Tag Archives: endurance

Never A Dull Moment

If you’re a regular follower of the blog, you will know that Sarah and I can never have just a “normal” ride together. This past weekend, despite the forecast, our goal was to do a long training ride of 40km (25 miles). Fortunately the rain held off on Sunday and we had a dry ride.

mario
Mario Kart on horseback?

Unfortunately though, the ride did not really start off well. Bentley decided that there were invisible monsters everywhere and would periodically throw Sarah a very jarring spook to the side, as well as forget how to travel in a straight line.  Splash had no ambition to go forward and also forgot how to go in a straight line as she was mesmerized by everything  happening in (empty) fields beside her rather than watch straight ahead. About 20 km in, Splash found her brain and we started having quite the pleasant ride.  Bentley, however, had decided that the water running through the ditch beside us was terrifying and wanted nothing to do with it.

Feeling a little frustrated, we decided to start heading back towards home. We had just been doing road riding and thought maybe a shortcut through one of our usual road allowances would be more stimulating for the horses. At the very least, the scenery is much nicer.  This particular allowance happens to go right through a cattle pasture so occasionally the farmer has electric fencing up, making the road allowance unpassable. If we could not get through, at the very least there was a river where the horses could get a good drink.

At the river, the horses have a drink and we start to cross. Only a few steps in., Splash comes to an abrupt halt.  A few seconds later, I feel her lift her back end and start to pee.  As I’m asking her why she couldn’t have done this a few minutes earlier when we were on land, I hear Sarah laugh and pull out her phone to take a picture. Clearly no one told Splash she’s not supposed to pee in the pool.

pee
At least her pee is a nice colour!

Carrying on our way, we do find that the farmer has put up electric fencing across the path that we need so we continue on down the creek to loop back to the road. Our loop takes us through a back field which always seems to be riddled with bones (most, if not all, belonging to cattle as I am assuming the farmer buries his deadstock back here). I have stopped to retrieve neat looking bones in the past but I made the comment that I’d only stop today if I found a skull. We went for a trot around the field and as I was nearing a corner, I saw a large white object ahead.  I assumed it was garbage of some sort but because of its size, I went to go investigate. I was quite delighted to see that it was full, completely intact cow skull. I called Sarah over as I was going to have to hand it to her so I could get back on my horse. To my surprise, it was heavier than I had expected and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get it back as we were still about 10-15km from home.

skull

 

Carrying it under my arm was going to have to do. Luckily Splash was absolutely perfect all the way home (which made up for the first part of our ride!) and now I have to decide what I want to do with this skull.  I’m open to suggestions!

carryingskull

Next weekend probably won’t see any riding as Sarah and I are at the Can Am Horse Expo in Markham and Splash will be moving to her temporary home closer to me until we get everything set up for her to move to our new house in May! If anyone knows of any good trail systems in the Listowel area, let me know! I’m always up for exploring and making new trail riding friends!

How to Prepare for an Ultra-Endurance Horse Race

One of my favourite things is when a stranger (or sometimes friend) pops me an email or PM on Facebook and says “I am thinking about applying to (or have been accepted to) the Mongol Derby or Race the Wild Coast.  Where do I even begin?”

I love sharing the spirit of adventure with like-minded, or at least equally crazy folks from near and far.  But an open ended question like this…. how do I even begin to tell you what an amazing experience it is, what you are about to get  yourself into, and even worse, what should you do?  I never like to give finite plans because everyone is different in the way they do things, everyone has different goals, everyone will have a different experience, and there is never just one right thing to do.  I can however give you my opinions to consider and help shape your plan to the best ride of your life!

race the wild coast

1. Start talking to people

If you aren’t one of the people who have already dropped a line in my inbox, why not?  I am happy to chat about my experiences as are a lot of other race veterans.  Chances are you have someone within your extended network that has done it.  Suss them out and start talking!  If all else fails, email the race organizers directly and find out more about the races.  They may even be able to point you in the direction of a veteran in your area.  Why do this now?  It will help decide which race to shoot for – which one suits you the best and hopefully land you a mentor for the rest of the process.

2. Just apply, say yes, and sort out the details later

Usually I would never recommend this to anyone.  I am a meticulous planner and this could land you in some deep dog doo, but when it comes to your dreams sometimes you have to take the leap.  Signing up and having the end goal will help you mentally get your shit in order.  It is going to make you accountable for everything you do in the next 6-12 months before the race start because everything will merit a question “does this get me closer to my goal?”  Its a huge undertaking, bigger than most people will ever take on – and that’s before the race even starts.  Being a little afraid of the enormity of this challenge is going to give you some serious perspective but you will get there.

Another benefit to getting one of the first horses... quality scratching time!

3.  Budget Budget Budget

These adventures don’t come cheap, in fact that’s probably the part that scares off 99% of riders considering these adventures and probably accounts for at least half of the conversations I have with starry eyed riders.  At the top end Mongol Derby will set you back about $30,000 CAD, with the more recently introduced races coming in much cheaper, but still in the range of a half decent car.  You need to find a plan to raise this kind of money for your entry fees, flights, equipment, local travel, accommodation and food, day trips, gifts for family and sponsors, training costs.  You need to think of everything ahead of time and get your dollar value.  Here is where having a mentor can help you.  What you need to do yourself is have a plan – whether its build your savings (or back to the KD diet), take out a loan, or trade your future wedding for it (yes, I know riders who negotiated this with their family!).  Unless you are a big name rider already with big name sponsors, expect to foot the bill yourself and maybe you will be lucky enough to get a few product sponsors to help with your gear.

race the wild coast
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

 

4.  Get fit – off the horse!

These are grueling races and you are going to need to be in the best shape of your life if you want to be successful.  Start with a personal trainer, I used Heather at Equifitt before the Mongol Derby and highly recommend her.  She gave me a plan and exercises to prepare me, and I have used these lessons ever since.  A few major tips that you might not have thought of?  Build up your shoulders so your backpack won’t kill you after one day of riding.  Stretch… a LOT –  before and after every ride and at the end of each day.  Lastly, hike or trail run… a LOT as well.  Depending on what race you pick and your luck, you may be spending a lot of time running or walking on your own 2 feet.  Be prepared!

Aprilfest sat IMG_9352

5. Get fit – on the horse

Something that makes me cringe is when I hear riders say “I am going to ride all the naughty ponies, the worse the better” when referring to their riding program for Mongol Derby.  Eek!  This is the worst idea ever!  Seriously, if you can’t yet sit a buck or rear or runaway, you have no business applying for these races.  Putting yourself on the worst horses is only going to put you in danger of hurting yourself before the start of the race – having invested that $30,000, do you really want to risk that?  Better idea, start volunteering at and riding in endurance rides.  Get on decent horses and get used to the feeling of riding all day.  Your muscle memory and mental strength will develop – this will be far more beneficial in the long run.  Added bonus, if you compete in endurance, you will have a better understanding of basic endurance rules and the required horsemanship that comes along with managing yourself and a horse over long distances.

Coates Creek 2016-341

 

6. Get your gear in order

Start this early.  Way earlier than you think you need to start it.  Lots of riders have shown up to the start camp having never tested critical components of their kit.  If you can sort this out early, you will have a lot of advantages.  First being peace of mind.  Second, you will never just look in your closet and pick out a perfect kit (and if you can… please call me, I want to know your secrets!) so you will have time to get it right.  You are going to go through several backpacks, pants, shoes and who knows what else trying to perfect your kit (but you will always bring stuff you don’t need and need stuff you forgot so relax just a little bit!) Use your mentor to get suggestions, then put everything to the test.  What works for them may not work for you.  Work through equipment issues early then start riding in full kit.  Know exactly which pocket you have put each item in, become a pro at rolling up your bed roll before riding every morning, know how to program and reprogram your bloody GPS.  Use the last few months of your training not testing out new shoes or messing with how to tie your equipment to yourself… but riding every ride as you would when the big day comes.

my ger mates working on their tack
my ger mates working on their tack

 

7. Connect with other riders

In our year of the Mongol Derby, winner Sam Jones made a facebook group well in advance for all of us to connect and plan day trips.  It was the best thing we could have done, because we could share our training stories, meet before the race, and just get really comfortable with everyone.  It took a lot of pressure off and most of us are still great friends (as evidenced in my post Mongol Derby adventures!) who see each other on a regular basis.

Strong like Ghengis (Chinggis)
Strong like Ghengis (Chinggis)

 

8.  Enjoy the ride

Accept early on that there are things you can perfect, and then there are things that you will never ever be prepared for.  The task ahead is daunting but no matter what happens, you are going to cherish the memory.  Allow yourself to be happy and excited, don’t fear the challenge, but embrace it!

 

Headed up the hill to where we would swap, looking back at the herd following us.
Headed up the hill to where we would swap, looking back at the herd following us.

 


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Shore to Shore Pioneer Ride

With February fast approaching, many riders (including the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team) is busy planning the upcoming 2017 competition season.

We are proud to announce that the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team will be participating in the Shore to Shore endurance race in Michigan this summer.

The Shore to Shore ride takes place on the Michigan Shore to Shore Trail. This trail is 350 km long and rungs between Empire on Lake Michigan to Oscoda and Lake Huron.  This trail is only open to hikers and horseback riders and there are a number of equine campgrounds along the trail.

shore to shore trail

The Shore to Shore race does not take place in an exotic location but is exciting in its own way. Due to costs and other factors with transporting horses overseas, many of the ultra endurance races like the Mongol Derby or Race the Wild Coast provide horses for you (note horses). This time we will be using only one horse, our own, to complete the course.

Our crew will be essential to our success. Camp will move daily as this is a point to point race so we will need someone to drive the trucks and trailers to the new locations and set up camp. The vet checks are also at different points along the trail so our crew will have to meet us at each one to assist in cooling down the horses and preparing them for the veterinary checks. If anyone is interested in crewing for us, we aren’t going to say no! If you are looking at getting into the sport of endurance/distance riding, this will be a great hands on opportunity.

 

Here are a few videos showing what parts of the trail look like:

 

https://youtu.be/2dry_2nUiaE https://youtu.be/2dry_2nUiaE

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVfIiR8G7PM

 

This blog written by someone who has hiked the trail has absolutely gorgeous photos of the scenery along the trail. http://ericshikes.blogspot.ca/2016/11/michigan-shore-to-shore-trail-mckinley.html   We cannot wait to ride in this race!

 

Like anything of this nature, this will not be a cheap endeavour.  Please visit our online store to purchase Eat Sleep Ride Repeat gear to help us fund our team to get to this ride.  If you are interested in sponsoring the team, please contact Sarah or Ashley at cuthbertson.sarah@gmail.com or ashley.tomaszewski@live.com for more details.

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.

lopin larose
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:

e

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
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!).

lopin larose
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.

Day 4 of Race the Wild Coast (The Finish!)

Sarah’s mount for the last leg of the race was Asad. Today of all days, he earned his nickname “Asshat”.  Sarah was one of the leaders of the race, along with Sam and Monde.  Unfortunately Sam and Monde each lost a front shoe off of their horses at one of the checks, leaving Sarah to continue out on her own.  If she had been on any other horse, she could have very well gained a huge lead over them and had gone on to win the race.  However, young Asad had a “baby brain” day.  He had a tendency to be herd bound so was not too impressed when he had to go out by himself. Add in a ton of spooking and Sarah was having probably one of the worst rides of her life. If she could even get Asad to go forward, he did so with his head up in the air like a giraffe and moved at most 5 miles per hour.  This continued for about 15km before Sam and Monde caught up.

race the wild coast
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

Despite the trackers showing them quite far apart, the three rode together for most of the last day.  Sarah said she didn’t know what she would have done if she had been out there all by herself.  The team approach to the end of the race proved very helpful in getting all three across the finish line as each rider brought something to the table. Monde had a touch screen gps, which proved quite useless when wet, so Sarah was able to help them navigate. Sam provided the encouragement and motivation for them to pick up the pace and keep going.  Asad quite liked Monde’s horse and was happy to keep up with the group. At times when the trail looked like it reached a dead end or it seemed like there was no way around, the three minds working together problem solved to get them through.

race the wild coast
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

When they neared the end of the race, all three decided to have a gallop-off for the winner, partly for fun and partly to add a little excitement for the cameras all around. (*Side note* If you weren’t aware already, the organizers of this race were filming every aspect in order to create a documentary when all is said and done. There is going to be some amazing footage and we can’t wait for it to be completed!) Even though Asad was happy to go forward to follow his buddies, he wasn’t quite fast enough to win, coming in third only a few seconds behind Sam in second and Monde in first.

race the wild coast
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

Sarah is feeling pretty good (now that she’s had a bath and is relaxing in a gorgeous guest house with a view of the beach!).  We’ll have to wait for her to return to civilization to get her recollection of the events but one thing she mentioned is that for anyone thinking about trying this race next year, go in with no expectations.  This is more a horse race than a rider race; your ride is completely dependent on the horses you are given. Part of the reason she was getting frustrated with Asad today was that she had ridden two superb endurance horses before him and had expected more out of Asad, forgetting he was the youngster of her bunch.  Had she received three different horses, her ride would have been completely different.

race6
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

Two of her memorable moments from the race are seeing dolphins playing in the water while she was riding down the beach and riding along the cliffs with Monde with very steep, long drop-offs and the helicopter right beside them filming. She was quite surprised at how close the helicopters got and how quickly the horses adapted to them.

She will be enjoying a party tomorrow, then relaxing on a day off and visiting old friends in South Africa from the last time she was there and then she’ll be on a plane back to Canada.

race the wild coast
Photo credit to RocketHorse Racing

Weekend of high highs and low lows

October in Canada. You never know what you’re going to get. That was pretty much the theme for the weekend. The weather forecast called for rain all weekend. Rain has never stopped me from riding before but when it’s cold and you’re riding all day, it is not the most fun thing in the world. My plan was to do 18 mile championship ride n tie with my younger brother on Saturday and the 50 mile endurance ride on the Sunday. In order to run an event, there needs to be three teams entered. Unfortunately only two teams entered the 18 mile race so we dropped down to 12 mile run. Five teams were entered in this thankfully, so it ran. [Note: if you haven’t tried ride n tie yet, you really must! It’s a blast and anyone can do it. It was very cool to see so many families participating in both the 12 mile and 6 mile races!]

Although was a rather wet day and track was wet sand, we were off to a good start. We came into the halfway vet check and Splash’s heart rate was pretty much down. Heading out into the last half of the race, one team had passed us but I caught up to them at the end and galloped across the finish line. My runner had made it in before me, which he has done before at this venue. He is attempting the New York marathon next month and I’m thinking that is going to seem easier than the track he just ran!

14568260_10101742638396689_3782486101325821877_n
Let’s see you not blink when blinded by a flash in the dark!

We were very fortunate to have our mom and my boyfriend come cheer us on/pit crew for us.  Thanks to the days getting shorter, awards ran in the dark. One thing I love about Sue’s rides in the Dufferin Forest are the little extras like prizes. Yes, finishing a tough course is a win in itself but sometimes it’s fun to take home a little something extra! My brother loved the medal and horse head statue.

With it being rainy and cold, I went to bed early to rest up for the 50 mile race the next day. About 2 hours after I crawled into bed, I was woken up by the sound of my horse lying down and getting up repeatedly. Even under the minimal light of my head lamp, I could see that she was very tucked up and her flank was twitching.  I immediately thought colic but I could hear gut sounds in all four quadrants of the GI tract without my stethoscope.

Luckily there were still some people awake and we managed to find a vet that was as well (thank you Stan for getting out of your nice warm trailer to help us!) After all other vitals checked out (nice, low heart rate, not dehydrated), peeing and pooping regularly, the twitching stopped and she was no longer tucked up, and a call to the treatment vet didn’t raise immediate concerns, it was concluded it was a spasmodic colic. Treatment was to walk her around to get the gas moving and let her eat. Her appetite was good as she kept trying to drag me to grass! It didn’t take much walking until she let out some good farts and she seemed to be back to normal.  Needless to say, I didn’t quite get the sleep I was hoping for as I was constantly listening to her outside my tent.

A few hours later in the early morning, even though we had an uneventful rest of the night, I decided it would be best to drop down from the 50 mile race to the 25 mile ride, plus they were calling for showers/thunderstorms and those aren’t the most fun to be stuck out in the bush in.

The day started off great with no issues to report and the sun even came out for a bit.  At my last vet check, I had a difficult time getting her heart rate down to parameter, which has never been an issue before. We did manage to make it down in time to get a completion and no comments from the vet were made to indicate that anything was wrong.  About 10 minutes later as I was walking back to the trailer to put her away, she tried to roll while on the end of my lead (something she has never done before). As soon as I got her up, I noticed her tucked up again and the twitching had resumed.  Heading back over to the veterinarians, Splash was treated with some Banamine to help with the pain and was walked around some more until she passed gas and returned to normal.

This was quite puzzling as she has never displayed any symptoms of colic before. Brainstorming with the vets, it was concluded that these episodes were most likely tied to the grass. I had let her eat quite a bit of it both days as it provided both fibre and moisture to my horse and she was choosing to eat it over her hay.  HOWEVER, due to the summer we’ve had in Ontario, the grass hasn’t realized that it is fall and is acting like spring grass (lush, full of sugar/fructan) which was the most likely cause of her upset stomach. So PSA to everyone out there who has their horses on grass.  Treat it like you would in the spring and only allow minimal grazing at a time until their systems are used to it!

Although stressful, it did remind me why I love this sport.  My horse gets checked over numerous times by numerous vets and it teaches you a lot about horsemanship.  Because I spend so much time with my horse at a ride, I am able to pick up on little subtleties quickly, preventing small, treatable things from turning into disasters. Even if you had no idea what colic symptoms were, you would know that something just isn’t quite right, and the resources are there to help you out.

octoberfest2016w-webb-59
Photo credit to Wendy Webb

Splash is now happily on vacation for the next little bit and our plan is to attend the last ride of the season in the Larose Forest in Eastern Ontario.

 

 

Good Times in the Ganny

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?

ride n tie

 

Something ’bout the North

Through the years of doing endurance in AERC and OCTRA I have learned each ride has its challenges. Some challenges are much harder than others, some are more difficult for different people. Our first pioneer ride up in Madawaska was very challenging. From winding roads, to the hills and the rocks it was for sure a test of the best. At the second vet check, the girl I was riding with for the first 25 miles looked down at her horse’s foot realizing there was no shoe on her left foot. The shoe was pulled straight out of the foot, luckily not hurting the horse or making her lame, but making the proper decision to pull because of this problem.

My horse was not the most motivated creature at this ride after we didn’t have a friend to go out with she slowed down a lot, making me have to continue to encourage her forward. At 9 miles from the second stop Earle Baxter caught up with me, boy was I happy as Angel was being a bum: walking the slowest walk she could possibly do, telling me she was tired every step, I hate it when horses are like that. Once she had a friend she thought she could race all the way home. Having to go over all the hills, makes like you’ve done the 50 twice.

At the end I ended up coming first, but overall I was just happy I completed because it was only a 50% completion rate. Now the stress begins for our competition, mounted games practice and let’s just say so much more. Well, nobody can say I had a boring summer!

 

-Solstice

Endurance racing is like a box of chocolates…

…you never know what you are going to get.  That’s the fun thing about the sport of endurance. No two rides are ever the same and anything can happen.  This past weekend had been a source of stress for a little while. Not only was it my first FEI-sanctioned ride (extra rules to remember, more paperwork to fill out, and more $$ to shell out),  the site of the ride was the location of my first and only ever DNF (did not finish). Splash had pulled something in her shoulder. It was very minor and just required some time off to rest.  This ride was more about mental hurdles than physical ones. But after much reassurance that this ride was just like the others I had completed, only much more expensive, as the day drew near, my worries began to settle.

Race day started off great.  The sun was shining and Splash felt full of energy.  The first two loops went by quickly. The course was very flat compared to our training grounds in the Dufferin Forest and it felt like Splash wasn’t having to try at all. However, at the end of third loop, Splash hit her wall and was tired but received A’s on all the other parameters so the plan to take the last loop slow. The endurance racing gods must have heard about this plan because at mile 40, Splash took two head bobbing steps.  Since we had just ridden down a gravel road, I figured there was a stone in her hoof. I hopped off to look and was relieved to not see any stones. It took me a few seconds, however, to realize that there wasn’t a shoe on the hoof I was holding.  Luckily, there was a water stop a few feet up the road with lots of grass and shady areas so we walked slowly up to there while I called the crew back in camp to send a farrier out.

While in reality it didn’t take the farrier long to get out to where I was since I was just 4 miles out from basecamp, it felt like an eternity.  Just to show how awesome the endurance community is, every rider that passed the water stop asked if everything was ok and I had a few offers to borrow Easy Boots, but unfortunately none of them fit. Since I could not find the lost shoe, I made the decision to pull the remaining shoe off.  I had ridden this particular loop earlier in the day and I knew there was only minimal road work to do further down the trail.  I normally compete Splash barefoot and she hadn’t had this pair of shoes on for long so I figured she would be able to handle the rest of the ride.

While there were some quite slow moments and I was reconsidering why I do this sport in the first place, Splash reminded me why we do this,  when on her own accord, she would pick up a trot and canter where she thought she could and even received a comment on how “spunky” she looked from one of the 100 mile riders as they passed. I had never been more relieved to see that finish line but we weren’t totally in the clear yet.  We still had a final veterinary inspection to pass. Sometimes the final check can be a little nerve-wracking since there’s nothing more disappointing to find out you’ve ridden 80km only to be pulled at the last check (fingers crossed this will never happen!)  It’s made slightly more stressful at the FEI level as there are now three vets watching your trot out and they do a silent vote to decide whether or not you pass. Splash felt much better and more energetic at this trot out than the previous one so I was hoping that was a good sign.

One of the biggest things I stress to people considering getting into the sport is that you do not need an Arabian to compete. This horse is living proof. We successfully achieved our 1* status!

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Photo credit to Wendy Webb
Now Splash gets a bit of a vacation while I plan our next adventure: tackling the Madawaska Highlands near Algonquin Park at the end of the month.

Third try lucky? I’d say so!

Third times a charm? Or so they say! Well apparently it true because at the third competition of 2016 all of my horses completed the ride they were entered in. Let’s just add in that how could I not do well that would be the worst luck for the ride right before my birthday. 17 years old with one more year of high school left. Don’t worry only having a minor break-down.

For me Summer Solstice is just about the most stressful ride ever on the weekend right before exams, when I should be studying. Don’t get me wrong I do study, just maybe not as much as I should. To make things even worse on me the whole week before the ride I was very sick, with what I don’t know, but I wish what I had on no one. I’m pretty sure I lost about 10lbs and before a long ride where I should be getting enough of everything to make sure I can finish without dying, instead I was at my toilet throwing up whenever I tried to eat.

I made it to the ride a little under the weather, but a whole lot better than earlier that week. I rode that Jack the same horse I rode at Aprilfest. He was 110% better no freak outs in the vetting area, he ate and he drank whenever he had the chance. We decided to do the tri-challenge and it was very exciting to include both runners and biker’s into the mix. Our team came second with me being the sponsor horse since we wanted to keep our horses together. The Sunday of the ride we did the 50 mile. You know that saying “sugar melts in the rain,” do you think sugar can melt in the heat? Because trust me I was! Felt like about 100 degrees. To be honest yes it was hot for the first three loops, but those aren’t the ones I’m complaining about. The last loop was the killer, talk to anyone and I’m sure they will tell you that. After about 11am it started getting nasty hot and everyone just wanted to be done.

We finished the ride 9th and with a ride time of 6hrs 47mins, for Jacks first ride I was very happy. My horse Desi finished 7th which I was also very happy about. We got home Sunday night and hay was waiting for us. Took us all day Monday putting it into the barn, then I had a week of exams, but now I’m free for the summer!

Well… actually I’m not really, I’m free from school, but I have a trail riding job up at Algonquin South Trails. I’m very excited as well as a little scared; I will be up there for the full month of July. I know this opportunity isn’t handed out every day so when I was offered it I knew I had to take it. Doing something that I love and having it as a job, tell me know how can it get any better than that. So if you’re in the area of beautiful Algonquin park come visit.

 

-Solstice