The horse industry is a funny one. It is expansive; from the neighbor down the road with a horse in the backyard to multi-figure horses that compete at the highest levels of the sport. More and more, I have been hearing comments from outside the industry and even those involved in other areas of agriculture about the cost of having a horse.
I find myself stuck in between these worlds. While I once competed at the national level, I did so with my thoroughbred X Clyde. She did a pretty good impression of a much-more expensive warmblood –until you saw her trot. We got good at the walk-canter transition before our hunter rounds.
Now with a horse in her teens and finding my way in the “adult world,” I realize that competing at that level is a thing of the past. At the same time, I am not ready to transition out of that world and I intend to keep my horse for the rest of her life. So where does this leave me? Well I have a shadbelly in my closet I can’t quiet part with, but has not been used in years.
But you know what? I am okay with my new reality in the horse world. I think many young adults are struggling with this; as the cost of showing keeps going up, it prices horse competitions into the luxury market. Guess what? There is SO MUCH else you can do with your horse.
In the past year I went to a wine ride on horseback and took my horse to the beach. Both these activities were far cheaper than a show and turned out to be so much more fun. There are many cool things to do on the farm too; from winter trail rides, to ground driving, to
gymnastics and teaching your horse tricks in hand.
All my musings come back to the fact that although horse ownership is not possible for everyone, there are many ways to make it more affordable. I have learned a lot in my journey from amateur owner to pseudo- weekend warrior. Not to say that I only ride on weekends; but adulthood, the 9-5, putting money away and new responsibilities change the reality of having a horse. I hope some of these tips can help you out too.
- Cut out competition: as I mentioned the first to go was competition. This does not mean you cannot hit up one-or-two local shows a year, but the entire winter and summer circuit might have to be out.
- Scale back from full service/training board: okay I never kept my horse in these facilities and instead elected to do a lot of self-care at shows, but these are the areas you can cut back on. I have dropped regular weekly lessons and board at a facility where I can jump on my own time. NOTE: this works because I know my horse and our capabilities. If you are not comfortable, a professional is always best.
- Part-boarder: it took me a long time to come around to this and find someone suitable, but it is so nice to have a bit of extra cash and time. Plus my part-boarder loves my horse and that in itself is really rewarding.
- Accessories: as hard as it is to hear, you don’t need to newest accessories. Gasp, I am still riding in a GPA speed air and my original beige TS breeches because they are in good condition.
- Find new fun things to do with your horse: I have been tossing on a western saddle and playing around outdoors this winter.
- NEVER FEEL GUILTY: whether you cannot make it to the barn because your working late or you have to turn down another show; realize that it is okay! Horse ownership does not need to look like it did as a junior.
Where do you save money with horses?
For those of us that skydive regularly, jumping can be therapeutic.
It is a brief escape from the 9 to 5 and a wonderful way to recharge. This past weekend, a fellow skydive said “this is better than going for a massage.” A good way of explaining the relaxation that comes from jumping.
I often forget about this phenomenon during the summer, but the long, cold and wet winters in Canada are a good reminder. Jumping is so therapeutic for the winter blues. Even more so are the beautiful winter jumps at sunset.
People, skydivers included, often ask how I jump in the winter. Not many places jump through Canadian winters, but there is one I can count on to put jumpers in the air as soon as the runway freezes.
My answer is always that winter jumping is not that cold is you are prepared, so I have put together a list of how I prepare for them:
- Thermal layers and then more layers: This weekend I had about 4 under layers, two thin sweaters and two jackets.
- Buffs: I use two buffs in the winter. One to cover my neck and one over my head. This ensures nothing is exposed from my chest to helmet.
- Closed face helmet: last year I used an open face, but keeping the wind off your face makes a big difference.
- Wind breakers: I wear light rain pants to break the wind.
- Good gloves: I find one pair of good quality gloves is enough. To many can get tight, make you colder and restrict movement. I have heard of some people putting surgical gloves on to stay warm, but I never have.
- Boots: I use good quality water resistant boots with thick socks.
- A warm plane helps!
- Make sure you stay warm on the ground: the place I jump has a wood burning stove to warm up by.
It was my birthday, my mom had agreed to try her first skydive, it was beautiful and warm out – I was pretty freaking pumped.
My mom would be doing a tandem with the instructor who taught me to skydive. Coincidentally, he is also the instructor I desperately do not want to disappoint. At the time I had just over 100 jumps and he offered to let me jump with my first tandem. I would follow them out of the plane and hang out during the skydive.
There are lots of reasons why this is difficult for a newer skydiver, but the main ones are: tandems fall slow because of the drogue, it is really bad to hit the drogue and general safety around tandem skydiving. It takes some time to be allowed to skydive with a tandem.
While my mom was gearing up, the instructor said, “well aren’t you jumping with us to?” Insert me reverting to a child, “Really? Me? I can come to?”
I hustled off to put on my jumpsuit and my friend, who was also my mom’s videographer on this jump, told me to wear a baggy jumpsuit to slow to the tandem’s speed (the drogue makes tandems fall slow). On went my old purple RW jumpsuit that I really dislike (but hey I picked it up for $60 online). As I pulled it on, I realized I WOULD BE JUMPING with my first tandem.
My friend reminded me to deploy high and NOT track too far, as tandems are the last out of the plane (meaning farther from the dropzone). We geared up and I receive a last reminder to stay the f*** away from the drogue.
In the plane, I was nearly as excited as my mom. The door opened to blinding sunshine and blue skies. My mom’s tandem and my friend moved towards the door. I jumped last to stay a safe distance on exit.
I dived out and caught up quickly. I flew over and managed to stay on level for most of the skydive! We reached the tandems deployment altitude and off they went under canopy. Success!
I started tracking, as I patted myself on the back for not screwing up the skydive. I continue to track, as we were still high…see the problem here? In a whoosh, I was under canopy and looking at a pair of windmills. In hindsight I was quiet high above, but at the time it was disconcerting.
I pull on my rear risers to try and hold some altitude, while watching my mom’s tandem fly to the dropzone. I see my friend/videographer working to get back; at least I was not the only one far away. After about 30 seconds, I realized there was no point in trying with a forest to cross — a potential hazard if I didn’t make it back. I scanned the fields below and elected to land in plowed field to my right. It looked like the flattest and safest landing area.
A glance forward showed my mom’s tandem hanging in the air above the dropzone. It appeared that they were watching me land. My friend was just landing – she didn’t track so far away.
I turned into the wind and prepared to land on the unfamiliar ground. My landing was a soft stand up with only a farmer to see. I gathered up my parachute and looked for a way out. There was a dirt path in front of me, so I jumped a ditch and headed that way. I waved towards the farmer as an apology for my uninvited arrival. He was unfazed and went about his work – apparently a side effect of living near a dropzone.
In my mind this was the most logical route, but the walk down the dirt path towards the house was REALLY long. I was in my huge ugly purple jumpsuit lugging a parachute.
It also happened to be one of the hottest days of the year. And I didn’t take a cellphone, so I couldn’t call the dropzone. As I trudged along I was wishing for my last off-landing the winter before – who knew I would be missing winter jumping!
I was sure someone from the dropzone would turn up once I was near the road. To my dismay after a few minutes of sweating at the side of the road I had not seen anyone, so I decided to start walking in the right direction. A local stopped and asked if I need a ride back to the dropzone. YES!!
She looked nice, like she probably would not kill me, so in I jumped in with all my gear. And there was air conditioning!
I told her all about my mom’s first skydive. I said thank you and off she went. My mom was waiting, fairly unconcerned as they had seen me land and excited to tell me about the experience. It was a success!
It turns out the owners had been driving around looking for me closer to the road I landed near, so we missed each other. The owner/pilot nonchalantly told me to remember to deploy higher and track less next time I jump with a tandem. It looked like no one, but I, was concerned with my inability to reach the dropzone.
I hope you enjoyed my misadventure. It turned out to be a great experience for my mom and it is a quirky little story to remember the day by. Although it turned out safely, there are always good lessons to take away:
- Deploy higher with tandems
- Track less with tandems
- Watch where I am in free fall
- Jump with a cell phone
- At least I am confident I can land safely!
My highest skydive is 14,000 and now I can say the highest I have stood on earth is 15,953 feet high. An unique achievement which is thanks to my visit to Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador.
We visited Cotopaxi during our G Adventures tour in Ecuador. I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in that area of Ecuador. The volcano is often active (one of the most active in Ecuador in fact) and it was recently closed to visitors from April 2015 to January 2016. What does this mean? Get your butt there before it erupts again.
Need more reasons? Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world with the summit at 19,347 feet above sea level. If you are relatively fit, it is accessible to do the hike to the base camp at 15,953 feet. Cotopaxi at its towering height also boasts one the few equatorial glaciers worldwide. It is fascinating being at the equator while also standing beside a glacier.
Convinced yet? Cotopaxi National Park is situated high above the rest of Ecuador, so visitors get the unique experience of driving out of the typical Ecuadorian vegetation into pine forest. Not what you would expect in Ecuador!
While we drove out of the pine forest and neared Cotopaxi, we emerged into the barren valleys created from lava and mud flows. There was an other-wordly feel about this area, like landing on another planet. The mist and clouds from being at high elevation added to the feel.
We arrived at the base camp parking about 30 minutes after passing through the main gates. The hike took us about 45 minutes at a slow pace, but due to breathing at the high altitude, this time is apparently typical. We took regular breaks as we trekked up the volcano. It was cold, wet and sleeting when we arrived. I will admit to initially being concerned about the cold, but we warmed up fast – dress in layers.
It was a surreal experience hiking through the clouds. We were rewarded by emerging to clear skies near the base camp with a beautiful view of the summit of Cotopaxi above. The base camp has a small shop that sells tasty hot chocolate to help with altitude sickness. They also stamp your passport with a Cotopaxi stamp if you bring it. Unfortunately we didn’t know, so stamped our hands instead and took home a neat wooden container with the stamp as a souvenir.
The trek down was easy in comparison; we almost skied down in the deep volcanic earth. We appeared below the clouds to find the parking lot in deep mist. An amazing experience, as the sense of accomplishment at the base camp made this one of the most memorable parts of our Ecuador trip.
Tips for visiting Cotopaxi National Park:
- No public buses enter the park; you have to drive, cab or take a tour in.
- Note: sometimes the park will not let foreigners enter without a guide.
- Climbing at altitude is hard! Don’t get discouraged and take many breaks.
- A second trail to the left of the parking lot has switchbacks and is a bit easier hike.
- It is really cold, so bring a warm coat and dress in layers.
- It is usually cloudy, so you might not always see the top of Cotopaxi. The clouds do move regularly with the wind, but this is the gamble you take.
- Early morning visits are best to avoid the clouds.
- Bring proper footwear for hiking
- Bring a passport! That stamp is worth it.
Other Ecuador posts:
“Well, if they run away, we have about 20 minutes to get to higher ground.”
We were halfway up an active volcano in Banos, Ecuador, standing in the “canyon,” where pyroclastic flows travel during an eruption. The area was lush and green with puffy white clouds hanging in the moist air; making it easy to forget we were standing on a volcano. The black crumbling earth below our feet, however, was a good reminder.
We were on a horseback ride and had asked our guide why he left the horses untied while we wandered around the valley. Apparently the horses can feel the small rumblings and tremors leading up to an eruption. He said in all his years working as a guide this only happened to him three times – a relative comfort for us.
And although it is an active volcano, there are even some strong willed locals that have set up homes in the canyon. Not advisable, but they are generally evacuated in time. Interestingly the town of Banos is no longer evacuated because it sits below a mountain that protects it from the pyroclastic flows that pass beside it. The people living in the canyon, outside the town, are not so lucky. (Check out the map of our route up the volcano).
I try to horseback ride in any country I visit, as long as the horses are healthy and in good condition. The one thing I love about riding is that, I find that it gives you a really personal experience.
We met Jose, our guide, at a small farm nestled at the base of the mountain and squeezed within the city limits. Jose made an effort to give me a horse for an “experienced” rider, which mostly meant the horse had more pep then my boyfriend’s horse. Our G adventures tour guide set up the ride for us and relayed our riding experience, so I never even had to ask myself – such a nice bonus!
We rode through the city and took a left up Tungurahua volcano, where we met many locals because our guide waved and chatted with all the people we passed. For me this really added to the experience. Once out of the town the ride was fast paced with many areas to gallop. Our guide’s and my horse thought that racing would be fun, while my boyfriend’s horse cantered at a safe pace behind us.
Jose and I chatted horses for a while, probably to Greg’s dismay. He told me how he starts many young horses and also works with problem horses. It was neat to have our ride led by a true horseman. He even travelled throughout Europe learning about horses, but ended up back in his hometown of Banos.
We learned about the local horses and why they are very small – being bred to ride through the mountains on small rocky paths will do that. He explained that most of the horses are crosses that have predominately Arabian and Andalusian blood from horses brought over from Spain. Seeing a horse like my own in Ecuador would be incredibly rare, as she would just be too big.
Our ride came to pause as we dismounted in the canyon to learn more about the Tungurahua Volcano and why our horses were not tied! We spent about 20 minutes talking about the volcano and hot springs in the area. Before long, we remounted and took a leisurely ride down the mountain’s winding road towards the town.
I loved the town of Banos and everything is had to offer. I would also highly recommend checking out the Jose &Two Dogs tour group if you find yourself in this part of Ecuador.
Read more about our trip in Ecuador: Ecuador in 9 days: Quito, Tena, Banos, Lasso
…in Miami? The answer is not stay in the airport all day.
Some advance googling proved it is relatively easy to travel in the immediate area of the Miami airport with a long enough layover. Our first order of business upon landing was to stop at the American Airlines help counter and see if we could get an earlier flight. Luck was not on our side, so we officially had eight hours to fill.
The stewardess on our original flight from Quito mentioned the American Airlines Admirals club and that we could upgrade to it for $50 (approx.). We decided we would have more fun and spend less money by leaving the airport.
We checked one of our carry-ons to its final destination then headed out to grab a ride on the MIA Mover – a free train to rental cars, buses and parking. The MIA took us right to the MetroBus, where we took a bus to South Beach. Some pre-trip searching told us that South Beach would be the most interesting destination for us. The bus fare was approx. $9 both ways for two people – much cheaper than a taxi and took about 25-30 minutes.
We got off the bus to bright blue skies and a warm ocean breeze – different from our last destination in Quito. We thought this would be a nice last few hours of vacation before returning to December weather in Canada.
The boardwalk was relatively quiet, so we walked a bit, before settling on a restaurant for lunch. After lunch we perused the shopping area and relaxed in the sun before catching our bus. The bus ride back in heavier traffic took about 45 minutes, but we gave ourselves more than enough time to get back. We even had a sushi dinner in the airport after we cleared customs. We probably could have spent longer in South Beach, but we both preferred a leisurely trip back to catch our flight.
Flight landed in Miami International: 12:15pm
Check luggage and ready to leave the airport on MIA Mover to catch MetroBus: 12:30pm
Arrived in South Beach: 1:15pm
Left South Beach by the MetroBus: 4:15pm
Made it back to airport, through security and in our terminal: 5:50pm
Flight leaving for Toronto: 8:07pm
Remember layovers do not necessarily mean long stays in the airport!
South America has long been on my list. The culture, history and landscape fascinate me. Our search for an ideal South American destination brought us to Ecuador. The country seemed to be the perfect mix of culture, beautiful scenery, adventure and an overall safe place to visit.
We decided to join the G adventures “Ecuador multisport” tour, which promised lots of activities and many cities to visit. Our tour looked like this:
We flew into Quito airport then took a 40 minutes taxi ride to Hotel Quito. We pretty much passed out for the night after a short walk around the hotel around midnight (after the hotel staff told us not to walk to far from the hotel). After a lovely breakfast in the hotel, we spent the early morning walking through the gardens behind the hotel. The air was crisp thanks to the high altitude in Quito, but the sun shown overhead promising a great vacation.
To get to Tena, we took a chartered bus to a bus station, where we transfer to a city bus to Tena. The ride was long, but comfortable. It was tempting to nap the four hour trip, but the mountains were beautiful with ever-changing scenery. In true Ecuador style, the clouds crowded out the sun and rain pounded the bus roof.
We arrived in Tena to find it hot, humid and wet. Our guide, Henry, told us that Tena is a very safe city, as the local population has a sort of self-governance that mostly eliminates crime. Our hostel was a few blocks away from the city-centre among local homes and close to the rain forest. We spent the afternoon walking around the city and shopping for summer clothes, as we had packed for the colder climate in the following days.
After breakfast at the hostel, we headed out to white-water raft. We were told that the local’s respect the river and think we are crazy for rafting it. The rapids turned out to be more exciting than I expected! We stopped for a lunch along the river before continuing on with a few thrills and spills.
On our guide’s suggestion, we paid $20 USD to get a private bus from Tena to Banos. This was a fantastic idea and allowed us to stop at local markets, waterfalls and a cable car.
Banos was my favourite town. It is safe to stroll at night, but has a lot more going on than Tena. It has old-winding cobblestone paths, set at the base of the mountain that gives it a charming local feel. While tourists are drawn to this town because it is the “adventure capital” of Ecuador it also has many schools, keeping the local feel alive.
We spent the afternoon Canyoning, which exceeded my expectations. The two hours were spent repelling waterfalls, swimming down rivers, jumping from waterfalls and ziplinning under a beautiful rainforest-like forest canopy. The tour bus was running late, so we jumped in the back of a pickup truck with our guides to catch dinner. Sitting in the back of a truck, under a slowly darkening sky has a way of being so peaceful. It really makes you reflect on your place in the world.
Llanganates national park
In Banos we met the tour group Jose & Two Dogs for a two day trekking adventure through Llanganates national park. Another morning dawned sunny and crisp.
We spent a short time in the national park before crossing into villages and farm land. The vegetation and temperature change as we climbed the mountains was impressive. We came across a small isolated village and stopped to give the school children toys and sweets. Another reflective moment as I found myself becoming choked up. Our guide told us he grew up in a similar village and remembers the trekkers coming through when he was young.
We camped that night on a beautiful local fish farm, beside a roaring river, after catching our own fish for dinner. We hiked out the next morning and started the most technical portion of the journey hiking downhill towards Banos.
About three hours later we arrived and were on a bus back to the quaint town. We spent the afternoon paragliding in front of Tungurahua Volcano before returning to Banos for dinner. The paragliding was to the backdrop of a setting sun, as the clouds cleared for a view of both Tungurahua and Cotopaxi Volcanoes.
Day seven in Banos was a free morning, so we decided to go on a horseback riding trip. We again went with the tour company Jose & Two Dogs. Jose took my boyfriend and I on a tour up Tungurahua Volcano that had been active only three weeks before. The ride was fast paced, but left time for good conversation.
After the horseback ride, we got on another bus to Lasso. We arrived at a beautiful little hotel in the mountains surrounded by farmland. There was little to do in the area, so we spent the afternoon playing Frisbee outside and card games into the night. The hotel room was lovely, but cold with the overnight low dropping near 5C. A huge change from 30C in Tena.
On the way to Cotopaxi volcano (the highest active volcano in the world), we stopped at a local Saturday market and had tea for altitude sickness. Advance warning? That it was.
Since the day was relatively clear, we hiked to the base camp of Cotopaxi around 16,000 feet high. Altitude slowed down our progress, but we finally reached the base camp through the clouds. It was really a sense of achievement and delight I will not forget.
We mountain biked near the volcano, which I did not care for. At no fault of the guides, the weather had made a turn for the worst and an ill-fitting bike made the ride difficult. We had lunch at a local shop before returning to our first hotel in Quito for the night.
Travelling with G adventures was an amazing experience that allowed us to see a huge portion of Ecuador in a short period of time. My preference when travelling is to do it solo or with a few other friends, so I found the group atmosphere challenging at times. I still enjoyed it and would recommend the trip to anyone.
I think Ecuador ignited a passion for South America in me. The scenery, the locals and the small towns were unlike anything I have experienced before in my travels. The nine days were action packed, so stay tuned for more blog post on the individual adventures during our trip.
Read more about our Ecuador trip: Ecuador volcanoes: sometimes you listen to the horses
Fall has come and gone. The last few vibrant leaves cling to the trees as a crisp wind blows past. For many this marks the end of our skydiving season. Some of us crazy people will visit the one dropzone that stays open all winter in the off season, but this is generally the end.
People often ask me why I started skydiving and I respond with “well my Dad was a skydiver before he passed, so I had always meant to try it.” But now, I am a skydiver too and it is such an awesome community of people. They are people from every walk of life, of every age and every personality. It has been an amazing ride so far, so cheers to next year.
Some of the highlights of this year after setting goals earlier in the season:
Finishing the season with 152 jumps!
Hitting 100 jumps earlier this year and doing a wingsuit rodeo (where you sit on top of a wingsuiter) to celebrate
Jumped with my Mom’s first tandem and landing a few miles away, taking a 20 minute walk through a hay field, getting picked up by a local and driven back to the dropzone…but that is a story for another post.
Going to my first real boogie at Skydive Chicago.
Finally starting to get this sitfly thing! And taking docks.
GLITTER JUMP! Yay, I am still a girly-girl.
Seeing my guy start and continue to learn to skydive!
Starting to learn head down. Well, I am not very good yet, but pretty proud of this since I don’t use the tunnel.
Realizing I still have a lot to learn, but looking forward to next season!
I am lucky that I get to travel for work. It get the opportunity to learn from new organizations and expand my peer network. But my work travel usually looks a lot like this: get off the plane, head to the hotel, sit in a conference room, have dinner, and sleep. Repeat.
Now I can’t complain about this because I am lucky to travel for such a great organization and to learn a lot. But the lack of exercise and being outdoors can really get to you!
While I was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the conference I was attending included an optional bike tour around the city. How cool is that?
Our tour started out from the Bessborough hotel, where we traveled down the South Saskatchewan River, crossed over the bridge and headed towards the University of Saskatchewan. The leaves were vibrant as they displayed the fall colours while a warm breeze blew. We just missed the snow by a week! Our tour was put on by Saskatoon Cycles who have inspired me to bike more even at home!
With that in mind, I have put together a few tips to help the active person get through a conference:
- Get up early for breakfast
Make sure you get up early enough to have breakfast and give yourself another 20-30 minutes before the program starts. I know it’s tempting to stay in bed to the last minute, but this gives you time to finish breakfast and spend time networking with colleagues or to simply go on a quick walk to get energized for the day.
- Use the breaks
If you have full schedules use at least one of your breaks to get up and walk around. I am known to go for a walk outside the hotel on breaks. It is impressive how much better I feel after a few minutes in the fresh air and sun. Then I come back ready to focus and talk to colleagues.
- Pick one thing to “see” in the place you are staying
When I travel to a new city I make of habit of finding one thing in advance that I would like to visit while I am there for work. This could be a restaurant, landmark, historical site or a cool store. This gives you the opportunity to use any down time to your full advantage and to feel revitalized after visiting the location. I recognize that not every conference has down time, but at my most recent conference, this was simply a walk around the lake on the hotel’s property. I never would have realized how pretty it was!
What are your tips for work travel?
Well, not really. Grow up. Graduate from university. Work hard. Get that job or the promotion you have been hoping for. Make car payments. Buy a house. Be responsible.
But remember to embrace the feeling of never growing up. Just because you are responsible, don’t forget to stop and appreciate the small things.
Is something intriguing you? Want to try something new? Actually do it! Embrace the fun.
Did you just drive by a goat farm on the side of the road? Think it might be fun to stop for a few minutes? Do it. It might look silly to run with a heard of goats, but you certainly feel happier after.
Be silly, take a funny photo. Make a joke. Laugh. Laughing improves mood after all.
This does not mean that you cannot meet all the other responsibilities, but be spontaneous every now and then. Find what makes life fun.
I’ve run with a herd of goats, how have you enjoyed life lately?