Pachaug State Forest is being considered to become home to a new State Police gun range. While I am a big fan of guns, I am not a fan of the negative impact this new training range would have on the largest piece of forest left in the state. This morning, NEATO held a trail ride to help fund-raise in opposition to the gun range. Anna was feeling a little under the weather and opted out of the saddle time. So I took Mojo, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey and we did a 14 mile loop through the woods. I was a great fall morning with temps at 40F when we were loading the horses on the trailer. We met up with friends and Jennifer Broome joined our clan for the ride on her Nakota, Tex. This was also Amanda’s longest ride ever (by mileage, not time). She and Huey may be ready for a limited distance endurance ride (25 miles) next year.
It was a typical busy weekend for the family. Saturday morning started out early with the “Proud to Tri” youth triathlon for Alex and Vicki. It was held at Harkness Park and included an open water swim in the ocean. The temps were in the upper 40s when we got up but the kids weren’t cold once things got going. They have been practicing throughout the summer with the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team and this was the final event of the season. The swim was 200 yds, 4 miles on the bike, and a 1.5 mile run. They both had a good time at the race.
Saturday afternoon, Alexis and Christina came over to spend the night with Vicki and do a trail ride. Christina brought her horse, Fiona, and Alexis borrowed Mojo. Alex joined us on Dakota and I was riding Teddy. Mojo has been getting treated for Lyme for the past 2 weeks and been in a stall with only riding for exercise. As a result, he was being quite unruly on the trails, so Alexis and I switched mounts after the first mile. Teddy was a rock star and has turned out to be one of the more reliable loaner horses for trail riding. The group rode 6 miles and it was a great success for Christina and Fiona in particular, as it was their first trail ride together.
Sunday morning started with chores and loading horses onto the trailer to head out for lessons at Horse Power Farm. I rode Mojo for my lesson and then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Duchess. All three of us had outstanding rides and a lot of fun!
This weekend was spent in Buckfield, Maine at the Northeast Challenge endurance ride. We left on Friday morning with the whole family in the truck, 3 horses (Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess) on the trailer, and plenty of camping gear. After a little over 5 hours of driving, we arrived at a gorgeous base camp in a hay pasture. The sites were all marked off to show clear division of where your area was. Since we brought 3 horses, we were allowed to use 2 sites. We gave the horses a little break to eat some grass and drink water before vetting in. With just under 50 riders, there was no wait at the vet check. This was the first ride for Alex as a rider, Teddy, and Duchess, so we planned to keep it conservative during the ride.
The rider’s brief was at 5 and immediately after was a pig roast for dinner. The ride manager invites all the land owners (over 40) that allow the trails to cross their property to join the camp for dinner. The food was great and we got to meet some new friends around camp. Ride camps get quiet early the night before a ride. By 8pm the sun was setting, the temperatures were dropping, and everyone was headed to bed.
We got up at 5:00 to eat breakfast and watch the 100 mile riders head out at 6:00. The temperatures dropped into the low 40s overnight. The horses were happy to have a layer for warmth. Alex started the morning with a cup of hot water (we forgot to pack tea bags) and Vicki had a cup of coffee to warm up.
There is a note on our endurance camping packing list: “pack clothes warmer than you expect to need”. That was definitely true this time around. We started the ride at 7:00 with layers of clothes on for the first loop of 13.8 miles. The horses were peppy and ready to go. We didn’t take a break until 5 miles in when we stopped for some grass and water.
The trails through the woods were phenomenal. There was a lot of up and down through the mountains, but also plenty of areas that were flat and fast on grass paths through the trees.
We finished our first loop of 13.8 miles with a 4.8 mph average. It was a little slower than we planned, but the goal was to make sure we didn’t over stress Duchess in particular. We also knew the second loop was faster and we could make up a little time if needed.
All 3 horses cleared the vet check within minutes of arriving at base camp. We chose to go back to our trailer, remove tack, and let the horses have free time in their paddocks. The hold is only 45 minutes long, but this also allowed Alex and Vicki to eat food without holding horses. Anna and Amanda were our ride-crew for the weekend and had everything ready for us. We all had to shed layers of clothing for the second loop as the temperatures hit 70F by 10:00. Luckily, that’s about where the mercury stopped for the day making it perfect weather.
We headed out on our second loop which was 17 miles (although we thought it was only going to be 15 miles at the time). We managed to bump up our speed to an average of 5.4 mph on the second loop.
At the end of the day, we finished 30.7 miles in 6:09 (yes, 6 hours of saddle time). There was 3,768 ft of elevation over the ride. All three horses did wonderful and Alex and Vicki both had a great time (although Alex did say he wants to do more conditioning for himself in the future).
We chose to camp for a second night and watch the 50 mile riders finish (the have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, including 2 45 minute holds) and the 100 mile riders (24 hours allowed time including holds). I’ll confess, we didn’t stay up much past dark to watch 100 mile riders do vet checks and holds. This morning, there was a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony for the 100 mile riders. Three of the riders present completed the East Coast Triple Crown this year, which is the same horse/rider team completing these three tough 100-milers: the Old Dominion 100 in June, the Vermont 100 in July and the Northeast Challenge in August.
As the awards were being handed out, Vicki leaned over and whispered, “Dad, I want to ride the Triple Crown one day.”
I want to throw out a huge “Thank You” to Blaine, Sarah, and everyone else who made this a wonderful weekend for our family. The kids were talking about “next year” and who will ride what distance. Amanda is planning to toughen up and put the miles on her pony to be able to join the fun. We look forward to seeing everyone at more rides.
We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater. Support your ride photographers!
Ann Bowie is a well-known local instructor that we have used for occasional lessons for years. At her farm, Horse Power Farm, she hosts cross-country jumping derbies 3-4 times a year. I have always wanted to participate, but schedules or injuries have never worked out in my favor. That changed today when I finally made to one of her derbies!
First, I want to say what a well run event it is. There were tons of volunteers (including our long-time friend Diana Clark!) and it was a great, low-key atmosphere. Since Mojo and I don’t have a ton of experience, we entered Elementary Division (max height 2′ jumps). Mojo was a little wound up being alone on the trailer, however, as soon as we got into the warmup ring, he settled right down and got to work.
We jumped a clear round within the time allowed and Mojo didn’t hesitate at anything. Since the first round went so well, I decided to press my luck and go ahead with riding a round at Beginner Novice (max height 2’7″ jumps). We have done a few jumping efforts in that range, but never actually put together a full course of efforts until today.
I love this horse! He jumped another clear round, again within the time allowed. There are a few nuances to scoring, namely whomever gets closest to the ideal time, without going over, and without any jump faults, wins the round.
Mojo and I got 1st place in Elementary and 2nd place in Beginner Novice and had a blast doing it!
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…
On Sunday evening, Vicki and Rob did a cross country jumping lesson with Ann Bowie at Horse Power Farm. Vicki has been continuing to work with Duchess and they are becoming quite the pair. They are advancing together so fast that Vicki is more focused on using Duchess than Devil. To quote Ann “That’s a nice pony!” We are very grateful to Stefanie (Duchess’ former trainer and owner) for choosing our family. I’m also thrilled with Mojo’s progress as a jumper.
80+F on Easter? In CT? That is definitely horse riding weather. After doing a few small projects around the farm this morning, the family went on an afternoon trail ride from home. We only rode for about 5 miles in 1:20, but there were some important lessons learned.
Amanda is building her confidence and endurance in the saddle on the trails. She did the whole ride today without any leadline assistance, including 4 small water crossings which are usually a challenge for her on Huey. She didn’t have any problem handling the trotting.
Vicki rode Duchess. This is only her second time out on the trails with Duchess and they are making progress. Today she rode in a bitless bridle and that definitely helped. It’s definitely different having a mare back in the herd. Duchess isn’t completely comfortable with all the boys yet and she will threaten to kick or bite any horse that enters her space. Unfortunately, there were a lot of motorcycles out today as well and in the first encounter, Huey ended up too close and Duchess kicked him, hitting Amanda’s foot. It didn’t actually hurt Amanda, just scared her. That also rattled Vicki a little. Later in the ride, Duchess threatened to kick Dakota when he rode up too close on her butt and it made Vicki really upset. She decided to get off and walk for a while (about a half mile) and then mounted back up when she had calmed down. While it may not seem like much, it was an important lesson for Vicki about backing off when her emotions run too high and calming down to handle the situation.
Overall, the ride was a success. No one got thrown. No one got hurt.
When we got back home, Vicki stayed on Duchess and joined Mojo and I in the front pasture for a little jumping. This was the first time Vicki has gotten to taken Duchess over anything other than ground poles. We didn’t work too long and we kept everything low, but they did very well together. Vicki has learned to control her canter speed and in the bitless bridle, they seem to be getting along better. I didn’t have much opportunity to take pictures because I was jumping Mojo (who was a rock star!) but I did shoot a short video clip of Vicki trying a simple approach at the canter. Despite the challenges on the trail, after over 2 hours of saddle time, she was all smiles as we headed in to the barn.
This 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.