Tag Archives: Mojo

Team No Child Left Behind dress rehearsal

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.

Lessons learned:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

No Child Left Behind

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!

Save Pachaug!

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.

 

A weekend of triathlon and ponies

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!

2017 Northeast Challenge Endurance 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.

Photo by Clowater Art & Photography

We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater.  Support your ride photographers!

Horse Power Farm Cross Country Derby

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!

Thanks to Ann and her team for a great day!

Run and Ride

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.

Amanda’s First Hunter Pace

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…

The video can be seen on YouTube.

Here are some pictures from the day.

Jumping practice

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.

Not every ride is perfect

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.