This past weekend we participated in the New London County 4H Fair.
The kids brought horses to the horse EXPO Saturday morning. The State 4H horse show is the actual points competition for the horse kids of New London county based on previous years lack of participation at the local fair show, so this is just for fun. There was jumping, trail obstacles, costume class and gymkhana.
Amanda also did some rabbit hopping with Pretty Paw and Winter Rose first thing Saturday morning.
We had our travel trailer on the grounds and Rob and Amanda stayed there all weekend.
Vicki and Amanda showed rabbits on Saturday afternoon, Vicki as a senior, and Amanda as a junior. They both got third place in showmanship.
Sunday was spent practicing for robotics (Alex) and actually competing in robotics. Alex got 2nd in the senior competition.
The girls helped with the ice cream social,did a pet costume class ( Vicki) and 4H Olympics on Sunday. And ate fair food.
Last weekend the kids spent some time at Barbara Kil’s house participating in the annual “Around 4th of July” Mystic pony club camp. While we decided last fall not to renew with pony club this year (for a lot of reasons-ask us if you want to know), the kids have done this camp for 6 years so we decided to send them this year as well. The each had 7 lessons, lots of pool time and sunshine over the course of 4 days.
Amanda and Huey rode all 7 lessons together and Huey was, well Huey, sometimes he is great, other times he is stubborn and difficult. I came away with the realization that Amanda is becoming quite strong in her riding and knowledge, and her ability to handle Huey’s antics has definitely improved.
Vicki took two horses to camp, Duchess and Amira. Amira came to expose her to more situations, let Vicki lesson on her and to allow Duchess a break since she had a lameness pull at the endurance ride. Vicki rode Amira on the flat and did her jumping on Duchess. It was evident that Vicki’s swim team time this winter has helped her become a stronger rider and Amira helped show Vicki how riding with softer elbows is good.
Alex took both Mojo and Teddy to camp. The horses both completed a 50 two weeks prior, so we decided Alex could use lesson time on both of them and neither would be idle or overused. Alex rode Teddy on the flat and in the field, learning about pacing and he jumped with Mojo.
Prior to coming to camp we took the kids to the Horsepower Farm derby and Vicki got a 2nd and Alex a 6th in the pre-elementary division. Alex had an unfortunate refusal when Mojo looked at the “Flag Jump”.
Thank you to the Kil’s for hosting and for keeping Amanda a few extra days.
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.
Some of you who read about our adventure in NH last weekend may have noticed we only had 4 horses with us. This is the story of why Amira didn’t make the trip.
In early April, our good friend Vikki Fortier shared a post for a 7yo, 14.2hh, QH/Arab mare that was available for sale. Of course, Anna commented and Vikki and Anna agreed what a great horse this would be for our girls. So you see, this is at least partially Vikki’s fault, after all, she is an enabler. We called and talked to the owner. Gem was very green and in Vermont. We didn’t really need another horse. So we decided to pass.
3 weeks later, Vikki gave us a call that the owner was desperate and needed to rehome Gem right away. So, the next day at 6am I found myself starting a 500 mile round trip to pick up a little mare in VT. When I got there, Gem was in worse condition than expected; I got her loaded and headed home. She attacked the hay in the trailer. Whenever she ran out, she would start kicking and I would know it was time to stop and give her some more. She was underweight at a body condition of about 3, her hooves hadn’t been trimmed in probably 4-5 months, and she had clay/mud caked on her legs and belly.
Gem was even more of a project than we expected. Her behavior was semi-feral in nature. While she clearly didn’t trust people, she also doesn’t fully understand herd dynamics. Anna made the decision to put Gem out with the other mares (how did we end up with 3 mares?) in order to provide her some companionship. She gets nervous when her friends are out of sight. As a result of her already higher stress level from the move, we decided to leave Amira at home with Gem for last weekend.
Gem has been with us for 2.5 weeks. She is gaining weight steadily, her hooves have been trimmed (and will get trimmed every 4 weeks for rehab), and she is getting better about being handled regularly. Tonight, Vicki rode her for the first time. They did some walking and a little trotting. When asked to walk over ground poles, Gem lay down. Throughout the summer, Vicki will be working with Gem to improve her saddle work and introducing her to trails.
By the way, yesterday Vicki had her hair dyed purple.
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.
The kids and I took Mojo and Duchess over to Ann Bowie’s Horsepower Farm to participate in her derby this afternoon. We have not done much jumping this year, maybe one or two rides over a few cross rails in the arena so we played it safe and the kids rode in the pre-elementary division. Horses were good and the rain held off. Alex was a little closer to the ideal time than Vicki, but both rode the course without any penalties.
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.
I have a DD214. For those not familiar with the military, that means I have my discharge papers. Today was my last day in uniform. While I am still technically on active duty until June 1st, I am on terminal leave and my naval career is over. No more morning musters. No more duty days. No more PRTs. No more uniforms.
I still remember the first time I really thought about joining the military. I was on a camp out with my Boy Scout Troop at Camp Sequoya in 1992. One of the leaders on the camp out was telling stories about his time in the Navy and how Scouting prepared him for military service. While I didn’t really tell everyone, that was when I first knew I would go into the military. It just seemed right.
I have been to 15 countries on 6 continents. I have surfaced a submarine through the ice at the North Pole. I have been to the crossing of the Equator and Prime Meridian. I have spent time at sea on 12 different submarines. My career path was different from some of my peers. About half way through my time, I shifted to a staff officer role. While that impacted my upward mobility for promotions, it gave me opportunities with my family that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We spent 13 years in the Groton, CT area. We have a herd of horses. I have been working as a part-time farrier for 7 years.
I am excited to start the next phase of my life. In a few months, Anna and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Next week, I will start at Sonalysts, Inc in Waterford, CT. Next fall, we will have 2 kids in high school. Life moves on and things change. I’m happy to have served in uniform. I’m proud to be a veteran.