a meltdown as his girlfriend sped away ahead of us.  Long story short, while we met each other a few times on trail for our mandatory midpoint tie and once when the entire RNT race made a wrong turn, I didn’t see the pair until the end of the race when they caught us just for the finish line.  I was pretty darn proud of myself for running the full 10km trail myself, no walking, and even technically outrunning our horse!  All that training in the gym is paying off!

From there I was recruited to do Set Speed scoring and secretarial work, it was interesting to see how the computer calculated the scores and the various reporting measures that ride managers must do.

On the Sunday, I scribed for the vetrinary judges, learning the ropes in hopes of one day earning my Lay Judge credentials.  It was a great day for this, as unfortunately for the riders there were a lot of pulls for a lot of different reasons.  As I said, this was good for me because I got to test my eye for lamenesses, see some metabolic warning signs, and even a few surface factor pulls.  Needless to say, I learned a LOT.  Good news too, is despite high pull rates, there were no treatments required, things got dealt with before they became a larger problem.  The vets and riders should be proud.

Another interesting thing about being behind the scenes is seeing how riders treat the volunteers – whether things were going great or difficult.  Lots of riders are sunshine and rainbows, but there are also a lot who are outright rude to the judges.  I understand we are having trouble keeping volunteers in our sport and this would be why.  Riders, please!  Volunteer at least once as a timer, pulse person or a scribe and see it from the other side of the looking glass.

I know we get caught up in competition, dehydrated, tired, impatient, hot and cranky, but always slap on a smile and muster a “thank you” for those volunteers and judges.  Remember, in our sport the judges aren’t there to pick at you and find reason to pull you, they want to see you succeed!  If they are telling you something is going wrong or has the potential to go wrong, listen, thank them, and apply their advice.  Your horse will thank you and your performance and knowledge will improve greatly when you engage every tool in your kit – your vet checks are critical!


Thanks to Dominic Glisinski for the video of the Summer’s End trails and Myriam Zylstra for the photo of me volunteering at the ride.

Titanium Run 3 Day Endurance Ride

If you follow along, you may know that I am addicted to adventure.  There is nothing I love more than hopping on a plane and exploring a new place by horseback.  This is what led me to reach out to the MacLeod family to attend their 3 day ride in Fort St. John, British Columbia.

I arrived at the airport and was met with the smiling faces of Makayla, as well as volunteers and officials also fresh off the plane.  That’s another great thing about travelling and riding OPHs, you have time and opportunity to get to know the people behind the scenes that make it work.

I had signed up to ride 3 days on 3 of the MacLeod’s horses (from Gone with The Wind Arabians), totaling 180 miles.

We ran some errands in town and drove up to the ride site at the Doig First Nations Reserve.  When I told everyone at home that I was riding in BC, they pictured mountains, but being as far east and north as it was, it was lots of flat pasture land with rivers cutting through, and surrounding forest.

We had a day before the ride and went out for a test ride, me on their lovely black stallion, Zorro (also known as Big Daddy!)  He was to be my mount for 75 miles on day 3.  We rode up to the beaver dam and had a bit of a swim, with Ariel hopping off to lasso a few logs that might pose a problem for riders on trail in competition.

The first day, I rode 50 miles on Medina… the black mare in the paddock (here’s the thing… they were almost all black mares lol!).  I had the pleasure of riding the full distance with Angie Lavalee from Manitoba and we had a blast.

The trails were a combination of flat and fast mixed with mud bogs through forest.  Typically the course is very fast but with the recent rain, we had to ride much slower to preserve our horses.  My instructions were to not ride faster than 5 hours, and we finished in a little under 7.5 hours instead!  Can’t change what Mother Nature throws at you, you can only ride accordingly!

I enjoyed seeing different vegetation – tall white poplar trees, bright red smurf home mushrooms, and fragrant purple wildflowers.  We even saw an elk on day one.  The ride felt less like a race and more like an adventure ride.  It’s what I had been craving for months!

After we completed, we helped crew Tara and Ariel who were riding the 100 mile 3* race.  Katja Leverman was also riding one of their horses and completed the 75 mile 2* race, earning her Elite status. The rides were all very slow, but the smart riding by everyone locked in 100% completion on day one for Gone With The Wind Arabians.

Day 2 I rode Talena, the rare bay mare in the field!  She had come into heat that weekend and was generally unenthusiastic about the whole riding 55 miles thing.  No matter what I did, she refused to trot much faster than 7 mph… even if her friends were disappearing around the corner.  It wasn’t the easiest ride, but having Tara and Ariel riding with us made it fun and we just focused on caring for our horses and enjoying the second day of sunshine.  We even rode through a herd of wild horses, saw a black bear, and got spooked by a beaver splashing in a pond just beside the trail.  Like being on a big Canadian safari.  We enjoyed another 100% completion rate for Gone With The Wind Arabians and Talena returned to her field happy to change into her comfy pants and grab a pint of Ben & Jerrys (so to speak)

Funny thing happened this evening… the Rodeo was going on down the road from the ride site and two poor drunks got dropped off at the ride site thinking it was the rodeo and weren’t convinced they were wrong.

Another great thing about the rodeo, we had crew pick us up Banac Burgers while we were out riding.  OMG, Banac Burgers are the most delicious thing ever.  I wanted to smuggle them home Jaques Clouseau style.  The food the entire weekend was wonderful – from Moose roast to chili and home made Banac.  Seriously, yum!

Day 3 was supposed to be Zorro’s ride, but he had banged himself up on the trailer and he just wasn’t quite right.  Instead after some deliberation we decided to take out the greenies who had been brought to the ride site for exposure.  I rode Drift, a big baby with a nice mind.  There were a few baby moments when the saddle slipped forward on our first trot, but after a bit of a rodeo, she settled right down.  I was impressed how maturely she behaved – she certainly didn’t dwell and her “spooks” were casual glances.  We liked to imagine her with a low calm voice (hear Morgan Freeman narrating) “I see that stump… it was unusual”  

We did have an accident toward the end of the ride which cast a shadow over the fun of the day, I have already written about it extensively so I won’t go back into it.  Overall, it was a successful ride and we all completed – this brought our total completions for the weekend to 12, on 11 horses (one horse did 2 days), 100% completion.  We were very proud as the overall completion rate for all rides was rather low.  Likely due to the mud and the above seasonal temperatures.

Overall, the 3 day ride was fantastic.  It felt great to get out on new trails and meet new riders.  I was seriously impressed at how far people came to compete, I had taken for granted how many rides are within a half-day’s trailering distance from where I live in Ontario.  The commitment these people have to the sport is commendable.  Also, I was amazed how Tara and clan were able to put on a 3 day FEI ride with almost no help, and ride it.  They are some seriously tough and talented women.  The ride itself had a lot lower attendance than I was used to, which meant we got personal attention from the officials and really got to know each other.    Whether you are looking to COC (which is totally possible on this course) or just looking for a bit of adventure: load up a trailer or lease a horse! This ride should be on your radar!