Tag Archives: Amira

Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

“It’s called Northeast Challenge, not Northeast Walk-in-the-park”
-Dr. Art King, as quoted by Sue Niedoroda

First, I want to say a huge thank you to Sarah Jack for stepping up and being the ride manager this year. Without her willingness to volunteer to take over from her parents, we wouldn’t have had a ride to attend. That said, Sarah outdid herself with emphasizing the “Challenge” portion of the ride legacy.

Riding endurance with a whole family is all about the logistics. I took Thursday off work to load the horse trailer and the travel trailer so we could leave on time. In this case, we were taking 2 tow vehicles and 2 trailers for 4 horses and 4 riders. Since Teddy is still recovering from EPM, he wasn’t attending the ride. Alex stayed home with him to take his SAT test, but that was cancelled due to COVID, so Alex had the weekend to just hang out at home with Teddy and the dogs.

Northeast Challenge is held in Buckfield, Maine, which is only about 235 miles from our house. The Jack family generously hosts this event in their hay fields and marks the trails on surrounding public and private land.

On Friday, 8/28, we hit the road about 9:00 and headed towards Maine. Our lunch stop at a rest area took longer than desired, but we were on track to make the trip with only 1 stop and about 5 hours of travel time. Unfortunately, about an hour from the ride, we got a flat tire on the horse trailer. We use a Doran 360RV tire pressure monitoring system for our horse trailer. Coming home from our first endurance ride in 2015 we got a flat tire due to a broken valve stem. It turns out you need to have solid valve stems if using a TPMS on the end of the valve stem. We had that corrected, however, when we bought new trailer tires 2 years ago, the tire shop changed out one valve stem to a rubber one and I never noticed…. until we got a flat in Maine.
I figured out a long time ago it pays to be ready for flat tires. We travel with a Jiffy Jack in each trailer. I also invested in a Ridgid impact wrench and set of impact sockets that travel with us. So, when Anna got the alert on the TPMS that a tire was losing presssure, she was able to pull off the road before it went fully flat and ruptured. We had the flat off and spare on in about 12 minutes. We dropped the flat at a tire shop that was 20 minutes from ride camp to get a new, SOLID valve stem, and then continued on to camp.

When we arrived at ride camp, we discovered there were only 21 entries for the ride (10 for the 50 miler and 11 for the 30 miler) including our family of 4. Needless to say, there was plenty of room to set up camp. We chose a site next to our CT friend Mary Palumbo and Stacey Stearns. We set up the hard panels for Eli and Amira to share since they don’t respect electric and electric pens for Mojo and Huey.

We went to the vet-in and all horses were just fine to start the ride. I took a trip back into town to pick up the repaired trailer tire. We attended the short question period (not a ride meeting), had dinner, and started tucking into bed a little after 8pm. Reveille was held at 0430 because the ride started at 0630.

Now would be a good time to discuss the weather. All week we had been watching the forecast, as Hurricane Laura made her way up towards New England. The predictions had ranged from 50% to 80% chance of rain for Saturday. As of the ride meeting Friday evening, the estimate was rain showers in the morning with about 0.5″ throughout the day. Since temperatures Friday night were close to 50F, we decided to put light blankets on the horses because they hadn’t been gettting that cool at night. We were pleased to wake up to about 52F and cloudy skies, but no rain.

Tacking up for the start was uneventful. We had eggs and bacon with plenty of coffee for breakfast and were ready to head out when the trail opened at 0630. We walked the horses for about the first mile to make sure we didn’t have any issues since it was Eli’s first ride and the trail started with a climb uphill. The whole day was basically spent going up or down; there were very few flat areas.

The 50 mile riders and 30 mile riders were all riding the same first loop, but since the field was so small, everyone spread out pretty quickly. Our family of 4 was basically alone for most of the loop. The horses were all moving well, however, we were struggling to maintain speed. The area we live in doesn’t have significant hills for climbing. While we can average around 100′ of elevation per mile, Northeast Challenge had multiple climbs of 300-500′ at a time and totaled over 4100′ of elevation. Overall, we weren’t too worried (yet) because we only had a completion as our goal for the day. The horses enjoyed the stops for grass and the cool weather was very pleasant.

Then it started to rain. We had less than 4 miles to go on our first loop when the rain started. It wasn’t very heavy at first, but the temperature immediately dropped back below 60F and visibility was reduced. Right about this time, we started riding around a corn field and we lost the trail. In the end, we rode over a mile back and forth trying to figure out where the trail was supposed to exit the field. The problem was a turn marker had blown away and a ribbon had tangled in some brush making it hard to see. As we were riding back and forth, Amira spooked as some other riders came around a corner in the field and Anna had an unplanned dismount, landing on her left hip. She was dirty, but able to continue the ride. We eventually called the ride manager and found the exit from the field and headed back to ride camp for the vet check.

We don’t have any pictures that we took after this point, because it rained the entire rest of the ride, which was about 5 more hours including the hold. Less than a mile from camp, there was a creek bed to pass through. This had been discussed at the pre-ride meeting and there were 2 options. 1. Go through the mud and rocks. 2.Cross a wooden foot bridge. Anna took Amira through the creekbed. I took Mojo across the bridge. Vicki and Amanda followed me. Eli spooked on the bridge and slid off the left side of the bridge. It didn’t seem significant at the time, however, when we arrived at the vet check, Eli was quite lame on his right front. My theory is when he slipped, his right hoof actually slid to the outside and stressed his shoulder. There were no visible injuries to his leg and no swelling. Unfortunately, even with some icing, Eli was too lame to continue and he was pulled.

We had an hour for the hold after the horses met the 64 beat per minute pulse criteria. It was pouring rain. We put fleece coolers and blankets on the horses to keep them warm. They all ate mash and hay. We grabbed some food and hot coffee (prepped at breakfast and stored in a thermos). Some of us changed into dry clothes, but that only lasted a few minutes. Mojo had a sore back (got a B from the vet) at the vet check. This was my first competition using the Ghost treeless saddle and I had brought an extra saddle just in case. I made the risky decision to change the whole saddle and saddle pad for the second loop. I put a Skito pad with Big Horn endurance saddle on him as we tacked up to leave.

Due to temperatures (now in the mid-upper 50s) and constant rain, we put rump rugs on Mojo, Amira, and Huey to keep their upper leg muscles warmer for the second loop. As we headed out of camp, it was miserable. The rain was creating constant runoff and the mud was making it slow going. Our pace suffered and after an hour of riding, we had barely covered 4 miles. Anna and I were getting quite concerned about the ability to finish within the allowed time (7:15 total elapsed time, including the 1 hour vet hold). There was nothing to do but keep pushing and make up time where we could.

Eventually, we hit a relatively flat area and were able to pick up some cantering and consistent trotting. Gradually, our average speed picked up and we became more confident in the ability to get a completion. The loop was lasting longer than we hoped and around 2.5 hours, we had to convince Amanda to eat some extra food and keep the calories going into her. I personally felt the impact of the fatigue and decided to consume about 300 calories in short order though a combination of Sport Beans, gels, and Honey Stinger chews. The calorie boost worked for everyone and suddenly we found ourselves rounding the last corner and back at ride camp! We made it with a total elapsed time of 6:53. Almost exactly as we crossed the finish, the rain stopped (much to the relief of the 50 mile riders who were still competing).

Mojo, Amira, and Huey all passed the final vet check without issue! Huey had a great cardiac recovery index (CRI) of 52/48, which means his pulse dropped by 4 beats per minute from the initial check to after a trot-out, which is awesome. Additionally, Mojo got an A for his back score after the second loop and didn’t had any of the soreness he exhibited at the first vet check.

We spent the rest of the evening drying out, resting, eating, and hanging out (at least 6′ apart) with endurance riding friends. We camped over and headed home on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful (except for the extra 45 minute detour when Anna got on 95N instead of 95S). On Monday, the front brakes on the F350 failed at our house. If our drive had been 40 miles further, we would have broken down with the horses in the trailer (I got the brakes replaced without any issues). Count your blessings!

Wanda Clowater was at the ride taking photos and got some good pics of us. We will be buying some of her images. You can check out her photos here. Check out pages 3, 4, 6, 11, 13-15, and 18 for pics of our family.

Pine Tree 2019

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.

Amanda and Laney hanging out

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.

Duchess at the equine hospital

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.

Vicki happy to have Duchess 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!

NEATO Endurance ride 2019

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.

Finished!

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.

It must be spring

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.”

Fall rides

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Turkey Trot at Goddard Park in RI.  I rode Mojo, Anna rode Amira, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Alex had another commitment for today, so Alexis joined us and rode Teddy.  We all enjoyed the crisp fall air and beautiful colors of fall.  The horses had a good time riding on the beach and were willing to go out into the water.

Anna and Alex did get a late evening ride on Friday.

Anna has been enjoying some time out in the woods during the day, and even took Mojo and Rusty out earlier this week.

Pine Tree Endurance Ride, 2018

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!

Catching up

As most of our friends and blog followers know, we stay pretty busy.  Lately, that has been an understatement.  While I would like to be going to bed right now, I feel we are way overdue for a blog update, so I’ll get to it with a few recent highlights.

The kids participated in the Mystic Pony Club summer camp last weekend.  Alex took Mojo, Vicki took Duchess, and Amanda took Huey.  The temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s every day, but the kids did 2 lessons each day.  Heather Navarrete was the instructor for 5 of their lessons and all 3 kids made very good progress on their eventing.  Alex and Mojo turned out to be an excellent match.  Amanda and Huey even did a small cross country course on the last day of camp.

Here are a few videos of the kids practicing cross country and pictures from camp.

Alex and Mojo cross country lesson

Vicki and Duchess cross country lesson

Amanda and Huey cross country lesson

After camp ended, the horses and kids got a couple of days off.  I was fortunate that work gave us an extended 4th of July holiday.  On Thursday, Alex and I went to the Mystic Seaport for a blacksmith private class.  We spent 3.5 hours in the shop learning about tending a coal forge, different tools, and actually making some hooks.  This is something Alex has been interested in for a while so we bought some lessons for his birthday last month.  I have been working on acquiring some tools so we can do some projects at home.

On Saturday, we took Mojo and Duchess to the Horse Power Farm jumping derby.  Alex rode Mojo in the pre-elementary division.  They did pretty well with only 1 refusal.  Alex was a little surprised at how hot Mojo was on the course because Mojo is so lazy in the warmup.  It was a little funny to watch Mojo come alive out in the open.

Vicki rode Duchess in pre-elementary and also had 1 refusal (on the same jump as Alex).  They are still making good progress as a team.

After they finished, I rode Mojo in Beginner Novice.  My ride didn’t go quite as smoothly as I was thrown on the 7th jump.  I was allowed to get back on and finish schooling, but then had 3 refusals on the last jump.  Clearly we have work to do.

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Hunter Pace #2.  The whole family rode the 10 mile course and we took 1st place in the Hilltopper and Junior divisions.  I didn’t take but a couple of pictures, so here is one:

The schedule for the summer is packed with horse activities, but that’s just what we do.

 

Team No Child Left Behind dress rehearsal

This weekend was the NEATO campout at Arcadia WMA in RI.   We logged over 6 hours of saddle time and 29+ miles of riding.   It presented the perfect opportunity for our family to test out camping with the travel trailer (without hookups), 5 horses, and multiple days of riding.  Friday afternoon I traded in the Acadia for a used Chevy 2500HD.  It was a decision Anna and I have been debating for a while and we finally found the deal we were looking for.  Within about an hour of driving the truck off the lot, it was hooked up to the travel trailer and we were headed out to set up camp.

While the camping area only had a few others staying over, we practiced setting up in a compact manner as will need to at endurance rides.  It took about an hour and a half to set up camp.  We made 5 electric fence paddocks for the horses (each horse in a separate paddock).  None of the paddocks shared sides so if any 1 horse runs through their fence, it doesn’t result in other loose horses.

Once the horse were settled in, we cooked some burgers on the grill and at dinner (a little after 9)!

One of the major advantages of this weekend was the proximity to home.  Anna left before 10 and went home (less than 20 minutes away) to take care of the dogs, rabbits, and horses not at camp.  With temperatures in the 50s overnight, we slept great and the horses were not bothered by bugs.

We got up Saturday morning and cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Alex spent all his spare time reading books and finished 3 books over the weekend.

The temperatures on Saturday stayed in the 60s.  We had a couple of small rain showers early, but nothing too bad.  We finally headed out about 10 for our morning ride.   The horse/rider combos were Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex on Teddy, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.  We got in 11 miles before lunch at about a 4.5mph average.  The point of the weekend wasn’t speed, but rather logistics.  We spent time working on things like walking horses into water, fueling the riders, and taking turns with leading the group.

While drinking from the creek, Amira and Huey both slid off the sand bar and went for a swim.  What is a “little deeper” for Amira was a complete swim for Huey.  Amanda loved it.  When we took them in a pond for water, Amira discovered it was fun to splash lots of water up onto her belly.

Overall, it was a good morning ride.  All the horses had excellent heart rate recoveries and were happy to eat some hay and drink some water when we got back to camp.  We had lunch and then retired to the trailer for an afternoon rest (also known as napping).

We went back out for another slow and easy ride before dinner that was just shy of 5 miles.  Dinner was tacos in the trailer and then we joined up with some others for a campfire.  Again, Anna headed home to take care of the others.  It’s easy to get kids to go to bed after 3.5 hours of riding.

Sunday morning was a little slower starting as we slept in a little.  More eggs and bacon to start the day and then we saddled up to ride.  The temperature was a little warmer (70s) and a little more humid.  The horses were all a bit calmer than on Saturday.  We focused the ride on forced fueling as we had some issues on Saturday with some (Vicki) constantly running out of fuel.  This is a recurring issue that we haven’t completely solved.  We are making progress, but it comes down to forcing her to eat every 30-40 min on the trail.

When it was all done, we rode over 29 miles and spent over 6 hours in the saddle.  Mojo and Teddy both still pulsed down with no problems. The ponies and Amira were a little slower pulsing down after the last ride, but all 3 would have met endurance ride criteria.

Lessons learned:

  1.  We used ALL of the water in the travel trailer.  In the future, we will use paper products when dry camping to minimize the use of water for washing dishes.
  2. Horse water.  We used over 90 gallons of water for the horses in under 48 hours. That doesn’t include what they drank on the trail.  Right now we take a water tank in the trailer that is full, plus 4- 7 gal water jugs that can be refilled.  We may add another water tank to the bed of the truck.
  3. Electric fence. Our setup is pretty good they way we have it.  We can streamline a few things by adding a few more extension cord reels for storage, but it’s not critical.
  4. Tack. The tack for all the horses is working pretty well. We are debating changing out Teddy’s saddle and bridle setup, but what we have works for now.
  5. Boots.  Amira and Huey are still being booted.  We had boot problems on Huey 4 times.  I think it’s time to put him into shoes.  Probably Amira too.

At the end of the weekend, we all had a good time and all the horses are ready to go to Pinetree in 6 weeks.  We will continue to train and plan for a week of camping with 5 horses!

A horse knowledge weekend

This weekend was busy with horse knowledge competitions.  Saturday, Anna went to the CT 4-H Hippology competition with Vicki and Amanda. Vicki and Alexis were competing as Juniors in the 10-13 year old division on a team with another member of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H Club.  Amanda was in the Novice division, 7-10 year olds, that all compete as individuals.  Hippology consists of a written test, slide identifications, stations, horse judging videos and team group questions. Vicki’s team took 1st place in the Junior division and Amanda had the high score for the Novice division.

While the girls were away, Alex spent the day with riding with me to trim some horses, starting with a visit to see Nike.  Alex groomed Nike and was happy to reconnect with his buddy.

On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda went with me to the Regional Pony Club Quiz Rally to represent Mystic Pony Club (along with Alexis).   In this competition, Alexis was competing as a Senior, so it was the first time in a long time that Vicki and Alexis haven’t been on a team for quiz.  Since we only had 2 Juniors, Amanda and Vicki ended up on different teams -but they didn’t mind.

Pony Club quiz is a team competition with team made up of 3-4 individuals. A 3 man team is a disadvantage as a 4 man team can drop the lowest score for each competition phase. The kids also get individual scores which determine individual placings for high score and national intent.  The phases of the competition are written test, stations, barn phase, mega room and class room. The stations score is not included in the individual score because it is a team effort (everyone works together to answer questions).

All 3 girls did a great job.  Alexis got the highest overall individual score and was presented the trophy by Vicki, who won last year.
Vicki had the high score for the Jr D’s and 3rd overall individual.
Amanda is clearly learning from her “sisters” as she was 10 of 24 Jr D’s and actually outscored 3 Jr and Sr D’s with National Intent.

Alexis and Vicki both qualified for Nationals and will be the team captains for the Sr and Jr D teams respectively when they go to Tryon, NC in July.

Meanwhile at home, Anna and Alex went for a 2-hour trail ride on Teddy and Amira.  Amira had a tough time keeping up with Teddy today as he was feeling good and showing off his moves.

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.