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!
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.
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!
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?
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
Thanks to a recommendation from her sponsor, Mad Barn, Sarah was invited to speak at Horse Day during the 51st Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week on the topic of travel and horses.
Our drive up was not at all bad, despite what the radio station was telling everyone. The event suffered unusually low turnout for the event but those who attended were very engaged.
Sarah shared stories and her experiences from travelling to Mongolia for the Mongol Derby, herding horses in Iceland and recently competing in South Africa for Race the Wild Coast. Attendees were treated to some never before seen helmet cam footage which we will be sharing here and on our Facebook page in the coming weeks.
Sarah’s talk received many compliments and there was never a quiet moment at the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat booth as people were excited to hear more about her adventures in Mongolia, Iceland and South Africa and what the next plans were.
The only suggestion we have to improve the event is that we would have loved to have more time to talk with visitors to our booth. The trade show and speaker area were in the same room so while it was great to be able to man the booth and listen to the presentations, many great conversations were cut short because the next speaker was about to begin.
It was great to see familiar faces and make new friends and especially nice to see so many people not only interested in the travel stories but wanting to know more about how to get into endurance and distance riding.
We would like to thank the organizers, staff, volunteers, and anyone else who made this event possible. The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team would love to be back next year, hopefully with some more fantastic stories, this time from our adventure from Shore to Shore!
It all started out last weekend when Sarah and I set out to discover some new trail she had found on Google maps. When it turned out to be a dead end, we decided to ride down the road a little ways to see if there was another entrance. As we were riding along, we came across a sign on the trail.
Naturally, curiosity got the best of us and we continued down the road with bets on what could possibly be up ahead. Was it a party or just someone providing motivation for whoever travelled this back road? A few miles up at the next intersection was a sign for Laura’s Christmas Trees in the same font as our motivational sign. At first this wasn’t very exciting but upon further reflection we put two and two together. Usually Christmas tree farms have hot chocolate and what a nice treat that would be after being out on the trail for a few hours. We decided that upon getting back home that we could contact them to see if it was ok to bring our horses over for a visit. Not only were they happy to have us ride the horses over, there was indeed hot chocolate.
Our ride started out innocently enough, with the only goal of the day being to ride to the Christmas Tree Farm. We found a quick way to get from one side of the Dufferin Forest to the other so it took no time at all to get to our destination. We were greeted by lots of smiles and gladly accepted a hot drink. Both Splash and Bentley were very well behaved with the new sights, sounds and people milling about.
Upon leaving Laura’s Christmas Tree Farm, we decided to continue down the back road to see where it led to. Seeing snowmobile trail signs, we figured it would lead to a trail system somewhere. Our travels took us down a very wet and muddy road allowance (which unfortunately also seemed to be an illegal dumping ground). Very sad as the area was quite pretty. We eventually came to a T intersection and could see a trail system on the other side of a fence. Looking closer, there was a trail on our side of the fence running along the road so naturally, we decided to follow the trail, wondering if there would be a break in the fence. As we moved down the trail, we noticed that the signs on the fence were in both English and French, leading us to deduce that this must be some sort of government property. A short while later, an army vehicle passed us. We had ridden all the way to base Borden! Once the trail on our side of the fence ended, we figured it was probably time to start heading home so that we could make it back before dusk. Looking both ways at one of the intersections we crossed, we saw a little roadside stand, so of course we had to go check it out.
Some children were selling homemade Christmas crafts and more hot chocolate! After refuelling on more hot chocolate and chatting with them and their family, we were on our way again. Finding our way back into the Dufferin Forest, we played around a bit on the trails before making our way home.
For what was supposed to be a relatively calm ride, it was quite exciting and eventful. Even in the off season, it’s never a boring ride!
Throughout Race the Wild Coast, Sam, Monde and I led the group and we eventually dueled it out in a 500m sprint for the glory at the finish line. While it was very exciting to call myself a “leader” or “winner”, this race was more about the adventure than a win. If you are considering entering and expect to win, here are some of the things you will miss out on or quirks you can expect in your adventure.
1. Sleeping in
I think we seriously surprised the Rockethorse crew with how early we got in every day. We rode FAST given the obstacles we faced. This meant that we got in most days at 3pm-4pm instead of the 5-6ish they were expecting. Originally the rules were stated that the time we rode in at would be the time we rode out at to keep you form being penalized at the end of the day – so if we arrived at the maximum end point at 3pm in the afternoon, we would technically go out at 3am.
Does that sound as awful to you as it did to me? I am not an early riser and generally need an hour of stretching, complaining and coffee to do anything before sunrise.
Thankfully, they modified the rules as we went, adding holds on to all so that we wouldn’t leave any earlier than 5am. This was more of a safety thing, as they didn’t want us swimming the rivers in the dark (rightfully so!). So that was better… but Sam and I still set our alarms for 3:30 to get all our stuff ready in time… and she got the pleasure of hearing me whine, and huff and puff to put on damp tights in the dark.
Related to above. We were up so early neither our stomachs wanted to eat, nor was there much to pick from… it would NOT be fair to ask the crew to get up at 2am to serve us! Nope nope nope! There were lots of lovely snacks – peanuts, biltong, fruit and granola bars. So for 4 days us leaders subsisted on that. Considerably better options than mutton soup and airag, but we did get a little tired of peanuts by day 4!
We also got to hear from the mid to back of the pack riders, who happened to arrive in a vet check just in time to get omelettes. We were super jealous! BTW the food is amazing on this trip, so I would recommending not being a leader, just for the culinary delights!
3. You found the problems first
I believe it was day 3 when we set out before dawn along a road and after about half an hour, we came to a padlocked gate with nowhere around. Apparently we had also beat the park rangers. Thankfully, I had brought along a phone and was able to call for help. Joe (one of the organizers) came to our rescue a little while later and we were able to laugh about it, but poor Louise had just caught up to us and was held at the gate for fair timing. I can only imagine her horse must have been P-Oed to be left behind.
Another time, the rangers were at the gate, but seemed a bit confused about us being there and wanted us to sign liability waivers (was supposed to be worked out in advance, but I think we still surprised them). It was a pretty funny delay, filling out liability forms on horseback. Not sure if the people behind us had this issue or if it was sorted by then.
Sometimes trees were down or the navigation needed some modification. There were a few times we spent a lot of time searching for a new route, when the people behind us could follow our hoofprints. The best was when a tree was down at less than chest height and Monde went off on foot to find a new route. He found one in less than half an hour, and I swear… to get us through, he chopped down a tree with ANOTHER TREE!
3. You miss out on some great stories about gettin’ ‘er done
We have tonnes of good stories from the trip, and everyone’s were a little different, but listening to the other riders, it sounds like the best stories come from riders who got the short straw of horses, or perhaps had more bad luck come their way. Ingenuity and humor lead to the best memories.
My favorite story was that of Malcolm, who was trailing significantly and whose horse just wanted to quit. Clever as he is, he found a young boy who would run along with him and encourage the horse forward for a few Rand (currency) per kilometer – until he had to get home to be in bed because it was a school night.
4. You spend a lot of time staring at a purple line
Navigation in the race is along tracks, not waypoints, and it can be very trick to see where you need to go. There are lots of cattle tracks and hidden entrances, so you need to ride with your GPS in your hand almost all the time. Even riding as a team of 3, we all needed out GPSes out and would pipe up to the leader occasionally “NOOO RIGHHHT!” because it was very easy to get on a wrong track.
I would say this goes for everyone who rode, but as I mentioned above, those behind us would have tracks to follow, which I am sure would help take the eyes to the beautiful scenery a little more frequently. In other words, I can’t wait for the documentary so I can see all the things I missed when staring at the purple line!
5. You are constantly surprising people
At one point during the race, I complimented Barry (one of the Rockethorse Organizers), on how smoothly everything was running. He had a good laugh at me! Honestly, things seemed to run so smoothly from our perspective as riders, but it sounded like they had a bit of a time keeping up with us.
There were a few vet checks where we arrived before they had a chance to set up. The crew were amazing about making it work and prioritizing, we barely knew they had been there not ten minutes before we arrived. Good people can iron out kinks and make it look easy.
We also arrived at one camp where the tents were not yet set up (of course we volunteered to help, but the amazing crew insisted!), apparently the van and trailer had been sideswiped on the highway and pretty much totaled. How is that for a kink?! Again, it seemed like no big deal to us riders because of how quick and efficient the crew were.
Lastly, and this was a good laugh for us, the finish line. Apparently, everyone was expecting us to come from much more inland than we did. So to the surprise of everyone waiting at the line, we popped out close to the water! There was a bit of a mad scramble to get the cameras and the drone within range to capture our finish, and they got us just in time, but I can only imagine the heart palpitations they must have had, thinking they weren’t going to capture the winner for the documentary!
So there you have it. These are by no means complaints or regrets. I am so proud of myself to have stuck it out in the lead and to have raced a good race. I could not have been happier with the result. However, now that that has checked off the bucket list, I would definitely return and do the same trail as one of the 10 day trips they offer so I can just go and enjoy. If you are considering it, I would recommend you also do both… the scenery is worth a trip itself, but the thrill of racing and the self discovery when tackling the challenges set forth in a race environment are totally different and worth it too! Its amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it!
In October 2016, I raced in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast, a 350km self-guided adventure race along the eastern coast of South Africa. These are my stories from my adventure. If you enjoy my writing, please consider supporting my adventures through one of the following links:
The last ride of the OCTRA season was held on October 16, 2016 in the Larose Forest at the eastern end of Ontario. It was quite a long drive for me (about 6 hours one way) but I like supporting new rides. There aren’t very many in Ontario so the more we get, the better. Plus I like riding new trails J This wasn’t the first time I’ve attended an OCTRA ride by myself but it was going to be my first 50 mile ride without a crew. Lucky for me, my mother and her boyfriend came to crew for me (he lives in Ottawa so it wasn’t far for them). I was a little apprehensive about driving this far to do a 50 mile race since Splash had a minor colic episode both days of Oktoberfest (2 weeks before) and after hunting the week before. She has never coliced in the 7 years I’ve had her and there wasn’t anything consistent about these two outings. The fecal test came back clear but vet recommended deworming for tapeworms again. Fecal tests aren’t entirely accurate for tapeworm infestation. A blood test is recommended for that. I had dewormed for tapeworms in the summer but tapeworms are known to cause a large percentage of minor spasmodic colics. I guess we were going to find out if that helped!
Splash settled in quickly at base camp and was eating and drinking much better than she had at Oktoberfest or hunting. I figured we were off to a good start! The organizers gave a fantastic and (thorough!) pre-ride talk. The trails were described in great detail (directions, markers, terrain, landmarks, etc.). I felt confident in tackling them the next day. The forecast was unseasonably warm for the middle of October (there was a humidex!) with some rain, but the rain was very considerate to keep to a minimum throughout the day and only pour when the ride was complete.
The organizers/trail masters did a great job considering what was thrown at them just a few short days before the ride (having to move base camp and re-mark/reroute trails). Base camp, crewing area, vet area, etc. were tight on space due to last minute location change but everyone made it work. Trails were very well marked although the plain yellow flags were hard to see at some spots due to the yellow leaves. This would be a great ride to do a first 50 at. It was very flat, easy terrain and the majority of the trails are specific to equestrian use. -I personally liked the longer loops (I believe it worked out to be three loops of 19 miles, 19 miles, and 12.5 miles). The loops were originally supposed to be 16 miles, 19 miles, 16 miles but having to change trails at the last minute most likely lead to the change. Since the first loop was longer than expected, the last loop was made shorter.
The trails consisted of forest and very quiet gravel roads. The footing in the forest was forest floor with a few roots and the gravel was not the large, sharp stones. It is very possible to do this ride barefoot (and there were a few of the top ten 50 mile riders who rode unshod horses). There were a few bridges on trail but were large and safe for equestrian use. The colours in the forest at that time of year were quite vibrant and I found myself looking around at the scenery a lot when I probably should have been looking for my next arrow or trail marker! Check out one of my short helmet cam videos from the ride:
Splash felt incredible the entire ride, pulsing down quicker than normal (at set speed levels 2-3 minutes after arriving at crew/vet area), which I have never been able to accomplish before. This was the first test of the CoolFit pad that I received from Ecogold and did it ever help! If you haven’t heard of these before, you need to check them out. The material that the pad is made out of reacts with the horse’s sweat to keep the horse’s back cool. Check out the video here: https://ecogold.ca/ecogolds-coolfit-saddle-pad-update-intelligent-saddle-pad-keeps-horse-cooler/. Obviously one test by me is not 100% scientific proof but I have never been able to cool my horse out that quickly and you could actually feel how cold the pad was immediately after I took it off my horse. I am very interested to know how it performs in the middle of summer when temps are in the 30’s-40’s with the high humidity.
Since I wasn’t having any issues with cooling Splash down, we picked up the pace a little bit; fast enough for a 6th place finish. Even better, no colic issues (not even any signs!).
The food at the end was hot, filling, and delicious (exactly what you want after riding all day) and the ribbons and prizes were awesome and greatly appreciated! This was a great way to end the ride season and I highly recommend attending this ride next year.