All posts by Rob

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

 

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.

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.

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!

Fun and games with horses

After weeks of frigid temperatures, this weekend was a welcome relief with highs in the upper 40s.  Saturday morning, Alex took Dakota out for a short solo trail ride.  Saturday afternoon Vicki rode Duchess and Amanda rode Huey at Pony Club games practice.  This was Duchess’ first group practice and she did awesome.

This morning started with 4 hours of tack and tack room cleaning to kick off the ride season.  After a break, we tacked up for a ride.  As usual, I took Mojo and Vicki rode Duchess.  Alex rode Teddy, which will be a regular occurrence this year as they will be competing together at endurance rides.  Amanda elected to ride Devil, which was interesting, as Devil is a lot hotter on the trail than Huey.  Finally, Anna rode Amira for their first time in the woods.

Here is a short video of our group trotting (and maybe a little cantering) up a hill.

We rode for 1:15 which was just about perfect for today.  The temperatures were dropping, but everyone had a good time.  Amira did great – she crossed water without hesitation, took turns leading, following, and bringing up the rear of the group.  Amira fits in well with the herd and had a great first outing.  The sun set before our ride ended and we got to ride in at dusk with another beautiful New England sunset.

Introducing Amira!

If 6 horses are good, 7 must be better!  Today we brought home a 6yo, 15hh chestnut BLM Mustang mare named Amira.  On 2/15/2012, Amira was captured as a yearling from the Stone Cabin Horse Management Area (HMA) located in Nevada.  Here is a link to the information about Stone Cabin HMA. She lived in the holding pens until October of 2015 when she was processed for an internet adoption and shipped to Rhode Island.  She was only started under saddle about 8 months ago by local trainer Jeremy Reid.  We watched Jeremy compete at the Mustang Makeover in 2015 and we were impressed with his talent.  From what we have seen of Amira so far, he did a good job.  Amira went to a new home where she continued to get training, although life commitments led the owner to offer her up for sale.  Amira lived at Outback where we boarded our own horses in the past, and she even had the stall that Precious once occupied.  Anna kept remarking about how similar Amira and Precious look, although Amira has a few inches on Precious (maybe 10″).

Although Amira is 15hh, she has a very narrow build.  Our primary objective with Amira is distance riding and she will fill that niche as a possible mount for multiple family members.  With that said, she is Anna’s horse and Anna will be doing the majority of the continued training with her, including lots of trail work, dressage, and jumping.  We have big goals this year of doing a lot of distance riding and everyone is looking forward to our ride schedule.

It was late when we got home, so I don’t have any pictures from our farm to share, however, I did steal some from her sale ad.

If you want to follow along with the adventures of Amira and the rest of our herd, you can always subscribe via email on our website.

Christmas Lights

Last night we drove up to Amarante’s Winter Wonderland in Dayville.  We are new to this local attraction and just learned about it this year.  In its 11th year, Amarante’s is a local house that has 160,000 lights, 43 inflatable holiday characters and 36 Christmas trees.  They were nominated for “The Great Christmas Light Fight” show on ABC and won the competition.  For our local friends, it’s a nice family outing (I recommend Sirius XM channel 70 as your tunes to/from the display).