All posts by Rob

Introducing Gem!

Some of you who read about our adventure in NH last weekend may have noticed we only had 4 horses with us. This is the story of why Amira didn’t make the trip.

In early April, our good friend Vikki Fortier shared a post for a 7yo, 14.2hh, QH/Arab mare that was available for sale. Of course, Anna commented and Vikki and Anna agreed what a great horse this would be for our girls. So you see, this is at least partially Vikki’s fault, after all, she is an enabler.
We called and talked to the owner. Gem was very green and in Vermont. We didn’t really need another horse. So we decided to pass.

3 weeks later, Vikki gave us a call that the owner was desperate and needed to rehome Gem right away. So, the next day at 6am I found myself starting a 500 mile round trip to pick up a little mare in VT. When I got there, Gem was in worse condition than expected; I got her loaded and headed home. She attacked the hay in the trailer. Whenever she ran out, she would start kicking and I would know it was time to stop and give her some more. She was underweight at a body condition of about 3, her hooves hadn’t been trimmed in probably 4-5 months, and she had clay/mud caked on her legs and belly.

Gem was even more of a project than we expected. Her behavior was semi-feral in nature. While she clearly didn’t trust people, she also doesn’t fully understand herd dynamics. Anna made the decision to put Gem out with the other mares (how did we end up with 3 mares?) in order to provide her some companionship. She gets nervous when her friends are out of sight. As a result of her already higher stress level from the move, we decided to leave Amira at home with Gem for last weekend.

Gem has been with us for 2.5 weeks. She is gaining weight steadily, her hooves have been trimmed (and will get trimmed every 4 weeks for rehab), and she is getting better about being handled regularly. Tonight, Vicki rode her for the first time. They did some walking and a little trotting. When asked to walk over ground poles, Gem lay down. Throughout the summer, Vicki will be working with Gem to improve her saddle work and introducing her to trails.

By the way, yesterday Vicki had her hair dyed purple.

Verda brown bag and bare bones 2019

Last weekend was the opening of our distance riding competitions for the season. This year we tried out the VERDA Brown Bag and Bare Bones events held at the Cornish, NH fairgrounds. Brown Bag is a Competitive Trail competition and Bare Bones is an Endurance Ride. The rules vary a little between the two. Competitive trail events have an ideal time and there is more emphasis placed on the before/after comparison for vet evaluations. On the other hand, endurance rides are a true race where the horse has to be fit to continue and pass a vet exam. This particular ride has a reputation as being low-cost, low perks.

On Friday, we picked the kids up from school a little early so we could get to the ride camp. We only took 4 horses: Mojo, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey. Anna drove the horse trailer and I took the travel trailer. The drive was only about 3.5 hours and we arrived in camp before 5:00. When we got there, the only other riders already there were also from CT. We joined our local friends and set up camp with electric fence paddocks for the horses. Once camp was set, the horses were vetted in for the Saturday ride.

On Saturday morning, the ride didn’t start until about 9:00, so it would have been a very casual start to the day, however, at 5, there was a knock on the trailer door with the message “Rob, your horses are loose!” It appeared that Duchess knocked down some fencing for some reason and the herd, minus Mojo, decided to get some early morning grass. Luckily, they were not hard to catch, but we were up and the day was started.

It was in the low 30s Friday night and temps on Saturday only made it to about 54F. Anna saddled up Mojo, Alex saddled up Teddy, and Vicki saddled up Duchess as they got ready to head out for a 15 mile ride.

While they were out on trail, Amanda and I took turns hanging out with Huey who wasn’t exactly happy that all his friends left without him.

It turns out the horses are in pretty good shape for a 2.5 hr/15 mile ride. Competitive trail rides are scored out of 100 points and penalties are assessed for things like missing the ideal time (30 minute window), loss of impulsion from start to finish, injuries/tack galls, dehydration, elevated heart rate, etc. At the end of the ride, Mojo had 97.5 pts and got 4th place with Anna, Teddy had 98 pts and got 2nd place in the Jr division, and Duchess had 98.5 pts for the win in the Jr Division.

Saturday afternoon was pretty easy going hanging around camp. Amanda was a social butterfly visiting with friends (new and old). Her friend Autumn brought over some hoof paint and they gave Huey some twinkly toes.

Saturday evening was a ride briefing for Sunday and big dinner in the town hall building, also located on the fairgrounds.

Sunday morning also started at 5 to get the horses and family fed. We were riding a 30 mile ride that started at 8 with Rob on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey. Temps were in the 40s at the start and peaked around 50F. It was great weather for a distance riding competition. Our 30 mile ride consisted of two looped on a 15 mile course (the same one Anna and the kids did the day before). It was mostly a dirt/gravel road with some trails mixed in. My GPS came up with about 1500′ of elevation per loop, so 3000′ of elevation for the day. There was a covered bridge we went through twice and a stream to water the horses (along with some troughs and buckets along the course).

Overall, the ride went very well. There was one issue with Huey constantly bucking and he eventually threw Amanda. Once we removed Huey’s crupper, he stopped complaining and Amanda didn’t have any more problems. All 4 horses did great on the ride. Mojo’s CRIs (cardiac recovery index) for the day were 40/40 and Teddy’s were 44/44. None of the horses had anything other than A’s and +’s on their vet cards and we completed in a 4-way tie for 8th place.

Alex and Vicki did 15 miles on Saturday and 30 on Sunday with their mounts. It was a stepping stone to get ready for their first 50 miler planned for June. Both riders and both horses passed the test. While we didn’t get home until about 9:30 on Sunday night, the whole family had a great weekend. One of the reasons we enjoy distance riding is everyone has fun (even if everything isn’t perfect). At dinner tonight, there was talk of sore muscles and what went right/wrong. But there was also talk about the next ride. You are doing it right when the completion of one event leaves riders looking forward to the next.

It must be spring

Daylight until 7:30ish each evening means dinner after 8 at our house because we are probably in the barn.

Last week was spring break for the kids. They rode horses basically every day it didn’t rain (or in between rain showers). They also got in a lesson with Ann Bowie. On Friday, Vicki rode Mojo and Alex rode Teddy as they went out together for a 6.5 mile ride in the forest. Living next to the trails has some significant advantages when you like to do distance riding.

All the rain is causing the grass to turn green and creating plenty of puddles for the peepers to start growing tadpoles.

Easter Sunday was no different. I went for a good 2 hour run in the morning to get ready for the Seven Sisters trail race coming up in 2 weeks. There were some lingering showers, so we delayed the family trail ride until the evening. Anna got a new (to her) Reactor Panel saddle for Amira for her birthday, so we have been making some adjustments to the tack. We didn’t start riding at Arcadia until 5pm. 2 hours of trails put us back home around 8 to do evening chores, eat dinner, and crash for the school week.

This evening, the weather was awesome. I went for a nice run after work and when I got home, Vicki was riding Duchess and Alex was tacking up Teddy. They both worked in the arena with Anna coaching from the side while I was doing some work around the house. Amanda saw that I had been running, so she changed clothes and laced up her sneakers. I saw her resetting Anna’s Garmin watch as she started running laps around the front pasture. It’s a 1/8 mile perimeter and she did her 8 laps to get in a mile. When I asked why she went running, she replied “I want to stay fit and I like running. It’s just something I find fun.”

Skijouring

Growing up in Sweden, Anna had the opportunity to experience skijouring. For Christmas this year, we bought the family a set of skijouring skis that strap onto winter boots (thanks Amazon!). The same set of skis fit the whole family. Unfortunately, the weather this winter hasn’t really been cooperating so we having had any good chances to put the skis to use until today. This morning we got 4″ of nice fresh snow. This afternoon, we tried out the skis. Amanda, Vicki, Alex, and Anna all took turns on the skis.

I rode on Mojo. We attached long lines that we use for ground driving to either side of the girth with baling twine. We started by having Anna walk behind Mojo and put pressure on the lines, pulling against both sides of his legs to make sure he was ok with the setup (note – Mojo has been ground driven, so this wasn’t the first time). While Mojo was definitely energetic, he was a rock star pulling everyone around the arena. Anna and Alex both did great. Amanda got better as she went. Vicki struggled with balance. The kids are hopeful that Monday will be a snow day so they can try again.

Amanda’s video

Vicki’s video

Alex’s video

Anna’s video

No more uniforms

I have a DD214. For those not familiar with the military, that means I have my discharge papers. Today was my last day in uniform. While I am still technically on active duty until June 1st, I am on terminal leave and my naval career is over. No more morning musters. No more duty days. No more PRTs. No more uniforms.

My first day in uniform, June 30, 1995

I still remember the first time I really thought about joining the military. I was on a camp out with my Boy Scout Troop at Camp Sequoya in 1992. One of the leaders on the camp out was telling stories about his time in the Navy and how Scouting prepared him for military service. While I didn’t really tell everyone, that was when I first knew I would go into the military. It just seemed right.

I have been to 15 countries on 6 continents. I have surfaced a submarine through the ice at the North Pole. I have been to the crossing of the Equator and Prime Meridian. I have spent time at sea on 12 different submarines. My career path was different from some of my peers. About half way through my time, I shifted to a staff officer role. While that impacted my upward mobility for promotions, it gave me opportunities with my family that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We spent 13 years in the Groton, CT area. We have a herd of horses. I have been working as a part-time farrier for 7 years.

My last day in uniform, February 21, 2019

I am excited to start the next phase of my life. In a few months, Anna and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Next week, I will start at Sonalysts, Inc in Waterford, CT. Next fall, we will have 2 kids in high school. Life moves on and things change. I’m happy to have served in uniform. I’m proud to be a veteran.

Scoot Boots

If you ride horses on trails, you have probably heard about Scoot Boots. As relative newcomers to the boot market compared to other brands, the Australian company offer color options on the boots, a different design approach to the actual fit, and claims of easy application without sacrificing the ability to stay secure during the ride.

At the Equine Affaire in November 2018, I spent a lot of time with the Scoot Boot reps who had traveled from Australia to present their product. I was honestly surprised as I found myself going back 3 times with follow-up questions and thoughts to look at the boots over and over. In the end, I decided the company really was on to a good idea with their approach and became a stockist (dealer). I now have a full fit kit of all the Scoot Boot sizes and offer Scoot Boots in addition to Renegades and Easy Care products.

Elijah sporting his new Scoot Boot slims with Lime Green straps!

What I love about these boots: open heel bulb design to prevent build up of sand and debris that causes rubs, more forgiving fit which would be useful when booting as a temporary solution following a lost shoe, and easy of application (no mallet required).

Since these are boots we don’t have experience with on our personal horses, I have already purchased a full set for Teddy to use in his conditioning as we get ready for the upcoming endurance season.

Feel free to contact me to discuss your booting needs!

Family Fitness

Sunday morning long runs with Rusty are one of my guilty pleasures. This morning, I knew a couple of different groups were getting together, but I decided to stay home and run in Pachaug. Alex has a desire to run a half marathon, so we decided I would come by the house and pick him up for a couple of miles before I finished. When Amanda heard that, she immediately declared she was going with us. So, after the first 11.5 miles, I swung into the house and and Alex, Amanda, and Mack joined Rusty and I for another 2 miles.

Mack went swimming (as in, up to his neck swimming) 3 times in 2 miles.

Along the way, Amanda said “I need to do more running to improve my stamina.” I replied “OK, what are you training for?” Amanda’s reply “Triathlons.”

Later in the afternoon, the whole family went out for a short trail ride. It was a great day.

Traveling thoughts

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport on my way home from Chile. It was a very short trip that included 2 red eye flights in 4 days. This was likely my last international trip on active duty. There are a few things that are glaringly obvious to me after each of these trips:
1. Americans are in extremely poor health. The percentage of people who are fit vs obese is essentially inverse in the US compared to other countries. The lack of fitness and health crisis is disturbing and makes me more and more committed to a better diet for my family and participating in fitness activities (running, biking, triathlon, etc). I did get 1 short run in during the 2 nights in Chile.

2. Americans are overly focused on material acquisitions and not appreciative of what we have. Riding around in these countries and seeing how much of the world lives in poverty is eye opening. It doesn’t mean I am going to give everything away and move into a tiny house, but I want to ensure I raise my kids to appreciate their advantages in life and be respectful for the opportunities we have in life.

3. While traveling for work is nice to a degree, I miss my family and being involved in the lives of my kids.

4. As my military career comes to an end, I understand with more clarity how different my life is compared to the average submarine officer. The direction my career proceeded has given me opportunities in my personal life that I am very grateful for.

5. Work to live. Don’t live to work. There are more important things than the bottom line. I have yet to meet traveling businessman who regrets the time he spent with family, but the number of regrets for lack of family time is amazing.

6. I love my family and look forward to spending the holidays with them with focus on relationships instead of things.

Fall rides

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Turkey Trot at Goddard Park in RI.  I rode Mojo, Anna rode Amira, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Alex had another commitment for today, so Alexis joined us and rode Teddy.  We all enjoyed the crisp fall air and beautiful colors of fall.  The horses had a good time riding on the beach and were willing to go out into the water.

Anna and Alex did get a late evening ride on Friday.

Anna has been enjoying some time out in the woods during the day, and even took Mojo and Rusty out earlier this week.

NEATO Endurance Ride

It’s been 6 weeks since our last blog post. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping up. This weekend, Team No Child Left Behind rode in the NEATO Endurance ride, held on our home turf at the Arcadia Forest in RI. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of pictures because the whole family was riding. Anna and I took all 5 horses over on Friday and set up camp while the kids were in school. The weather was awesome – lows around 50 and highs in the low 70s.

Anna rode Amira in the 25 mile ride with all 3 kids. Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey. Their ride started at 7:45. Unfortunately, on the first loop, Teddy slipped on a foot bridge and scraped up all 4 legs. When they arrived at the hold about 2 miles later, he was lame and was pulled from the ride. The injuries are not serious, but he will get a couple of weeks off (and antibiotics) to recover.
Anna was able to head back out of the second loop for 10 miles with Amanda and Vicki. They all did great and got their completion in about 4:25. That was about 40 minutes faster than the last 25 mile ride for Huey and Amira.

Mojo and I had a different day. We rode in our first 50 mile ride (first for both of us). Our ride started at 7:00. I saddled up and got on about 6:45 and Mojo was hopping. Literally. I took him in the arena and spent about 10 minutes making him trot circles, side pass, and just work to calm him down. He wasn’t thrilled about the rest of our herd being in camp, but he was amped up to race. After the Pine Tree rides, I decided to make some changes to Mojo’s feed. I felt he was running out of energy at the end of 25 miles, so we added about a quart of Triple Crown Complete to his breakfast. He definitely had the energy I wanted.

working Mojo before the start

The Trail is open!

the view from the front of the race

As soon as the trail opened, we headed out with the lead pack. Mojo was ready to race. There was a 10 minute stop and go (basically a forced 10 minute rest) that was 9 miles into the course. We arrived there in under and hour and tied for 1st place. Every time I tried to hold Mojo back, he wanted to just keep racing forward to stay with the leaders. Throughout the first loop of 20 miles, we spent better than 5 miles setting the pace in the lead. We completed the first 20 miles in 2:21 for an 8.5 mph average, in a 3 way tie for first with Catherine and Monica.

waiting to head out on the second loop

waiting to head out on the second loop

While I had an awesome time riding in the lead, I knew that Mojo couldn’t sustain that kind of speed all day and it took a few more minutes for him to make pulse during the hold than the other horses we were with. So the second loop started of 15 miles with us 5 minutes behind the leaders and all alone. While on trail alone, he wasn’t nearly as competitive and didn’t have the same drive for speed as when other horses were in sight. A group of 3 riders caught up to us about 4 miles into the second loop and Mojo and I rode with them for the rest of that loop. At the end of the second loop, we were in a 4 way tie for 3rd (with Evelyn, Jeff, and Mackenzie) and had completed 35 miles at about an 8.0 mph average. Still too fast.

Again, Mojo took a while to make pulse and he wasn’t eating as much as I would have liked. He was still drinking at every opportunity on the trail and his attitude was still good. He didn’t have the same zip as at the start, but he was still willing to race whenever he felt someone was challenging his position.

On the 3rd loop, Jeff and I left about 5 minutes after Evelyn and Mackenzie. During the hold, I had learned of Teddy’s injury and more specifically, where on the trail it happened. Right before I left, Anna and the girls came in for the end of their ride. As Jeff and I headed out, we both planned to slow things down for the last 15 miles and focus on taking care of the horses to ensure we got through the last vet check without issues.

Unfortunately, my focus on where Teddy got hurt predisposed me to thinking we were headed a certain way. I missed a critical warning and took a wrong turn, following the return of the loop we were on. By the time I realized we were in the wrong spot and got back to where we went off course, we ended up adding almost 3 miles to our ride. It wasn’t a huge issue because we had plenty of time. We didn’t see any other riders on our loop until we were within 3 miles of the finish. At that point, 5 others caught up to us. It was a little discouraging that we would have been done by then if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn, but it was nice that both of our horses immediately kicked back into competitive mode and raced to the finish. Jeff and I pulled up a little short of the finish to allow those who caught us to pass and take the spots in the top 10. We felt they had earned it riding us down in the 3rd loop.

In the end, Mojo passed his final vet check and we completed our first 50 miler (with some bonus miles) in 7:39, (6.8mph average) tied for 12th place. Mojo and I are both feeling the effects of the effort today, but I’m sure we will recover just fine and be ready to do more miles next season, as this was our final ride for 2018.

I want to send out a special thanks to Jennifer, Cate, Mary, and Janet who all crewed for our team. They made the holds so much easier, especially for Anna and the kids.