On Sunday morning, there was a distinct chill in the air, everything was wet from the 3.5+” of rain we received Friday-Saturday, and the wind was blowing steady. Like many other weekends, everyone was up early and we headed out to the barn to load up horses. We were headed to the WGHA Ghost Ride at Goddard State Park in RI. However, this particular Sunday outing was different for 2 important reasons: Amanda got to take Huey on the ride and King was going as well. Amanda and Huey have been doing a lot of rides from the house and also lessons with Pony Club. However, until now, Amanda didn’t get to join the family at trail riding events away from home. They were finally ready to join us on the trails with other riders around. Last weekend, Alex rode King 4 miles on the trails from home. King hasn’t left our farm for a ride since the summer of 2014. He has been combating injury from a tendon strain, Lyme, general arthritis, and more recently, EPM. In all honesty, after this summer, we thought it was unlikely he would ever go to an organized ride again.
The ride was at Goddard State Park which has 6 miles of bridle paths. While the trails are open, wide, and scenic, the park is usually crowded. This weekend we got to share the area with a 5k race being held on the roads of the park. Alex and King led our group for most of the ride. Alex describes riding King as “smooth” and “light as a feather” with his floating trot and high energy (but without the spookiness characteristic of the arabs). I’m sure it also feels different considering King is 8″ taller than Dakota. Amanda did great controlling Huey. The temperature definitely sucked the energy out of Amanda faster than normal, so I did put a lead line on Huey for the second half of the 6 mile loop.
While we had the option of doing multiple loops, we elected to stop after 1 successful loop. Amanda really wants to ride the hunter paces next summer, so she plans to try to ride for longer periods of time. It is nice for our whole family to be able to ride as a group at the events.
It has been almost 3 weeks since we made a blog post. It’s not that nothing has been blog-worthy, but rather, we have been so busy we haven’t had time to sit down and catch up.
Last weekend was our annual trip to the Hartford County 4-H Camp for Pony Club Columbus Camp. We took 4 of our horses – Mojo (for Alex and Rob), Teddy (for Vicki), Devil (for Vicki), and Huey (for Amanda). It started to rain on us Saturday afternoon and rained all day Sunday. All the kids did 1 lesson in the pouring rain on Sunday and then decided to skip the afternoon lesson. Devil was getting seriously underutilized and came home on Sunday afternoon. He was literally climbing the walls in the stall and losing his mind. He was much happier to be turned out with King when he got home.
Alex ended up riding 3.5 lessons on Mojo, including jumping. I picked up 2.5 lessons on Mojo and we were able to loan him out for 2 more lessons when another kid had her horse go lame. In the end, Mojo did 8 lessons in 2.5 days. And he was awesome for every lesson.
Vicki rode Teddy for 3 lessons and 1 on Devil. Teddy was calm and cool with Vicki and they were able to work on some jumping. Amanda did 4 lessons on Huey; we were much more focused on the experience for them rather than a specific lesson goal. I’m sure we didn’t take nearly enough photos, but here are a few.
The horses were happy to be home after camp.
Since Vicki is outgrowing Devil, and Amanda is moving up to ride Devil occasionally, Huey is getting used a little less. We have decided that he will stick around and become our driving pony. We were lucky enough to find a harness locally that fit him, so he has been getting worked for some ground driving. This week, Vicki and Alex both got to start learning how to ground drive Huey.
On Friday evening, Alex and I were able to spend a couple of hours in the stand hunting deer. We got to see 3 young bucks and 1 doe, but came home empty-handed. Saturday morning, Alex and I took Mack out for the opening of pheasant season.
Today, we did a family trail ride. King’s health over the past year has been up and down as he combats EPM. For the last few days, he has been doing surprisingly well. Today, Alex was able to ride him for an hour covering 4 miles on our trail ride. All 5 members of our family rode with all 5 of our horses. Vicki rode Huey since he has been giving Amanda attitude on the trails and Vicki can work the spunk out of him if needed.
Once the ride was over, we did a little work outside and came in for dinner. Fried pheasant from yesterday’s hunt, rice and gravy, and cole slaw with a cabbage picked from our garden this afternoon.
There is no question that October and November are my favorite months in New England.
Roseland Cottage is a step into the Victorian era of Connecticut. Saturday September 24th was National Smithsonian Day and several museums around the area were offering free admission. The kids and I took advantage of the opportunity to go see this museum I’ve been thinking about for a while and went to visit Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, CT. Alexis came with us as well. Situated not quite 45 minutes from our house, this house is on the National Historic Register and proved very interesting , even to the kids. I believe Alex could count this day as a school day field trip!
We showed up a few minutes late for the one o’clock tour, so we had some time to kill before our two o’clock tour. Turns out the old horse stalls of the barn and carriage building have partially been turned into rest rooms, which the kids got a kick out of.
The kids enjoyed playing some Victorian games while we were waiting, such as the game of graces or french hoops, trundle hoops, ball in cone, spinning tops, and croquet.
There was a civil war reenactment camp going on with a collection of dressed up soldiers, muskets, and a cannon. To Alex’s dismay, the cannon was not usable, but he got a lesson in how they loaded it.
They had a kids activity set up to learn how to build a bridge for the soldiers and their wagons to cross rivers and the kids worked on this project for a while.
At two, we started our tour. The gardens have the original boxwood gardens with 600 feet of hedge in a parterre style.
We had to put on booties to enter the house, except Amanda who went barefoot, since the booties were so big they were a trip hazard. Roseland Cottage was built in 1846 as a summer house for Henry and Lucy Bowen. They entertained important guests, including three presidents at this house. It is built in a gothic revival style, but later redecorated in a more Victorian style, including massive stained glass windows, fancy wall coverings and dark elaborate carpets. The house had 5 bedrooms, and we also saw the dining room, conservatory and sitting room.
After the house we got to see the indoor bowling alley. Roseland Cottage has one of the oldest bowling alleys in the US. It is not part of the house itself, but rather a section of the barn and carriage house. Tucked into the bowling alley was an old carriage, which drew more attention from the girls than the bowling alley itself.
After the house tour the kids returned to the now finished bridge project and got to walk over the finished bridge.
We finished off our visit by talking to one of the soldiers and he showed Alex how the muskets worked and Alex and I were surprised to find that they were so slow to reload.
We had a great visit, and I would definitely recommend this field trip to others, although young kids may not enjoy the house tour. Amanda was getting pretty restless at the one hour mark, but perked up when we went to the bowling alley and loved playing all the Victorian games.
If you are interested in more information about Roseland Cottage, here is a web site to get you started: http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/roseland-cottage/roseland-cottage-history
This afternoon Vicki rode Mojo, Amanda rode Devil, and Alex rode Teddy. Everyone did walk, trot, and canter. As a family, we are working to have horses that are appropriate for kids and parents alike. I think we are on the right track.
2 weeks ago, we rode as a family at the Lyme Trails Association Hunter Pace (aka Lord Creek Hunter Pace). I rode Mojo with Alex as my teammate on a trial pony, Zippy. Anna rode Teddy and Vicki rode Devil. While Zippy was a good trail mount, we decided he wasn’t quite what we were after to replace Dakota, so we have since returned him. However, we were thankful for the chance to ride as a family at a great venue. For the past 2 years, horse or people injuries have resulted in only 3 of the 4 of us getting to ride. Anna and Alex went around the jumps this year, as neither was ready for that on their mounts. Vicki and I went over jumps… a lot of jumps. It was AWESOME. Mojo and I went over jumps that were bigger than anything I have ever attempted previously and only gave me 1 refusal all day. Here are links to the Judy Bosco’s site, who was the ride photographer. I bought a copy of Mojo and I jumping.
This weekend was Ayer Mt Farm’s Autumn Daze, which is also known as Jump, Jump, Jump. It is a 3 phase jumping show which includes stadium jumping, derby jumping, and cross-country. Derby jumping is a combination of stadium and cross-country jumps. For any of our local riding friends, this is an amazing little show (I think there were 16 entries) and tons of fun. I highly recommend you do it next year if they don’t cancel due to low numbers.
Since the previous weekend went so well, I decided to bump Mojo up to the Elementary Division (max 2’3″ jumps) while Vicki and Devil rode in the Grasshopper Division (max 18″ jumps). To be clear, I had never actually ridden a stadium jump course on Mojo at anything other than 18″, so Anna considered my choice of divisions completely impulsive and irresponsible. Anyone who knows my approach to riding will understand, it’s just my style to go for it and not worry about failure. It turns out, Vicki has the same go-for-it attitude.
Anna had this to say about the following picture: “This picture is one of the proud mama moments I had as Devil was a total brat pony all day and Vicki totally rocked her confidence as she made her pony do what he didn’t have any intention of doing. He refused this jump twice before she made him jump it and then stayed on for the mega leap.”
Vicki did get eliminated during her derby round because Devil did a spin refusal approaching a log jump and she came unseated (meaning hit the ground). Despite that, she never lost her reins, bounced back up, and was back on Devil before the nearby fence judge could get there. The event is “schooling friendly” and still allowed her to complete the rest of the derby round and ride her cross-country course. Vicki was all smiles despite the elimination.
Things went a little better for Mojo and I. In stadium, he knocked down 1 rail over a roll top (which was almost a refusal). In the cross-country round, we had 2 refusals at a coop which were my fault. I realized on the second refusal I was reading all the words on the side of the coop and Mojo was spooking at it because I was looking down. As soon as my eyes came up, so did his front feet. Despite these minor issues, we were able to take 2nd place for the day. I think it was the best showing experience I have ever had and continues to show how much heart Mojo has. I definitely benefited from recent lessons with Ann Bowie and Julia Cronin who both gave me insight that aided our performance. We have plenty to work on to get better at our jumping, but it’s so nice to have a willing partner that forgives my errors.
One last thing. For all the riders who feel pressured to put shoes on your horse, I rode Mojo barefoot for the stadium phase (because the grass was a little slick) and in Easy Care Gloves for the other 2 phases.
Update – only a few minutes after posting, a long time friend got in touch about Dakota. They already came to visit him and he will be going to their farm this week to be a trail pony for grandkids. If things don’t work out, he will come back to us.
For the past few months, we have struggled with some indications that Dakota was not cut out for the volume of riding and competition that we, as a family, participate in. After a recent round of lameness, we pursued further examination of Dakota’s legs to determine what was going on. The results were devastating for Anna and Alex in particular, as both has developed a significant bond with Dakota. Dakota has a cyst on both left and right front pastern bones and arthritis (diagnosed by a vet with xrays). These issues make him not suitable for a high-use home like ours. He is currently pasture sound, but shows some lameness if worked in the arena. As a result, we have decided to start the process of looking for a new home for Dakota. His info/ad is listed below. Please feel free to share a link to this post if you know of a good match for Dakota.
Dakota is a 9yo, 14.1hh grade pinto pony. He is some sort of gaited horse cross because he will gait when bitted in a curb bit, but otherwise is a W/T/C pony. We have owned Dakota for almost 3 years. He is barefoot, has a current Coggins/rabies, and his teeth were done in the spring. Dakota trailers very well and is an easy keeper – he currently eats hay and hay pellets with supplements. He lives in a herd (currently geldings only, but he gets along with mares) and prefers to be out at night, but will stall as well.
Dakota has logged hundreds of trail miles since we got him and did a 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride last fall and 25 mile Limited Distance in the spring. He has also done many hunter paces, participated in Pony Club camp, and has been ridden by adults and kids. He has camped over-night. Dakota doesn’t test electric, but if spooked, he will bolt through electric fencing. Therefore, he needs a hard fence, with or without electric inside.
Unfortunately, Dakota has a cyst on both left and right front pastern bones and arthritis (diagnosed by a vet with xrays). These issues make him not suitable for a high-use home like ours. He is currently pasture sound, but shows some lameness if worked in the arena. Dakota would do best as an occasional trail horse or as a companion.
I am a barefoot trimmer and pulled his shoes 3 years ago. He is absolutely fine for trimming and he will go to a new home with a current trim and full set of 4 Renegade Vipers for trail riding. Dakota is not very trusting of new people until he has a bond with the handler. We believe Dakota was mishandled by a farrier prior to us owning him, based on my experience as a farrier.
Dakota has been handled by kids the entire time he has been here. He is kid safe; he actually prefers to be handled by kids over adults. He is wary of men (see farrier issue above) but not dangerous, just nervous.
Dakota trail rides in a hackamore and is best suited for a quiet, balance rider because he is sensitive and forward under saddle. He has good brakes, but he is not a kick ride. He will cross water, logs, bridges, etc, but does get a little nervous around motorcycles and bikes. He is not a spooky/looky horse on the trails. He has been regularly trail ridden by 10-12 year old kids.
Dakota is offered free, but vet and farrier references will be required and checked. A home visit will also be done, either in advance or as part of delivery. We are willing to trailer him to you.
Last Sunday was the WGHA 2016 Hunter Pace #3. This time, I (Rob) rode on Teddy, Alex rode Mojo, Vicki rode Devil, and Alexis rode Ace. We had a good 12 mile ride that took us 2:16. It was good enough to earn me 6th place and the kids got 5th in the Jr division.
Pinetree Pioneer Rides were held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds over 5 days from Tuesday, August 9 through Saturday, August 13. There was a 50-55 mile event and a LD (Limited Distance) 25-30 mile event every day for 5 days. The Pioneer Ride is the three middle days, and totals 155 miles of riding. This was to be Vicki’s first distance ride. Alex was unable to ride; Dakota has been lame and Alex was still dealing with a double ear infection and sinus infection.
The logistics required to travel and camp with your horses for an endurance ride are not to be under estimated. When it is a whole family going to camp and leaving the majority of the herd at home, it takes a few days of prep just to leave the house. We started making our packing lists weeks ago. Leading up to this trip, I printed the lists and kept making updates as we figured out what we needed to add. Sunday and Monday were spent going through the camping gear to make sure everything was there and loading into totes. We also packed the horse trailer with hay, shavings, tack, extra tack, and everything we could imagine needing. Once all the camping gear was loaded into the truck bed (around the gooseneck hitch), clothing and sleeping bags in the horse trailer, and tack in the trailer, we were ready to leave.
We hit the road on Tuesday morning at 0900 and headed to Maine! The first stop was 35 minutes into the drive for a couple of items we needed at Wal-mart. The second stop was only 20 minutes later for a bathroom break. We decided to skip lunch and just finish the drive (with no more stops) to get the horses off the trailer faster. That turned out to be a mistake, because once we got to camp, it took over an hour to get the horses settled and to the point we could unload enough to eat. In the future, we will ensure we have eaten before arriving at camp.
Once things we set in camp, we vetted in the horses for the ride and took a break. Our campsite consisted of an electric fence paddock for the horses, canopy for the horses, canopy for our kitchen area, stove, coffee pot, 2 tents, folding table…. The chuck box we used for storing food and such was built by my Dad in the 60’s when he was in scouting. I would say it has gotten some miles.
The ride camp had a coordinated dinner that you could participate in, so we did. After dinner each night, the awards for the day’s ride were given out and then the ride brief was conducted for the next day. We arrived on Tuesday, so we got to see the first day awards and hear some feedback about the trails.
We have learned from previous rides, the endurance ride camps get quiet early. It seems everyone wants to go to bed early. Of course, since we had just traveled in, our crew wasn’t as tired, so we didn’t fall asleep quite as fast.
Wednesday morning, the 50 mile ride started at 0530. Our camp setup was right next to the vet area and the start/finish. Anna and I were up at 4:45 with Vicki only shortly after. Alex and Amanda slept in a little. We cooked up some eggs and sausage for breakfast. While there is typically muffins or doughnuts available for a ride breakfast, it is important to fuel your body for the ride, especially when 1 of the bodies is an 80lb, 10 year old girl.
Vicki and I were riding the 25 mile, LD ride. We started at 6:30 and 1 mile into the ride, you cross a river. On the other side, you enter some potato fields where you ride on sandy farm roads for the next 5 miles. While the potato fields were pretty, calm, and fast riding in the morning, they were hot and hotter once the sun started baking things. The first hold was 15 miles into the ride, and was away from base camp at a covered bridge. Anna, Alex, and Amanda met us there with snacks for the horses, snacks for us, and to simply help out. We quickly determined that at this age, Vicki can handle the distance, but needs the support of someone to crew at the holds so she can take a break and fuel up herself.
When you arrive at the hold, your hold time doesn’t actually start until your horse has pulsed down below 64 bpm. In anticipation of that, Vicki and I walked in (us off and leading on foot) the horses for about the last 1/4 mile. Mojo can pulse down quickly, but we wanted to make sure Devil was ready to go. It worked great and Devil was below the threshold as soon as we arrived. 40 minutes later, we were back out of the trail for 11 miles back to camp, including the potato fields. We arrived at base camp and Mojo immediately met the finish pulse criteria of 60 bpm. 6 minutes later, Devil had cooled off and also passed a vet check as “fit to continue”. Vicki and Devil had their first completion with a ride time of 4:27 for 26 miles in the saddle.
Once the horses were taken care of, we hiked a mile down to the river and took a swim to cool off since the temps were in the upper 80s (I thought Maine was supposed to be cold?).
Some people at the Pinetree ride actually ride every day. However, many ride a day and then take a day off. Because we did our first ride on the second day, there were only 11 entries in the LD ride for our day. Even though our time wasn’t terribly slow, Vicki was the last finisher, which meant she won the “Turtle Award”. In the endurance world, the motto is “To finish is to win” and we have been teaching that to the kids as we train. Winning the turtle isn’t demeaning, because it is still a completion. There are actually some riders who compete to collect turtle awards. Vicki was all smiles at the awards ceremony as she collected her ride prize, her Jr rider award (a blanket she slept with every night since), and her Turtle.
No one in our family had trouble falling asleep on Wednesday. We took Thursday off, and I was glad we did! I listened to the sound of ~30 riders leaving camp at 0530 (all distances started at 0530 on Thursday and Friday due to the heat) and then I went back to sleep for another hour. After getting up and eating, I broke out the hammock. There were not a lot of trees available, but with the truck parked just so, the hammock fit nicely between the horse trailer ties and the stake pocket ties on the truck. Amanda and I tested it out for a nice hour nap. After, we walked the horses around for some grazing (Vicki decided to ride bareback).
Thursday was HOT! The camp thermometer broke 100F in the shade. We went out to get more ice for our cooler and some ice cream. We also went to a different part of the river for a swim to cool off again. In the late afternoon, Vicki and I rode the horses bareback down to the river. We took them into some deeper areas and Vicki and Devil actually got to swim (it wasn’t deep enough to cause Mojo to swim). Thursday night dinner was lobster night and after the ride brief, we went to bed for a 0400 wake up. While Vicki was very happy to have finished her first ride, she did talk to me about strategy before we fell asleep. She said, “Dad, can we ride a little faster tomorrow. I don’t want to Turtle. I want to Win.” I told her we would ride within our horses’ abilities and the priority was to finish with everyone in good condition, but yes, we could go faster. She was ok with that. On Friday, we were riding the same LD course as Wednesday.
The temperatures on Friday were definitely hotter than Wednesday. While we did ride a faster first loop, we slowed down some on the second loop and ended up finishing within about 5 minutes of our Wednesday time. Again, both horses were in excellent condition and we both had smiles at the finish. As Vicki and I hand walked our horses the last 1/4 mile, she was already talking about her plans for the next ride. To say she is hooked on endurance is an understatement.
While the temperatures were high, we had nothing but an amazing week. Amanda was talking with everyone about her pony Huey and how she planned to ride him at Pinetree next year. Alex didn’t get to ride, but is still interested in trying it out. Pinetree was definitely a top-notch, family friendly event. Our thanks go out to Tom Hutchinson and Sue Niedoroda for managing the ride and to all the volunteers who put it on. We will see you again in 2017!
Having spent a fair amount of time in the saddle, I decided to document what does, and does not, work for me. Disclaimer – I am still only riding LDs, so I can’t ensure what works for me now will still work as I move up to longer distances. But I am sure if it doesn’t work for 25 miles, it won’t work for 50!
Since getting into endurance last year, I have constantly been trying to figure out what is the most comfortable riding attire for me. Let’s start with I am an English rider. I ride in a Bates all-purpose saddle. I do put Easy Ride stirrups on for rides over about 10 miles and ride with Ariat Terrains and half chaps. I’m not thrilled with the Terrains because they have stretched out (like every other pair of Ariats I own). Eventually, I will replace them with Merrell or some other high-end hiking boot with a smooth sole. As for the half chaps, I have the Ariat Terrain Half Chaps. They are fine for now. I won’t spend the money to replace them until they are damaged or worn out, but I will likely try a different brand that has some ventilation for the outside of my leg.
Having spent plenty of time in standard breeches, I knew those were not what I wanted to wear for long periods of time. Last year, I bought a pair of Rackers tights. I also do some triathlons, so I decided to wear my triathlon shorts under the Rackers in order to eliminate cotton underwear. I like the little cell phone pocket on the leg of the tights. They fit nicely and have belt loops which makes it easy to tuck in a shirt and keep it there. However, the tri shorts underneath doesn’t really work. The bottom edge of the shorts ends up right where my thigh contacts the saddle and rubs about a couple of hours of riding.
I finally ordered a pair of Saddlebums Racing Tights and today was my first ride in them. We went 16 miles and I was in the saddle for 3 hours. My first impression was the material is very similar between the Rackers and Saddlebums. The Saddlebums do not have belt loops and the cut of the waist made me feel like I would have plumber’s crack every time I bent over and probably in the saddle too. With the Rackers, I had tried riding in a cycling jersey, but it was uncomfortable with the belt on. So before heading out this morning, I changed out of my shirt and into a cycling jersey. Since the cycling jersey has an elastic waist and comes down lower in the back, it solved my problem! The Saddlebums also have an integrated chamois pad, so they are designed to wear without underwear. As a guy who has spent time in bike shorts and tri shorts, it feels quite normal to me. I put the amount of padding much closer to tri shorts than bike shorts. The optional pocket on the Saddlebums is much larger than the Rackers and actually has a velcro top (which I like).
Overall, I give the nod to Saddlebums for distance riding and will likely be ordering a second pair. That said, I think my Rackers will become my go-to schooling attire for jumping.
I have found that cycling/triathlon tops make great crossover for endurance riding. I have a Pearl Izumi cycling jacket that is my go-to rain top for horses. It is very compact and fits in my cantel bag with all my other stuff. If you are looking for solutions for men’s attire, check out a local bike shop!
Since Anna and the kids are out of town, I went out for a solo ride on Mojo today. WGHA was having a full camping weekend at Escoheag with rides yesterday and today, so Mojo and I went for a day ride. I had plans of getting there early to have lots of time to ride. Those plans didn’t work out. We finally left the house just after 9 and hit the trails at 10.
Today’s ride was all about working on riding without his best friends and trying out some new gear. I ordered some new riding tights from Saddlebums and wore them today. I was very pleased with them overall, however, I did forget my half chaps and my calves paid the price. I have decided that I prefer to do my distance riding with a biking jersey top. The elastic around the sleeves and waist keep the shirt from flapping around and the pockets on the back come in handy for snacks, cell phone, trash, etc. I also got a new hackamore for Mojo and I love it. He isn’t a heavy horse in the first place and the hackamore lets him eat whenever I offer a stop without getting grass all stuck in his bit. We also did some tweaking of existing gear such as how the saddlebag was attached. There are little things that add up to annoyances or actual rubs/problems over longer distances, so it’s important to get it right.
It was hot out there (mid 80s with high humidity). The humidity definitely impacted our speed. In the end, we rode 16 miles at a 5.3 mph average; just a hair over 3 hours of saddle time.
Mojo definitely enjoyed the 3 stops where I let him wade into the water (2 creeks and a lake). I have no doubt this horse will swim with me if I give him the chance. We did a lot of trotting, but I did let him run a couple of times. He gave me a new top end speed of 23.3 mph! Overall, we had a great ride and we are looking forward to our next endurance ride in 10 days.