It’s easy to get into a routine of regular trail riding, which can be fun and is good for conditioning, but doesn’t always serve a purpose to fill a specific training gap. Recently, Anna and I decided to make some goals for a specific outing. Today, we took the horses to Arcadia WMA in RI for an 11 mile ride.
Trailer the new herd all at the same time. We have a 4 horse trailer. To transport 5 horses, we collapse the rear tack and put 2 in the last spot. Historically, we put 2 ponies in that spot, but we no longer have 2 ponies. So today, Huey and Teddy shared that spot. Everything went fine.
Expose Eli to more environments. Since we got Eli last fall, all of his trail miles have been directly from our house in Pachaug. Taking Eli to Arcadia lest us see if he was different elsewhere. We saw vehicles, people, dogs, and bikes. Eli was a little more cautious than on his home turf, but he was fine. Vicki is getting more and more confident with him.
Check out Teddy’s movement following hock injections. Two weeks ago Teddy had his hocks and 1 fetlock injected. He has been gradually returning to work, so today’s ride was a test run to see how he looked. Teddy was moving very well, so it appears to be money well spent.
Work on Eli’s water skills. Vicki has successfully ridden Eli into the water before, however, he has a tendency to jump into the water when we cross into creeks. I figured a boat ramp on a larger body of water would be a good place to work on it. So, after 6 miles of riding, Eli was a little thirsty and quite willing to walk right into the water without any drama. Training successful.
Evaluate Amira’s new shoeing protocal. Amira has shown some tenderness, even in shoes. So earlier this week, I put her in shoes with leather rim pads. Anna reported that Amira didn’t feel tender or hesitant at any time, so we will keep with that protocol for a while.
We covered 11 miles at a 4.5 mph average. It was a good training ride and met all the goals that we laid out of the day. Since the temperature was 45F and dropping when we got back to the trailer, we put coolers on all the horses and let them eat some hay before loading up and heading home.
It’s time to get some focus back around the farm and make the “mane thing” the main thing. Anna and I have decided to commit to making at least 1 blog post per week through the rest of 2020 and instead of random family happenings, we are putting a common theme to our posts: endurance riding.
Why do we think people may be interested in subscribing to our blog (using the link on the front of our website)? As a family of 5 endurance riders, with 5 horses, we have a different perspective to offer. We accumulate experience with training at 5 times the rate of a person working with only 1 horse, including 3 youth riders (16 yo son, 14 yo daughter, 9 yo daughter). This will be our 6th season in distance riding. As a family, we have 38 AERC completions in 41 starts, on 8 different horses and 3 for 3 rides in ECTRA (competitive trail rides).
Our goal will be to talk about what goes well and when things don’t go well. We will post about the challenges of managing 5 horses, with 5 different riders, and the decisions we face along the way. What about logistics? How do you get 5 horses to a ride with all the required gear? How do you train as a family with horses at different levels of experience? What about hoof care choices? As the barn farrier, Rob is constantly assessing the hoof condition of each horse and modifying according to the needs of each horse. This season, we will have horses training and competing in Easy Boot Gloves, Easy Boot Epics, Scoot Boots, metal shoes, and synthetic shoes (and that’s just what we know about in February).
So, for newcomers to our blog, how about a quick introduction to the family.
Rob: 13 of 13 completions for 390 miles, including 2 50s. Retired from the Navy in 2019 and works as a project manager 40+ hrs a week. Spends Saturdays working as a farrier. Completed 2 trail marathons in the Fall 2019 and has a trail 50k in April 2020. Rob is starting his 5th season and rides Mojo (aka Money Shot), a 14 yo Arabian/Dutch Harness gelding; Mojo has 15 completions (of 15 rides) for 440 total miles.
Anna: 6 of 6 completions for 155 miles, plus 1 15 mile CDR. Anna has hip problems that make it hard for her to spend extended hours in the saddle, and therefore is happier riding LDs. Anna is starting her 6th season (although 1 year didn’t include any competitions) and rides Amira, a 9 yo Mustang mare; Amira has 5 completions (of 5 rides) for 125 total miles.
Alex: 4 of 6 completions for 135 miles, including 1 50, plus 1 15 mile CDR . Alex is 16 years old and a junior in high school. Alex is starting his 4th season riding Teddy, a 13 yo Arabian gelding; Teddy has 5 completions (of 7 rides) for 160 total miles. Teddy had 2 pulls with Alex: 1 in 2018 due to an injury when Teddy slid off a wooden bridge and 1 in 2019 due to suspected hock issues. Teddy will be getting a vet exam and likely hock injections before the start of the competition season.
Vicki: 9 of 10 completions for 235 miles on 4 different horses , plus 1 15 mile CDR . Vicki is 14 years old and a freshman in high school. Vicki is starting her 5th season and has a new horse, Eli who is a 8 yo Arabian gelding; Eli has never competed in distance riding.
Amanda: 6 of 6 completions for 155 miles. Amanda is 9 years old and in 4th grade. Amanda is starting her 3rd season riding Huey (aka Hedgehog Hollow’s American Eagle), a 19 yo Dartmoor gelding; Huey has 6 completions (of 6 rides) for 155 total miles, including 1 high vet score at his debut competition. Huey and Amanda were featured in an April 2019 Endurance News article. Huey is the only Dartmoor ever registered with AERC.
2020 endurance riding goals:
Goal #1 – Compete at 5 separate events. The most we have ever attempted in a season is 3. The list currently includes VERDA Bare Bones (May), NEATO (June), Horses Across Maine (July), Pine Tree (August – family favorite with 5 days of competition), and we aren’t sure yet about the late season choices.
Goal #2 – Amira’s 1st 50. This is her 3rd season in competition.
Goal #3 – Vicki’s 1st 50. Last year, Vicki got pulled on Duchess in their 1st 50 attempt. This year, Vicki is itching to ride a 50. Since Eli is going to be limited to LDs until we see how that goes, it will likely be on Amira, Teddy, or Mojo.
Goal #4 – Place in the top 10 of the AERC Bill Thornburgh Family Award.
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.
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.
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.
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!
June 22 was the 2019 NEATO Endurance ride held in Arcadia WMA (Exeter, RI). Since the ride is less than 10 miles from our house, we always plan to attend. This year we had 3 entries for the 50 mile ride and 2 for the 25 mile ride. The weather was a little wet on Friday so I headed over to set up camp around lunch with Alex and Vicki and Anna and Amanda brought the horses a little later in the afternoon. Everyone vetted in just fine and we enjoyed the group dinner and ride brief. Since this ride is close to home, Anna went home for the night to take care of the horses who didn’t attend the ride, plus the dogs, rabbits, and chickens. She joined us again at 5:30 Saturday morning.
This ride has a very gentlemanly start time of 7am for the 50 mile riders which had 27 entries. Anna had Amira and Huey tacked up just in case they got upset when the other 3 left. The temperature at the start was in the 60s and the weather was clear. I was a little concerned about Mojo having race brain and wanting to just run the entire first loop, but he was actually very manageable compared to last year.
The first loop for Alex, Vicki, and I was 20 miles. There was a mandatory 10 minute stop at about the 9 mile point, which we used to give the horses some grain and water (and people got a bathroom break). There was one section of trail that goes down into a low elevation and heavy forest area. As the temperatures were rising and the previous day’s rain was baking off, the humidity spiked. There was also a lot of mountain laurel on the first loop that was in full bloom and very pretty, but I didn’t take a picture. Since it was a first 50 for both kid pairs, Alex on Teddy and Vicki on Duchess, we were riding conservatively to try and get completions for everyone. Unfortunately, as we were trotting along about mile 15, I noticed Duchess was a little off on her right hind. We have been working on the kids continuously eating in order to avoid meltdowns from lack of fuel. Each kid has figured out what fuels work for them and things went well on the first 20 miles.
Meanwhile, Amanda and Anna started their 25 mile ride at 7:45 with a 15 mile loop. Everything went well and both horses got along fine without the rest of the herd. Amira has really gotten strong as a leader on the trail and doesn’t rely on the other horses for confidence. Amanda kept asking to canter in order to pick up the pace (and apparently the cantering sections were the best part). Throughout the ride, Amira didn’t balk at any bridge crossing or trail entrances. Both Huey and Amira did a great job of eating consistently and drinking at the water stops. Anna and Amanda made it back to the vet check and 45 minute hold about 20 minutes before those of us on the other loop.
Unfortunately, the lameness we noticed on the trails caused Duchess to get pulled from the ride after the first 20 miles. Vicki was disappointed but took it well. She took care of Duchess at our camping area while the rest of us were out for our next loop. Anna and Amanda had 10 miles to go while Alex and I had 2 more 15 mile loops to do. I’m proud of the fact that we have kids who know enough about their horses that they can take care of them in ride camp even if Anna and I are not available. Of course, there are plenty of other adults around that will help out if needed, but Vicki had everything under control with her pony.
The second (and last loop) for Anna and Amanda went well. Amanda did start to run out of steam towards the end and they spent some time walking because her legs “felt like Jello.” They made it back to camp and passed the final vet check. Their ride time of 4:52 was good enough for a 12th place tie and got the Turtle award. In endurance, the Turtle is the last finisher who still gets a completion. It’s important to manage your horse so they pass the final vet check as “fit to continue”. If you fail the final vet check, you are disqualified and don’t get credit for the miles. In the end, only 1 horse in the 25 mile ride was pulled, 13 of 14 completed.
The second and third loops for Alex and I were fairly uneventful. We knew a number of riders had been pulled at the first vet check (including Vicki) and we were bringing up the rear of the ride. That didn’t bother us in the least. Alex in particular doesn’t have a competitive drive and just loves to spend time on the trails with Teddy. Mojo started to lose some steam around 40 miles, so Teddy would take the lead. At mile 45, Teddy picked up a strong canter like he was fresh out of the barn. Throughout the day, Teddy did great and I love to watch Alex with him. We made our way back into camp only about 5 minutes behind the next rider ahead of us. Both horses passed their vet check and we got our Turtle awards for the 50 miles with a ride time of 9:39. 20 of 27 riders completed the 50 mile ride. At this point, I can’t imagine doing a 100 mile ride, because I was wiped out after about 10 hours in the saddle. We took a break to eat some food and then packed up camp to head home.
Do you know how to tell if the kids are legitimately enjoying the rides and endurance events? After riding all day, with some chaffing, sore muscles, and just plain exhaustion, the ride home still includes discussions (prompted by the kids) about the next event on the schedule. Not only that, there were conversations about altering training plans and what needs to improve for the next ride. To finish is to win.
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.”
It’s been 6 weeks since our last blog post. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping up. This weekend, Team No Child Left Behind rode in the NEATO Endurance ride, held on our home turf at the Arcadia Forest in RI. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of pictures because the whole family was riding. Anna and I took all 5 horses over on Friday and set up camp while the kids were in school. The weather was awesome – lows around 50 and highs in the low 70s.
Anna rode Amira in the 25 mile ride with all 3 kids. Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey. Their ride started at 7:45. Unfortunately, on the first loop, Teddy slipped on a foot bridge and scraped up all 4 legs. When they arrived at the hold about 2 miles later, he was lame and was pulled from the ride. The injuries are not serious, but he will get a couple of weeks off (and antibiotics) to recover.
Anna was able to head back out of the second loop for 10 miles with Amanda and Vicki. They all did great and got their completion in about 4:25. That was about 40 minutes faster than the last 25 mile ride for Huey and Amira.
Mojo and I had a different day. We rode in our first 50 mile ride (first for both of us). Our ride started at 7:00. I saddled up and got on about 6:45 and Mojo was hopping. Literally. I took him in the arena and spent about 10 minutes making him trot circles, side pass, and just work to calm him down. He wasn’t thrilled about the rest of our herd being in camp, but he was amped up to race. After the Pine Tree rides, I decided to make some changes to Mojo’s feed. I felt he was running out of energy at the end of 25 miles, so we added about a quart of Triple Crown Complete to his breakfast. He definitely had the energy I wanted.
As soon as the trail opened, we headed out with the lead pack. Mojo was ready to race. There was a 10 minute stop and go (basically a forced 10 minute rest) that was 9 miles into the course. We arrived there in under and hour and tied for 1st place. Every time I tried to hold Mojo back, he wanted to just keep racing forward to stay with the leaders. Throughout the first loop of 20 miles, we spent better than 5 miles setting the pace in the lead. We completed the first 20 miles in 2:21 for an 8.5 mph average, in a 3 way tie for first with Catherine and Monica.
While I had an awesome time riding in the lead, I knew that Mojo couldn’t sustain that kind of speed all day and it took a few more minutes for him to make pulse during the hold than the other horses we were with. So the second loop started of 15 miles with us 5 minutes behind the leaders and all alone. While on trail alone, he wasn’t nearly as competitive and didn’t have the same drive for speed as when other horses were in sight. A group of 3 riders caught up to us about 4 miles into the second loop and Mojo and I rode with them for the rest of that loop. At the end of the second loop, we were in a 4 way tie for 3rd (with Evelyn, Jeff, and Mackenzie) and had completed 35 miles at about an 8.0 mph average. Still too fast.
Again, Mojo took a while to make pulse and he wasn’t eating as much as I would have liked. He was still drinking at every opportunity on the trail and his attitude was still good. He didn’t have the same zip as at the start, but he was still willing to race whenever he felt someone was challenging his position.
On the 3rd loop, Jeff and I left about 5 minutes after Evelyn and Mackenzie. During the hold, I had learned of Teddy’s injury and more specifically, where on the trail it happened. Right before I left, Anna and the girls came in for the end of their ride. As Jeff and I headed out, we both planned to slow things down for the last 15 miles and focus on taking care of the horses to ensure we got through the last vet check without issues.
Unfortunately, my focus on where Teddy got hurt predisposed me to thinking we were headed a certain way. I missed a critical warning and took a wrong turn, following the return of the loop we were on. By the time I realized we were in the wrong spot and got back to where we went off course, we ended up adding almost 3 miles to our ride. It wasn’t a huge issue because we had plenty of time. We didn’t see any other riders on our loop until we were within 3 miles of the finish. At that point, 5 others caught up to us. It was a little discouraging that we would have been done by then if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn, but it was nice that both of our horses immediately kicked back into competitive mode and raced to the finish. Jeff and I pulled up a little short of the finish to allow those who caught us to pass and take the spots in the top 10. We felt they had earned it riding us down in the 3rd loop.
In the end, Mojo passed his final vet check and we completed our first 50 miler (with some bonus miles) in 7:39, (6.8mph average) tied for 12th place. Mojo and I are both feeling the effects of the effort today, but I’m sure we will recover just fine and be ready to do more miles next season, as this was our final ride for 2018.
I want to send out a special thanks to Jennifer, Cate, Mary, and Janet who all crewed for our team. They made the holds so much easier, especially for Anna and the kids.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!