Long-time Winchester and area horsemanship trainer and performer Lorie Duff will represent Canada in the second annual Gobi Desert Cup endurance race from Aug. 22 to 31. Duff, pictured with her main performance companion Titan is renowned across North America for being the first western performer at the Sunset Ceremonies, as well as her innovative approach to training, teaching and all around horsemanship. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
OTTAWA – Lorie Duff has been around horses for basically her whole life. She started riding at a young age, taking lessons, dreaming of becoming a great rider and creating a bond with the majestic animals the way many kids have done before.
In her 20s and 30s she really began her journey with horsemanship and began competing. Born and raised in Newfoundland, Duff believes in staying close to her roots. She re-located to Ontario in 2007 and founded Liberty Lane Farms in the Winchester/Ottawa area. Duff’s philosophy for training focuses on respect, listening to the horses and keeping an open mind.
Duff’s reputation and skills brought her to become the first western performer to perform at the Sunset Ceremonies in Ottawa. She has now become a renowned trainer and performer across North America with her equally famous companion Titan. Her horsemanship has evolved over the last two years to value the horse-like qualities and focus on the conversation between the horse and rider.
Duff’s horsemanship will be tested even more in August as she will travel to Mongolia to race in the second annual Gobi Desert Cup endurance race. “I’ve never raced in an endurance race in my life and I’ve never raced in an English saddle in my life,” said Duff. Nominated to be the representative for Canada, Duff thought for a long time about whether the race was something she’d like to do. When Duff decided to accept her nomination, she felt the need to make the race mean more than just a competition. “I wanted to do it for something, I want it to mean something,” said Duff.
Duff’s daughter was diagnosed with a rare skin disease, late last year. While it is not cancer, she is being treated with similar techniques. It was a shock, but Duff said she and her family have taken each step in stride. “As with everything in our lives, we said, okay we’re going to deal with this.” The team at CHEO Duff said has been particularly amazing. “When you go, you’re like family,” said Duff.
That is why she approached CHEO to partner with her for the event. Duff needed to give the race a greater purpose. “It goes back to my mom who always said to me, if you’re not going to do it with love, don’t do it at all.”
Duff had been connected to CHEO previously for a fundraising event in Winchester four years ago, this time Duff has chosen to partner with CHEO to have people pledge any amount of money per kilometre during her race. Those funds will go to the emergency care unit.
In order for all of that to happen, Duff needs help raising the funds required to get to the race. The nomination fee is between $7,000 and $8,000 USD, plus the travel expenses. Just to get Duff to Mongolia and entered into the race will cost close to $15,000. Currently she is fundraising to help cover those costs. “I do need support to go and I really want to go. I’m very humbled for all of the great opportunities that I’ve come across,” said Duff.
This is the second annual race and this year it features 20 people from 16 different countries competing for the title. The 480 kilometre race spans for six days travelling 80 kilometres per day. There will be vet checks at the half-way mark each day. Racers will get a team of six Mongolian horses that have been raised to compete in endurance events through the diverse climate in the Gobi Desert. Duff and her team of horses will face temperatures ranging from 40 C in the daytime to -40 C in the evenings. Duff plans to embrace the Mongolian culture by eating traditional foods during the race and only packing the absolute necessities.
The race challenges the participants’ horsemanship and their ability to get six horses 480 kilometres across the desert. “This will test not just your horsemanship, it will test you as a person,” said Duff. As it stands, Duff is the only Canadian participating in the race. Her journey will be filmed by a documentary crew starting from her flight from New York. The film team will follow Duff travelling to the race and during the six day ride.
Once Duff arrives, she will have two days to get through registration, race preparations and meeting her horse team. Duff will have to navigate the course completely on her own, take care of her animals and get herself and each of them over the finish line. Duff will have no idea of the horse team’s level of training but that isn’t deterring her optimism. “I won’t treat it any other way than any horse that comes in for training,” she said. “When I get there, I’m going to go into it really positive and hopefully build on the positivity.”
The race is scheduled for Aug. 22 to the 31. from Ulaanbataar to Dalanzadgad, Mongolia. “I never imagined I’d be doing this but I’m excited about the race, I wish I could take Titan with me,” said Duff. The race website explains, “Riders will learn to get on each horse and put their heart in their hoof. They will discover a whole new level of trust.” To learn more or make a donation to help Duff reach her goal, visit www.libertylanefarm.net.