| Sep 14, 2006

Feature Article - September 14, 2006

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Feature Article - September 14, 2006

Ontario brings home 2006 gold


On September 2 and 3, the Canadian Competitive Trail Riding Championships took place in Buckingham, Quebec. Mountain Grove residents Elaine Steele and Dagmar Downes, both selected for the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Team, were among the many horse and rider combinations to take part in the event.

The Canadian Championships take place biannually, and host not only competitive trail rides, but also endurance and ride ‘n’ tie, all three being long distance horseback marathon events.

The “Northwind Challenge”, as this year’s event was entitled, was sanctioned by several different organizations, including CALDRA (the Canadian Long Distance Riding Association), FEI (Fation Equestre Internationale), AHA (Arabian Horse Association), and the various provincial long distance riding associations such as OCTRA (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association).


This broad endorsement drew not only the four teams from different provinces who competed in the Competitive Trail, but individuals from across Canada and the United States . The 100 mile endurance race even attracted a rider from Japan .

On Thursday the 100 mile endurance race took place, and Friday was the ride ‘n’ tie, but Elaine, Dagmar, and their 16-year-old teammate Nicole Laforge had their sights set on the 2-day 80 mile competitive trail ride on Saturday and Sunday.

Twenty-four competitive trail riders set out on Saturday morning to complete the first grueling 40 mile loop.

“I think I would have enjoyed that first day more if our time limit wasn’t set so fast,” Elaine told the News. “We were traveling faster than the endurance horses were, just to make our time.”

Competitors were given 6 hours and 10 minutes to complete the 40 miles on Saturday a time limit that is most often given for a 30 mile ride. The time limit is set by the vets who are on hand to take pulses and check the health of the horses at various points throughout the competition. These stats are a large part of what determines the winner.

Sunday blew in with the tail-end of hurricane Ernesto, which turned the already challenging trails into a disaster waiting to happen. Most of the trails had a foundation of clay, and so mud and water were a big concern. The combination of rain and cold can have damaging effects on a horse’s ability to function at an athletically demanding level.

Of the 24 riders that started on Saturday, only 14 continued the ride on Sunday because of the dangerous conditions. Elaine, Dagmar, and Nicole were three of those 14, and their horses proved to be up for the challenge.

“I was so surprised when I saw them ride up at the end,” said Mark Ford, Elaine Steele’s son, who volunteered as a ride official. “The horses looked so perky, just as alert and strong as at the beginning of the ride.”

The Ontario Team Dagmar and Obi Wan Gunobi, Elaine and Chanticleer Shadow, and Nicole Laforge and Adidas successfully battled the conditions and came out of it with gold medals.

Nicole not only took first place in the lightweight division, but came away with a Grand Champion title. Her horse Adidas completed the tough event with zero penalty points.

Dagmar placed third in the lightweight division with only 1 penalty point for the entire weekend, and Elaine placed first in the heavyweight division with 5 penalty points.

Elaine also competed with the Arabian Horse Association’s Region 16 Championship ride, and was reserve champion in that division.

After the big event, Dagmar and Elaine and their horses took the week off. But the following weekend they were back out on the trail, doing what they love to do.

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