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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
The plan for the first ride of the season was to do the 10km ride n tie on Saturday and 40km LD on Sunday. We would have liked to do the 80km endurance ride but boyfriend and I moving into new house and my truck and trailer were needed to move the larger furniture.
Saturday was chilly but fortunately no rain; perfect running weather! Clayton was determined to beat Splash as he did at the last ride n tie we did together at the Summer’s End ride last year in the Ganaraska Forest. It was going to be interesting because he’s been training on flat roads and the Dufferin Forest is sandy and full of hills.
I love a horse that knows its job. Splash knows the ride n tie course at the Dufferin and even when I’m not competing in ride n tie, any time I’m on the part of the trail that the ride n tie uses, she tries to GO! She was nice and quick to our trade off point and stood still while Clayton mounted up. She walked into the vet check calmly for him and was quiet while he dismounted and ran off. Pulsing down pretty quickly (and Splash knowing the course) allowed us to catch up to the team that had passed us during the vet check. I caught up to Clayton who was still trucking right along a great pace, although starting to feel those hills. I passed him but slowed down as we were coming out of the forest as I could see Wendy (the ride photographer) ahead and wanted a picture of the two of us.
Not far from the finish line, Clayton broke into a sprint to try and beat Splash so we cantered alongside him for a bit (just to get his hopes up) before we pulled away and crossed the finish line before him. Next time, Clay! I will update this once I unpack my truck and find my scorecard, but we finished in roughly 55 minutes, which is a personal record!
Sunday was a miserable day. Cold and wet weather is no fun for anything, especially riding. However, we are distance riders and unlike many other horse events, ours are not cancelled for rain. Days like these have their own sets of challenges. While the cooler weather helps with bringing the horse’s temperature down, you also have to be cautious of horses stiffening up, much like humans can when exercising in cold, wet weather. The ground is also slicker, especially with all the fallen leaves still in the forest.
The only goal we had for today was to finish (which is always a goal, but sometimes I will have others such as better heart rates, faster speeds, etc.) as I haven’t been able to ride as often as I wanted to and was just using this as a training ride. We ended up riding with Dominic and Liza the whole way as the two paints seemed to get along and match each other’s pace well. It was nice to have someone to talk to as it makes the ride go by a lot quicker and it keeps morale up, especially with the weather!
Although Splash drank well at every opportunity, she was still receiving B’s for her hydration levels at the vet checks. She didn’t pee all day until the end of the ride which means although she was drinking, her body was using everything she was taking in. Even though it was a cool day, I should have kept upped her electrolytes to encourage her to drink even more. Electrolytes are almost always a bit of experimenting and this is where knowing your horse and what is their “normal” comes into play. Lesson learned and we have something to work with for the next race to improve that hydration score!
The neat thing about this ride is that it is the first time an LD (limited distance) ride was offered in Ontario. Although I do find the set speed discipline great for teaching pacing, especially for those new to the sport, I really enjoyed the LD format for where I am now in my distance riding career. For the days I don’t quite feel like riding 80km, the LD provides a great alternative without having to really alter our 80km routine. We can go our pace without having to worry whether we are too fast or too slow for the set speed time (the 6 hours to complete the LD is more than enough time), plus we get the AERC miles in addition to the OCTRA ones.
Again, I’ll have to pull my scorecard to see what the actual final results were but we did finish somewhere in the top ten as we stood for BC (best condition) for the practice more than anything.
While everything is drying out, planning for the next event is taking place, the first of two Coates Creek rides. The plan is to do the 40km set speed ride on the Saturday and the 80km endurance ride on the Sunday, making this the most miles we’ve ever completed in one weekend. If we manage to complete both of these rides successfully, it will also put us over our lifetime distance mileage of 500 miles!
If you haven’t already, head over to our Facebook page for another great contest! All you have to do is like our page, and like and share the post. Easy at that! You have until the end of the week do enter.
Thinking about trying your first distance ride this year or are a bit nervous to? Here are a few reasons why you should get out and try one!
More bang for your buck
Horse shows are expensive. You pay hundreds of dollars for a few minutes in the ring for a ribbon. If you’re looking to still experience the competition but at a cheaper price, consider trying competitive distance. Your entry fee gets you riding for a few hours, camping, dinner (most of the time), at minimum 2-3 veterinary checks throughout the day (plus the vets are there if you think something is not quite right after the ride), and some sort of token of achievement (certificate of completion, ribbon, t-shirt, medal, whatever ride management decides. Heck, I’ve received a small turtle patch once for coming in last in a 50 mile ride!)
Any horse can do it!
Distance riding is not just for Arabians. Yes, they are purpose-bred for this sport but any horse is capable of doing distance riding. At OCTRA rides you will see everything from kids riding ponies, to western riders and their trusty stock horse, to even draft and draft crosses!! If you are riding regularly, you should be able to handle a shorter set speed ride. For reference, in a regular 45 minute dressage lesson, my gps watch usually tracks me as having ridden roughly 4-5 miles. You can make the maximum time allowed in a bronze level set speed ride by just walking and trotting at a good working, forward pace.
You can compete against yourself or other riders
The most often heard concern I hear from other riders is that they are nervous to try distance riding because they don’t want to race. Distance riding (and even endurance riding) is not all about racing. In fact, the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), one of the distance riding sanctioning bodies, has the motto “To Finish Is To Win”. You get to choose what you want to make this sport. It is not always a race. There are different disciplines within distance riding depending on what your goals are. With Set Speed, you are only competing against yourself and a grade of fitness. Can your horse complete X distance, in X range of time, with the lowest heart rate. CTR steps up the competition a little more with every horse travelling at the same speed over the same distance. The winner of a CTR is the horse that completed the course in the allotted time, in the best condition as determined by the total point score following the post-ride exam. Points are deducted for such things as bell boots and protective boots, rubs, girth galls, soreness on the horse, etc.) Ride n Tie and Endurance are races by definition (first over the finish line wins) BUT horses still have to pass through a number of veterinary checks before, during and after the ride and their heart rates must come down to a certain level in a set amount of time or else you are disqualified.
Excellent cross training
Preparing and training for distance riding is a great cross training tool for both you and your horse. A fitter horse means a better jumper round or dressage test as your horse won’t tire as quickly and he will have better ground manners as your horse will have to get used to different people touching him (pulse takers, veterinarians, etc.). You will also be more fit which will help you not tire as quickly on those long horse show days. You will also learn to problem solve quickly as anything can happen out on the trail when you are out there for that long and you will gain mental toughness. A hunter course will seem like a piece of cake after doing a distance ride! Trail training will also help prevent burnout/boredom for you and your horse. Going around and around a ring with the same four walls can get boring after a while. Getting out on the trail gives you and horse a mental break and can rejuvenate your riding. Riding over different terrain is also good for your horse as he will use different muscles and learn to think about where he is putting his feet.
Boost your horsemanship skills
Does your barn have a stethoscope and do you know how to use it? Do you know what your horse’s normal heart rate is? Not only will this help you in distance riding, but it could also mean the difference between a major and minor health issue. At a distance ride, your horse will have to pass a number of veterinary checks to ensure your horse is fit to continue. The vets will check things like capillary refill time, mucus membrane, jugular refill time, skin pinch test for hydration, soreness in the back, anal tone, gut sounds, heart rate, and lameness. Knowing what is normal for your horse is important as if you catch a problem early enough, most of the time it is easier to fix. For example, at a ride last year although I completed the ride successfully and the vet didn’t see anything unusual at my last vet check, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I asked the vet to recheck and sure enough my horse was in the early stages of a gas colic. A quick shot of banamine and some handwalking and everything was fine. This does not mean the vets are not doing their job at the vet checks. They only get to see your horse for a few minutes out of the entire day and everything could be fine at that moment in time. I take care of my horse at home, and I’m with my horse all day so I have a better idea about what is and isn’t normal for her. Don’t ever feel like you are discounting the vets by returning to them to double check something. That is what they are there for. Sarah’s horse Bentley likes to squeeze out every last drop of pee so even when he is fully hydrated at home, the last little bit out is a darker colour. Normally this would indicate that a horse is severely dehydrated but since Sarah sees Bentley often and knows that he does this every time, it is not too much of a concern. She knows the normal colour and can tell the vets this.
You will also learn how to fit up/condition a horse properly. You can take these skills and carry them over to any discipline to ensure your horse is in shape enough to perform the required task and as an added bonus, they are less likely to hurt themselves than if they were unfit. Additionally, you will learn how to calm your horse and lower his heart rate quickly. There is a lot going on at a distance ride with horses coming and going in the pit crew areas, horses being trotted out in the vet checks, and people walking around. While fitness is the biggest factor in lowering the heart rate after exercise, there are a few tips and tricks that distance riders use to gain their horse’s focus and get him to relax and be calm. Sometimes those few extra beats can make or break your vet check.
There are always going to be bad apples everywhere but distance riding seems to attract really good people who care about their animals, are out for a fun time, and enjoy helping others, When I showed up to my first distance ride, I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as the ride secretary asked me if this was my first ride. She paired me up with an experienced rider who had put forth their name as someone who would assist new riders to the sport. It made my first ride much less stressful. I had someone to talk to on the trail to ask questions as they came up and showed me some tips along the way. A great way to get into this sport is to volunteer at an event first. Not only will you get to see how they are run, you will be introduced to people who are willing to act as mentors. This sport is built on mentorship. By finding a mentor, you will have all of the knowledge of an experienced distance rider to help you with a training and conditioning program, what feed, supplements, electrolytes to use, help with entering rides, and if your mentor is close to you, a riding buddy! You will also find at rides that pretty much everyone is willing to help you out and answer your questions. When you sign up for a ride, mark on your entry form that you are a first time rider or just new to the sport and put a green ribbon on yourself and your horse. People will find out that you are new and are more willing to assist you if you need it.
The great thing about this sport is that family and friends can get involved too though pit crewing, volunteering, or even as ride n tie team members. It’s not unusual to see entire families out at rides enjoying the outdoors, horses, and camaraderie.
If you’re curious about trying a new exciting sport, please contact the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be more than happy to give you more information and put you in touch with a mentor in your area. We will also be at the System Fencing 30th Anniversary sale so come by to talk with us and watch some helmet cam videos from Sarah’s adventure to South Africa for Race the Wild Coast,
This past weekend, OCTRA held their annual AGM and awards banquet in Coburg, Ontario since this is pretty central to most OCTRA members.
The vendor area was full of fantastic tables with many items available and people to talk to. We had the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat table all set up with our merchandise, copies of On The Horse Magazine with Sarah gracing the cover as feature rider and Ashley’s article on ride n tie (which were all snapped up quickly!) and Sarah’s computer running helmet cam footage from her Race the Wild Coast experience. It was great to catch up with many members and see some new faces.
The AGM part of the day was well attended, most likely due to some hot issues on the agenda. Personally, I find it great that this club is made up of members who are passionate about this sport and are looking for ways to change and improve it.
The banquet was delicious, as always with enough food to feed a small army. No one ever goes hungry. A big shout out to the awards committee for organizing the awards part of the evening. The ribbons, plaques, trophies, etc. are always gorgeous and make for great ways to remember the achievements of the year. A very big thank you to Wendy Webb of Wendy Webb Photography for the stunning photographs of all the award winners!
The Eat Sleep Ride Repeat team took home a number of recognitions. Ashley and her brother Alex were recognized for their provincial championship ride n tie win. The team also took home second place for overall senior ride n tie team.
Sarah and Bentley received new badges recognizing their 1000 miles in competition.
Both Bentley and Splash received an award for top ten overall high point horse (10th and 6th respectively). In order to qualify for this award, horses must compete in three out of the four distance disciplines: set speed, ride n tie, competitive trail riding (CTR) and endurance).
Even though proxy voting is now allowed, you’d really be missing out if you don’t attend next year! Even if you are not up for any awards, it’s still a great opportunity to catch up and reminisce about the past season, plan for the upcoming season, and just have a good time!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
I am very fortunate to live in an area that is central to the majority of the OCTRA events (heck, three of them are practically in my backyard). However, I’m always up for exploring new trail. The Madawaska Highlands Ride of Canadians was at brand new location to OCTRA so I decided to check it out. This was my furthest ride this season at over 4 hours of travel time. The ride was also in the middle of the week so unfortunately, I had to make the trip by myself. Normally, this is not an issue but after attending the ride talk, we were told that the veterinary/control check half way through the course was an away check. All of the rides I have done to date have all of the control checks back at base camp, making it easy to set up (especially when you’re alone). The ride managers had arranged for a vehicle to take items out to the check but since I was planning on leaving right after the ride, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to have to wait for the truck to come back with my stuff. I want to give a massive shout out and thank you to Dianne Moore for crewing!! It gave me one less thing to worry about!
Due to our timeline and amount of travel, we did 25 mile ride with the plan to just go nice and slow since we had lost a shoe at the last ride and didn’t want a repeat. While I was hoping for a nice, relaxing ride, just over a mile into the ride, Splash and Maribel’s horse both slammed on the brakes. As they walked very cautiously forward, a small black bear crossed the trail in front of us. It didn’t seem to be bothered by the horses but our two were still on edge for about the next 10 minutes. I was kicking myself for not having the Go Pro turned on because I wasn’t expecting so much excitement right at the start of the race!
It was tough and challenging course. They weren’t kidding about the rocks! I heard many people talking about how hilly it was but I didn’t find it that hilly (could be because my training grounds are incredibly hilly!) The trail was made up of mostly logging road/atv trail with forested parts. The landscape was incredible (that view at the first vet check!!!)
Here is a little sneak peak at the trail a few miles from the vet check. Again, had I thought to keep the helmet cam on at all times, you would have been treated to the view coming into the vet check. If anything, this ride taught me to be prepared for anything!
This was a placed ride (as opposed to graded) and although I completed I’m not sure of my placing as I left before awards ceremony took place (downside to living far from a ride site but I can’t complain as I am close to the majority of OCTRA rides). My next ride will be Summer’s End. Participating in the 12 mile ride n tie (my boyfriend’s first ride and tie!) which should be exciting.
As you are reading this, I will be headed up for a relaxing weekend of trail riding at Horse Country Campground (not far from the site of the Madawaska Highlands ride) which I will be blogging about next time. Happy trails!
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!