Pachaug State Forest is being considered to become home to a new State Police gun range. While I am a big fan of guns, I am not a fan of the negative impact this new training range would have on the largest piece of forest left in the state. This morning, NEATO held a trail ride to help fund-raise in opposition to the gun range. Anna was feeling a little under the weather and opted out of the saddle time. So I took Mojo, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey and we did a 14 mile loop through the woods. I was a great fall morning with temps at 40F when we were loading the horses on the trailer. We met up with friends and Jennifer Broome joined our clan for the ride on her Nakota, Tex. This was also Amanda’s longest ride ever (by mileage, not time). She and Huey may be ready for a limited distance endurance ride (25 miles) next year.
It was a typical busy weekend for the family. Saturday morning started out early with the “Proud to Tri” youth triathlon for Alex and Vicki. It was held at Harkness Park and included an open water swim in the ocean. The temps were in the upper 40s when we got up but the kids weren’t cold once things got going. They have been practicing throughout the summer with the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team and this was the final event of the season. The swim was 200 yds, 4 miles on the bike, and a 1.5 mile run. They both had a good time at the race.
Saturday afternoon, Alexis and Christina came over to spend the night with Vicki and do a trail ride. Christina brought her horse, Fiona, and Alexis borrowed Mojo. Alex joined us on Dakota and I was riding Teddy. Mojo has been getting treated for Lyme for the past 2 weeks and been in a stall with only riding for exercise. As a result, he was being quite unruly on the trails, so Alexis and I switched mounts after the first mile. Teddy was a rock star and has turned out to be one of the more reliable loaner horses for trail riding. The group rode 6 miles and it was a great success for Christina and Fiona in particular, as it was their first trail ride together.
Sunday morning started with chores and loading horses onto the trailer to head out for lessons at Horse Power Farm. I rode Mojo for my lesson and then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Duchess. All three of us had outstanding rides and a lot of fun!
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.
We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater. Support your ride photographers!
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.
Last weekend was fair weekend. Friday evening was move in night. We took 5 rabbits (all we have remaining at this point) and items for the exhibit hall. We also moved a full trailer load of jumps to the fairgrounds in preparation for the Horse Expo on Saturday. Due to low participation numbers, the horse show was removed from the NLC 4-H fair a few years ago and New London combined with other counties in a state 4-H horse show. Ever since, the horse kids haven’t had a way to participate with their animals at the fair. Last year, I came up with the idea of a Horse Expo where the kids participate in a various classes and clinics throughout the day. It was a non-competitive event that allowed the horse project kids to spend time with their peers similar to how the youth do in the goat and cow barn. It was a great success and the kids had fun. Each Club took a period of time to host a class; the classes included a showmanship clinic, jumping demo, costume class, trail clinic, and gymkhana class. Vicki and Duchess and Alex and Dakota all had a good time at the fair.
Saturday was also rabbit showing. Alex and Vicki both participated with their Dutch bunnies. Vicki got 1st in Jr Showmanship, Alex got 4th in Sr Showmanship, and Vicki’s Rhinelander (Winter Rose) won Best in Show Pet Division.
On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda participated in the Rabbit Hopping competition with their Rhinelanders (Winter Rose and Pretty Paw). This is a fun activity and the girls let others use their rabbits to learn about hopping. Winter Rose had the first and second fastest runs through the jump course.
Alex participated in the Robotics Competition.
The weather was great and the kids had a good time. Alex won Best in Show with his Lego Technic tractor (the 3rd year in a row?).
There was one development through the weekend which was a little harder to accept. It’s no secret, kids grow up. On the way to the fair Sunday morning, we played music from Vicki’s phone. Her playlist had definite signs that she has developed her own identity, which is fine. Vicki spent a lot of time hanging out with her “friends” which seemed to include more guys than in years past.
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.
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
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!