EASTERN ONTARIO — Horse whisperer Lorie Duff plans to saddle up in the Gobi desert later this month — but the area resident requires some more fundraising help to make her Mongolian dream a reality.
Duff has made a name for herself as a gentle horse trainer whose skills have been showcased at the Calgary Stampede and the RCMP Musical Ride, alongside her trusty steed, Titan. The long-time equine enthusiast says she still needs assistance with airfare for the trip to the desert on the other side of the world, where she’s due to race 480 km in the Gobi Desert Cup, Aug. 22-31.
“My deadline is approaching fast ! I’m the only Canadian representing Canada and simply can’t go without your support, please help,” says the Newfoundland-born 44-year-old, still retaining the twangy accent of her maritime heritage.
“Can you please help and share? My deadline is coming and I really want to get there.”
Duff also intends to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Eastern Ontario while racing over the course of six days in the challenging event. “I’m blessed to have the ability to do this race, and to dedicate it to CHEO,” she says.
“My daughter Callie was diagnosed late last year with a skin disease, and we have been actively working with CHEO, here in Ottawa,” she explains on her official CHEO Foundation donation page. “It has been overwhelming to have such great support and help from everyone at CHEO. My daughter is my whole heart and I’m so proud of her for facing all the struggles she has faced in her short life of only 16 years old. She’s my pride and joy, happy and smiling always.”
Her daughter is“very proud of me as is my family back home in Newfoundland,” adds the Mongolia-bound businesswoman.
Rather than Titan, Duff will ride endurance-trained Mongolian horses — provided by race organizers — and live with nomadic people in traditional Mongolian camps. The 10-day adventure includes two days of training before the race plus closing ceremonies.
The mother of two says her experience will be documented in a film. She has previously forged links with the entertainment industry and is represented by a show business agent whose clients include some cast members on CBC’s Heartland. The show’s Shaun Johnston — Grandpa Jack — was a featured guest at a Liberty Lane Farm during a symposium Duff organized in North Dundas in the summer of 2016.
“I will promise everyone I will make you proud.”
Question and answer with Lorie Duff
Q. How much money are you attempting to raise and how close are you to your goal?
A. I am trying to raise the $5,000 for travel expenses also need approximately $5,000 total of $10,000 for gear such as filter systems for drinking, protective gear, solar chargers, helmets sleeping bag, water bladder, proper boots, specialty saddle and accessories for the saddle, medical supplies.
All of this I’m trying to get some of it donated to me, but again I’m really pressed for time.
Q. Are you in training for this race and how long is it through the Gobi desert?
A. I would really like to be doing more training and conditioning to physically prepare, but unfortunately I have spending 99% of my time focusing on actually raising the funds to get there, I have to book a flight and the costs for that alone are over $4,500 … my racer insurance is a big expense I did not count on as well ($1,500). I’m trying so hard to raise the expenses and hoping that something will come through soon, with some people coming forward to help with small donations I am trying my best and need to get more people aware and need to let people know that I’m really on a tight deadline, the longer it takes to collect the money I need the more expensive the flights get.
Q. This sounds like quite a different endeavour from demonstrating your horse-whispering skills to students and spectators. In other words, how much of a departure is this for you as far as your other equestrian pursuits?
A. This is a huge endeavour!! I have competed in events in the past but nothing like a almost 500 km race in the Gobi desert …. It is taking a lot to wrap my thoughts around what my journey will be and the test I will encounter “ Endurance (noun) the power to withstand pain or hardships; the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.
This is something I can promise you affects me deeply, as I like many others in this world have endured many hardships. but the true test of my horsemanship will be to show my country how proud I am, that we are strong and can handle many challenges, the children of cheo are strong as well and face so many things and I’m so proud to dedicate this journey to them.
Q. Are you bringing your own famous horse, Titan (or maybe one of your other ones) or are you being provided with/acquiring a horse over there? (My gut tells me that Arabian horses are good for a fast ride through the desert, but that’s only from watching The Black Stallion Returns.)
A. Like the movie “Hidalgo,” which is based on a true story of the greatest long distance horse race ever run, Frank Hopkins and his truly amazing Mustang Hidalgo took on this race, he was fortunate to have his horse with him by his side. I will not be bringing my Titan with me this time, but if I were I would surely feel like I had my whole world at my side as he’s best friend and truly my partner that would take me to the finish line of the Gobi Desert Cup.
I will be given six horses thought out the course of the race … it will be a challenge to work with unfamiliar horses, but a true testimony to my horsemanship and my philosophy of communication trust and respect.
This article was edited to include Duff’s comment about her daughter being helped by CHEO.