Tag Archives: aerc

You Can’t Ride With Me

“I can’t have them cleaning two riders off the ground” was all I could think as the freshly broken mare I was riding leaped and bucked and ran through the trees as branches pulled me every direction. I don’t know how I managed to stay on, perhaps it was the will from my previous thought, perhaps it was skill, or perhaps it was just because the trees were so dense there was nowhere to go. I do know how I stopped… the mare and I got wedged between chest high trees, fallen into a V shape. We were locked in like we were in the stocks.

Without any way to dismount or escape or even see the other riders, I sat and listened.  Silence made my stomach sick.  Not true silence, no, if anything the opposite.  I could hear her mother and sister screaming her name and crying, but she was silent.

I waited

and I waited

She is surely dead, I have killed this young girl.  

Perhaps only 30 seconds had passed since the initial wreck, but it felt like an hour before Makayla screamed “My leg, its broken” and wailed in agony.

She’s not dead, I haven’t killed her. It’s surely a miracle.

With the extra commotion, the mare surged through the downed trees and back onto the trail, I dismounted and approached.  Not close, just enough to alert myself to everyone and see.

Makayla was lying on the ground screaming and crying in an awkward lump, but she was alive, and was not a vegetable.

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Several hours earlier I had mounted the young mare who had been backed a handful of times in the pasture, with the intent of doing an easy 25 mile Limited Distance ride.  Ariel, Makayla’s sister also hopped on an equally green horse and we were accompanied by two experienced babysitter horses ridden by their Mother, Tara and Makayla.

This is where it’s important to note, Makayla declined to wear a helmet.

A few rodeos (from my mare) well stuck and 23 miles down the trail, things were going well.  We were close to the finish and the baby horses were now being called “broke”.

That’s when Makayla’s horse (one she had been riding for 13 years) spooked sideways and I watched her fall. The first thought in my mind “She’s not wearing a helmet”

She fell in my direction, and her horse spun around and ran into mine. She was already nearly beneath our hooves, and my mare panicked, with horses and forest blocking every direction, she bounced up and down on top of Makayla until I kicked her hard enough to bolt into the dense forest.

I watched the mare’s hoof hit Makayla’s bare head.  I will never forget it.  It haunts me.

There is a bright side to this story.

  1. Makayla wasn’t dead or a vegetable, she didn’t even have a concussion, the hoof must have just grazed her head.  As far as we know, she didn’t even have any broken bones (that we know of) and was able to ride the last 2 miles to the finish line… eventually.  She IS very sore and bruised.Image may contain: one or more people
  2. We were being crewed by a paramedic in their paramedic vehicle.  He literally drove down the trail (cleared some double track for us!) to our rescue and was able to properly check her.  He also took care of her for the rest of the day
  3. Makayla recognizes how incredibly lucky she is and has vowed to always wear a helmet.  She realizes that no matter how calm and steady your horse, accidents can happen to anyone.

So here is my vow, if you don’t wear a helmet, YOU CAN’T RIDE WITH ME.  No exceptions.  



Addition after original post: I have been asked why we would even consider taking a green horse out in competition.  Good question!  We were literally the only 4 riders entered that day and with crew and vets we were well set up to give the horses a positive training experience, so we took advantage.  We treated it like a training/pleasure ride, going slow, giving lots of breaks and of course, patience!


Lopin’ Larose

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

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

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Photo credit to Loving Memories Photography

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

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


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

Ecogold CoolFit Pad

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

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Photo credit to Hoofprints Photography

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

Cayuse Canter – Solstice

The Victoria Day weekend ride (Cayuse Canter) was a great success. My whole family had a great ride on the Saturday, we did the 12 mile set speed. My family got two grade ones in total.

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getting ready for the Saturday Set Speed

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On Sunday was my 50 mile ride. The start time was a little later then I wanted, the ride started at 8 and we were off. I did the first loop with Sarah, but at the end of the loop she got off to walk in so I continued on. On the first loop Bob Gielen caught up with Sarah and I so Bob rode into the vet check with me. The first loop was 15 miles, the second loop was 20 miles and the final loop was 17 miles. Bob and I left at the same time for the second loop, it seemed like the 20 miles went on forever.

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Angel eating her food

When we finally got in from the second loop I pulsed in about a minute before Bob. I headed out on the last loop and he caught up very fast, so we could ride together. Sadly the blue loop wasn’t marked as well as the other ones. We went off trail about 5 times and about two miles from the finish Michelle Watling caught up. We decided that we weren’t going to race all three of us tied for first.

When I weighed in for BC I weighed 196 pounds. I was in shock because at Aprilfest I was about 140 pounds. We figured out that the scale was reading about 50 pounds with nothing on it. At awards I received high vet score and AHA champion.

Big congrats to a good friend of mine Emma Knapper. Both her horse and her have only done two 50s  (including this one) in their Endurance career. This ride was both of their first OCTRA ride of the season and they did a 50. Great job to both her and her horse. Was very glad that I had Monday off to rest up and get ready for school the next day.

Angel with all her energy at the end of the ride



Masterfeeds Challenge (Ganny Gallop)

As with my post about the Massie Autumn Colours ride, I would like to interject my Mongolia stories with what is going on in the here and now.  This will be one of those stories.

Last Weekend (September 13 & 14), Cayuse Creek Ranch hosted the Ganny Gallop and Masterfeeds Challenge.  This was the test event for the Pan-Am Games being held in 2015 – so it was set up just as they are hoping to set up next year, including the same trails as will likely be those which will be ridden next year.  There were a few things that they had that made it a bit different from a normal ride – the ride booklet said there were motion activated cameras in the forest as we passed certain checkpoints – COOL!

I was fortunate enough that a few people had offered to drive me there or back – Thank you Lesley, Deanna, Linda, and Jess!  I had a few days where I had not thought it would be possible for us to go… and I really needed to blow off some steam by riding through the forest for hours on end.  Some stuff around homelife had me down, and knowing the weather was cool (thats where Bentley shines), I was very sad thinking I couldn’t make it.  So these angels stepped in and helped make that happen!

Linda and Solstice rode the 50 mile ride (80km) together on Saturday.  Their horses are I’m No Angel, and Angel, so thats always fun.  It was the AHA championship ride, and they tied for 4th place.

Solstice was set to ride again on the Sunday, this time with her other horse Desiray.  Because we were cross -entered in the FEI and Open categories, there was some bizarre conflict in rules that I had to start with the senior riders, and then wait 15 minutes just across the start line so that Solstice could ride with me (as juniors cannot ride alone).  So I started with a bit of a handicap, and a horse who was hopping and dancing and didn’t understand why we had to stand in a field for 15 minutes when all the other horses were on trail.


For the first several miles, the horses were feisty and fresh, it was cool – we were in our winter jackets already and ice covered everything.  We had the big trot going, as well as lots of spunky canter.  We started on the orange loop, which is the longer of the 2 trails – 24 miles out of 52 total we would ride.  It was also the tougher of the 2 trails – having some tight turns, rocky and washout footing in some places.  The horses traveled it beautifully.  There were lots of hills, and being as this was the first ride I intended on “letting him out” I allowed some trotting down the more gentle hills for the first time.  He managed spectacularly.

We pulled into a check, 15 miles down the trail.  There we had a mandatory 10 minute hold.  We arrived, and 3 of the other riders were still there, we had almost caught up the 15 minutes!  I dismounted and removed some of our warm gear – thankfully the stewards offered to take it back for us!  Bentley ate his electrolyte and grain slop which I carry in plastic baggies in my backpack, and we were on our way!  Well, not before handing off some zipties to a rider whose reins had broken.  Thank goodness for Derby training to have me carrying everything I need right on my back.

Back on the trail, we continue in good form, enjoying the music blasting from the speakers in my backpack.  We drop our reins and start sharing out best mounted dance moves.  We start getting hungry, so Solstice tries her best to get the food from my backpack as I lean sideways and backwards off my horse (they wouldn’t stand for this of course), and eventually we gave up and went hungry.  We cruise into the camp, feeling great considering the length of the leg.

We come into our crew area, Desi is down right away but Bentley takes some work to get pulse down – not uncommon as Desi is a freak of nature (in a good way) and Bentley is very big for an endurance horse.  Bentley vets out all A’s but Desi has to be called back for re-evaluation.  Unfortunately Desi is lame and had to be pulled from competition.  Upon a full examination, it appears that a piece of her frog, which had been peeling off previously, must have come off during the ride  so she was a little footsore and landing toe-first on the affected hoof.  Thankfully it isn’t a major or lasting injury, but it was enough to ruin a great ride for Solstice.  What a disappointment!

I set back out on the trail alone, half a minute behind Mandy who was leading, and about another half a minute ahead of Debbie.  I caught up to Mandy easily, and we rode the loop together.  Bentley seemed to like her mare and they paced really well together.  Perhaps it was because she was a bay mare named Angel – Bentley seems to always find a way to ride with bay mares with “Angel” in their name.  He was a doll the whole loop and I was feeling great, with the exception of one small spook which had me jamming my thumb into his neck with an audible CRUNCH!  The loop itself was 14 miles and mostly 2 track with good footing.

I came in so fast that I was crewless, thats ok, because I gave Bentley one swipe of a wet sponge on his chest, and put the stethoscope to my ear.  Looking at my watch, he was already down.  What?!  That never happens.  It was the fastest he has ever pulsed down… EVER.  I had to check it again to make sure I wasn’t accidentally listening to some other heart… you know, that backup one he is hiding.  Everyone showed up and I was just like “Nah im good, time to vet!”  All A’s except the CRI, which was a little high as Solstice tried to blanket him immediately after his trot-out, which was met with a major spook. Oops!

I had vetted about 2 minutes ahead of Mandy, and being that I wanted to ride this seriously, and see what he can do, I left alone.  Trotting the first 2 miles of that loop, I swear Bentley turned into Dudley, the slowest horse ever.  Then, I heard thundering hooves behind us, and Mandy and Angel were galloping up behind us frantically.  “She wanted to be with him so badly!”  and it looked like he did too, because he perked right up and was a happy camper again once she re-appeared.  Apparently Angel also had a fit when Bentley left camp without him.  Oh boy, how did Bentley become such a heart-throb?  Angel was happy to park herself behind him for another 14 mile loop and we enjoyed the company.

We tried to pick up the pace, which was fine on the flat, but both horses wanted to take the tiniest walk steps down hills.  Towards the end, we were passed by the 75 milers (we were doing the 50) galloping along, and got caught up in their updraft.  From there, Bentley was awake again, and I asked for a gallop for the last mile or so of the ride to see exactly how much he had left in the tank.  We crossed the line in first place, with Mandy and Angel about a minute or two behind us.  I believe our total ride time was 6:19 for 52 miles – very decent considering the terrain in the first loop!

We decided to stand for BC (best condition).  As we finished the 10 minute CRI, I was told we were selected for a drug test.  No surprise there… we did win after all!  So I got an entourage while we all waited for Bentley to pee.  And waited, and waited.  I also was met by members of the local newspaper for an interview, and cleaned him up for his BC showing.  He never did pee (eventually, about an hour and a half later) we were released from their watch as the winner of the 75 miler came in.  No worries, he peed when he was allowed back at his campsite and it was lemonade.  He did have to have blood drawn, which he was not happy about.  It happened 9 mins before we had our BC exam, which made him pretty cranky when being touched on the neck and the full bladder had him not so eager to trot.  I didn’t think it had gone very well, but thats ok, its good practice and he had every right to be cranky.

Could you imagine my surprise, when awards came and it was announced Bentley had won BC and High Vet Score?  Ok, well, it turns out we won by default – nobody else stood… but when my scores were announced, there was a murmur of approval from the crowd.  I am new to this whole BC thing, but it sounded like the scores would have been deserving of the award even if others had stood.  Off the top of my head, I believe the scores were 678/800 for AERC, and 374/400 for FEI.  Perhaps someone with more experience reading this can tell me what that means.  I should get my scorecard back once the scores are submitted.

I can’t believe how well Bentley has done.  Not only statistically, but he didn’t make one bad move throughout the ride.  He has become such a trustworthy and dependable partner, and always gives his best effort with no drama.  He certainly deserved the win, and I am so proud of him in his debut FEI 1*.

As I wrap up this post, I would like to give a shoutout to 2 of my product sponsors form the Mongol Derby.  First is The Edge – Bentley and I are both on their supplements, and there are so many benefits to the supplement that I know they played a role in how great we both felt during and after the ride.  Second is KnixWear athletic underwear.  I was wearing the FitKnix Air throughout the whole 52 miles and didn’t have any discomfort or fashion faux pas! I can’t say enough good things about both of these products, they are staying in my everyday routine!


Lastly, for those who may take on the Pan-American Games next year and want a sneak peek at the trail (or those who are just Cam junkies), here are the rest of my uncut videos from the Orange loop (38km)  showing the different terrain and footing.  Our horses are both completely barefoot.  The white loop is mostly 2 track with good sandy footing, my cam battery died after loop 1.