Endurance horse race slated for this weekend

Dan Falloon

Those out in the Dearlock area may notice an influx of horses, and likely one mule, in the area this Saturday and Sunday.
A new competition will be held in the region this weekend.
The inaugural Black Fly Express, an endurance riding competition, will take place this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 11 and 12) north of Dearlock.
“This will be the first-ever sanctioned AERC [American Endurance Riding Conference] ride, probably in Northern Ontario,” enthused organizer Rachel Hill.
The competition will be split into three distances, and will take place on a mix of field, wooden paths and track roads.
“We are offering a 15 mile [25 km], a 25 mile [40 km], and a 50 mile [80 km] race,” noted Hill.
“They’re significant distances.
“We’ve basically used some crown land, some private land,” she noted.
“The trail, what you want is some variety and a little bit of challenge.
“This is going to be different, because it’s pretty wild.
“We’ve been spending a good portion of the summer scouting out sites and what would make a nice loop for folks to ride,” she concluded.
Hill stressed that the safety of the animals is paramount, and after a completion of the first loop, each horse will be analyzed for fitness by veterinarian Dr. Sue Legge.
“The sport isn’t just a flat-out race. There is a criteria, and the vet is the judge,” stressed Hill.
“When horses come in after one loop, they will determine if the horse is fit to continue.
“There’s a certain standard that the horse has to meet so you can’t run the heck out of your horse.
“The main interest of the sport is to make sure the horse is well taken-care-of,” she concluded.
The 50-mile race begins on Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m., with the 25-mile race beginning at 8 a.m. and the 15-mile competition at 9 a.m.
While competitors are able to arrive the day of competition to sign up, Hill doesn’t recommend that inexperienced riders attempt to tackle one of the longer distances.
“It takes quite a bit of commitment and time to get your horse conditioned for a 50-mile race,” she stressed.
“The 15-mile ride is an introductory ride just for people checking it out.
“If they regularly trail ride, they could do a 15 [mile race], no problem,” she concluded.
Hill noted that she decided to plan the competition in order to help garner interest in the sport, pointing out that it’s a social event based more on going out and having fun than results.
“Most people aren’t in it to win the top prizes,” she explained.
“Some are, obviously. The serious contenders are, but really, it’s a personal goal that you have with your horse, is to finish.
“That’s the motto for the sport—’to finish is to win’,” continued Hill.
“If you can finish a 25 or a 50-mile race with a healthy horse, and you’re healthy, that’s the object of the sport.”
The social aspect of the event comes out in the evenings, as competitors will camp together at the Timberridge Trailhead and discuss the day’s ride.
Hill expects competitors from as far afield as Thompson, Man. for the event, as well as several communities closer to the Rainy River District.
Because of the nature of registration, Hill couldn’t estimate how many riders to expect.
“We don’t know for sure, and that’s the thing about these rides is you don’t know till people show up, but we’re expecting some riders from Wisconsin, from Minnesota and from Manitoba, and from the Thunder Bay area as well,” she enthused.
“People will drive miles for a ride,”
“They go all over the place. It’s amazing.”
Hill added that families tend to compete together because of the great commitment involved in preparing for competitions.
“There’s no age limit, families do it, couples do it,” explained Hill.
“It takes such a commitment of time to get ready for the ride and get to the ride and ride the ride that it’s often a family sport.
“It’s open to any breed of horse or mule, and I know that we are having at least one mule come,” she concluded.
Being a first-time event, Hill also wished to thank the event’s sponsors: Nor-West Animal Clinic, Emo Feed Services, Davis Performance Horses, Timberridge Sport Horses and Deb Hagerty.
“These things don’t run without volunteers and sponsors,” she noted.
Those wishing to check out the event can visit the Distance Riders of Manitoba Association’s website at www.kucera.ca/drma for more information and complete directions to the race.