Distance Riding in Ontario – Early Beginnings

Some History on Distance Riding
There was a time when man could move from place to place only by foot. With the domestication of the horse, man was able to increase the distance and speed at which he could travel. However, the invention of the combustion engine, followed by a mass production of the automobile largely eliminated the need horses for travel.

The horse population in North America rapidly declined as a consequence to the automobile and unfortunately, so did the knowledge of how to care for these living transport providers. The US Cavalry was able, purely by necessity, to perfect its equine knowledge which included tack and saddlery, riding procedures, and veterinary care for horses traveling many miles a day. With the modernization of the Cavalry this great source of knowledge was scattered. The horse care requirements involved with riding long distances is still the most important component, to this day, allowing rider and equine partner to be fit and travel effortlessly farther down the trail.

Along with the ability to move rapidly over a variety of terrain, the equine partner also provided man with companionship. And today, that is the primary focus of horse ownership. Various equestrian activities and sports have grown, including trail riding for pleasure and competition. The horse population has increased and continues to grow rapidly with distance riding being the fastest growing equine sport. With distance riding many people find caring for, and riding horses excellent recreation. Activities which involve an equine athlete require horsemen to condition their mounts appropriately for participation. This conditioning includes hours of riding, good equine care and proper nutrition.

The sport of endurance riding was started by the late Wendell T. Robie, he wanted a sport which involved:

Rapport with one’s horse companionship on a trail and the opportunity to share the incomparable scenery of my territory.

He set out to start the very first Endurance ride – The 100 Mile Tevis Cup. It was a huge success and soon America had started up 3 endurance organizations.

Not long after, endurance became a worldwide equestrian discipline, moving onto Australia, and they formed the 4th group AER and held the first Tom Quilty Cup (a ride similar to the Tevis Cup) in 1966. And then there was The Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA) in 1968 which is the sanctioning body for Endurance Riding, Competitive Trail Riding and Ride ‘n’ Tie in Ontario and Eastern Quebec. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, organizations for endurance riding started popping up all over the world.

OCTRA started in 1967 with Di Lindblad’s ‘Rockwood Trail Riders’ putting on a competitive ride. Nancy Beacon put on a 30 mile competitive ride in Flesherton from Best’s Stable. And The Riding Canucks put on a 50 mile ‘Endurance Ride’. At the time we didn’t know any better and considered it to be endurance enough for anyone to ride, let alone let a horse go fifty miles! The ride started from Old Markham Fairgrounds in Markham, Ontario and went through the Rouge Valley almost down to Hwy 2. The half &ndash way stop was where the Zoo is now. Only one horse failed to complete the 50 miles and that was a mare thought to be in foal. – Di Regendanz

It was following these three rides that Nancy Beacon, Di Regandanz and Di Lindblad got together and formed OCTRA in 1968. And the rest is history. Since these beginnings, OCTRA has grown to offer over a dozen competitions each year to over 300 members in Ontario and Eastern Quebec.