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.
A few months ago, Dakota left to become an occasional trail pony. While not every horse that comes to our farm is a lifetime horse (or pony), it was clear in the weeks and months after Dakota left, that both Anna and Alex really missed him and I had rushed the decision to move him on. This week, we got the news that the girl who had Dakota had a fall and was scared to ride. Time hadn’t helped the issue and the family was considering passing Dakota along to some other friends, but wanted to check with us first. Their was no hesitation. Anna and Alex picked up Dakota on Friday. We are currently thinking we will keep Dakota as a trail pony and not stress this arthritic issues by doing arena work. Maybe he will ride in a LD endurance event, but I don’t see 50 mile rides in his future.
This afternoon, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Teddy, and Anna rode Dakota for a very short route. Alex and Amanda decided it was too cold to ride since it was in the upper 20s. I was testing a saddle (that didn’t work out), so about 30 minutes was plenty of ride time. Anna enjoyed the reunion (and I think prefers his calm demeanor over the Arabs that Vicki and I prefer). Welcome home Dakota!
Alex has not yet gotten to do an endurance ride and Vicki wants to try a 50 this year. We have told them both, it requires lots of time on the trails for the horse and rider. Yesterday, it was in the 60s and gorgeous. Unfortunately, I spent the day trimming hooves (for others) and didn’t get home until after dark. This morning, it was in the 30s and windy, but we saddled up anyways. I rode Mojo, Alex rode Teddy (their first trail ride together) and Vicki rode Devil. It was very windy so we expected the horses to be spooky and flighty. We were pleasantly surprised to find they were not much different from a regular ride. We did a nice loop into some field that we hadn’t ridden on for a couple of years and then headed up into the main part of the forest. It was wicked cold on top of the hills and we decided to cut the ride a little short. We ended up only riding 7 miles in 1.5 hours, but Teddy did great with Alex.
After we got back, Teddy and Devil had both worked up a good sweat, so they got coolers and some stall time with hay and water to warm up and dry off. An hour later, Devil was lame from what we believe was Tying Up. For those not familiar, it’s basically muscle cramps. Hand walking helped some. We dosed him with electrolytes and did call the vet a little to discuss things with her. If it hasn’t resolved by morning, we will have her out to see if we are missing something. In the summer, it’s easy to think about adding salt and keeping horses hydrated, but in the winter, we don’t think about it as much. I suspect Devil was just a little low on fluids before we started the ride and with his thick winter coat, he sweated enough out to cause a minor problem.
Anna also got to take King out for a short 4 mile ride later in the afternoon, but Amanda elected to spend most of the day inside because she doesn’t have enough (read any) body fat to maintain temperatures when it’s blustery out.
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.
It has been almost 3 weeks since we made a blog post. It’s not that nothing has been blog-worthy, but rather, we have been so busy we haven’t had time to sit down and catch up.
Last weekend was our annual trip to the Hartford County 4-H Camp for Pony Club Columbus Camp. We took 4 of our horses – Mojo (for Alex and Rob), Teddy (for Vicki), Devil (for Vicki), and Huey (for Amanda). It started to rain on us Saturday afternoon and rained all day Sunday. All the kids did 1 lesson in the pouring rain on Sunday and then decided to skip the afternoon lesson. Devil was getting seriously underutilized and came home on Sunday afternoon. He was literally climbing the walls in the stall and losing his mind. He was much happier to be turned out with King when he got home.
Alex ended up riding 3.5 lessons on Mojo, including jumping. I picked up 2.5 lessons on Mojo and we were able to loan him out for 2 more lessons when another kid had her horse go lame. In the end, Mojo did 8 lessons in 2.5 days. And he was awesome for every lesson.
Vicki rode Teddy for 3 lessons and 1 on Devil. Teddy was calm and cool with Vicki and they were able to work on some jumping. Amanda did 4 lessons on Huey; we were much more focused on the experience for them rather than a specific lesson goal. I’m sure we didn’t take nearly enough photos, but here are a few.
The horses were happy to be home after camp.
Since Vicki is outgrowing Devil, and Amanda is moving up to ride Devil occasionally, Huey is getting used a little less. We have decided that he will stick around and become our driving pony. We were lucky enough to find a harness locally that fit him, so he has been getting worked for some ground driving. This week, Vicki and Alex both got to start learning how to ground drive Huey.
On Friday evening, Alex and I were able to spend a couple of hours in the stand hunting deer. We got to see 3 young bucks and 1 doe, but came home empty-handed. Saturday morning, Alex and I took Mack out for the opening of pheasant season.
Today, we did a family trail ride. King’s health over the past year has been up and down as he combats EPM. For the last few days, he has been doing surprisingly well. Today, Alex was able to ride him for an hour covering 4 miles on our trail ride. All 5 members of our family rode with all 5 of our horses. Vicki rode Huey since he has been giving Amanda attitude on the trails and Vicki can work the spunk out of him if needed.
Once the ride was over, we did a little work outside and came in for dinner. Fried pheasant from yesterday’s hunt, rice and gravy, and cole slaw with a cabbage picked from our garden this afternoon.
There is no question that October and November are my favorite months in New England.
2 weeks ago, we rode as a family at the Lyme Trails Association Hunter Pace (aka Lord Creek Hunter Pace). I rode Mojo with Alex as my teammate on a trial pony, Zippy. Anna rode Teddy and Vicki rode Devil. While Zippy was a good trail mount, we decided he wasn’t quite what we were after to replace Dakota, so we have since returned him. However, we were thankful for the chance to ride as a family at a great venue. For the past 2 years, horse or people injuries have resulted in only 3 of the 4 of us getting to ride. Anna and Alex went around the jumps this year, as neither was ready for that on their mounts. Vicki and I went over jumps… a lot of jumps. It was AWESOME. Mojo and I went over jumps that were bigger than anything I have ever attempted previously and only gave me 1 refusal all day. Here are links to the Judy Bosco’s site, who was the ride photographer. I bought a copy of Mojo and I jumping.
This weekend was Ayer Mt Farm’s Autumn Daze, which is also known as Jump, Jump, Jump. It is a 3 phase jumping show which includes stadium jumping, derby jumping, and cross-country. Derby jumping is a combination of stadium and cross-country jumps. For any of our local riding friends, this is an amazing little show (I think there were 16 entries) and tons of fun. I highly recommend you do it next year if they don’t cancel due to low numbers.
Since the previous weekend went so well, I decided to bump Mojo up to the Elementary Division (max 2’3″ jumps) while Vicki and Devil rode in the Grasshopper Division (max 18″ jumps). To be clear, I had never actually ridden a stadium jump course on Mojo at anything other than 18″, so Anna considered my choice of divisions completely impulsive and irresponsible. Anyone who knows my approach to riding will understand, it’s just my style to go for it and not worry about failure. It turns out, Vicki has the same go-for-it attitude.
Anna had this to say about the following picture: “This picture is one of the proud mama moments I had as Devil was a total brat pony all day and Vicki totally rocked her confidence as she made her pony do what he didn’t have any intention of doing. He refused this jump twice before she made him jump it and then stayed on for the mega leap.”
Vicki did get eliminated during her derby round because Devil did a spin refusal approaching a log jump and she came unseated (meaning hit the ground). Despite that, she never lost her reins, bounced back up, and was back on Devil before the nearby fence judge could get there. The event is “schooling friendly” and still allowed her to complete the rest of the derby round and ride her cross-country course. Vicki was all smiles despite the elimination.
Things went a little better for Mojo and I. In stadium, he knocked down 1 rail over a roll top (which was almost a refusal). In the cross-country round, we had 2 refusals at a coop which were my fault. I realized on the second refusal I was reading all the words on the side of the coop and Mojo was spooking at it because I was looking down. As soon as my eyes came up, so did his front feet. Despite these minor issues, we were able to take 2nd place for the day. I think it was the best showing experience I have ever had and continues to show how much heart Mojo has. I definitely benefited from recent lessons with Ann Bowie and Julia Cronin who both gave me insight that aided our performance. We have plenty to work on to get better at our jumping, but it’s so nice to have a willing partner that forgives my errors.
One last thing. For all the riders who feel pressured to put shoes on your horse, I rode Mojo barefoot for the stadium phase (because the grass was a little slick) and in Easy Care Gloves for the other 2 phases.
Last Sunday was the WGHA 2016 Hunter Pace #3. This time, I (Rob) rode on Teddy, Alex rode Mojo, Vicki rode Devil, and Alexis rode Ace. We had a good 12 mile ride that took us 2:16. It was good enough to earn me 6th place and the kids got 5th in the Jr division.
Pinetree Pioneer Rides were held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds over 5 days from Tuesday, August 9 through Saturday, August 13. There was a 50-55 mile event and a LD (Limited Distance) 25-30 mile event every day for 5 days. The Pioneer Ride is the three middle days, and totals 155 miles of riding. This was to be Vicki’s first distance ride. Alex was unable to ride; Dakota has been lame and Alex was still dealing with a double ear infection and sinus infection.
The logistics required to travel and camp with your horses for an endurance ride are not to be under estimated. When it is a whole family going to camp and leaving the majority of the herd at home, it takes a few days of prep just to leave the house. We started making our packing lists weeks ago. Leading up to this trip, I printed the lists and kept making updates as we figured out what we needed to add. Sunday and Monday were spent going through the camping gear to make sure everything was there and loading into totes. We also packed the horse trailer with hay, shavings, tack, extra tack, and everything we could imagine needing. Once all the camping gear was loaded into the truck bed (around the gooseneck hitch), clothing and sleeping bags in the horse trailer, and tack in the trailer, we were ready to leave.
We hit the road on Tuesday morning at 0900 and headed to Maine! The first stop was 35 minutes into the drive for a couple of items we needed at Wal-mart. The second stop was only 20 minutes later for a bathroom break. We decided to skip lunch and just finish the drive (with no more stops) to get the horses off the trailer faster. That turned out to be a mistake, because once we got to camp, it took over an hour to get the horses settled and to the point we could unload enough to eat. In the future, we will ensure we have eaten before arriving at camp.
Once things we set in camp, we vetted in the horses for the ride and took a break. Our campsite consisted of an electric fence paddock for the horses, canopy for the horses, canopy for our kitchen area, stove, coffee pot, 2 tents, folding table…. The chuck box we used for storing food and such was built by my Dad in the 60’s when he was in scouting. I would say it has gotten some miles.
The ride camp had a coordinated dinner that you could participate in, so we did. After dinner each night, the awards for the day’s ride were given out and then the ride brief was conducted for the next day. We arrived on Tuesday, so we got to see the first day awards and hear some feedback about the trails.
We have learned from previous rides, the endurance ride camps get quiet early. It seems everyone wants to go to bed early. Of course, since we had just traveled in, our crew wasn’t as tired, so we didn’t fall asleep quite as fast.
Wednesday morning, the 50 mile ride started at 0530. Our camp setup was right next to the vet area and the start/finish. Anna and I were up at 4:45 with Vicki only shortly after. Alex and Amanda slept in a little. We cooked up some eggs and sausage for breakfast. While there is typically muffins or doughnuts available for a ride breakfast, it is important to fuel your body for the ride, especially when 1 of the bodies is an 80lb, 10 year old girl.
Vicki and I were riding the 25 mile, LD ride. We started at 6:30 and 1 mile into the ride, you cross a river. On the other side, you enter some potato fields where you ride on sandy farm roads for the next 5 miles. While the potato fields were pretty, calm, and fast riding in the morning, they were hot and hotter once the sun started baking things. The first hold was 15 miles into the ride, and was away from base camp at a covered bridge. Anna, Alex, and Amanda met us there with snacks for the horses, snacks for us, and to simply help out. We quickly determined that at this age, Vicki can handle the distance, but needs the support of someone to crew at the holds so she can take a break and fuel up herself.
When you arrive at the hold, your hold time doesn’t actually start until your horse has pulsed down below 64 bpm. In anticipation of that, Vicki and I walked in (us off and leading on foot) the horses for about the last 1/4 mile. Mojo can pulse down quickly, but we wanted to make sure Devil was ready to go. It worked great and Devil was below the threshold as soon as we arrived. 40 minutes later, we were back out of the trail for 11 miles back to camp, including the potato fields. We arrived at base camp and Mojo immediately met the finish pulse criteria of 60 bpm. 6 minutes later, Devil had cooled off and also passed a vet check as “fit to continue”. Vicki and Devil had their first completion with a ride time of 4:27 for 26 miles in the saddle.
Once the horses were taken care of, we hiked a mile down to the river and took a swim to cool off since the temps were in the upper 80s (I thought Maine was supposed to be cold?).
Some people at the Pinetree ride actually ride every day. However, many ride a day and then take a day off. Because we did our first ride on the second day, there were only 11 entries in the LD ride for our day. Even though our time wasn’t terribly slow, Vicki was the last finisher, which meant she won the “Turtle Award”. In the endurance world, the motto is “To finish is to win” and we have been teaching that to the kids as we train. Winning the turtle isn’t demeaning, because it is still a completion. There are actually some riders who compete to collect turtle awards. Vicki was all smiles at the awards ceremony as she collected her ride prize, her Jr rider award (a blanket she slept with every night since), and her Turtle.
No one in our family had trouble falling asleep on Wednesday. We took Thursday off, and I was glad we did! I listened to the sound of ~30 riders leaving camp at 0530 (all distances started at 0530 on Thursday and Friday due to the heat) and then I went back to sleep for another hour. After getting up and eating, I broke out the hammock. There were not a lot of trees available, but with the truck parked just so, the hammock fit nicely between the horse trailer ties and the stake pocket ties on the truck. Amanda and I tested it out for a nice hour nap. After, we walked the horses around for some grazing (Vicki decided to ride bareback).
Thursday was HOT! The camp thermometer broke 100F in the shade. We went out to get more ice for our cooler and some ice cream. We also went to a different part of the river for a swim to cool off again. In the late afternoon, Vicki and I rode the horses bareback down to the river. We took them into some deeper areas and Vicki and Devil actually got to swim (it wasn’t deep enough to cause Mojo to swim). Thursday night dinner was lobster night and after the ride brief, we went to bed for a 0400 wake up. While Vicki was very happy to have finished her first ride, she did talk to me about strategy before we fell asleep. She said, “Dad, can we ride a little faster tomorrow. I don’t want to Turtle. I want to Win.” I told her we would ride within our horses’ abilities and the priority was to finish with everyone in good condition, but yes, we could go faster. She was ok with that. On Friday, we were riding the same LD course as Wednesday.
The temperatures on Friday were definitely hotter than Wednesday. While we did ride a faster first loop, we slowed down some on the second loop and ended up finishing within about 5 minutes of our Wednesday time. Again, both horses were in excellent condition and we both had smiles at the finish. As Vicki and I hand walked our horses the last 1/4 mile, she was already talking about her plans for the next ride. To say she is hooked on endurance is an understatement.
While the temperatures were high, we had nothing but an amazing week. Amanda was talking with everyone about her pony Huey and how she planned to ride him at Pinetree next year. Alex didn’t get to ride, but is still interested in trying it out. Pinetree was definitely a top-notch, family friendly event. Our thanks go out to Tom Hutchinson and Sue Niedoroda for managing the ride and to all the volunteers who put it on. We will see you again in 2017!