Tag Archives: training

You Can’t Ride With Me

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

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

I waited

and I waited

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


There is a bright side to this story.

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

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

 

 


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Through the Fields and Over the Jumps

It’s a little over three hours’ drive all the way to Ottawa, but gosh was it worth it. The Ottawa Valley Hunt Club does drag hunting and, for people that don’t know about hunting, a drag hunt is a set path the hounds follow that the “fox” has been. This is much faster than live hunting since the hounds aren’t spending time looking for a scent. There were so many jumps in Ottawa set up and so many lovely views. Instead of driving up on the day of the hunt we decided to drive up the day before to get the ponies ready without a rush and so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 4am. At the hunt we got to meet so many new people and even people that have ridden in an OCTRA event.

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Whenever I jump Desi I’m always slightly worried she’ll stop since so many times she has done this before. Luckily for me that thought never crossed her mind, or else I seriously would have gotten hurt. Many of the jumps we were galloping over to stay with the rest of the field, but we didn’t really have to encourage them on any either they were ready and raring to go. There were so many jumps I couldn’t even count, logs, tires, brush and even drops. The one benefit Ottawa has compared to us is that it’s very flat so the chases can be a lot faster and longer since they don’t have to deal with hills.

The weather couldn’t have been better for a November day. Just mainly wind since it’s so flat, but because we were moving almost all of the time we warmed up very quickly.

We got home at around 8 and then I had to wake up the next day for my first day of work at a coffee/bake shop in Port Hope. Well… I’m still working at the shop 3 weeks later for knowing nothing about coffee or espresso I think I’m doing pretty good.

 

What To Pack In My Saddle Bags?!

Everyone has their own personal preference about what they carry with them when they ride. And that’s ok! I personally just try to carry with me what I will need to get through the loop and back to the trailer/crewing area so as not to overload my horse with everything but the kitchen sink.

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As you can see in the picture, this is generally the contents of my saddle pack. Although it may vary from time to time depending on what type of ride I’m doing, these items would generally be with me on every ride.

Water – depending on the temperature and the length of the loop, I will carry 1-2 bottles of water.  I always make it my goal to go through the water I’m carrying on the loop before getting back to the crewing area.  This keeps me from becoming dehydrated.

Human electrolytes – in addition to the water, on those really hot and humid days, I will carry some human electrolytes with me. You can get these at most running or camping stores and they either come in a powder you can mix in a bottle of water or they make chewable ones. It is all dependent on your preference.  These are much better than Gatorade because they contain less sugar.  Depending on the length of the loop, I may or may not carry a syringe with electrolytes for my horse.  Again, whether or not you choose to carry them for your horse is up to you. You know your horse best.

Toilet paper – if you have a small bladder like me, going through two bottles of water in a little over an hour is going to make you have to go to the bathroom (probably at the most inconvenient time when you are still 5 miles from base camp!). I always carry some on me when I’m riding in a plastic baggie to keep it from getting wet.

Cell phone – While it is safer to carry your phone on you in the unlikely event you and your horse become separated on the trail, I usually keep mine in my saddle pack.  If your phone is not waterproof, I recommend putting it in a plastic baggie as well, along with a sheet of emergency contact numbers. Having a cell phone on me has proved to be of tremendous help, especially when you lose a shoe on trail and have to call the farrier to come meet you.

Snacks – I like to carry something that won’t melt or go bad that will keep me satisfied until I can get back to the crewing area and eat some real food.  Granola bars or energy bars are great for this. On longer rides, I will usually bring something sugary for a boost of energy such as licorice or gummies.

Chap stick, sunscreen and bug spray – these three aren’t necessary but they sure are helpful. Anything to make me more comfortable on a long ride will find its way into my pack.

Hoof pick – these are small, cheap and very handy. Sometimes those rocks just don’t want to come out with your hands.

First aid kit – I normally carry just one for humans with your basic bandages, gauze, antiseptic spray, etc.; just enough for me to be comfortable enough to get back to the trailers.  I don’t normally carry first aid equipment for my horse as I have a one back at the crewing area. If the injury is that bad that it cannot wait to get to the crewing area, that’s when an emergency call is made back to base camp.

Multi-tool – A Swiss army knife works as well.  You never know when you’re going to have to repair a piece of tack out on the trail or deal with some other obstacle where something on that tool might help you out. I also carry electrical tape and zip ties or binder twine for this same reason.

What do you pack in your saddle bags?

 

 

Times to remember

I don’t think I could have a better summer: from the amazing view, to all my new friends, a horse between my legs and the wind blowing my hair. Ya, for sure I miss my home and my bed, but I wouldn’t trade this summer for anything. Most of my blogs are mainly me talking about my adventures, but that’s only because I can never remember to take pictures. This blog will be mainly pictures so let’s get started.

The first day I arrived I got to see a family of foxes

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This little pony was Angel’s first friend. Daisy was a rescue and now she’s doing 110% better.

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Of course a lot of riding. A different horse each day and lots of time in the saddle!

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We all wanted a jumping ring so us girls got together and a jumping ring was built.

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We also go on lots of adventures!
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Who could forget horse swimming?
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I think I get pretty good views too!
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The best part about this whole thing is I’ve meet so many new and great people i would have never met before.
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Hope you all liked the pictures of my summer. Have a great July!
-Solstice

Ch-ch-ch-changes

They say change is inevitable. It’s a very good thing that I adapt easily because the past few months have been a blurry of change. I left my job in Toronto to take one closer to home in Kitchener, I moved in with my (amazing!) boyfriend and I moved Splash to a new barn. Out of everything, I think that leaving my barn was the hardest. For the past 5 years, I’ve always been just down the road and able to ride almost every day. The care was impeccable and the people were fantastic. It’s only downside: very limited trail riding (and it is very, very flat) which makes training for endurance difficult. Although I have a truck and trailer and am able to pack up my horse and travel to a variety of trails, this hasn’t been very practical in terms of both time and money. I have been making due but when the opportunity to board in Mansfield, just a short ride away from the Dufferin and Simcoe County Forests (where many of the OCTRA rides are held), came up and I jumped on it. I now have ESRR team member Sarah to train with and the mentorship of Carol Lewin, a very accomplished and experienced endurance rider. We have also gotten back into taking lessons, this time with eventer Karen Briggs. Wits End is just a short ride away from the new barn as well so hopefully once the weather decides to co-operate, we will be able to go schooling over there as well.

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The trails up here are to die for! The scenery is stunning and hills will no longer be our nemesis as they are everywhere, even in Splash’s paddock. We can go for hours and not cross the same trail twice. I am now logging roughly 10-12 miles on average per ride instead of my usual 6. Time just flies when the visuals keep changing vs. riding laps around fields.

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Although she seems to have settled back into being on 24/7 turnout, Splash seems to have taken up a weird obsession with her pasture buddy, Bucky, an “aged” miniature donkey. She has always seemed to have a fondness for small creatures (ponies, minis, small children) so perhaps this is her way of telling me she would love to have a foal (although I’m not planning on breeding her anytime soon!)

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Sidenote: Sarah and I went for our first ride of the year in the Dufferin this past weekend. We were shocked at the ice still on some of the lower trails but we were even more shocked to see the mess left behind by the loggers. Stay tuned to the Eat Sleep Ride Repeat Facebook page for details on a date for trail clean up.  Anyone who rides in the Dufferin should make an effort to come out for at least a little bit to help maintain the trail. This is one of the few trail systems that does not charge a fee to ride in the forest and it is because of awesome volunteers that this is possible!  We wouldn’t be able to have the gorgeous trails available to us without them!

Practice makes perfect

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Everyone on their horses ready to rope.

For a couple years now I have been doing roping for fun. In early march my youth horse club did a roping clinic for something different to do. In the morning we were taught how to rope and what you do when you get on the horse. We also got on the horses and followed the dummy cow around for a slower roping practice. I decided to bring Angel since I’ve done some roping on her before, because it’s always more fun if you do well on your own horse than on someone else’s. She did really well for a horse that isn’t use to things like that. On the dummy she followed for the most part exactly where she was supposed to, great with the rope swinging and stopping.

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Practicing on the dummy horse and hay bale.

 

When we got into the box she was a little upset and nervous, but 100 times better than the first time I brought her to rope. I tried roping some cows on Angel for a little while and then I decided to try on a more experienced horse. I sat down in the saddle and could tell the moment I sat down I wasn’t going to get anything. When I ride I like being about to sit deep in the saddle to stop and this saddle was anything but deep! It was like I was being pushed forward. I tried roping off him twice and decided I wanted my saddle and horse back. All the times I went after a cow I was very close it just wasn’t going over the head.

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Riding Brad’s horse.
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Getting my rope ready.

I got back on my horse with determination in my eye. I got in the box, took a breath, nodded and kicked to get my horse up to the cow. Angel caught up to the cow with me swinging the rope. I could see the end of the arena coming up and I was close enough to catch the cow so I through the rope. The rope flew through the air and over the cow’s head, I sat down in my saddle and my horse put her brakes on the rope tightened on the cow’s neck and since we were using break-away ropes the rope broke. I was so proud of both my horse and I, but that feeling that I finally caught a cow after so many hours of practicing was amazing.

 

All the best

– Solstice

The perfect weekend

This past weekend was my endurance club’s (OCTRA)AGM and banquet. This year it was held in Cobourg which is nice for me because it’s about 20 minutes from my house. On Saturday morning until around noon I sat at the ESRR booth, talking to people and selling product.

Around noon was when the AGM started so there weren’t many booths open. Unfortunately I had a lot of homework to do so I went to our shared hotel room to wait for my friends to finally arrive. They arrived around 1:30 and we were all glad to see each other. I haven’t seen my one friend since the last ride of the season.

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Dressed up almost ready to head down to the awards

 

The banquet was great, seeing and catching up everyone I haven’t seen in a while was really nice. At the awards I got top junior for the 4th year in a row, my 2000 miles, my horses 1500 miles and 4th in endurance.

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Top junior trophy and ribbon as well as 4th endurance ribbon.

 

On Sunday my friend and I went for a ride on my two Arabs, Desi and Angel. When we checked the time going home we couldn’t believe 2.5 hours had already flown by. Both the horses and people enjoyed the ride very much and the weather was very nice too. Heading home I was very comfortable in a sweater. Can’t wait for it to be warm all the time.

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Angel all ready to go.

 

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Desi in her new bridle.

Riding products that will change your life – Ashley

Okay, so they may not change your life, but they will change the way you ride. Endurance riding is tough (hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it!) but there are products and gadgets out there that can make our ride a little more comfortable. The following are some things that I use when training and competing and think pretty highly of.

Kerrits Flow Rise Performance Riding Tight

It seems like an elusive unicorn: riding pants that are comfortable, durable, attractive and reasonably priced.  Kerrits to the rescue!  Their Flow Rise Performance Tight fits all of the requirements http://kerrits.com/womens/kneepatch/flow-rise-performance-riding-tight. No seams in the wrong places and comfortable enough to feel like a second skin, these tights perform well. They also come in a multitude of colours to fit your personality.

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Knixwear

Chafing. An endurance rider’s worst enemy. Knixwear, a Canadian! company has the answer to our prayers https://www.knixwear.com/collections/womens-athletic-underwear. Their line of athletic underwear comes in a number of fits, colours and sizes. They are seamless so no chafing and are invisible under tight breeches. They are made with a moisture wicking fabric to keep you feeling dry and anti-microbial technology to help combat odor. I personally cannot ride in anything else!

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Garmin Forerunner 310XT

Although Garmin discontinued this particular model of their GPS watch, it is still possible to find it online, such as on Amazon http://www.amazon.ca/Garmin-Forerunner-310XT-Waterproof-Running/dp/B0025VKW5K. This watch is waterproof so you don’t have to worry about damaging it as you are sponging off your horse or riding in the rain! It can track a number of items from the time, average page, current speed, distance travelled, and even a map of where you rode.  It is also possible to purchase the accompanying heart rate monitor (although I still haven’t figured out how to successfully attach it to my horse yet), and have the heart rate show on the watch. You can connect the watch to your computer and upload all of your tracked data, making it easy to keep logs and see trends.

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Tipperary Sportage Helmet

You wouldn’t get in a car without putting on your seatbelt, so why get on a horse without a helmet? Tipperary has a proven record of creating helmets that look good and feel great.  They have lots of ventilation to keep your head cool, are ASTM-SEI certified, come further down the head more than traditional helmets for increased protect and they come in a number of colours. http://phoenixperformance.com/tipperary/?product=sportage-8500

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Tucker Stirrups with Cone

On my first distance ride of 25 miles, I noticed that about 15 miles in, my feet were going numb.  After asking around, the solution was to ride in a stirrup with a wider foot bed. After doing some research, I chose the Tucker Ergo Balance Trail Glide Stirrup.  They are lightweight and have a thick rubber-spongy cushion.  What sets these apart from other stirrups is the angled cone, which really helps out the knees and ankles from getting sore. I have used angled stirrups previously on my western saddle, and boy, did those ever work.  I can ride for hours without feeling it in my knees. http://www.tuckersaddlery.com/shop/stirrups-tucker/ergo-balance-trail-glide-stirrups/

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If you would like to me to test and review a product, feel free to give me suggestions!

Dreams to come true

Every year I have a different goal and, only having one competition horse this year, endurance isn’t really my priority. Now don’t get me wrong I still plan on doing a bunch of rides, it just may not be on my horse. Choosing what to do in a year is always hard and at least for me it’s always changing. I’m also hoping to get Desi into FEI this season so in July I hope to do my FEI 1* up in New Lowell.

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Quick ride on Desi in the snow

 

Even though it has been very cold out the past week I have been still trying to ride as much as possible, but not really to get ready for competition. I just had my exams and have switched into a harder course load, with Math, Biology and Chemistry all at university level. It’s amazing that the bond between your horse and you can distract you from time.

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Beau and I

 

This year I also plan on showing a Morgan for my coach which is exciting because the horse I’m going to be riding is a five year old Morgan and this will be his first season of showing. Beau is a chestnut gelding that has a very big personality. He never likes to do the same old circle around the ring and always lets me know when he’s bored. Even though he hasn’t really been trained to jump I have started to teach him and he absolutely loves it.

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Beau and I

 

I have also been trying to work Prince as well, he is the funniest. When I haven’t worked with him in a while or the horses won’t play with him when he’s bored he finds something in the paddock to play with. For example he loves to play with a barrel; he will run around pushing it and kicking it on the ground.

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Prince and I

 

Getting back into the season is hard for anyone let alone not having any where slightly warm and dry to ride in. One tip I can give you for certain is to start your horse off early because then the less you have to do later, other than just keep up rides. Hope everyone has stayed warm the past couple days, but keep thinking positive it can only get warmer! Right?

All the best

-Solstice