Last weekend was the opening of our distance riding competitions for the season. This year we tried out the VERDA Brown Bag and Bare Bones events held at the Cornish, NH fairgrounds. Brown Bag is a Competitive Trail competition and Bare Bones is an Endurance Ride. The rules vary a little between the two. Competitive trail events have an ideal time and there is more emphasis placed on the before/after comparison for vet evaluations. On the other hand, endurance rides are a true race where the horse has to be fit to continue and pass a vet exam. This particular ride has a reputation as being low-cost, low perks.
On Friday, we picked the kids up from school a little early so we could get to the ride camp. We only took 4 horses: Mojo, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey. Anna drove the horse trailer and I took the travel trailer. The drive was only about 3.5 hours and we arrived in camp before 5:00. When we got there, the only other riders already there were also from CT. We joined our local friends and set up camp with electric fence paddocks for the horses. Once camp was set, the horses were vetted in for the Saturday ride.
On Saturday morning, the ride didn’t start until about 9:00, so it would have been a very casual start to the day, however, at 5, there was a knock on the trailer door with the message “Rob, your horses are loose!” It appeared that Duchess knocked down some fencing for some reason and the herd, minus Mojo, decided to get some early morning grass. Luckily, they were not hard to catch, but we were up and the day was started.
It was in the low 30s Friday night and temps on Saturday only made it to about 54F. Anna saddled up Mojo, Alex saddled up Teddy, and Vicki saddled up Duchess as they got ready to head out for a 15 mile ride.
While they were out on trail, Amanda and I took turns hanging out with Huey who wasn’t exactly happy that all his friends left without him.
It turns out the horses are in pretty good shape for a 2.5 hr/15 mile ride. Competitive trail rides are scored out of 100 points and penalties are assessed for things like missing the ideal time (30 minute window), loss of impulsion from start to finish, injuries/tack galls, dehydration, elevated heart rate, etc. At the end of the ride, Mojo had 97.5 pts and got 4th place with Anna, Teddy had 98 pts and got 2nd place in the Jr division, and Duchess had 98.5 pts for the win in the Jr Division.
Saturday afternoon was pretty easy going hanging around camp. Amanda was a social butterfly visiting with friends (new and old). Her friend Autumn brought over some hoof paint and they gave Huey some twinkly toes.
Saturday evening was a ride briefing for Sunday and big dinner in the town hall building, also located on the fairgrounds.
Sunday morning also started at 5 to get the horses and family fed. We were riding a 30 mile ride that started at 8 with Rob on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey. Temps were in the 40s at the start and peaked around 50F. It was great weather for a distance riding competition. Our 30 mile ride consisted of two looped on a 15 mile course (the same one Anna and the kids did the day before). It was mostly a dirt/gravel road with some trails mixed in. My GPS came up with about 1500′ of elevation per loop, so 3000′ of elevation for the day. There was a covered bridge we went through twice and a stream to water the horses (along with some troughs and buckets along the course).
Overall, the ride went very well. There was one issue with Huey constantly bucking and he eventually threw Amanda. Once we removed Huey’s crupper, he stopped complaining and Amanda didn’t have any more problems. All 4 horses did great on the ride. Mojo’s CRIs (cardiac recovery index) for the day were 40/40 and Teddy’s were 44/44. None of the horses had anything other than A’s and +’s on their vet cards and we completed in a 4-way tie for 8th place.
Alex and Vicki did 15 miles on Saturday and 30 on Sunday with their mounts. It was a stepping stone to get ready for their first 50 miler planned for June. Both riders and both horses passed the test. While we didn’t get home until about 9:30 on Sunday night, the whole family had a great weekend. One of the reasons we enjoy distance riding is everyone has fun (even if everything isn’t perfect). At dinner tonight, there was talk of sore muscles and what went right/wrong. But there was also talk about the next ride. You are doing it right when the completion of one event leaves riders looking forward to the next.
The kids and I took Mojo and Duchess over to Ann Bowie’s Horsepower Farm to participate in her derby this afternoon. We have not done much jumping this year, maybe one or two rides over a few cross rails in the arena so we played it safe and the kids rode in the pre-elementary division. Horses were good and the rain held off. Alex was a little closer to the ideal time than Vicki, but both rode the course without any penalties.
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.”
Growing up in Sweden, Anna had the opportunity to experience skijouring. For Christmas this year, we bought the family a set of skijouring skis that strap onto winter boots (thanks Amazon!). The same set of skis fit the whole family. Unfortunately, the weather this winter hasn’t really been cooperating so we having had any good chances to put the skis to use until today. This morning we got 4″ of nice fresh snow. This afternoon, we tried out the skis. Amanda, Vicki, Alex, and Anna all took turns on the skis.
I rode on Mojo. We attached long lines that we use for ground driving to either side of the girth with baling twine. We started by having Anna walk behind Mojo and put pressure on the lines, pulling against both sides of his legs to make sure he was ok with the setup (note – Mojo has been ground driven, so this wasn’t the first time). While Mojo was definitely energetic, he was a rock star pulling everyone around the arena. Anna and Alex both did great. Amanda got better as she went. Vicki struggled with balance. The kids are hopeful that Monday will be a snow day so they can try again.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.