Today we said goodbye to our friend of 15 years. We bought King in August of 2002 when we lived in Port Orchard, WA. It was in the days before we had kids. King was purchased to be Rob’s horse, as Anna rode Cinder at the time. Over the years, he became a horse that didn’t belong to any of us, but was a member of the family. He moved with us from WA to SC to CT. He taught me how to show horses, ride dressage, jump, hunter pace, trail ride, and so much more. King would pull kids on sleds in the snow, race through the fields at a full gallop, and be as gentle as you can imagine with a kid in the saddle. For the few years Anna taught lessons, King was a favorite for the students. King could be brutally mean to the others in the herd, but would also protect his closest friends.
Over the past 2 years, we watched as EPM took it’s toll on his body and his muscle control and we finally decided it was time to let him go. There hasn’t been a dry eye in the family for the past few days as we said our goodbyes. I can only hope that one day, another horse will be as hard to let go.
Ann Bowie is a well-known local instructor that we have used for occasional lessons for years. At her farm, Horse Power Farm, she hosts cross-country jumping derbies 3-4 times a year. I have always wanted to participate, but schedules or injuries have never worked out in my favor. That changed today when I finally made to one of her derbies!
First, I want to say what a well run event it is. There were tons of volunteers (including our long-time friend Diana Clark!) and it was a great, low-key atmosphere. Since Mojo and I don’t have a ton of experience, we entered Elementary Division (max height 2′ jumps). Mojo was a little wound up being alone on the trailer, however, as soon as we got into the warmup ring, he settled right down and got to work.
We jumped a clear round within the time allowed and Mojo didn’t hesitate at anything. Since the first round went so well, I decided to press my luck and go ahead with riding a round at Beginner Novice (max height 2’7″ jumps). We have done a few jumping efforts in that range, but never actually put together a full course of efforts until today.
I love this horse! He jumped another clear round, again within the time allowed. There are a few nuances to scoring, namely whomever gets closest to the ideal time, without going over, and without any jump faults, wins the round.
Mojo and I got 1st place in Elementary and 2nd place in Beginner Novice and had a blast doing it!
This morning I ran the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race at Buttonwoods Farm. At only 2.5 miles from the house, it doesn’t get much more local than that. Before I talk about the results, I want to give an update from my May post “Primal Diet and Fitness“. If you didn’t read it, or don’t remember it, please go back and take a look. It has been almost 3 months since that post. I have continued to follow the Primal diet and training approach for endurance sports. My weight loss steadied out with my new weight at 164 lbs; I lost 21 lbs. I may still lose a little more, but I feel great and I definitely feel that I have found a sustainable eating plan. On the training front, I have continued to limit my heart rate to 140 bpm in my marathon run training. I am not worried about a specific speed goal. On Thursday of this week, I did 16 miles in 3:00. It was my longest run to date and my heart rate did creep up in the heat. However, I wasn’t crippled from the run and recovered quickly.
With my focus on distance, I haven’t done any speed work at all. In fact, a sprint triathlon in June is the only other time I have truly tested my speed in the past 4 months. So today’s 6k race was a little bit of a question mark in my mind; I really didn’t know what kind of pace I could sustain.
It turns out, I was able to run the race in 26:21 for a 7:04 min/mile pace. That was good enough for 18th out of 566 runners and 3rd (out of 30) in the men’s 40-49 age group. I can live with that!
After I came home and had some breakfast (I don’t eat before running), we loaded up the trailer with 5 horses and headed to Arcadia in RI. Today I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Vicki rode Duchess, Alex rode Teddy, and Amanda rode Huey. This was a switch up ride for Alex and Anna to test out some things and the first time we have taken Duchess out for a trail ride at a different location. All the horses behaved for the most part. Mojo won the “Most Typical Arab” award for his spook at a butterfly flying across the trail. We didn’t ride too hard and did 10.5 miles in 2:30. When we got home, it was time to put some steaks on the grill and call it a day. The weather was great and we made the most of it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday started with Breyerfest 2017. We had never been to Breyerfest (and I’m not convinced we need to go back, but the girls disagree). It really is a bunch of kids (and adults) getting together to buy and sell Breyer horses. The girls found some new Breyer horses they couldn’t live without and had to spend allowance on. Alex joined in with Vicki, Alexis, and Amanda in hand painting some Stablemates (very small Breyer horses). Amanda got her face painted, but it only lasted an hour or so before we had to wash it off due to a reaction.
Alexis and Vicki spent almost 2 hours in a tent learning how to make bridles and lead ropes out of tiny beads and sewing thread. While they did that, we watched some riding and driving demos. Alex and Amanda both took a try on the mechanical bull. We also watched some “splash dogs” which were dogs jumping into a pool of water for distance. The dogs loved it. At one point, Alex got called up to help hold one of the dogs who was very excited about doing his jumps.
Once we had our fill of Breyerfest, we went back to the hotel for a break. Later, we hiked almost 2 miles to Cold Stone for some ice cream.
On Monday, we had breakfast and hit the road. We headed South to Mammoth Cave National Park. The Visitor’s Center is very well put together and we spent almost an hour learning about the history of the park and the caves. The 405+ miles of mapped cave make Mammoth the largest cave in the world. There are estimates that another 600 miles remain to be mapped. We did the “Domes and Dripstones” tour which was very interesting and included both large open areas and unique formations within the caves.
We learned a lot of interesting tidbits during the tour, although Vicki felt it would have been more interesting to just hike and look without the guide talking so much.
We ended the day with some pizza at the hotel and a study session for Alexis and Vicki. After all, we are here for a competition. Check-in is tomorrow!
Summers are always busy and as the kids get older, that becomes an understatement. It’s been over a month since we have posted, so I’m going to lump a lot of different happenings from the last 5+ weeks into a single post.
The kids finished up the school year and are ready to move on. This was the first year back in public Vicki was 1 of 3 6th graders at Griswold Middle School who were tested to skip 7th grade Math. None of them passed the test with a high enough score to actually skip 7th grade Math, but Vicki was close. She finished the school year with all A’s. Alex (who is now 14!) has decided to start his freshman year of high school at Griswold High School in the fall.
We have been riding a lot. All 3 kids did Pony Club camp. Alex took Dakota, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey. All 3 learned a lot and had fun. Here are some videos from camp.
On May 18th, Amanda turned 7. She has been making great strides with her riding skills and ability to ride on the trails for longer periods of time. After years of staying with a babysitter or a friend while the rest of the family rides a hunter pace, Amanda finally graduated to riding with us. Today was her first hunter pace with WGHA in Arcadia WMA in RI. So it was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Teddy, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Devil, and Amanda on Huey.
We covered 9.8 miles according to my GPS at a 5.0 mph average speed for a total ride time of 1:56. The ideal time for the Hilltopper division was 1:46, so Anna and I didn’t place, however, the kids managed to take 1st in the Junior Division!
Amanda was all smiles during the ride. WGHA hunter paces are held in a state forest, so there are no typical cross country jumps, only cavalettis spread throughout the course. The plan was I would do some jumping on Mojo and Vicki would jump on Devil. However, after a few of the jumps, Amanda started yelling out “Mom, I’m going to jump too!”. Of course, Anna yelled back, “Amanda, go around the jumps.” I was leading, so the next thing I hear from Amanda is “Nope! I going to do it!” And she did. Amanda and Huey jumped somewhere between 5-10 jumps over the rest of the course. And she is hooked.
Eventually, Alex decided to give a jump a go with Dakota. However, Alex was riding with saddle bags attached to the front of the saddle. When they went over the jump, the bags flapped and slapped Dakota on the neck, causing him to start crow hopping. That just caused more saddle bag flopping and more bucking. Alex held on for a while, but Dakota was too scared and sent Alex flying. He didn’t get seriously injured, but he was definitely sore from the fall. We took a short break and then everyone mounted back up and continued the ride. When I asked Alex later if he would prefer to ride a horse that is a better jumper, he simply replied, “No, I just want to ride Kota.” There is no denying the bound he has with that pony.
It’s definitely a unique thing that all 5 of us enjoy riding and get to share it at events like this.
We wrapped up the day with pizza and a movie. If you haven’t seen “A Dog’s Purpose” you should watch it. Warning, it’s a tear-jerker.
I made a short video during the ride, but I think it’s about time to invest in a GoPro. I heard Father’s Day was coming up…
On Sunday evening, Vicki and Rob did a cross country jumping lesson with Ann Bowie at Horse Power Farm. Vicki has been continuing to work with Duchess and they are becoming quite the pair. They are advancing together so fast that Vicki is more focused on using Duchess than Devil. To quote Ann “That’s a nice pony!” We are very grateful to Stefanie (Duchess’ former trainer and owner) for choosing our family. I’m also thrilled with Mojo’s progress as a jumper.
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.
This afternoon, we brought home our newest acquisition, Dutch Treat, aka Duchess. Duchess is believed to be a Welsh/POA (Pony of the Americas) cross. She is about 14hh, strawberry roan color and will be 9 years old in May. We got Duchess specifically for Vicki. While Devil isn’t going anywhere, Vicki really could use a slightly larger mount and Amanda is planning to do some sharing of Devil this year.
Now, I know at least a few of our closer horse friends are thinking, “they don’t get mares!” It’s true, we broke our rules and got another mare. It’s not that we haven’t ever had a mare that we liked, it just creates complications in the herd. This time around, we decided it was worth the hassle to add a mare to the herd of 6 geldings.
We acquired Duchess from a young woman who started her and used her in a lesson program. Duchess has experience on the rated hunter/jumper show circuit, but has been out of work for about 2 years while out on a lease that didn’t use her. She doesn’t have any health issues, just needs to get back into work. Vicki says “riding Duchess is like riding Devil, but a mare”. We all know Vicki will ride anything, but Anna and I think they are a really good match. There was one other part of her background that sealed the deal. Duchess is a jumper. Vicki has acknowledged that it will take lessons and hard work for Vicki to be ready to jump anywhere near what Duchess has done in the past, but I’ll just share these 2 photos of Duchess jumping courses a couple of years ago.
The snow is melting and spring has arrived, so it’s time to get the ponies back in shape and get ready for the show season. Stay tuned to follow the progress of Vicki and Duchess as a team!