It was a warm and humid Fall day today. Alex and Vicki spent some time at Horse Power Farm working on cross country jumping with Duchess and Dakota. They learned about correctly riding step-ups and step-downs and then did some course work. Ann is great at pinpointing little things that will make a significant improvement and tweaking that without getting bogged down. Duchess was significantly over jumping a jump that frightened her and then challenged Vicki with a few other things, but in the end, they had a good day.
After the lessons, we dropped off the horses at home and then headed out to the West Greenwich Horsemen’s Association Fall Fest. It is a fun potluck dinner and annual awards banquet for the summer hunter pace series.
A part of the Fall Fest is a pumpkin competition. This year, there were 6 entries. Amanda and Vicki both put a lot of time into their entries and tied for 2nd. The voting is silent ballot by all members present. The Pirate Ship won this year.
This year, Alex, Vicki, and Amanda won the Junior division in the series and came home with customized jackets and ribbons almost as big as Amanda.
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!
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.
Summers are always busy and as the kids get older, that becomes an understatement. It’s been over a month since we have posted, so I’m going to lump a lot of different happenings from the last 5+ weeks into a single post.
The kids finished up the school year and are ready to move on. This was the first year back in public Vicki was 1 of 3 6th graders at Griswold Middle School who were tested to skip 7th grade Math. None of them passed the test with a high enough score to actually skip 7th grade Math, but Vicki was close. She finished the school year with all A’s. Alex (who is now 14!) has decided to start his freshman year of high school at Griswold High School in the fall.
We have been riding a lot. All 3 kids did Pony Club camp. Alex took Dakota, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey. All 3 learned a lot and had fun. Here are some videos from camp.
On Sunday evening, Vicki and Rob did a cross country jumping lesson with Ann Bowie at Horse Power Farm. Vicki has been continuing to work with Duchess and they are becoming quite the pair. They are advancing together so fast that Vicki is more focused on using Duchess than Devil. To quote Ann “That’s a nice pony!” We are very grateful to Stefanie (Duchess’ former trainer and owner) for choosing our family. I’m also thrilled with Mojo’s progress as a jumper.
80+F on Easter? In CT? That is definitely horse riding weather. After doing a few small projects around the farm this morning, the family went on an afternoon trail ride from home. We only rode for about 5 miles in 1:20, but there were some important lessons learned.
Amanda is building her confidence and endurance in the saddle on the trails. She did the whole ride today without any leadline assistance, including 4 small water crossings which are usually a challenge for her on Huey. She didn’t have any problem handling the trotting.
Vicki rode Duchess. This is only her second time out on the trails with Duchess and they are making progress. Today she rode in a bitless bridle and that definitely helped. It’s definitely different having a mare back in the herd. Duchess isn’t completely comfortable with all the boys yet and she will threaten to kick or bite any horse that enters her space. Unfortunately, there were a lot of motorcycles out today as well and in the first encounter, Huey ended up too close and Duchess kicked him, hitting Amanda’s foot. It didn’t actually hurt Amanda, just scared her. That also rattled Vicki a little. Later in the ride, Duchess threatened to kick Dakota when he rode up too close on her butt and it made Vicki really upset. She decided to get off and walk for a while (about a half mile) and then mounted back up when she had calmed down. While it may not seem like much, it was an important lesson for Vicki about backing off when her emotions run too high and calming down to handle the situation.
Overall, the ride was a success. No one got thrown. No one got hurt.
When we got back home, Vicki stayed on Duchess and joined Mojo and I in the front pasture for a little jumping. This was the first time Vicki has gotten to taken Duchess over anything other than ground poles. We didn’t work too long and we kept everything low, but they did very well together. Vicki has learned to control her canter speed and in the bitless bridle, they seem to be getting along better. I didn’t have much opportunity to take pictures because I was jumping Mojo (who was a rock star!) but I did shoot a short video clip of Vicki trying a simple approach at the canter. Despite the challenges on the trail, after over 2 hours of saddle time, she was all smiles as we headed in to the barn.
This afternoon, we brought home our newest acquisition, Dutch Treat, aka Duchess. Duchess is believed to be a Welsh/POA (Pony of the Americas) cross. She is about 14hh, strawberry roan color and will be 9 years old in May. We got Duchess specifically for Vicki. While Devil isn’t going anywhere, Vicki really could use a slightly larger mount and Amanda is planning to do some sharing of Devil this year.
Now, I know at least a few of our closer horse friends are thinking, “they don’t get mares!” It’s true, we broke our rules and got another mare. It’s not that we haven’t ever had a mare that we liked, it just creates complications in the herd. This time around, we decided it was worth the hassle to add a mare to the herd of 6 geldings.
We acquired Duchess from a young woman who started her and used her in a lesson program. Duchess has experience on the rated hunter/jumper show circuit, but has been out of work for about 2 years while out on a lease that didn’t use her. She doesn’t have any health issues, just needs to get back into work. Vicki says “riding Duchess is like riding Devil, but a mare”. We all know Vicki will ride anything, but Anna and I think they are a really good match. There was one other part of her background that sealed the deal. Duchess is a jumper. Vicki has acknowledged that it will take lessons and hard work for Vicki to be ready to jump anywhere near what Duchess has done in the past, but I’ll just share these 2 photos of Duchess jumping courses a couple of years ago.
The snow is melting and spring has arrived, so it’s time to get the ponies back in shape and get ready for the show season. Stay tuned to follow the progress of Vicki and Duchess as a team!