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You Might Be An Endurance Rider if…

*cover photo courtesy of Wendy Webb photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I don’t bring my horse with me

As a forward – We have been growing Eat Sleep Ride Repeat on Instagram.  If you want more of us, make sure you follow both the team and myself.  Both accounts get daily posts with news updates, great photos and lots of video/helmetcam.

Its through the feedback there that I came up with the idea for this post – any time I post photos of my adventures, I get one or more comments “I would love to take my horse to do this!”

Alas, not all adventures can be seen from the back of your own horse, but that shouldn’t discourage you.  In fact, this should excite you!  Opportunities abound!

Here are some of the reasons why I love to ride strange horses when I go to strange lands.

Thula and me in Iceland, 2015

Import Restrictions and Cost

First and foremost, the reason to go find a strange horse to ride could be because the country that you are visiting will literally not allow horses to enter the country.  Banished!  This was true when I visited Iceland, we even had to buy new boots to prevent contamination (as you can imagine, I just HATED having to get some cute new riding boots).  Icelandic horses are completely disease free and they take their health very seriously!  We were told how bittersweet it is when the Icelandic horses leave their country to compete, even if they win the world championships, the horse can never return to their native soil.

Related, is the sheer cost of travel.  You think a human plane ticket is expensive?  In most cases, you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars to ship your horse.  That’s all well and good if you are competing for money, but an adventure rarely yields monetary returns (unless you find pirate treasure).  Leasing a horse is a much more financially viable plan for us peasants.

Riding in British Columbia in 2017

Improve your skills

Riding another horse, whether at home or abroad will always help riders improve their skills.  This could mean working with greenies to improve your communication skills and your guts, or trying out party tricks on a schoolmaster.  Maybe you can do piaffes and passages on your horse someday if you work at it (or are already a kickass dressage rider), but why not have a little fun when you are visiting the land of Haute Ecole too?

Checking Ramkat’s mud rash before dawn during Race the Wild Coast 2016, Photo Rockethorse Racing

Learn about foreign horsekeeping

There are some pretty clever tips and tricks you can learn when you travel and ride.  There are a lot of standards across the board – mount from the left, don’t haul on the horses face, try to remain on top of the horse.  The fun part comes in the little things people around the world have developed to suit their individual horses needs.  Climate, breed conformation, available resources, discipline/use, terrain… all things that affect how the horse should be managed.  Keep an open mind and pick and choose your lessons, there is lots that you can take home both for mounted and unmounted trials with your furbaby.

Riding in the 2014 Mongol derby, photo Richard Dunwoody

Appreciate that these horses were literally built for this

One thing I find so cool, is taking a look at conformation of the horses versus the terrain.  Particularly in remote areas where the horses live wild, feral, or on large pasture, the rule of survival of the fittest reigns supreme.  These horses have evolved certain traits to help them cope with the local conditions.  In Mongolia, we saw the typical conformation of the horses change as we moved from grassland into the mountains.  So to be fair, your horse might not be as well equipped for a trek through a foreign land as his domestic counterpart.

Taking Gerber down the stone steps during Race the Wild Coast 2016, photo Rockethorse Racing

They were probably trained for this too

In South Africa, we had to lead the horse down these incredibly steep stone steps.  We had maybe ridden our horses a total of 3 hours in training and competition before we approached this obstacle, and we just had to trust that the horse would do it.  I know for sure, if my horse had seen this, he would have fired some choice curse words in my direction, plant his feet, and probably try to whip me around like a lasso at the end of his lead before leaping down the bank like it was Rolex.  Then there was Gerber, the Boerpoerd I was riding… stepping casually down the stairs as if it were just another ride.  He’s seen things, that horse.  Thank goodness for that!

All the riders/BFFs at the finish line of Race the Wild Coast 2016, photo Ian Haggerty

You learn to trust yourself and strangers

Before I went to Mongolia, it was me against the world.  Well, maybe a few family and friends.  Travelling and riding strange horses has opened me up in a way I have never imagined.  There is something surreal about getting on a horse you have never met and trusting him to take care of you, and earning his trust back.  Its an excuse to act brave, even if at first you are faking it cus “you gotta do what you gotta do,” eventually, you will just be brave on your own.

Then there is the support crew and the people you meet along your adventure.  Your parents always told you not to trust strangers, and that’s mostly good advice.  Sometimes however, you need to knock on the door of a random yurt and hope they will be kind and let you crash on their floor til morning.  It’s a big hurdle, asking for help isn’t easy, but it does get easier.


What exotic lands have you ridden in?  What did you learn through your adventure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

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

 

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

*BOXING WEEK SPECIAL*

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

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

 

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

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

Instagram: @team_eat_sleep_ride_repeat

Twitter: @eatsleep_ride1

Be Prepared for Natural Disaster: Equine Evacuation

Many of you know Southern California is on fire. I am near San Diego and last Thursday Dec 7, a fire broke out in North County, about an hour north of San Diego. That afternoon I was on my way to the Fox News studio around 2 pm for an interview about my attempt to get a spot for the dogsledding thing when I heard about the fires on the radio. After the interview I saw on facebook there was an urgent need for equine evacuations.

I got home and pulled the furniture (just moved) out of the trailer, left it under a tree, hooked up the truck…and waited. I wanted to jump in and go help evacuate horses…but information was scattered, cell signal was spotty, and it was starting to get dark. It seemed like a bad idea to go out with a rig, alone, in the dark, with a fire moving fast, roadblocks changing, and information coming from a few different sources. A few times, I got in the truck and almost just went as I listened to Zello, the walkie talkie app and heard one facility was unreachable and setting horses loose.

By 10 pm, I secured a co-pilot and headed out. The major equine evacuation effort at that point was focused on a horse rescue with a few hundred horses. They were not in the current path of the fire, but the Santa Anna winds were blowing and shifting. If the wind changed, they would be overtaken quickly with no hope of evacuating from their remote, hill top, single lane road access location.

There were trailers lined up at the bottom of the hill by the road to the farm, staged to load up and take horses to Del Mar Racetrack. It took hours to reach the front of the line where volunteers loaded 2 horses into my trailer.

It was the wee hours of the morning when we arrived at the emergency stabling to leave off the horses.

With no news of urgent need for more trailers to evacuate anywhere, I headed home at 4 am. Around 7 am, I was about to pull out of the driveway to head to the office when I heard on the walkie talkie app that a few trailers were being let past the roadblocks. I put out a call for a co-pilot and let my boss know I wouldn’t be in. My copilot was a vet-tech. As we approached the roadblocks, she was in communication about a horse that was apparently injured too badly to be moved. A vet was on the way. We were possibly closer. We were cleared through the roadblocks and entered the evacuation area.

We got a phone call (off the zello radio channel) that the horse was ‘burned from nose to tail.’ I parked the truck and trailer on the side of the road.
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The vet arrived just after we did.  I put a buff over my nose and mouth and we followed a crying young woman through ashes, burned brush, fences, and trees to where a bay mare stood by a large live oak tree. The owner explained that the mare wouldn’t load and they had to set her loose and leave. The mare was shaking and in shock. The hair on her whole body was singed and curled.

Her muzzle was covered in oozing blisters. Her coronet bands had cracked open and her hooves were smoking.Burned

My co-pilot and I provided shoulders to cry on and hugs as the vet quickly explained that the kindest thing was to euthanize. Quickly. The young woman begged her mare’s forgiveness, thanked her, and said goodbye.
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As the vet turned away,  I saw tears on his cheek below his sunglasses.

We walked back toward the driveway. The young woman’s parents were by the ashes of a house that was burned to the ground. I heard the mother saying something about, ‘I didn’t think it would come HERE.’
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Natural disaster is a new experience for me. Seeing this was life changing. I might have been one of the, ‘wait and see’ people in the past. Thinking the wind wasn’t blowing my way and about how much of a pain in the butt it would be to evacuate if I didn’t have to. But fire is fast and wind changes.

My plea to all horse and animal owners.
Have a disaster plan that includes your animals.

Specifically for fire, evacuate early especially if you need to coordinate a lift for your horses with emergency personnel or if your horses don’t load well. Your plan should include where and how you will set your animals loose if necessary. In the tragic scenario I witnessed, while the horse was ‘set loose’ it was still on a fenced in property and clearly didn’t find it’s way down the driveway. If you are in the path of the fire and either don’t have a trailer or the horse won’t load, roll down the car or truck window and lead the horse at least far enough to escape if you must set them loose. If there are multiple horses, tie them together and lead one. Even if they ‘don’t lead like that’ just do it. Some equine bickering or a kick is manageable. Burns and smoke inhalation may not be. Also make sure your emergency information is posted in the barn or near the animals. If you aren’t home or can’t get home, rescue animal personal may need to reach you to get permission to evacuate your animals.

Here is another really great resource:

What Do I Do With My Horse In Fire, Flood, and/or Earthquake

 

This booklet evolved from the original information contained in “What Do I Do With My Horse In Fire, Flood, and/or Earthquake?” initiated by Rod Bergen and compiled by Stephanie Abronson and the members of the Monte Nido Mountain Ridge Riders, and originally published by the Monte Nido Paddock of Equestrian Trails, Inc., Corral 63, since 1992. The previous printed version of this booklet in a revised edition was by the City of Los Angeles and Stephanie Abronson, March 1997.

*I am not yet part of any official disaster response, but I am working on it. I just got my amateur radio operator (HAM radio) license and plan to get involved with Amateur Radio Emergency Communications. I also hope to get training this coming year and become part of an official emergency animal rescue network.

Cures to beat the winter blahs

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

 

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

winter riding

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

winter riding

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

Why Haven’t You Tried This Yet?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

2017 National Mounted Police Colloquium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Calabogie Boogie

 

I’m always excited to see new distance rides pop up in Ontario. Not only does this mean new trail to ride, but it means the sport is growing.  Last year I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Madawaska Highland Pioneer Ride and Lopin Larose (unfortunately scheduling did not allow for me to attend either of these rides this year).  Now, new trail is enough to get me out to a new ride but ride manager Pauline went above and beyond to attract riders.

This ride location was about 6 hours from me but having driven to the Eastern Ontario rides before, having a traveling buddy, and the enticement of a chocolate fountain all made it worthwhile. Something else that made this ride fun was that both mine and Sarah’s significant others agreed to come.  The area surrounding Calabogie had enough to keep the two of them occupied while we rode; golfing for Lee and off-roading trails for Clayton.

Friday morning we picked up Sarah and Bentley on our way to ride site and Bentley was very happy to see his girlfriend, even though he had just seen her the weekend previously when we went up to visit for a ride in the Dufferin Forest.

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The plan was to ride 25 miles each day but due to Splash’s headshaking rearing its ugly head again, we opted to ride in the 10 mile training ride and help with the clinic and play it by ear for the second day.

The weather for the first day of riding was lovely and ride started out great. The trail for the 10 mile ride was a mix of field, bush, road, and a bit alongside a golf course. We were told at the pre-ride talk that there was going to be a pasture to ride through (with people manning the gates at the entrance and exit) that was home to cows and a donkey. I didn’t think too much of it since we’ve ridden through cow pasture before and Splash’s best buddy at our previous barn was a mini donkey.

When we got to the first gate into the pasture, said donkey was there and kept trying to rush the gate so we waited for someone to arrive to hold the donkey. Unfortunately donkey escaped the hold on its halter and proceeded to find us in the pasture and follow the horses, spooking some of them in the process.  I will use this as a reminder to riders to request or take a picture of the important phone numbers (ride manager, trail master, farrier) in case something happens out on trail. Thanks to quick action on part of the ride manager and trail master, the trail had been rerouted around the pasture.

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PC: Wendy Webb

We finished the first 5 mile loop by ourselves with Splash’s heart rate almost at resting (probably due to slow traveling speed and the break in the middle to donkey wrangle, even though it was a warm day and she was tossing her head quite frequently).  On the second loop (same as the first), we rode with a rider on her first distance ride. We received completion for the day.

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

Pauline did not disappoint with the awards thanks to so many generous sponsors, even volunteers received something.  Something fun that was added to the ride courtesy of Rick Fleming and Highlands Golf Course, the VIP use of a golf cart each day was awarded to two lucky people, for which I won on Saturday night for 24 hours.

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Day 2 was rainy and while I have no problem riding in the rain (see every other ride this season!), with the slippery conditions and the head tossing, it may not be the safest so we rider optioned and volunteered to vet scribe instead (as much as I wanted to see the other trails that boasted water to take the horses in and galloping across the gold course, but I guess that means I have to come back next year!)   It is often suggested that you volunteer before your first ride but I’m of the thinking that it’s good to volunteer periodically throughout your distance riding career, not only to give back to the sport, but to keep you in touch with everything the vets are looking at.

Again, the awards/dinner was well done. It seemed like everyone walked away with something.

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This is just the prizes for ONE DAY!

Dinner provided by the onsite food truck was delicious and of course, the infamous chocolate fountain was in attendance. The festivities were held in a beautiful done up barn with a stage, sound system, bar, and games. It was a nice place just to hang out to warm up and get out of the weather.

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PC: Wendy Webb

Thank you to everyone who made this ride happen and the Jastremski family for their hospitality in hosting us and letting us ride on your land. It was an absolute blast and well worth the drive.  This ride is already on the list for next year.

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PC: Wendy Webb

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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