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2017 Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

This weekend was spent in Buckfield, Maine at the Northeast Challenge endurance ride.  We left on Friday morning with the whole family in the truck, 3 horses (Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess) on the trailer, and plenty of camping gear.  After a little over 5 hours of driving, we arrived at a gorgeous base camp in a hay pasture.  The sites were all marked off to show clear division of where your area was.  Since we brought 3 horses, we were allowed to use 2 sites.  We gave the horses a little break to eat some grass and drink water before vetting in.  With just under 50 riders, there was no wait at the vet check.  This was the first ride for Alex as a rider, Teddy, and Duchess, so we planned to keep it conservative during the ride.

 

The rider’s brief was at 5 and immediately after was a pig roast for dinner.  The ride manager invites all the land owners (over 40) that allow the trails to cross their property to join the camp for dinner.  The food was great and we got to meet some new friends around camp.  Ride camps get quiet early the night before a ride.  By 8pm the sun was setting, the temperatures were dropping, and everyone was headed to bed.

We got up at 5:00 to eat breakfast and watch the 100 mile riders head out at 6:00.  The temperatures dropped into the low 40s overnight.  The horses were happy to have a layer for warmth.  Alex started the morning with a cup of hot water (we forgot to pack tea bags) and Vicki had a cup of coffee to warm up.

There is a note on our endurance camping packing list: “pack clothes warmer than you expect to need”.  That was definitely true this time around.  We started the ride at 7:00 with layers of clothes on for the first loop of 13.8 miles.  The horses were peppy and ready to go.  We didn’t take a break until 5 miles in when we stopped for some grass and water.

The trails through the woods were phenomenal.  There was a lot of up and down through the mountains, but also plenty of areas that were flat and fast on grass paths through the trees.

We finished our first loop of 13.8 miles with a 4.8 mph average.  It was a little slower than we planned, but the goal was to make sure we didn’t over stress Duchess in particular.  We also knew the second loop was faster and we could make up a little time if needed.

All 3 horses cleared the vet check within minutes of arriving at base camp.  We chose to go back to our trailer, remove tack, and let the horses have free time in their paddocks.  The hold is only 45 minutes long, but this also allowed Alex and Vicki to eat food without holding horses.  Anna and Amanda were our ride-crew for the weekend and had everything ready for us.  We all had to shed layers of clothing for the second loop as the temperatures hit 70F by 10:00.  Luckily, that’s about where the mercury stopped for the day making it perfect weather.

We headed out on our second loop which was 17 miles (although we thought it was only going to be 15 miles at the time).  We managed to bump up our speed to an average of 5.4 mph on the second loop.

At the end of the day, we finished 30.7 miles in 6:09 (yes, 6 hours of saddle time).  There was 3,768 ft of elevation over the ride.  All three horses did wonderful and Alex and Vicki both had a great time (although Alex did say he wants to do more conditioning for himself in the future).

We chose to camp for a second night and watch the 50 mile riders finish (the have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, including 2 45 minute holds) and the 100 mile riders (24 hours allowed time including holds).  I’ll confess, we didn’t stay up much past dark to watch 100 mile riders do vet checks and holds.  This morning, there was a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony for the 100 mile riders.  Three of the riders present completed the East Coast Triple Crown this year, which is the same horse/rider team completing these three tough 100-milers: the Old Dominion 100 in June, the Vermont 100 in July and the Northeast Challenge in August.

As the awards were being handed out, Vicki leaned over and whispered, “Dad, I want to ride the Triple Crown one day.”

I want to throw out a huge “Thank You” to Blaine, Sarah, and everyone else who made this a wonderful weekend for our family.  The kids were talking about “next year” and who will ride what distance.  Amanda is planning to toughen up and put the miles on her pony to be able to join the fun.  We look forward to seeing everyone at more rides.

Photo by Clowater Art & Photography

We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater.  Support your ride photographers!

KY Vacation Days 8, 9, & 10

On Friday morning, Vicki’s team gathered up at 0700 to verify their scores from the previous day.  The worked as a group to polish their boots prior to the final phase of competition, Barn Phase.  They entered the final day in 1st place, but with only a 3 point lead on the 2nd place team.

Polishing boots before Barn Phase

Once they were done with Barn Phase, we spent some time watching the stadium jumping for eventing in the Rolex Arena and Jr Games final round while we waited 9+ hours for awards.

We visiting the Saddlebred Museum (King is a 1/2 Saddlebred) and enjoyed the air conditioning.  Vicki hung out with her friends from her team since they all live about 3 hours away.  She spent time during the week trading pins from her Region with kids from other parts of the country.

Once it was time for awards, all the Quiz teams went into the covered arena together.

All the teams waiting for awards

Alexis is Vicki’s best friend and also in the same Club.  She was on a different team from Vicki and was the highest scorer on her team, helping them get 5th place.

Vicki’s team wasn’t able to hold on to the 3 point lead.  In the end, they got 2nd place, but were all smiles as they collected red ribbons, silver medals, and a pair of boot socks.

After team awards, individual awards were announced.  At the Regional Rally to qualify for Championships, Vicki had the highest individual score.  She again led her team and won 5th overall in her Junior D division.

2nd place team, 5th place overall individual

Now that she has done Champs in Quiz, she wants to ride next year in Games, Show Jumping, or Eventing.

We decided to just drive on home and not do any sightseeing on the way back, so days 9 and 10 don’t have any pictures.  Overall, it was a good vacation and we enjoyed visiting Lexington.  I am thankful my parents were able to come up from Alabama to join us and spend time with the kids.

KY Vacation Days 5, 6, & 7

Tuesday morning we started the day with a trip to Keeneland, a large racetrack in Lexington.  We chose to do the self guided tour because Vicki was “tired of listening to guides talk so much” after the Mammoth Cave tour.  The girls in particular were very happy to watch some horses being exercised while we sat in the grandstand.  The kids also enjoyed walking around the barns.  Vicki declared her intent to move to Lexington so she could exercise race horse, even if she doesn’t get paid.

Anna then dropped off Vicki and I at the KY Horse Park to check in for Pony Club Championships where we met up with the rest of her Quiz team.  Anna then took Alex and Amanda to the KY Railroad Museum where they met up with my parents, who drove up from Alabama.  The group spent some time touring the museum and went for a ride on the steam train.

They all then returned to the Horse Park to watch the opening ceremonies.  Vicki joined the rest of the delegation from our Region (New York Upper Connecticut) as they walked into the Rolex Arena.  The teams all lined up to spell “USPC” in the arena.  41 of 42 Regions are participating in the event from across the whole country, including Alaska.

When the ceremony was done, we headed to Cracker Barrel for dinner.  We enjoyed our food and took some time to play a few games of checkers before heading back to the hotel.

On Wednesday morning, we headed in to the park to get an early start.  Vicki had her written exam at 8 and Megaroom from 3-5.  In between, she spent time hanging out with her team and studying for the next phase of Quiz.  I enjoyed watching some Eventing Dressage while the team took written exams.  While they studied in the middle of the day, the rest of the family watched the Flintstones (NYUC Senior Games team) play mounted games, toured the Horse Park Museum, and watched a few other things.

After things wrapped up, the kids went swimming and I got a good run in.  While it was around 90, I needed the break for 7 miles of personal time.

On Thursday, we were back at the Horse Park by 7:00

Proud to Du It – Youth Duathlon

This past weekend, all three kids did their first multi-sport competition.  A short while back, Alex and Vicki joined the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team (NYTT).  A Griswold branch of the team was started by the mom of some of the kids in our 4-H Club. They have been doing weekly practices for biking and running (it’s a little cold for open water swimming), while continuing twice a week swim lessons at the YMCA.  Amanda joins in for some biking and running as she can while doing swimming lessons once a week.  Amanda worked very hard to learn to ride without her training wheels to get ready for the first race.

For their first race, the kids participated in the New London Proud to Du It, Youth Duathlon.  Amanda was in the 5-6 yo age group and had to run 1/2 mile, bike 1 mile, run 1/2 mile.  Alex and Vicki were in the 11-13 yo age group and ran 1 mile, biked 4 miles, ran 1 mile.  The starts were staggered by age group and by gender.  All three kids finished and all three had a good time.

Not every ride is perfect

80+F on Easter?  In CT? That is definitely horse riding weather. After doing a few small projects around the farm this morning, the family went on an afternoon trail ride from home.  We only rode for about 5 miles in 1:20, but there were some important lessons learned.

Amanda is building her confidence and endurance in the saddle on the trails.  She did the whole ride today without any leadline assistance, including 4 small water crossings which are usually a challenge for her on Huey.  She didn’t have any problem handling the trotting.

Vicki rode Duchess.  This is only her second time out on the trails with Duchess and they are making progress.  Today she rode in a bitless bridle and that definitely helped.  It’s definitely different having a mare back in the herd.  Duchess isn’t completely comfortable with all the boys yet and she will threaten to kick or bite any horse that enters her space.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of motorcycles out today as well and in the first encounter, Huey ended up too close and Duchess kicked him, hitting Amanda’s foot.  It didn’t actually hurt Amanda, just scared her.  That also rattled Vicki a little.  Later in the ride, Duchess threatened to kick Dakota when he rode up too close on her butt and it made Vicki really upset.  She decided to get off and walk for a while (about a half mile) and then mounted back up when she had calmed down.  While it may not seem like much, it was an important lesson for Vicki about backing off when her emotions run too high and calming down to handle the situation.

Overall, the ride was a success.  No one got thrown.  No one got hurt.

When we got back home, Vicki stayed on Duchess and joined Mojo and I in the front pasture for a little jumping.  This was the first time Vicki has gotten to taken Duchess over anything other than ground poles.  We didn’t work too long and we kept everything low, but they did very well together.  Vicki has learned to control her canter speed and in the bitless bridle, they seem to be getting along better.  I didn’t have much opportunity to take pictures because I was jumping Mojo (who was a rock star!) but I did shoot a short video clip of Vicki trying a simple approach at the canter.  Despite the challenges on the trail, after over 2 hours of saddle time, she was all smiles as we headed in to the barn.

A slushy ride in the woods

It’s been a while since we posted.  Angel (aka Jellybean) didn’t end up staying with us.  She had too much anxiety and couldn’t handle being away from Devil, so we are back to our 6 gelding herd.  Of course, we finally got a bunch of snow in Feb.  We went from nothing to about 16″ on the ground in a matter of a few days.  Since then, we have been participating in mounted games practices on weekends, but no really riding much at home.

Today, it was in the mid-50s and the snow was melting away.  Anna has been a little under the weather and Alex bumped his head sledding in the woods, so I went on a short ride with the girls.  While the temperature was great, I hate riding in the slush.  It’s pretty, but I don’t like the horses sliding on ice you can’t see.  It was a short ride, but good to get out.

Introducing “Angel in Hiding”

Angel (formerly known as Jelly Bean) is the newest addition to the farm.  She is an 8yo, 12.3hh pinto pony.  While we were not really in the market for another mount in that size range, this was a little too perfect to pass up.  You see, all of Angel’s measurements are within 2cm of Devil’s, which will make them a fabulous matched pair for driving.  The pair will be shown as “Devil in Disguise” and “Angel in Hiding”.

Angel has been a family pet for the past 5 years and is very green (read not saddle broken).  While saddle training will likely occur, we really got her to be a driving pony.  Here are some pictures of her in turn out with Devil minutes after arriving.  Even though she had not trailered but 1 time in the past 5 years, we had her loaded in only a few minutes.  She will be a fun training project for this year.

 

 

A momentous ride for the family

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.

October Updates

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.

King standing watch while the group who went to camp sleep in the next morning
King standing watch while the group who went to camp sleep in the next morning

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.

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There is no question that October and November are my favorite months in New England.