5 riders, 5 horses, 3 dogs, 2 trucks and trailers, 8 days in Fryeburg, Maine. Team “No Child Left Behind” completed a total of 10 Limited Distance 25 mile rides in 5 days of competition.
All year, our family has been looking forward to the Pine Tree endurance ride week, which is held out of the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in Maine. It was the family’s top priority for “vacation” this year. The logistics associated with packing for an 8 day trip with 5 horses, 5 riders, and 3 dogs is daunting. We maintain a packing list that gets tweaked with each trip and customized a little depending on the location. We departed CT on Sunday, 8/5, but we started packing and loading trailers. on Wednesday. Luckily, a local rider offered to deliver hay to the Fryeburg Fairgrounds. We took 8 bales with us and purchased another 15. The weather on Saturday was heavy rain, so it was good that we decided to move up our timeline and have most of the packing done by Friday.
Horses never seem to completely cooperate with plans. Rumor has it, Vicki whispered to Duchess on Friday that she was going on a big trip to ride lots of trails. Duchess apparently wasn’t fond of that idea and came in out of the pasture limping on Saturday evening with a twisted shoe on her left hind and a swollen fetlock.
Sunday morning, we got up and hit the road by about 10. Since we were taking both the travel trailer and horse trailer, Anna and I both drove. We managed to cover the 230 miles with only a single 40 minute lunch stop, that included feeding all members of the family, walking all 3 dogs, refilling horse hay, and offering the horses water (which they wouldn’t drink). The temps were over 90F so we kept on moving to get to the fairgrounds. We arrived at camp at set up the electric fencing for the horses and our area. The rides didn’t start until Tuesday, but we went up a day earlier to ensure we had a good spot and enough area for our team.
It’s time to explain that the crazy is actually genetic. My parents, Liz and Ken, joined us in Maine. From Alabama. With their travel trailer. The full story is, back in the spring, they asked for our summer schedule to figure out when they could visit. I gave it to them. They quite astutely noted that EVERY weekend was booked with something. I suggested it might be a good adventure for them to join us in Maine for a week of horse riding/camping. They decided to take us up on the offer. It turned out to be a huge help for us when dealing with 4 riders on trail at a time. And Amanda was happy to move into their trailer. So were the dogs.
The week before we arrived in Maine, it rained. In fact, it rained enough to create questions about the safety of crossing the Saco River, which happens twice on the 25 mile rides, and 6 times on the 50 mile rides. On Monday afternoon, we tacked up the 4 horses who were sound (Duchess wasn’t) and went for a short 3 mile ride to include two river crossings. It was good to let the horses stretch their legs, but we also needed to know if Huey would have to swim the river or could touch.
Huey only had to swim a little and the river was dropping quickly by the day. We were also a little concerned about the temperatures on Tuesday – highs were predicted in the mid 90s with high humidity driving the heat index well over 100F. The ride management moved the ride start to 5:00 to try to beat the heat as much as possible. We had some concerns about Huey’s fitness for handling those conditions, but decided that if we went slow, he could probably finish in the allowed time. So it was settled. Tuesday ride was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex (15 years old) on Teddy, and Amanda (8 years old) on Huey.
We you are starting a ride at 5 in the morning with 4 horses and kids involved, that means you get up at 3. On “vacation”. For “fun”.
The river crossing and fields were gorgeous as we rode during the sunrise. One of the challenges of Pine Tree is there is an away hold. That means that the vets do a check on the condition of the horses, but it’s not in base camp. This is where my parents came into play. They loaded up the horse feed and people food (along with tack and other items we might need) and met us at the hold to assist with cooling horses and refueling kids.
It turns out, there were not a lot of entries on Tuesday. Maybe because of the heat. As a result, our 5:07 ride time was good enough to place in the top 10. I should note, you only have 5:15 to complete the ride. We did exactly what we planned and made sure not to overdo it with Huey. Despite only having 8 minutes to spare, we didn’t turtle, which was surprising. In endurance, the “turtle” is the last rider who completes the ride in the allowed time (those who go over time are disqualified).
Since we made the top 10, we had 3 of the horses stand for “Best Condition”. Pine Tree elected to give out a “High Vet Score” award this year, which is one of the components of the Best Condition scoring. At the awards ceremony, we were completely shocked to find out that Huey, a 17 year old Dartmoor in his first ride, won High Vet Score; the prize was an amazing blanket donated by one of the other riders. Not only that, I got confirmation from AERC that Huey is THE ONLY Dartmoor registered in AERC.
The rest of Tuesday was spent recovering. Amanda fell asleep for 3 hours. We went to the river for a swim to cool off and everyone was ready for an early bedtime.
Wednesday was a day off. We needed to recover a little from Tuesday and the temperatures were still high. We basically hung out at camp and took care of the horses. The kids did go on a short hike with Grandma and Grandpa. While they were gone, I worked on Amira’s shoes. On Tuesday, she managed to lose 2 shoes (1 front and 1 hind) in the first 10 miles of trail. I had all my shoeing supplies with me in case we needed anything, so I pulled her remaining shoes and made some changes to her setup. She was only put into shoes for the first time ever 4 weeks before the ride. I suspected I needed to put her in a smaller size shoe, but on the trails at home she wasn’t interfering so I rolled the dice. I lost. In the ride, she was moving with a new level of determination and interfering whenever she was in the front of our group. Amira wasn’t exactly cooperative during her shoeing on Wednesday, but the change was exactly what she needed for later in the week.
We took the horses for a little evening hand walking and grazing.
Since Duchess was still borderline on soundness, we decided Vicki would ride Teddy on Thursday and Rob would ride Mojo. The start time on Thursday was 5:30. We got up at 3:30. On vacation. Again.
Mojo and Teddy were in great shape and had plenty of energy. More riders had arrived in camp by this point, so our 4:02 ride wasn’t in the top 10, but we had a blast completing our 25 miles. It was still hot in the upper 80s and Teddy was a little sore in his legs after the ride, but not enough to be a big problem. At least that’s what we thought at the time.
Over the course of the week, 2 other girls (with ponies) in Amanda’s age range (7-8 years old) had arrived in camp. The three quickly became great friends and even spent time grazing ponies together.
Friday was another day off. This time, I volunteered as a scribe for the vets. It was very educational because I got to see how the horses at the front looked compared to the middle of the pack. I also got to see what various problems looked like with soundness, tack galls, and dehydration.
Friday afternoon, we assessed Duchess and decided she was sound and could go on a test ride. We tacked up all 5 horses and went out for 4 miles. We needed Duchess to go through the river and do some faster work to make sure we didn’t still have a lingering problem.
Duchess looked great and had plenty of excess energy from not working all week. So, the plan for Saturday was all 5 horses and all 5 riders.
Saturday morning, we got up one more time at 3:30 for a 5:30 start. On vacation.
Unfortunately, during a quick trot out before the start, Teddy was lame. A quick probe of his hind leg muscles revealed extreme sensitivity and some residual cramps. Grandma noted Alex was actually smiling when he got told to untack Teddy and keep him in camp. Alex enjoyed his ride on Tuesday, but was fine with only doing 1 25 miler for the week. So, we headed out with Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.
Over the course of the week, Amanda had figured out that she could keep her feet dry if she took them out of the stirrups. Friday night, the temperatures dropped into the 50s and the highs were only in the low 70s during the ride. It was a welcome change after a week of heat, but the temperature drop likely contributed to Teddy’s tight muscles.
The 25 miles on Saturday were great for Mojo, but young girls who have been in camp all week and already spent a lot of time in the saddle can be challenging on the last ride of the week. We all completed the ride, but there were a few tears (from sore legs and kids who didn’t want to trot any more). We finished around the 5 hour mark. Again, the ride was small on the last day as many riders headed home, so all 4 of us were in the top 10. We competed for Best Condition, and this time, the shock was that Duchess won High Vet Score! Vicki also got a great blanket!
Throughout the week, Amanda insisted on handling Huey for her vet checks. She occasionally needed some assistance, but she did a great job with her pony.
On Sunday morning, we were not in a rush to get out of camp since it would only take about 6 hours to get home. As a result, we got hired by some other riders to clean their stalls before we left. We hit the road around 10 and did the drive home with only a single stop again. About 8 miles from home, Rusty got tired of laying in the floor and decided to sit with Vicki for the last few miles.