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.
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.
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.
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!
For Father’s Day, Vicki and I rode in a dressage and 2 phase horse show. Alex and Amanda didn’t want to show and we decided that was fine. This was my first show (other than some fairs) since 2010 when I was still on King. This was also the first time I have ever actually entered a jumping class. While I was not necessarily totally ready and refined, I wanted to take Mojo to the show and see how he behaved.
King was always a great horse at home, and still is, but about 3 times as much horse once you got to the show grounds. “High energy” would be an accurate description. I was extremely pleased to find Mojo was the same horse on the show grounds as at home. I think he was actually more focused and ready to work than schooling at home. Mojo and I entered the 18″ cross-rail 2 phase division which includes dressage test Intro B. We separately rode dressage test Intro C. To get ready for the show, I did ride Mojo through the Intro B test twice in the weeks before the show. We never tried Intro C. As for jumping, I think I jumped Mojo 3 times in the month we have had him. We never actually jumped a full course. In fact, I don’t think we ever put more than 4 jumps together in a set. Anna’s opinion was I was crazy to go so under-trained and having no idea what would happen on the jump course. I figured why not give it a shot.
Let’s be honest. Dressage is boring. I’ll just summarize the 2 dressage tests with we have areas to improve on but I wasn’t last in my divisions. But Vicki did get higher dressage scores on Devil, riding the same tests with the same judges.
The jumping was much more fun. When we got out into the warm-up area, Mojo and I started working over the practice fences and it was awesome. He was ready to go, so we headed on the course and jumped a clear round. He didn’t give me any hesitation and we had a blast. Anna would not that my form requires improvement, I look down at the jumps, I sometimes catch him in the mouth, and Mojo doesn’t always get the correct lead coming off the jump. That’s why she is a better rider. I just know we had fun and he can definitely jump higher! Vicki and Devil also jumped a clear round and had a blast doing it. We want to find a jumping only show…
I would also like to note that Mojo has now been with us for 5 weeks and has been out of shoes for 5 weeks after many years in front shoes. He has been tender on his front feet (to be expected for the transition) so we normally ride him in boots. However, for the dressage show, I couldn’t ride him with boots. Last week I gave him a trim and applied Hoof Armor. The Hoof Armor worked like a champ and he didn’t take a tender step all day. I will be continuing to experiment with the Hoof Armor on my own horses before offering it to clients, but so far, I’m happy with it! The next step is to put it on the ponies and see how they do on the rocky trails without any boots.
Last night about 9:15, I unloaded a new horse from the trailer into the barn. He had spent 6 hours getting hauled in from VT. Since we took this one sight unseen, Anna and I put him in the cross-ties and checked him over. At the end of the barn, there was a 10 year old girl sneaking around in the shadows trying to catch a glimpse of the new pony. When we spied her, she darted back into the house. I went inside and told Vicki it was ok for her to join us in the barn, so with a huge grin, she grabbed her jacket, slipped her boots back on, and happily followed me back out.
He was a little lonely today, turned out in a paddock alone, so Devil got to join him. They made fast friends and spent the afternoon mowing any new shoots of grass.
After work, I had a few trim appointments and then finally got home to get to know my new mount. His shoes were just pulled this weekend, so the first order of business was to get him fitted with boots. One benefit of being a dealer (and having 6 other horses on the farm using boots) is I can usually fit a horse with something we have on hand. Once that was taken care of, we tacked up and headed to the arena.
Introducing Mojo! He is a register Half Arabian (the other half is Dutch Harness Horse) and his registered name is Money Shot. Mojo is owned by a local farrier who has been following our story and thought we were the right match for her horse. Mojo is 10 years old, 15.3 hh, and 850 lbs. He has long legs, a long back, and a narrow barrel. He spent the early part of his life as an arena/show horse and has spent about the last 3 years as a trail, endurance, and CTR mount. He seems very well matched for our desire of a versatile horse for some dressage, eventing, and endurance. We are a little concerned that Vicki may try to claim him.
As the light was fading fast, I did manage to get about 30 minutes of saddle time on him tonight. This weekend we are doing a 25 mile Limited Distance endurance event with NEATO, so that will be a true test of our compatibility. We have him on an extended trial, so stay tuned for more Mojo!