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Easter Weekend

This past weekend we took it easy. Relatively.

On Thursday we took 6 horses out on the trails with the help of Alexis. We rode around 5 miles.

On Friday we stripped stalls and cleaned pastures while Rob removed two dump loads of manure and got 3 yards of stall fill to level our stalls. We added stall fill to the stalls and half a dump load of sawdust.  That took most of the day.

Saturday morning Rob helped Carrie and Alexis cut and remove three downed trees from their pasture while we did chores and then the family headed off to the Kingston bike path. Vicki had added an entry to our calendar two months ago to go roller blading on the bike path and we made good on our promise. Rob and I brought our bikes and the kids brought roller blades. Rob was pulling our bike stroller, just in case we had tired kids halfway through. Turns out the stroller works well for standing behind and hitching a ride. Alex skated the whole way to the ice cream shop in Wakefield, which is 5.5 miles, while his sisters hitched a standing ride every now and then. I think Vicki underestimated the work required to skate 5 miles! After ice cream, Rob helped a fellow biker with a flat tire (cause that is what he does) and I decided to roller blade back and let Alex ride my bike. He has the same shoe size as me now, so it all worked out.  Amanda rode in the trailer on the way back, and fell asleep. Vicki skated a lot less and hung on the back of the trailer quite a bit on the way back.

On Sunday the kids had an egg hunt in the yard and then we headed off for lessons at Horsepower Farm with Ann Bowie. We brought 4 horses and rode in pairs. It went well, and everyone has some home work.

After we got back from lessons we chilled for the rest of the day, so much so that this is what we woke up to Monday morning:

National Junior Honor Society

Thursday night Vicki and I joined 34 of her class mates at Griswold Middle School for her induction into the National Junior Honor Society. The requirements to join were an average grade point of 93 or higher and a record of leadership, service, citizenship, good behavior, scholarship, and character. Griswold Middle School nominates students based on their grades from 6 quarters starting in 6th grade. They are then required to fill out an application detailing their record of achievement in order to be inducted as members in NJHS. Our family is very proud of Vicki’s hard work and we hope she keeps it up for years to come. Below is a short clip from the cermony.

Vicki looks beautiful in her new dress.
Chapter members light candles and read passages about the pillars of NJHS.
Waiting to receive her certificate.

No Child Left Behind

It’s been a while since we posted, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on.  This year, we are participating in the Green Bean Endurance Challenge.  We are the only team that is a full family (I think) and our team name is “No Child Left Behind”.

Since we have 7 horses and plan to ride a lot of miles this year, we have been working on getting in slow conditioning miles rides.  The weather hasn’t been very cooperative, but today was decent, so we saddled up 5 mounts and headed out.  We rode for just under 2 hours and only covered about 7.5 miles.  The goal wasn’t speed, but rather restoring fitness that has been lost through the winter.

I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Amira and Devil stayed home for this outing.  As I mentioned last fall, we are going to be riding in shoes this year.  So far, Mojo and Teddy are both shod all the way around and Devil has front shoes.  I’ll be honest, I’m really impressed with how much nicer Teddy moves in shoes over boots.  I am working on spreading out the herd’s shoeing schedule so all 7 are not due at the same time.  The move to shoes from boots (after 12 years riding without shoes) is a big shift for our family and has come due to a number of reasons.

First, is quality of the boots.  I have given my honest feedback to the boot companies.  I have seen a decline in the quality of a number of boot products and I’m frustrated with the constant wondering what will fail next.

Second is cost.  Yes, I am a dealer for multiple boot companies which means I get boots at a discount.  However, I also don’t pay labor for the shoeing.  Based on the decline in quality, we are wearing out boots faster than in years past.  That coupled with the increased cost of the hoof boots means it is now cheaper for our family to ride shod horses over booted horses.  This wouldn’t be the case if we were paying for my labor expense associated with shoeing.  For perspective, I recently found a receipt for a pair of Epics we purchased in 2006 for $102.  Those same boots today, purchased from the same retailer, would cost $199.82!  I’m not sure what all is driving the cost of boots up, but it is driving me away from using the product.

The last factor is convenience.  Let’s be honest.  Booting gets tedious.  It’s really nice to pick out a hoof and ride without having to pound boots on all the hooves.

Due to all the rain, we crossed plenty of water.  The creek running near the entrance of Pachaug turned into a water-crossing training site.  It was between 2.5-3′ deep and everyone went through it (some a few times).  Here’s a short video of the kids crossing the creek.  Enjoy the pictures from our ride!

Fun and games with horses

After weeks of frigid temperatures, this weekend was a welcome relief with highs in the upper 40s.  Saturday morning, Alex took Dakota out for a short solo trail ride.  Saturday afternoon Vicki rode Duchess and Amanda rode Huey at Pony Club games practice.  This was Duchess’ first group practice and she did awesome.

This morning started with 4 hours of tack and tack room cleaning to kick off the ride season.  After a break, we tacked up for a ride.  As usual, I took Mojo and Vicki rode Duchess.  Alex rode Teddy, which will be a regular occurrence this year as they will be competing together at endurance rides.  Amanda elected to ride Devil, which was interesting, as Devil is a lot hotter on the trail than Huey.  Finally, Anna rode Amira for their first time in the woods.

Here is a short video of our group trotting (and maybe a little cantering) up a hill.

We rode for 1:15 which was just about perfect for today.  The temperatures were dropping, but everyone had a good time.  Amira did great – she crossed water without hesitation, took turns leading, following, and bringing up the rear of the group.  Amira fits in well with the herd and had a great first outing.  The sun set before our ride ended and we got to ride in at dusk with another beautiful New England sunset.

Rusty Red Waggin’

Our new Brittany puppy, Rusty Red Waggin’ came home yesterday night.  He has had a busy first day meeting Mack and Turbo.  It was a rainy day, but finally cleared up enough this afternoon that they could run around outside for a while.  Mack was happy to have another dog in the family.  Turbo was more skeptical, but finally decided it was ok.

Today is also Vicki’s 12th birthday.  As usual, she demanded to bale her own cake.  Anna bought her a new cake pan that is a 3-D cupcake.  It is baked as 2 cakes and then assembled and decorated.  She made a unicorn cupcake, complete with fondant ears and horn.

 

WGHA Turkey Trot


  • This morning I loaded up 4 horses and 3 kids and headed up to Goddard Park in RI. Rob is underway on a submarine and could not join us today. The West Greenwich Horseman’s Association had their annual turkey trot and we rode a 6 mile loop. Amanda fell off in the warm up ring when Huey decided to catch up to Dakota with a canter, but otherwise it was an uneventful ride. She got back on and immediately wanted to trot so no harm there. Goddard is located on the Narragansett Bay and offers a little beach riding out of season and beautiful views of the bay. All the horses eventually went in the water at the beach. I rode Mojo today since Teddy blew out an abcess last week, and he was good, albeit a bit of a brat when he doesn’t get to lead. We will have to work on that. Lunch, turkey and trimmings, was great and we came home with raffle prizes like cookie cutters, sweat scraper, grooming block and a safety led light. Good day.

Marine Corps Marathon

Today, I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. It took me 4:16:07 which was in the top 15% based on the number of starters (~30,000).  

Since I started training back in the spring, I lost 20 lbs and feel great. I highly recommend the book “Primal Blueprint” for anyone struggling with weight.  

Anna and the kids joined me on the trip to Washington DC. We did a little sightseeing yesterday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History after attending the race expo.


We had an apartment that was right on the marathon course at mile 23 and also where the Family Expo was held. Anna and the kids didn’t have to run around all over town trying to see me. 

The race started at 7:55. I left the apartment at 6 and took a bus to the Pentagon.  Everyone else slept in.

There was a lot of walking from the bus stop to the start area. We saw Osprey fly overs, parachute jumps with the American Flag, and lots of people. 


Once the race started, I bumped into one of my co-workers, Steve Wright. We didn’t stay together long because we had different pace plans. 

My training for the marathon was all heart rate based. I limited my training runs to a 140bpm heart rate. On flat ground, that equated to about a 9:45 pace. I knew I could increase the heart rate for the race, but I wasn’t sure how much. I had been warned by friends to start in a higher pace bin than I needed. I started at the 3:30 group, but even then, my first two miles we about a 9:40 average. It started to open up after 3 miles and I ran my best mile of 8:07 for the 4th mile. By the half way point, my pace was under a 9:00/mile, which was perfect. 

The only catch was, the temps were rising. It was in the mid 50s when we started. By the half way point, we were in the upper 60s. By about the 18 mile point, we were over 70F and I fell off my ~9:00 mile pace and couldn’t keep up with the 4 hr pace group.

The last 8 miles were definitely tough. There was basically no shade. At every water station, I drank a cup of Gatorade and 3 cups of water. I was walking some and running some. I still maintained a pace in the 10:00/mile range, but I had 4 miles over an 11:00/ mile. 

I finished at 4:16:07, with an average pace of 9:46/mile. According to Garmin, i burned over 3000 calories and had an average heart rate of 169 bpm.

Overall, I am pleased with the results. I definitely left it all out there and didn’t have anything else left in the tank. I am totally in awe of my friends who race Ironman triathlons and do a marathon after the swim and bike phases. 

Marine Corps Marathon lived up to its reputation of being family friendly and a great first marathon. I’m not sure if there will be a 2nd…

2017 Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Clowater Art & Photography

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

KY Vacation Days 8, 9, & 10

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

Polishing boots before Barn Phase

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

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

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

All the teams waiting for awards

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

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

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

2nd place team, 5th place overall individual

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

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