Tag Archives: distance riding

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.


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.


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.










Racing the Wild Coast – Movie Coming Soon!

Do you have goosebumps yet?

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


“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.



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

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

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!


So you want to try endurance riding? – Ashley

It’s hard to believe that I completed my first distance ride a little over a year ago. I really wish I had tried this sport sooner!  It can be a little nervewracking trying out a completely new discipline but that’s the great thing about endurance and distance riding. There is so much information out there and so many people willing to share their knowledge and experience that you can easily prepare yourself in order to try out your first ride! I’m going to put together a check list of sorts for those who are interested in trying out endurance/distance riding but are nervous or not sure where to start.

  1. Find a mentor! Mentors are invaluable to this sport.  Aside from being full of knowledge and willing to share it, they can also be an excellent motivator and training buddy.  I would suggest hopping on Facebook and checking out the OCTRA page.  There, you can post a little about you and what area you are in and members can assist in finding a mentor to help you.
  2. Get an OCTRA membership! Purchasing a membership to OCTRA (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association) help support the association, it also allows you to attend OCTRA-sanctioned rides and allows you to be eligible for year end awards.
  3. Get familiar! What sort of ride are you wanting to do? Set Speed? Ride and Tie? Endurance? What distance? A description of all of the events are on the OCTRA website as well as all of the rules (http://www.octra.on.ca/Files). Make sure you familiarize yourself with them and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something or if something is not clear.  Chances are you aren’t the only one with that question. Clinics are also held regularly so keep an eye on the Facebook page for one near you.  There are two coming up in the next few weeks. One is going to be held during the AGM in Coburg on February 27-28.  Valerie Kanavy is the clinician and this isn’t an opportunity to be missed.  Learn and ask questions of one of the greats in the sport!  At the other end of the province on March 5th in Waterford Ontario, an Endurance 101 clinic is going to be held.  This audit only clinic will be a fantastic intro to endurance and distance riding.
  4. Volunteer! Volunteering is a fantastic way to get introduced to the sport. Not only will you get to meet new people, you will also be directly involved in helping the ride run.  I first vounteered as a scribe for the vets and this really helped me become familiar and more comfortable with what goes on during the vet checks.  When it came time for my first ride, this was one less thing I had to worry about messing up!
  5. Research! Aside from talking to your mentor and other endurance riders, there is a wealth of information online. The Old Dominion website has an excellent primer on getting started.   (http://www.olddominionrides.org/EndurancePrimer/01.html) and the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) website also has a number of fantastic articles on getting started (http://aerc.org/static/Preparing_for_Your_First_Ride.aspx). Yes there is a TON of information here but don’t feel overwhelmed.  Read a little bit at a time and ask questions.
  6. Get riding! Get out on the trail and enjoy!

Hope to see you out at an OCTRA ride this year!