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.
On the Labour day long weekend (September 3-5, 2016), I rode my friend Linda’s horse Jack for 3 days, culminating 80 miles (128km) of riding on one horse… my first “pioneer” ride of sorts. I finished up on Monday with Trixie and Bentley to total 100 miles of riding (160km).
Yes, it was a lot of riding, but the real catch was I was riding in my full kit for Race the Wild Coast. I wanted it to be the real test while I still have time to tweak things. I rode with the fenders and stirrups I intend on wearing, the clothes I intend on wearing, and my backpack full of “stuff” (my kit list isn’t 100% complete as I still wait for things ordered online and some resulting changes from the test). Every morning I packed up my gear into their waterproof pouches before saddling up, and every night I unpacked my meager allowance to sleep in the bed I have selected with the painkillers I had rationed.
For the most part, it went really well, but we did have some hiccups!
Day 1 was a 25 mile ride which ended up being closer to 26…27…30??? Linda and I got lost, as well as every other rider. The ride manager does a great job of making the best use of a small space, but it results in a lot of switchbacks, crossing trail, 2 way traffic trail, and other trail in your sightline. Our particular issue was we missed a turn that wasn’t well marked (apparently this happened to most riders, and was thankfully corrected for the following days). All of a sudden, we saw a marker that said “2km to home.” Knowing our last marker had said 10km (of a 20km loop) and had been about 15 minutes ago… we knew something was wrong! Instead of doubling back the way we came, we redid the portion of the loop again (we were at an intersection of 2 way trail that was a lolipop), and with the words from ride talk ringing in our ears, kept our eyes peeled in the top corner.
Linda saw the markers and our conversation went a bit like this:
“Wait, Sarah, here is the turn!” “what, I don’t see it, where?” “In the forest, to the left” ” but there is a fence there, do we go over the fence?” “I think so!” But there are no arrows at this turn, and there’s a ribbon on the right up here” “but look into the forest over there, an arrow”
So we went over the fence and into the new trail (no path had yet been worn down) and sure enough, we found the 9 or so km we had been missing. Because the trail was tight, when we missed the turn, we ended up on the part of the trail where the 9kms was supposed to finish, blissfully ignorant to the fact we missed the toughest part of the trail.
Needless to say, we didn’t make that mistake again. But wow, was it ever tough trail. Its a bit of a mind game… you go and you complete a 50 mile ride in a little over 5 hours at another venue, and then it takes you about the same time to do 25 miles here! Lots of twisty turning forest, rocks, and difficult climbs. Even by day 3 where we galloped all the fields and missed no turns, our speed for the 25 mile distance was nowhere near what it would be at the other rides. Its frustrating at first, but becomes a relief in the end – no longer racing your peers or the clock, you just get it done. I think we needed that, and we had such a great time riding these trails.
As for my body, I was surprised how well I handled the task. Day 2 I was a bit sore from my new equipment – some bruising on the inside of my calves since I usually use boots not fenders, and lots of bruising on my thighs because Linda’s saddle has bucking rolls I kept posting into, shoulders a bit stiff from the backpack, but it was not enough to get me to stop. Miraculously, my body had become accustomed to these things by day 3 where I felt the best and the perkiest of all 3 days! I certainly got stronger every day, which is very encouraging because I had not believed myself to be as fit as I should – my weight being the main factor (I had lost lots of weight prior to the derby, not so much this time!), but the endurance is there and I feel like I am in a good place mentally too.
Day 4 – or back to real life at the office, nobody even suspected I had ridden 100 miles that weekend. I felt great. Ready to do another 100… or more! Bring it!
(and to that I will bid you adieu to go back to weighing tiny toothpastes and spooning diaper rash ointment into tiny jars)
Enjoy today’s daily helmet cam from the Massie Ride, and subscribe to my youtube channel to get something like this every day!
Our most recent competition was at the Summer’s End ride where we rode in ride n tie in the Ganaraska Forest. I’ve always enjoyed the Ganaraska trails. They are well maintained, sandy trails with minimal rocks and with just enough hills to keep it interesting.
This ride was hosted by ESRR’s own Solstice Pecile and her family. I had previous commitments that weekend so I only rode in the 12 mile ride n tie as I need it to qualify for the provincial championships in October.
My regular ride n tie partner is my younger brother, who is a marathon runner however, my boyfriend has just gotten back into running and wanted to give it a try (and who am I to discourage my non-horsie significant other from coming to a horse competition, let alone ride in it). The big key thing here is he is not a fan of horses AT ALL. He has ridden my horse a few times before but it has been almost a year since he has ridden last. Luckily his strength is running and mine is riding so we each got to do the majority of what our interests were.
With the ride n ties, the only mandatory switch is at the halfway vet check so our strategy was to run/ride beside each other for the first 6 miles then while I cooled my horse off and did the vet check, Clayton would continue on running until the end.
One thing I really liked about this ride is the format in which they did the ride n tie. I really liked the idea of staggered start times. There is less congestion at the start of the race (when all horses and runners are starting together) and on the trail. You also really have to ride smart since you have no idea how fast the other teams are going.
It was rather hot and humid but the awesome ride managers put out a kiddie pool for people (which Clayton very much appreciated at the end of the run) and made sure there was ample water available for the horses.
For the first 6 miles Splash felt really lazy but it worked out so that we could stay with Clayton
At the first check it took a little while to get her heart rate down as it was quite warm and there’s a lot of muscle on my horse for the heat to escape through but we passed the check fine. She seemed to realize what was going on now and really perked up for the second loop, where we cantered/galloped most of the way, only stopping at the water troughs for a quick drink and sponge off.
Even though Clayton had about a 15 minute head start on us going out of the second loop, we did manage to see him at a point along the trail where the trail loops back, which gave me a good indication of how far ahead he was of us. We never did catch up to him but Splash and I managed to close the 15 minute gap down to about 7 minutes. Overall, we completed the 12 mile/20km course in 1 hour and 57 minutes.
It was very nice to see so many kids out doing the 6 mile one with parents and/or siblings. This is a great way to get your kids involved in horses and give them a goal to work towards while keeping fit (and it gets rid of all that excess energy they seem to have!)
Out of 3 teams, we finished first, about five minutes ahead of the team in second. While I was just out to get the miles, if anyone knows my boyfriend, you will know that he’s super competitive so I was happy that we won (so I didn’t have to listen to him grumble on the two and a half hour drive home!) Plus it makes him more excited to try these events again.
Our next event is this weekend at the Massie Autumn Colours ride where we’ll be doing another 12 mile ride n tie, this time with my younger brother. Will we be able to beat the time from last weekend?