Catching up

As most of our friends and blog followers know, we stay pretty busy.  Lately, that has been an understatement.  While I would like to be going to bed right now, I feel we are way overdue for a blog update, so I’ll get to it with a few recent highlights.

The kids participated in the Mystic Pony Club summer camp last weekend.  Alex took Mojo, Vicki took Duchess, and Amanda took Huey.  The temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s every day, but the kids did 2 lessons each day.  Heather Navarrete was the instructor for 5 of their lessons and all 3 kids made very good progress on their eventing.  Alex and Mojo turned out to be an excellent match.  Amanda and Huey even did a small cross country course on the last day of camp.

Here are a few videos of the kids practicing cross country and pictures from camp.

Alex and Mojo cross country lesson

Vicki and Duchess cross country lesson

Amanda and Huey cross country lesson

After camp ended, the horses and kids got a couple of days off.  I was fortunate that work gave us an extended 4th of July holiday.  On Thursday, Alex and I went to the Mystic Seaport for a blacksmith private class.  We spent 3.5 hours in the shop learning about tending a coal forge, different tools, and actually making some hooks.  This is something Alex has been interested in for a while so we bought some lessons for his birthday last month.  I have been working on acquiring some tools so we can do some projects at home.

On Saturday, we took Mojo and Duchess to the Horse Power Farm jumping derby.  Alex rode Mojo in the pre-elementary division.  They did pretty well with only 1 refusal.  Alex was a little surprised at how hot Mojo was on the course because Mojo is so lazy in the warmup.  It was a little funny to watch Mojo come alive out in the open.

Vicki rode Duchess in pre-elementary and also had 1 refusal (on the same jump as Alex).  They are still making good progress as a team.

After they finished, I rode Mojo in Beginner Novice.  My ride didn’t go quite as smoothly as I was thrown on the 7th jump.  I was allowed to get back on and finish schooling, but then had 3 refusals on the last jump.  Clearly we have work to do.

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Hunter Pace #2.  The whole family rode the 10 mile course and we took 1st place in the Hilltopper and Junior divisions.  I didn’t take but a couple of pictures, so here is one:

The schedule for the summer is packed with horse activities, but that’s just what we do.

 

Team No Child Left Behind dress rehearsal

This weekend was the NEATO campout at Arcadia WMA in RI.   We logged over 6 hours of saddle time and 29+ miles of riding.   It presented the perfect opportunity for our family to test out camping with the travel trailer (without hookups), 5 horses, and multiple days of riding.  Friday afternoon I traded in the Acadia for a used Chevy 2500HD.  It was a decision Anna and I have been debating for a while and we finally found the deal we were looking for.  Within about an hour of driving the truck off the lot, it was hooked up to the travel trailer and we were headed out to set up camp.

While the camping area only had a few others staying over, we practiced setting up in a compact manner as will need to at endurance rides.  It took about an hour and a half to set up camp.  We made 5 electric fence paddocks for the horses (each horse in a separate paddock).  None of the paddocks shared sides so if any 1 horse runs through their fence, it doesn’t result in other loose horses.

Once the horse were settled in, we cooked some burgers on the grill and at dinner (a little after 9)!

One of the major advantages of this weekend was the proximity to home.  Anna left before 10 and went home (less than 20 minutes away) to take care of the dogs, rabbits, and horses not at camp.  With temperatures in the 50s overnight, we slept great and the horses were not bothered by bugs.

We got up Saturday morning and cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Alex spent all his spare time reading books and finished 3 books over the weekend.

The temperatures on Saturday stayed in the 60s.  We had a couple of small rain showers early, but nothing too bad.  We finally headed out about 10 for our morning ride.   The horse/rider combos were Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex on Teddy, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.  We got in 11 miles before lunch at about a 4.5mph average.  The point of the weekend wasn’t speed, but rather logistics.  We spent time working on things like walking horses into water, fueling the riders, and taking turns with leading the group.

While drinking from the creek, Amira and Huey both slid off the sand bar and went for a swim.  What is a “little deeper” for Amira was a complete swim for Huey.  Amanda loved it.  When we took them in a pond for water, Amira discovered it was fun to splash lots of water up onto her belly.

Overall, it was a good morning ride.  All the horses had excellent heart rate recoveries and were happy to eat some hay and drink some water when we got back to camp.  We had lunch and then retired to the trailer for an afternoon rest (also known as napping).

We went back out for another slow and easy ride before dinner that was just shy of 5 miles.  Dinner was tacos in the trailer and then we joined up with some others for a campfire.  Again, Anna headed home to take care of the others.  It’s easy to get kids to go to bed after 3.5 hours of riding.

Sunday morning was a little slower starting as we slept in a little.  More eggs and bacon to start the day and then we saddled up to ride.  The temperature was a little warmer (70s) and a little more humid.  The horses were all a bit calmer than on Saturday.  We focused the ride on forced fueling as we had some issues on Saturday with some (Vicki) constantly running out of fuel.  This is a recurring issue that we haven’t completely solved.  We are making progress, but it comes down to forcing her to eat every 30-40 min on the trail.

When it was all done, we rode over 29 miles and spent over 6 hours in the saddle.  Mojo and Teddy both still pulsed down with no problems. The ponies and Amira were a little slower pulsing down after the last ride, but all 3 would have met endurance ride criteria.

Lessons learned:

  1.  We used ALL of the water in the travel trailer.  In the future, we will use paper products when dry camping to minimize the use of water for washing dishes.
  2. Horse water.  We used over 90 gallons of water for the horses in under 48 hours. That doesn’t include what they drank on the trail.  Right now we take a water tank in the trailer that is full, plus 4- 7 gal water jugs that can be refilled.  We may add another water tank to the bed of the truck.
  3. Electric fence. Our setup is pretty good they way we have it.  We can streamline a few things by adding a few more extension cord reels for storage, but it’s not critical.
  4. Tack. The tack for all the horses is working pretty well. We are debating changing out Teddy’s saddle and bridle setup, but what we have works for now.
  5. Boots.  Amira and Huey are still being booted.  We had boot problems on Huey 4 times.  I think it’s time to put him into shoes.  Probably Amira too.

At the end of the weekend, we all had a good time and all the horses are ready to go to Pinetree in 6 weeks.  We will continue to train and plan for a week of camping with 5 horses!

2018 Patriot Half-Ironman Triathlon

On Saturday, June 16th, I completed my first half-ironman (70.3) triathlon.  I don’t have a lot of pictures, but this is my race report.  For those who don’t know, the 70.3 refers to the total mileage covered in the race: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run.

In October 2017, I registered for the race, essentially 8 months before the event.  This is a well-known local event with a limited field of racers.  I love this kind of event because you never feel lost in the crowd.  I highly recommend this race for anyone considering a 70.3.

Last year, I adopted the “Primal” approach to training as I got ready for my first marathon.  The diet and training practices served me well, so I continued the low carb-high fat diet approach.   I didn’t follow a training plan.  I just rode my bike, did some running, and occasionally swam.

Friday afternoon, I drove to East Freetown, MA where the race was held, picked up my race packet, and checked my bike into transition.

Friday night, I stayed a few miles away at a Holiday Inn so I only had a 15 min drive to the race instead of over an hour and a half.  I went out to dinner with a friend and a Mystic based training group he knew.  My pre-race meal consisted of Thai chili calamari, filet mignon, baked potatoes, honey glazed carrots, bread, and 2 pints of  Yuengling.  It was perfect.  I was in bed around 10 with the alarm set for 4:35.

I didn’t sleep well.  I never sleep well the night before a race.  It’s not that I’m nervous about the race itself, but rather I am convinced I will over sleep and miss the race.  I think I checked my watch 5 times between midnight and when my alarm went off.

Before leave the hotel, I had 2 cups of coffee and 1 blueberry muffin.  We arrived at the race and set up for transition.  My setup is very basic, which makes it faster for me.  Next time, I will definitely leave skin lube and sunscreen out of my bag and ready to be used during transition.

The race started at 7:00.  The air temperature was in the upper 50s and the water temp was 68F. Before the start, I ate 1 Honey Stinger waffle and 1 pack of Stinger chews.

One thing that is nice about Patriot, is the swim start is not a mass start.  Swimmers enter the water in pairs every 5 seconds.  It significantly reduces the chaos of the standard swim start.   I completed the 1.2 mile swim in 41:13, which was right on what I expected.  I completed the swim to bike transition in 2:34.   The temperatures were climbing fast it was in the upper 60s when the bike started and over 70F for most of the ride.

The 2 loop bike course is a relatively flat (compared to our area) and I was able to ride it in 2:54:47, for a 19.2 mph average.  That was significant for me, because I expected to maintain something closer to 17.5 mph average.  I maintained my heart rate in the mid 150s during the bike portion (I train with an average heart rate below 140).

On the bike, I drank about 1.5 bottles of “Rocket Fuel” and half a bottle of water.  Rocket Fuel is a mixture from Base Performance consisting of Hydro (carbs and electrolytes), Amino, and salt.  I also ate 1.5 packets of Stinger chews.

The bike to run transition took 4:19.  I did get out my skin lube for some mild chafing, but made a critical error.  I didn’t apply extra sunscreen prior to the run.  As a result, my shoulders got SCORCHED.

I had a great first 1.5 miles running with my friend Natalie.  Alas, she is much faster than I am so I backed off as she continued on without me.  She ended up finishing 28 minutes ahead of me.

The 13.1 mile run course has 12 aid stations along the way with water, Gatorade, and some other items.  This was good, because the temperature had climbed above 80F within the first part of my run.  I took at least 1 cup of water at every aid station and used my Base salt probably 7 times. I also drank 5 cups of Gatorade and sucked on 2 orange slices.  I didn’t eat any calories on the run.  I ran according to my heart rate: I was averaging around 165bpm and whenever I hit 170bpm, I walked to drop my heart rate back down.  I completed the run in 2:09:51, for an average pace of 9:55/mile.

My total race time was 5:52:42.  I was very pleased with a total time under 6 hours for my first 70.3.

Over the entire race, I burned well above 4000 calories, but I consumed less than 800.  This is a significant advantage of the Primal/fat adapted approach.  You are not reliant on consuming fuel throughout a race.

For any of my friends who have specific training questions, I am happy to share what I have learned.  I don’t see a full ironman in my future, but I would consider another half…

All the details of my results can be viewed here:
http://www.allsportsevents.com/Results/triathlon_results/PatriotTriathlon2018.html#/race/vHjvmh/HalfIND/595

 

Leaps and Bounds

This past Saturday Rob, Alex and Vicki took their horses to Horsepower farm for the first Crosscountry Derby of the year.

Unfortunately, Alex came off Dakota during the warm up and hurt his right foot by slamming it straight into the ground. He sprained the big toe on his right foot. Therefore he opted not to jump his course. After a trip to the Backus ER to rule out a fracture he is benched for a week with a walking boot. He has a follow up appointment on Friday of this week for a repeat xray to make sure of no broken bones. He has a mystery bruise in the middle of his foot in addition to the toe hurting so who knows.

Rob rode Mojo in the elementary and beginner novice divisions. Vicki rode Duchess in the pre-elementary division.

Rob did well and placed 2nd in elementary and third in beginner novice. As always he rode too fast…

Vicki decided not to ride with a crop and regretted her decision when Duchess didn’t want to trot away from her friends. Hm, I think someone learned a lesson…Vicki did get Duchess to go, but her time suffered. They did get over all the jumps and there were no unplanned dismounts.

Sunday the kids were all supposed to ride at the Pony Club games rally. Vicki and Alex were signed up to ride on a junior games team. Alex was unable to ride with his foot injury. Alexis stepped up and rode Duchess as fifth member of a Mystic scramble team with the White Mountain Region Team Starstruck. She was originally signed up to be the advisor for the grasshoppers, but there was a C sibling to one of the games riders that stepped up to help (Thank you Clara!). Vicki rode Devil and made the weigh in…she sure loves that pony. Devil is 12 hands and has a rider weight limit of 117 pounds(boots and helmet included). The team did well, considering they had never trained together, earning a 2nd overall, 3rd horse management. At a rally, as opposed to a show, the way you prepare and take care of your horse for the day counts as part of your score, and goes into the overall score, making your games play and horse care equally important. Vicki had some great games (bending, balloon, and mug shuffle) and a few not so great games (pyramid, toolbox) where Devil decided to run home without stopping. Switching Devil to a games legal bit really affected her whoa.We might try a mullen pelham next time(no jointed leverage bits allowed).

Amanda rode on a grasshopper pairs team and joined forces with Victoria McCallum from Oakendale on her pony Tink. They were the “Giddyup Girls”. They rode well and got first horse management, second overall. Amanda rode by herself for most of the games except when having to get on and off for corrections and for safety at handoff (since the ponies didn’t know each other).

After the games rally the girls were very excited about games and talking about possible National Intent for next year…to be continued.

Treasure Hill Farm’s Spring schooling jumper show

Spring has been late in arriving here in New England so our trail/distance riding is behind schedule.  As a result, we have decided to defer some of our endurance goals for this season and will likely wait until August to do our first endurance event at Pine Tree in Maine.  Instead of a distance focus, we are going to put more effort into our eventing goals and Treasure Hill Farm’s Spring schooling jumper show was a low-key way to kick that off.

Warm-ups were in the indoor arena while the actual classes were held in the outdoor arena.  Everyone wore Mystic Pony Club shirts, and used their Mystic Pony Club saddle pads and ear nets to help advertise for Pony Club.

Amanda rode in the ground poles class.  Her first round was on a lead line with Anna.  The class was placed according to time to complete the round and Amanda was 5th of 5.  Since it was a schooling show, for a small fee you can re-do a round and Amanda elected to ride a second time without Anna in the arena.  It went very well and I suspect Amanda will be unlikely to consent to a lead line class ever again.

Alex and Vicki both started with the 12″ cross rails class.  This class was placed based on the time to complete the course.  Vicki placed 2nd of 5 and Alex was 3rd of 5.  Alex was definitely a little timid in his first round and a little behind on his timing.  He was nervous that Dakota was going  to spook at things in the arena, however, since that didn’t occur, he was much more confident in the second class.

Alex and Vicki both rode in the 18″ cross rails class.  Vicki took 1st and Alex was 2nd of 9 entries.  Both of them improved over their first round and Alex in particular had a huge smile as he exited the arean.

Alex was content with his 2 classes, however, Vicki decided to give the 2′ class a try.  She had 1 refusal which she feels was more her fault for looking down at the jump.  She placed 3rd of 4 in this class, but was still very happy with the ride.

A week in Chile

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I spent the past week in the Valparaiso area of Chile having meetings with the Chilean Navy, including a session with the CNO. Of all the trips I have been on, this was one of the better ones. The food was pretty good, but the wines were excellent. The only real disappointment was the coffee – most of it was instant coffee.

I manages to get 3 good runs in along the coast and 1 bike ride in the hotel exercise area.

There were a few things that jumped out at me during my trip. The first is fitness. It is amazing how overweight Americans are relative to the rest of the world. I truly believe there are some serious health consequences in what Americans have accepted as “the standard American diet” and it shows dramatically when you travel outside the US.

I also saw people who were happy with less. We (Americans) seem obsessed with the next new thing. Our kids go from holiday to holiday looking for the next big present. Yet, in Chile, the average family lives in houses that are 1/2 (or less) the size of Americans. They don’t collect the stuff we do but they are just as happy. As I went out for my runs, I saw families walking together, couples holding hands, and people exercising every day.

We did have a couple of earthquakes during the trip. Of note, there was a 4.7 that woke me up on the 3rd night.

Overall, I found Chile to be a fascinating place to visit and I would definitely return, in particular, to spend time in the mountains.

Easter Weekend

This past weekend we took it easy. Relatively.

On Thursday we took 6 horses out on the trails with the help of Alexis. We rode around 5 miles.

On Friday we stripped stalls and cleaned pastures while Rob removed two dump loads of manure and got 3 yards of stall fill to level our stalls. We added stall fill to the stalls and half a dump load of sawdust.  That took most of the day.

Saturday morning Rob helped Carrie and Alexis cut and remove three downed trees from their pasture while we did chores and then the family headed off to the Kingston bike path. Vicki had added an entry to our calendar two months ago to go roller blading on the bike path and we made good on our promise. Rob and I brought our bikes and the kids brought roller blades. Rob was pulling our bike stroller, just in case we had tired kids halfway through. Turns out the stroller works well for standing behind and hitching a ride. Alex skated the whole way to the ice cream shop in Wakefield, which is 5.5 miles, while his sisters hitched a standing ride every now and then. I think Vicki underestimated the work required to skate 5 miles! After ice cream, Rob helped a fellow biker with a flat tire (cause that is what he does) and I decided to roller blade back and let Alex ride my bike. He has the same shoe size as me now, so it all worked out.  Amanda rode in the trailer on the way back, and fell asleep. Vicki skated a lot less and hung on the back of the trailer quite a bit on the way back.

On Sunday the kids had an egg hunt in the yard and then we headed off for lessons at Horsepower Farm with Ann Bowie. We brought 4 horses and rode in pairs. It went well, and everyone has some home work.

After we got back from lessons we chilled for the rest of the day, so much so that this is what we woke up to Monday morning:

A horse knowledge weekend

This weekend was busy with horse knowledge competitions.  Saturday, Anna went to the CT 4-H Hippology competition with Vicki and Amanda. Vicki and Alexis were competing as Juniors in the 10-13 year old division on a team with another member of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H Club.  Amanda was in the Novice division, 7-10 year olds, that all compete as individuals.  Hippology consists of a written test, slide identifications, stations, horse judging videos and team group questions. Vicki’s team took 1st place in the Junior division and Amanda had the high score for the Novice division.

While the girls were away, Alex spent the day with riding with me to trim some horses, starting with a visit to see Nike.  Alex groomed Nike and was happy to reconnect with his buddy.

On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda went with me to the Regional Pony Club Quiz Rally to represent Mystic Pony Club (along with Alexis).   In this competition, Alexis was competing as a Senior, so it was the first time in a long time that Vicki and Alexis haven’t been on a team for quiz.  Since we only had 2 Juniors, Amanda and Vicki ended up on different teams -but they didn’t mind.

Pony Club quiz is a team competition with team made up of 3-4 individuals. A 3 man team is a disadvantage as a 4 man team can drop the lowest score for each competition phase. The kids also get individual scores which determine individual placings for high score and national intent.  The phases of the competition are written test, stations, barn phase, mega room and class room. The stations score is not included in the individual score because it is a team effort (everyone works together to answer questions).

All 3 girls did a great job.  Alexis got the highest overall individual score and was presented the trophy by Vicki, who won last year.
Vicki had the high score for the Jr D’s and 3rd overall individual.
Amanda is clearly learning from her “sisters” as she was 10 of 24 Jr D’s and actually outscored 3 Jr and Sr D’s with National Intent.

Alexis and Vicki both qualified for Nationals and will be the team captains for the Sr and Jr D teams respectively when they go to Tryon, NC in July.

Meanwhile at home, Anna and Alex went for a 2-hour trail ride on Teddy and Amira.  Amira had a tough time keeping up with Teddy today as he was feeling good and showing off his moves.

National Junior Honor Society

Thursday night Vicki and I joined 34 of her class mates at Griswold Middle School for her induction into the National Junior Honor Society. The requirements to join were an average grade point of 93 or higher and a record of leadership, service, citizenship, good behavior, scholarship, and character. Griswold Middle School nominates students based on their grades from 6 quarters starting in 6th grade. They are then required to fill out an application detailing their record of achievement in order to be inducted as members in NJHS. Our family is very proud of Vicki’s hard work and we hope she keeps it up for years to come. Below is a short clip from the cermony.

Vicki looks beautiful in her new dress.
Chapter members light candles and read passages about the pillars of NJHS.
Waiting to receive her certificate.

No Child Left Behind

It’s been a while since we posted, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on.  This year, we are participating in the Green Bean Endurance Challenge.  We are the only team that is a full family (I think) and our team name is “No Child Left Behind”.

Since we have 7 horses and plan to ride a lot of miles this year, we have been working on getting in slow conditioning miles rides.  The weather hasn’t been very cooperative, but today was decent, so we saddled up 5 mounts and headed out.  We rode for just under 2 hours and only covered about 7.5 miles.  The goal wasn’t speed, but rather restoring fitness that has been lost through the winter.

I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Amira and Devil stayed home for this outing.  As I mentioned last fall, we are going to be riding in shoes this year.  So far, Mojo and Teddy are both shod all the way around and Devil has front shoes.  I’ll be honest, I’m really impressed with how much nicer Teddy moves in shoes over boots.  I am working on spreading out the herd’s shoeing schedule so all 7 are not due at the same time.  The move to shoes from boots (after 12 years riding without shoes) is a big shift for our family and has come due to a number of reasons.

First, is quality of the boots.  I have given my honest feedback to the boot companies.  I have seen a decline in the quality of a number of boot products and I’m frustrated with the constant wondering what will fail next.

Second is cost.  Yes, I am a dealer for multiple boot companies which means I get boots at a discount.  However, I also don’t pay labor for the shoeing.  Based on the decline in quality, we are wearing out boots faster than in years past.  That coupled with the increased cost of the hoof boots means it is now cheaper for our family to ride shod horses over booted horses.  This wouldn’t be the case if we were paying for my labor expense associated with shoeing.  For perspective, I recently found a receipt for a pair of Epics we purchased in 2006 for $102.  Those same boots today, purchased from the same retailer, would cost $199.82!  I’m not sure what all is driving the cost of boots up, but it is driving me away from using the product.

The last factor is convenience.  Let’s be honest.  Booting gets tedious.  It’s really nice to pick out a hoof and ride without having to pound boots on all the hooves.

Due to all the rain, we crossed plenty of water.  The creek running near the entrance of Pachaug turned into a water-crossing training site.  It was between 2.5-3′ deep and everyone went through it (some a few times).  Here’s a short video of the kids crossing the creek.  Enjoy the pictures from our ride!

The story of our lives with horses