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.
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.
On May 18th, Amanda turned 7. She has been making great strides with her riding skills and ability to ride on the trails for longer periods of time. After years of staying with a babysitter or a friend while the rest of the family rides a hunter pace, Amanda finally graduated to riding with us. Today was her first hunter pace with WGHA in Arcadia WMA in RI. So it was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Teddy, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Devil, and Amanda on Huey.
We covered 9.8 miles according to my GPS at a 5.0 mph average speed for a total ride time of 1:56. The ideal time for the Hilltopper division was 1:46, so Anna and I didn’t place, however, the kids managed to take 1st in the Junior Division!
Amanda was all smiles during the ride. WGHA hunter paces are held in a state forest, so there are no typical cross country jumps, only cavalettis spread throughout the course. The plan was I would do some jumping on Mojo and Vicki would jump on Devil. However, after a few of the jumps, Amanda started yelling out “Mom, I’m going to jump too!”. Of course, Anna yelled back, “Amanda, go around the jumps.” I was leading, so the next thing I hear from Amanda is “Nope! I going to do it!” And she did. Amanda and Huey jumped somewhere between 5-10 jumps over the rest of the course. And she is hooked.
Eventually, Alex decided to give a jump a go with Dakota. However, Alex was riding with saddle bags attached to the front of the saddle. When they went over the jump, the bags flapped and slapped Dakota on the neck, causing him to start crow hopping. That just caused more saddle bag flopping and more bucking. Alex held on for a while, but Dakota was too scared and sent Alex flying. He didn’t get seriously injured, but he was definitely sore from the fall. We took a short break and then everyone mounted back up and continued the ride. When I asked Alex later if he would prefer to ride a horse that is a better jumper, he simply replied, “No, I just want to ride Kota.” There is no denying the bound he has with that pony.
It’s definitely a unique thing that all 5 of us enjoy riding and get to share it at events like this.
We wrapped up the day with pizza and a movie. If you haven’t seen “A Dog’s Purpose” you should watch it. Warning, it’s a tear-jerker.
I made a short video during the ride, but I think it’s about time to invest in a GoPro. I heard Father’s Day was coming up…
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 morning I (Rob) did my 5th half marathon at the Colchester half (all 5 have been there). In very uncharacteristic weather, it was 60F when we started at 10:00. I completed the 13.1 miles and 881′ of elevation in 1:58 (9:00 min/mile pace). Nothing like burning 1800 calories before lunch.
After a quick shower and bite to eat, I met Anna and the kids an hour and a half after I finished the race. They had a trailer load of horses and it was time for Pony Club mounted games practice. I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, and Amanda rode Huey for the first session. Then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Devil. Everyone had a great time, but if this weather continues we will need to body clip some ponies! By the time we got home and unloaded the trailer, everyone was ready for some dinner and a movie.
It’s been a while since we posted. Angel (aka Jellybean) didn’t end up staying with us. She had too much anxiety and couldn’t handle being away from Devil, so we are back to our 6 gelding herd. Of course, we finally got a bunch of snow in Feb. We went from nothing to about 16″ on the ground in a matter of a few days. Since then, we have been participating in mounted games practices on weekends, but no really riding much at home.
Today, it was in the mid-50s and the snow was melting away. Anna has been a little under the weather and Alex bumped his head sledding in the woods, so I went on a short ride with the girls. While the temperature was great, I hate riding in the slush. It’s pretty, but I don’t like the horses sliding on ice you can’t see. It was a short ride, but good to get out.
We got a little snow on Thursday night and then a good dump yesterday. After a late breakfast this morning, we had a solid 9+” of fresh powdery snow on the farm. After the driveway was cleared and the horses were fed, we hitched up Huey to his Kingston Saddlery sleigh to cut some paths in the front pasture. Everyone took a turn with the reins except Amanda, but she did get to ride until she was frozen.
The new addition for today’s session were sets of bells hanging off either side of the saddle and we got our side check in. Huey didn’t care about the bells. While we don’t usually need a side check, it keeps him from dropping his head too low (probably a bigger problem during grass season). Not bad for his 3rd time hitched.
Last night we got 3″ of snow. The kids were excited to switch the wheels on our Kingston Saddlery cart to the sleigh runners. Unfortunately, the snow switched to rain and it is warming up tonight, so the snow won’t be around for long. However, we did get the chance to do a little “dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh”. We did some loops around the house and through the front yard of our neighbors. We look forward to more snow through the winter.
For those who don’t know, Huey is our 16yo Dartmoor who’s registered name is Hedgehog Hollow’s American Eagle. While he has been a good riding pony for Amanda, and still goes on trail rides, Amanda is preferring to ride Devil in the arena. Huey needs a job and so we have been slowly working on teaching Huey to drive for the past few months. Even though we were told he was driven before we owned him, we wanted to take everything slowly and actually step through the entire training process. It was also beneficial for the kids to see the intermediate steps of training a driving horse. We have been ground driving Huey, including teaching Alex and Vicki how to ground drive and Huey has pulled a tire on the ground.
I recently built a set of false shafts which are poles designed to give the pony pressure like a cart, but without the expensive cart. Here is the document I used to make our false shafts: false shafts instructions. This afternoon, Anna did a little lunging with Huey in his harness and then we hooked him up with the false shafts.
Anna and I took turns ground driving Huey with the false shafts and made him walk and trot around the arena. He didn’t show any concern at all about the shafts, so we decided to move to the next step.
We decided to purchase our easy entry cart new from Kingston Saddlery. It wasn’t much more expensive than most used ones and we knew we could get replacement parts as needed. We were also able to purchase sleigh runners, so we are looking forward to the snow arriving.
Alex and Vicki were on hand to assist with the initial hitching of Huey to the cart. We started by approaching him with the cart and removing it to make sure he wouldn’t react (I think he slept through it). Then we actually hooked him to the cart and I ground drove while he pulled the cart. Anna started with a lunge line attached to his bridle in case things went wrong, but we removed the extra tending line pretty quickly.
Since everything was going well, the next step was to get in the cart and drive around. Alex and Vicki didn’t want to be left out and both took turns driving Huey around the arena.
We need to get a side check for the harness (that’s what the blue baling twine is doing right now) and some sleigh bells. The kids were singing Dashing Through The Snow as they rode around together, and Huey was a rock star. Now they are discussing plans for driving him at the 4-H fair in the summer.
On Sunday morning, there was a distinct chill in the air, everything was wet from the 3.5+” of rain we received Friday-Saturday, and the wind was blowing steady. Like many other weekends, everyone was up early and we headed out to the barn to load up horses. We were headed to the WGHA Ghost Ride at Goddard State Park in RI. However, this particular Sunday outing was different for 2 important reasons: Amanda got to take Huey on the ride and King was going as well. Amanda and Huey have been doing a lot of rides from the house and also lessons with Pony Club. However, until now, Amanda didn’t get to join the family at trail riding events away from home. They were finally ready to join us on the trails with other riders around. Last weekend, Alex rode King 4 miles on the trails from home. King hasn’t left our farm for a ride since the summer of 2014. He has been combating injury from a tendon strain, Lyme, general arthritis, and more recently, EPM. In all honesty, after this summer, we thought it was unlikely he would ever go to an organized ride again.
The ride was at Goddard State Park which has 6 miles of bridle paths. While the trails are open, wide, and scenic, the park is usually crowded. This weekend we got to share the area with a 5k race being held on the roads of the park. Alex and King led our group for most of the ride. Alex describes riding King as “smooth” and “light as a feather” with his floating trot and high energy (but without the spookiness characteristic of the arabs). I’m sure it also feels different considering King is 8″ taller than Dakota. Amanda did great controlling Huey. The temperature definitely sucked the energy out of Amanda faster than normal, so I did put a lead line on Huey for the second half of the 6 mile loop.
While we had the option of doing multiple loops, we elected to stop after 1 successful loop. Amanda really wants to ride the hunter paces next summer, so she plans to try to ride for longer periods of time. It is nice for our whole family to be able to ride as a group at the events.