Through the thick brush, he spotted the horseman hunting him. Pumped with adrenaline, he charged up a hill, ducking branches and leaping over fallen trees. The sound of pounding hooves grew louder behind him until he thought he would be trampled by the horse. That’s when Ryder Britton surrendered, accepting defeat in front of thousands of television viewers on the reality show Mantracker.
The third-year biology student appeared on the television series with his older brother, Brendyn, this past fall.
“After being on Mantracker, I can honestly say I know what it feels like to be hunted,” says Britton.
In each episode of the show, “Mantracker” Terry Grant pursues pairs of competitors through the Canadian wilderness. The goal for his “prey” is to elude capture while attempting to reach a finish line in 36 hours. The finish line might be as far as 45 kilometres away, and the chase often occurs through rough terrain.
So why would someone sign up to run through the bush for two days with only as much food and supplies as they can carry, all while being chased by an extremely intimidating expert tracker?
“Bragging rights,” says Britton. “And it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s definitely the toughest thing I have ever done.”
After submitting an audition tape, the brothers were chosen to compete on the show in August 2009. They were dropped off in the middle of the wilderness in Temagami, Ont., with their supplies, including a compass and a map. Two camera operators joined them to capture the adventure on film.
“The cameramen were dressed in complete camouflage and they had GPS devices on the inside of their arm so we couldn’t see them,” says Britton. “They were faster and stronger than us, so there was no way they would give us away.”
On the first day, the brothers managed to elude Mantracker and even employed some tactics to slow down their enemy.
“We tried to throw him off by walking on our hands and leaving tracks in the dirt,” says Britton. “We also left a trail of gummy bears. It took us just seconds to do these things, but we knew it would take Mantracker several minutes to get off his horse and do an inspection. Plus it made for great television.”
The brothers covered 22 kilometres through blistering heat on the first day and swam to an island to spend the night. The second day proved more challenging.
It started off with Britton stumbling upon a hornet nest and getting stung 16 times. It rained all day, and Brendyn lost the map.
They managed to navigate through the wet bush using a digital photo they had taken of the map. Just four kilometres from the finish line, Mantracker closed in on them. As the horseman galloped towards them, the brothers fled in different directions.
“The best thing to do when a horse is coming at you is to go down a big hill, which is what my brother did. The worst thing to do is to charge up a hill, which is what I did.”
Ryder was caught, but Brendyn escaped and reached the finish line minutes before the deadline.
The episode ended with a brotherly hug before a defeated-looking Mantracker.
The show aired in October on the Outdoor Life Network and can still be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkSJ1CrS4zg.
For Ryder, competing on the show was not only a great experience to share with his brother but also a way to feed his love of being on camera.
Before starting his degree at the University of Guelph, Britton spent several years pursuing theatre and television acting.
“In high school, I was really interested in science, but at the time I wanted to pursue acting. “
He was introduced to theatre by his mother, an actor. He was six years old when she helped him land the part of a young Prince William in the 1992 movie The Women of Windsor. In 1995, Britton appeared in Tommy Boy as a young version of the character played by actor David Spade. In the same year, he appeared on Goosebumps, a Canadian children’s television series aired on YTV.
Britton attended George Brown College Theatre School from 2003 to 2006. He was a guest star on Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2008 and appeared in several commercials.
“Commercials are the bread and butter for Canadian actors, and I didn’t feel fulfilled with that. It took me a few years of being a professional actor to realize that it’s not what I wanted.”
That’s when he rekindled his love of science and decided to study biology.
“I am hoping that science will allow me to make a positive contribution to the world in some way.”