Tag Archives: trail riding

You Can’t Ride With Me

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

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

I waited

and I waited

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

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

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

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

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


Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, cloud, sky, outdoor and nature

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

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

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

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

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

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


There is a bright side to this story.

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

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

 

 


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

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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!

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.

Dreaming of Summer

Dealing with the cold weather and all this snow had me daydreaming about the summer. Longer days, warmer temperatures and trail riding all day. For my friend Nicky’s birthday this past year, I decided to take her up to Horse Country Campground for a girls weekend. I had been to this campground a few years ago for a clinic and had been wanting to go back to explore more of the trails.

horse3

The drive took us roughly 5 hours so it’s definitely not a day trip if you are coming from southwestern Ontario (but it is definitely worth the drive). The only downside to this place is that the trails are basically unrideable if there is a lot of rain. The trails are mostly clay and rock so they get very slippery when wet. We booked this trip back in April for August so there was no way to anticipate what the weather was going to do.  Unfortunately, even though Ontario experienced one of the driest summers, it had to rain the entire weekend we had booked.

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All dressed up to ride in the rain,  complete with water pistol!

We arrived in the early afternoon so there wasn’t a lot of time to get out on the trails before dark after setting up camp so we played around on the obstacle course that is set up. There are all sorts of obstacles and at different levels of difficulty. It was great to see the improvements and additions to the course since the last time I was there.

 

We did manage to get out on the trails for a bit the first full day we were there.  The plan was to ride to the swimming hole and take the horses swimming then continue on to find this little tiki bar which boasted free beer (pretty good incentive for a long ride!) The swimming hole was quite easy to find. There were a few picnic tables, a place to tie the horses and a place to go to the washroom.  The footing into the water was great and it was very inviting.  The views were incredible as well! It was a little chilly with the sprinkling of rain but this would be a fantastic spot to go and cool down after a long ride.

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On to the tiki bar! While meant for the white water rafters after their jaunt down the river, we were told we would be welcomed there as well.  While the staff had given us pretty good directions the day before, the map doesn’t show individual trails so coming to forks or open spaces led to a bit of confusion.  We did see some signs for the tiki bar but upon arriving at the rafting resort, the signs stopped and no one we asked knew where the bar was. Oh well. The rain was starting to come down a little heavier now so we decided to make our way back to the campsite.

 

The rain was even worse our second full day there so after breakfast, we headed out for a drive. The town of Renfrew is a short drive away so if you are in need of any extra supplies or are looking for something to do on a rainy day, this is an option. There are also many activities on the resort to do (although they would have been much more fun in better weather), such as a beach,  hot tub, pool, recreation centre, bungee jumping, restaurant and bar, white water rafting just to name a few.

 

The staff at Horse Country Campground is very friendly and helpful. The reservation was easy to set up, checking in was a breeze, and since it was a quiet weekend there, we were given new pens to put the horses in when the ones they were in got too soupy from the rain. The pens are quite large but if you have two horses that don’t know each other or don’t get along, you will have to either get a site with two pens or bring your own. There are water taps at the sites but I recommend bringing a hose with you as it makes it easier to fill water buckets.

 

I still have to ride to the brew pub so there will definitely be another trip to visit Horse Country Campground!  It is worth the drive but perhaps next time I will book closer to the date to avoid any weather-related disappointments!

For more information about Horse Country Campground, you can visit their website at http://www.horsecountrycampground.com/

 

 

Jingle All The Way

It all started out last weekend when Sarah and I set out to discover some new trail she had found on Google maps.  When it turned out to be a dead end, we decided to ride down the road a little ways to see if there was another entrance.  As we were riding along, we came across a sign on the trail.

jingle

Naturally, curiosity got the best of us and we continued down the road with bets on what could possibly be up ahead. Was it a party or just someone providing motivation for whoever travelled this back road? A few miles up at the next intersection was a sign for Laura’s Christmas Trees in the same font as our motivational sign.  At first this wasn’t very exciting but upon further reflection we put two and two together. Usually Christmas tree farms have hot chocolate and what a nice treat that would be after being out on the trail for a few hours.  We decided that upon getting back home that we could contact them to see if it was ok to bring our horses over for a visit.  Not only were they happy to have us ride the horses over, there was indeed hot chocolate.

jingle

Our ride started out innocently enough, with the only goal of the day being to ride to the Christmas Tree Farm. We found a quick way to get from one side of the Dufferin Forest to the other so it took no time at all to get to our destination. We were greeted by lots of smiles and gladly accepted a hot drink. Both Splash and Bentley were very well behaved with the new sights, sounds and people milling about.

jingle

Also, fun fact: how fitting that we rode to a Christmas tree farm on Christmas Tree Day. It must be legit because there is an actual Christmas Tree Day Act (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/15c12)

Upon leaving Laura’s Christmas Tree Farm, we decided to continue down the back road to see where it led to. Seeing snowmobile trail signs, we figured it would lead to a trail system somewhere. Our travels took us down a very wet and muddy road allowance (which unfortunately also seemed to be an illegal dumping ground). Very sad as the area was quite pretty.  We eventually came to a T intersection and could see a trail system on the other side of a fence.  Looking closer, there was a trail on our side of the fence running along the road so naturally, we decided to follow the trail, wondering if there would be a break in the fence.  As we moved down the trail, we noticed that the signs on the fence were in both English and French, leading us to deduce that this must be some sort of government property. A short while later, an army vehicle passed us.  We had ridden all the way to base Borden! Once the trail on our side of the fence ended, we figured it was probably time to start heading home so that we could make it back before dusk.  Looking both ways at one of the intersections we crossed, we saw a little roadside stand, so of course we had to go check it out.

jingle

Some children were selling homemade Christmas crafts and more hot chocolate! After refuelling on more hot chocolate and chatting with them and their family, we were on our way again. Finding our way back into the Dufferin Forest, we played around a bit on the trails before making our way home.

For what was supposed to be a relatively calm ride, it was quite exciting and eventful. Even in the off season, it’s never a boring ride!

horse4

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

 

Madawaska Highlands Pioneer Ride of Canadians

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!