I’ve been at endurance rides where I see parents putting their young kids on these full size horses and hitting the trail. We have always stepped the kids up through various size ponies until they graduated to full horses as teenagers. Until Amanda. She is the 3rd child, so rules tend to go out the window. Amanda has been spending time riding Mojo on short 2-3 mile trail rides with Anna. She rides Mojo in the arena at the walk, trot, and canter. But she wanted to give Teddy a try. So, this evening, I was planning to go out for a training ride with Mojo and I decided to let Amanda join me on Teddy. Of course, Rusty went too. It was her first time riding Teddy on the trails and she loved it. Teddy was a rock star.
We did 11 miles with lots of trotting. Of course, when we hit the nice open flat road, Amanda was begging to let them run, so we did. At one point, I looked down at my Garmin to see Mojo and I were moving 17.8 mph and Amanda and Teddy were passing me. Post workout analysis reveals we exceeded 24 mph this afternoon. Not bad for a 10 year old girl on an Arab.
As we rode, I kept thinking “So this is what it’s like to trust a horse.” Teddy isn’t perfect, but he takes care of Alex and now it seems he takes care of Amanda. Maybe Teddy will be Amanda’s next endurance mount (Huey isn’t done yet). They grow up so fast; the kids do too.
All year, we knew the Pine Tree endurance ride in Fryeburg, Maine would be our big summer vacation. After all the problems around our kitchen fire in July, we needed a getaway. The week before we left was spent putting new shoes on all the horses and packing. In addition, Gem, the palomino 1/2 Arabian we got in April was sold because she wasn’t working out in our herd. My parents left from Alabama on Friday evening and were meeting us in Maine on Sunday. So, on Sunday, 8/4, we left for Maine with 5 horses (Mojo, Amira, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey) on the trailer, 3 dogs in the trucks, and the travel trailer loaded for a week of camping and riding.
Pine Tree is a special ride. It has 5 consecutive days of competition at the Fryeburg fairgrounds. There are stalls available for horses, electric and water hookups for trailers, a dump station on-site, showers and even a laundromat. This was our 3rd time at Pine Tree in the past 4 years, and it is a family favorite. The people are great (especially Sue, the ride manager) and there are plenty of things to do outside riding for the week.
When we arrive around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, you could tell it was going to be a busy week. Ride camp already was filling up fast and the first rides weren’t until Tuesday! We blocked out our area next to our CT friends, Rob and Mary Palumbo, and 2 down from the Coffey family. Everyone got to work setting up camp. I’m sure most of the people knew we had arrived, because 5 people configuring electric fences doesn’t always go smoothly and it’s possible, there was some yelling. A mere 3 hours later, the horses were settled into their pens happily munching on hay.
Monday morning we had a leisurely time around camp and went out to Walmart to pick up a few things for the week. Amanda got to find a friend for the week; Laney was another 9 yo who had driven up with her Dad, Jesse, from North Carolina. Laney and Jesse were in first place for the AERC family award with over 1100 miles already ridden this year. In the first 3 days, Laney rode 2 50 mile rides and 1 25 mile ride. It definitely inspired Amanda to step up her game and train Huey for more riding next season.
Monday afternoon, we saddled up the horses for a tack ride (a short test ride to make sure all the tack was set and ready for competition) and to check the river crossing. This is when things started to go awry. During the tack ride, Amira was HOT and giving Anna lots of attitude. All the horses were spunky and ready to run. There may have been some more elevated volume conversations (aka yelling) as we disagreed on how to handle the situation. Crossing back through the river, Vicki decided to work on sponging Duchess with a sponge on a rope. When the sponge floated in front of Duchess with a line trailing, I’m pretty sure Duchess thought it was a snake and promptly ditched Vicki in the river. She didn’t run off, and other than getting a little wet, Vicki was fine.
Coming up out of the river back to the trail, Amira decided to jump a log instead of going around it like the rest of the herd. Anna wasn’t expecting this and lost her balance in the fray. She got dumped and I’m pretty sure she hit her head on the log. This resulted in a minor concussion that ended Anna’s riding for the week. As we all jumped off our horses to help Anna and grab Amira, Teddy got scared from the commotion and threw Alex into the brush. We recovered all the horses headed back to camp. Needless to say, it wasn’t the successful ride we hoped for the day before competition.
That evening, we decided that we would not send 5 horses out on the trail together for competition. We have consistently attempted to obtain the goal of all 5 riding together, and it just hasn’t worked. There are too many demands of individual riders and horses to manage 5 in a competition. It does work if the 5 are split into separate distances, but we didn’t plan to ride any 50 milers during our week.
So, on Tuesday morning at 7:30, we started the 25 mile ride with me on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, and Vicki on Duchess.
The 25 mile course at Pine Tree goes out to a covered bridge that is about 11 miles from camp. The riders then go through a loop into what is known as “Fern Gully” before returning the to the covered bridge for the 45 minute hold and vet check. We did some cantering on the first loop as all the horses were feeling good. Here is a short video.
All 3 horses, Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess, made the 64 bpm pulse criteria with no problems and then we headed back on the return 11 miles. When we arrived back a base camp, Duchess was in 5th place and Mojo was 6th. Unfortunately, Teddy was lame on his right hind and didn’t get a completion. Teddy has been having problems on his right hind for a number of rides. This time, an extended discussion with one of the ride vets who assessed Teddy’s issue to be a hock problem. It looks like some hock radiographs and injections are in his future, because Alex and Teddy are a great team.
Once the ride ended, things went South for Duchess. We got her back to camp and she wouldn’t drink any water or eat any food. We offered her grain, carrots, and apples. She wanted to drop and roll. She wouldn’t eat fresh grass. It was clear we were dealing with a colic, likely from being dehydrated. During the hold we gave Duchess more senior feed and beet pulp than she normally gets. Our theory is, we didn’t have the feed wet enough and it sucked the water out of her gut, leading to dehydration, despite the fact that she kept drinking during the ride. So, 5 hours after completing, Duchess was checked in to an equine hospital and hour and a half from ride camp where she got a full colic exam to check for impaction or other problems, and 10L of fluid overnight.
Anna and I got back to camp about 9:30 pm, showered, took care of horses, and climbed into bed. Hauling Duchess to the vet wrecked our plan to do anything on Wednesday. Around 11:30 pm, as we were just climbing into bed, we heard a commotion outside followed by the sounds of a herd running – not what you want to hear in ride camp. It turns out, a stallion camping 2 spots down broke out, went running through some of our electric fence and into the next one over. That resulted in at least 3 more loose horses which then went back through our fencing and took down 4 of our 5 pens. In the end, Teddy and Mojo were still in camp and too scared to leave their electric fence (despite it being on the ground). Amira and Huey were running loose in camp with at least 3 other horses. Needless to say, many people were awakened by the commotion and lots jumped into action to help catch the loose horses. A little after 1 am, we had the fencing back into place and horses back in bed. At this point, I was definitely not having fun.
On Wednesday, Duchess got the all-clear at the equine hospital, so I made the drive back to get her. My Dad joined me for the ride and we had the chance to spend some quality time talking. When we got to the clinic, Duchess pinned her ears at me and spun her butt towards me. I could tell she was feeling much better. Vicki was happy to have her back in camp.
So, by Wednesday evening, Anna had a concussion, Teddy had been pulled for lameness and wasn’t going to ride again, and Duchess had spent the night in an equine hospital. We strongly considered packing it up and heading home. After a family conversation about the options, we decided to stay a little longer and hope that things got better.
On Thursday morning, there were heavy thunderstorms which delayed the ride start to 8 am. Alex, Amanda, and I went to the hold to help crew for Jesse and Laney. When we got back, we had a quick lunch and then headed out to go tubing on the Saco River. Each year, we think we will go tubing, but it never seems to work out so we made it happen. It turns out, tubing down the river is exactly what the family needed to relax. We got back to camp and vetted in the horses for Friday’s ride.
Since Anna had finally come to terms with a minor concussion, Vicki rode Amira, Amanda rode Huey, and I rode Mojo on Friday morning when we started the 25 miles at 6:30 am.
The first 15 miles of the ride went well. Vicki really enjoyed riding Amira and it brought her to terms with the fact that Duchess isn’t her long term endurance mount. When we rolled into the hold and vet check, Amira and Huey passed just fine. However, Mojo had some back soreness, which has been another recurring problem. We gave him some massage work and food and he cleared the vet, but I was concerned about him passing at the end of the ride. I made the quick decision to ditch my tack and do the 11 miles back to camp on foot.
It turns out, running in Ariat Terrain boots and long pants is challenging. The footing in the fields was deep soil with a wet top layer, which is hard to run on. Additionally, Mojo likes to invade my personal space when we run; he managed to step on my heel once and the side of my foot twice. It was hot and I consumed 2L of water in the first 10 miles. Before the hold, we were in last place and only had 2.5 hours to cover the 11 miles back to camp, which basically meant I needed to maintain at least 13:00 min/mile.
We made it back to camp with 7 minutes to spare and all 3 horses passed the final vet check. The vets agreed that Mojo’s back was better at the finish than the mid-ride vet check.
Friday evening was the traditional Pine Tree lobster dinner. We decided to head home on Saturday and give us a day to recover before starting the work week.
One of the reasons we switched to endurance was after a ride, the family was always excited about the next event. Even after our rough week, at dinner on Sunday the whole family was talking about what we learned during our week at Pine Tree 2019. We talked about what we learned about our horses and what we needed to changed before the next ride. We talked about modifying our training for future rides. But in general, we talked about the next rides. You know you are doing something the family loves when everyone is looking forward to the next event, even if that last one wasn’t perfect.
So, thank you to the ride management (especially you Sue) and all the volunteers at Pine Tree. We look forward to next year!
May and early June is always a wee bit crazy…and this year was no exception. After our trip to New Hampshire for Mother’s Day weekend, there has been no shortage of events on our calendar. Here’s a quick catch up post or highlight reel if you wish.
Amanda turned 9 on May 18. We had a skating birthday with her school friends that weekend and she had a blast.
At the end of May Alex was awarded an academic excellence award for his work in AP/ECE Environmental Science this past school year. Alex took two college level classes with ECE (Early College Education) credit, two honors classes, and still stayed on the high honors list all year. In addition, he participated all year in the 4H group “Teen Ambassadors” that focuses on citizenship, community service and leadership. The group went on a week long trip to Washington DC last week, and Alex had a blast.
Our new project pony Gem has a knack for getting hurt. With no horse sense to speak of, she had to learn what being in a herd is all about. She has so far been kicked by Mojo, stepped on a nail, and been bit by one of the mares, with all injuries requiring some level pf vet care. She has had her teeth done and her feet are improving, but she is definitely still a work in progress. Gem is very defensive of her food and requires us to be careful around feeding time. Unfortunately, I was not cautious enough and got kicked by her on June 1, causing me to be unable to ride for a week. She did go on her first short trail walk under saddle this week. No pics because I was leading Amanda, who was riding Amira.
June 2, most of the family rode in the first WGHA cross country pace (no jumps). I (Anna) did not as I was hurting too much from being kicked the day before. Rob recruited a client of his to ride Amira because she needed to be worked for the upcoming endurance ride. The kids placed second in the junior division, and Rob placed third in the open division. Good day.
Vicki promoted from 8th grade and is headed to the Marine Science Magnet High School in the fall. At the Griswold Middle School awards night, she received four awards: the VFW award for dependability, a creative writing award, a departmental math award for highest average in math (3 way tie), and an award for her expo project “Horses in Therapy”. We are very proud of her. She has also remained on the high honors list all year and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society. She attended the 8th grade dance and then there was promotion night. Her individuality is starting to show for sure.
Amanda is headed to fourth grade in the fall and doing just fine. She makes friends easily and does well at school. I went to field day for half the day and here are some pics.
Rob raced the Patriot Half Ironman on June 15. I went with him to the race to cheer him on and take pics. We camped in the travel trailer the night before. He finished in 6 hours and 38 minutes. I had a relaxing day of reading while waiting for Rob to return to transition between the different events.
Last but not least, Alex had a birthday. HE TURNED 16!!! Five guys for dinner and late night cupcakes for dessert because we were packing for an endurance ride. But we squeezed it in. He will go to get his driver’s permit on July 11 and his license when he is ready and has completed all the requirements (you can not actually get your license at 16 in CT it’s more like 16 and a half, if you are lucky).
Phew, I think that was all. Maybe. Until next time.
June 22 was the 2019 NEATO Endurance ride held in Arcadia WMA (Exeter, RI). Since the ride is less than 10 miles from our house, we always plan to attend. This year we had 3 entries for the 50 mile ride and 2 for the 25 mile ride. The weather was a little wet on Friday so I headed over to set up camp around lunch with Alex and Vicki and Anna and Amanda brought the horses a little later in the afternoon. Everyone vetted in just fine and we enjoyed the group dinner and ride brief. Since this ride is close to home, Anna went home for the night to take care of the horses who didn’t attend the ride, plus the dogs, rabbits, and chickens. She joined us again at 5:30 Saturday morning.
This ride has a very gentlemanly start time of 7am for the 50 mile riders which had 27 entries. Anna had Amira and Huey tacked up just in case they got upset when the other 3 left. The temperature at the start was in the 60s and the weather was clear. I was a little concerned about Mojo having race brain and wanting to just run the entire first loop, but he was actually very manageable compared to last year.
The first loop for Alex, Vicki, and I was 20 miles. There was a mandatory 10 minute stop at about the 9 mile point, which we used to give the horses some grain and water (and people got a bathroom break). There was one section of trail that goes down into a low elevation and heavy forest area. As the temperatures were rising and the previous day’s rain was baking off, the humidity spiked. There was also a lot of mountain laurel on the first loop that was in full bloom and very pretty, but I didn’t take a picture. Since it was a first 50 for both kid pairs, Alex on Teddy and Vicki on Duchess, we were riding conservatively to try and get completions for everyone. Unfortunately, as we were trotting along about mile 15, I noticed Duchess was a little off on her right hind. We have been working on the kids continuously eating in order to avoid meltdowns from lack of fuel. Each kid has figured out what fuels work for them and things went well on the first 20 miles.
Meanwhile, Amanda and Anna started their 25 mile ride at 7:45 with a 15 mile loop. Everything went well and both horses got along fine without the rest of the herd. Amira has really gotten strong as a leader on the trail and doesn’t rely on the other horses for confidence. Amanda kept asking to canter in order to pick up the pace (and apparently the cantering sections were the best part). Throughout the ride, Amira didn’t balk at any bridge crossing or trail entrances. Both Huey and Amira did a great job of eating consistently and drinking at the water stops. Anna and Amanda made it back to the vet check and 45 minute hold about 20 minutes before those of us on the other loop.
Unfortunately, the lameness we noticed on the trails caused Duchess to get pulled from the ride after the first 20 miles. Vicki was disappointed but took it well. She took care of Duchess at our camping area while the rest of us were out for our next loop. Anna and Amanda had 10 miles to go while Alex and I had 2 more 15 mile loops to do. I’m proud of the fact that we have kids who know enough about their horses that they can take care of them in ride camp even if Anna and I are not available. Of course, there are plenty of other adults around that will help out if needed, but Vicki had everything under control with her pony.
The second (and last loop) for Anna and Amanda went well. Amanda did start to run out of steam towards the end and they spent some time walking because her legs “felt like Jello.” They made it back to camp and passed the final vet check. Their ride time of 4:52 was good enough for a 12th place tie and got the Turtle award. In endurance, the Turtle is the last finisher who still gets a completion. It’s important to manage your horse so they pass the final vet check as “fit to continue”. If you fail the final vet check, you are disqualified and don’t get credit for the miles. In the end, only 1 horse in the 25 mile ride was pulled, 13 of 14 completed.
The second and third loops for Alex and I were fairly uneventful. We knew a number of riders had been pulled at the first vet check (including Vicki) and we were bringing up the rear of the ride. That didn’t bother us in the least. Alex in particular doesn’t have a competitive drive and just loves to spend time on the trails with Teddy. Mojo started to lose some steam around 40 miles, so Teddy would take the lead. At mile 45, Teddy picked up a strong canter like he was fresh out of the barn. Throughout the day, Teddy did great and I love to watch Alex with him. We made our way back into camp only about 5 minutes behind the next rider ahead of us. Both horses passed their vet check and we got our Turtle awards for the 50 miles with a ride time of 9:39. 20 of 27 riders completed the 50 mile ride. At this point, I can’t imagine doing a 100 mile ride, because I was wiped out after about 10 hours in the saddle. We took a break to eat some food and then packed up camp to head home.
Do you know how to tell if the kids are legitimately enjoying the rides and endurance events? After riding all day, with some chaffing, sore muscles, and just plain exhaustion, the ride home still includes discussions (prompted by the kids) about the next event on the schedule. Not only that, there were conversations about altering training plans and what needs to improve for the next ride. To finish is to win.
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.
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.”
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.
Vicki likes art. This year my parents gave her water color supplies and books for Christmas. She has been using lessons out of one of the books and completed two projects from the subscription company Let’s Make Art. I’m impressed with her work so far and she seems to really enjoy it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I replaced the shoe and Duchess got legs wrapped. We didn’t give her any anti-inflammatory medications in hopes that she would be sounds enough to ride before the week was over.
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.
Overall, it was a great ride week. 10 rides, 10 completions. We look forward to next year!