Tag Archives: Money Shot

Pine Tree 2019

All year, we knew the Pine Tree endurance ride in Fryeburg, Maine would be our big summer vacation. After all the problems around our kitchen fire in July, we needed a getaway. The week before we left was spent putting new shoes on all the horses and packing. In addition, Gem, the palomino 1/2 Arabian we got in April was sold because she wasn’t working out in our herd. My parents left from Alabama on Friday evening and were meeting us in Maine on Sunday. So, on Sunday, 8/4, we left for Maine with 5 horses (Mojo, Amira, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey) on the trailer, 3 dogs in the trucks, and the travel trailer loaded for a week of camping and riding.

Pine Tree is a special ride. It has 5 consecutive days of competition at the Fryeburg fairgrounds. There are stalls available for horses, electric and water hookups for trailers, a dump station on-site, showers and even a laundromat. This was our 3rd time at Pine Tree in the past 4 years, and it is a family favorite. The people are great (especially Sue, the ride manager) and there are plenty of things to do outside riding for the week.

When we arrive around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, you could tell it was going to be a busy week. Ride camp already was filling up fast and the first rides weren’t until Tuesday! We blocked out our area next to our CT friends, Rob and Mary Palumbo, and 2 down from the Coffey family. Everyone got to work setting up camp. I’m sure most of the people knew we had arrived, because 5 people configuring electric fences doesn’t always go smoothly and it’s possible, there was some yelling. A mere 3 hours later, the horses were settled into their pens happily munching on hay.

Monday morning we had a leisurely time around camp and went out to Walmart to pick up a few things for the week. Amanda got to find a friend for the week; Laney was another 9 yo who had driven up with her Dad, Jesse, from North Carolina. Laney and Jesse were in first place for the AERC family award with over 1100 miles already ridden this year. In the first 3 days, Laney rode 2 50 mile rides and 1 25 mile ride. It definitely inspired Amanda to step up her game and train Huey for more riding next season.

Amanda and Laney hanging out

Monday afternoon, we saddled up the horses for a tack ride (a short test ride to make sure all the tack was set and ready for competition) and to check the river crossing. This is when things started to go awry. During the tack ride, Amira was HOT and giving Anna lots of attitude. All the horses were spunky and ready to run. There may have been some more elevated volume conversations (aka yelling) as we disagreed on how to handle the situation. Crossing back through the river, Vicki decided to work on sponging Duchess with a sponge on a rope. When the sponge floated in front of Duchess with a line trailing, I’m pretty sure Duchess thought it was a snake and promptly ditched Vicki in the river. She didn’t run off, and other than getting a little wet, Vicki was fine.

Coming up out of the river back to the trail, Amira decided to jump a log instead of going around it like the rest of the herd. Anna wasn’t expecting this and lost her balance in the fray. She got dumped and I’m pretty sure she hit her head on the log. This resulted in a minor concussion that ended Anna’s riding for the week. As we all jumped off our horses to help Anna and grab Amira, Teddy got scared from the commotion and threw Alex into the brush. We recovered all the horses headed back to camp. Needless to say, it wasn’t the successful ride we hoped for the day before competition.

That evening, we decided that we would not send 5 horses out on the trail together for competition. We have consistently attempted to obtain the goal of all 5 riding together, and it just hasn’t worked. There are too many demands of individual riders and horses to manage 5 in a competition. It does work if the 5 are split into separate distances, but we didn’t plan to ride any 50 milers during our week.

So, on Tuesday morning at 7:30, we started the 25 mile ride with me on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, and Vicki on Duchess.

The 25 mile course at Pine Tree goes out to a covered bridge that is about 11 miles from camp. The riders then go through a loop into what is known as “Fern Gully” before returning the to the covered bridge for the 45 minute hold and vet check. We did some cantering on the first loop as all the horses were feeling good. Here is a short video.

All 3 horses, Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess, made the 64 bpm pulse criteria with no problems and then we headed back on the return 11 miles. When we arrived back a base camp, Duchess was in 5th place and Mojo was 6th. Unfortunately, Teddy was lame on his right hind and didn’t get a completion. Teddy has been having problems on his right hind for a number of rides. This time, an extended discussion with one of the ride vets who assessed Teddy’s issue to be a hock problem. It looks like some hock radiographs and injections are in his future, because Alex and Teddy are a great team.

Once the ride ended, things went South for Duchess. We got her back to camp and she wouldn’t drink any water or eat any food. We offered her grain, carrots, and apples. She wanted to drop and roll. She wouldn’t eat fresh grass. It was clear we were dealing with a colic, likely from being dehydrated. During the hold we gave Duchess more senior feed and beet pulp than she normally gets. Our theory is, we didn’t have the feed wet enough and it sucked the water out of her gut, leading to dehydration, despite the fact that she kept drinking during the ride. So, 5 hours after completing, Duchess was checked in to an equine hospital and hour and a half from ride camp where she got a full colic exam to check for impaction or other problems, and 10L of fluid overnight.

Duchess at the equine hospital

Anna and I got back to camp about 9:30 pm, showered, took care of horses, and climbed into bed. Hauling Duchess to the vet wrecked our plan to do anything on Wednesday. Around 11:30 pm, as we were just climbing into bed, we heard a commotion outside followed by the sounds of a herd running – not what you want to hear in ride camp. It turns out, a stallion camping 2 spots down broke out, went running through some of our electric fence and into the next one over. That resulted in at least 3 more loose horses which then went back through our fencing and took down 4 of our 5 pens. In the end, Teddy and Mojo were still in camp and too scared to leave their electric fence (despite it being on the ground). Amira and Huey were running loose in camp with at least 3 other horses. Needless to say, many people were awakened by the commotion and lots jumped into action to help catch the loose horses. A little after 1 am, we had the fencing back into place and horses back in bed. At this point, I was definitely not having fun.

On Wednesday, Duchess got the all-clear at the equine hospital, so I made the drive back to get her. My Dad joined me for the ride and we had the chance to spend some quality time talking. When we got to the clinic, Duchess pinned her ears at me and spun her butt towards me. I could tell she was feeling much better. Vicki was happy to have her back in camp.

Vicki happy to have Duchess back in camp

So, by Wednesday evening, Anna had a concussion, Teddy had been pulled for lameness and wasn’t going to ride again, and Duchess had spent the night in an equine hospital. We strongly considered packing it up and heading home. After a family conversation about the options, we decided to stay a little longer and hope that things got better.

On Thursday morning, there were heavy thunderstorms which delayed the ride start to 8 am. Alex, Amanda, and I went to the hold to help crew for Jesse and Laney. When we got back, we had a quick lunch and then headed out to go tubing on the Saco River. Each year, we think we will go tubing, but it never seems to work out so we made it happen. It turns out, tubing down the river is exactly what the family needed to relax. We got back to camp and vetted in the horses for Friday’s ride.

Since Anna had finally come to terms with a minor concussion, Vicki rode Amira, Amanda rode Huey, and I rode Mojo on Friday morning when we started the 25 miles at 6:30 am.

The first 15 miles of the ride went well. Vicki really enjoyed riding Amira and it brought her to terms with the fact that Duchess isn’t her long term endurance mount. When we rolled into the hold and vet check, Amira and Huey passed just fine. However, Mojo had some back soreness, which has been another recurring problem. We gave him some massage work and food and he cleared the vet, but I was concerned about him passing at the end of the ride. I made the quick decision to ditch my tack and do the 11 miles back to camp on foot.

It turns out, running in Ariat Terrain boots and long pants is challenging. The footing in the fields was deep soil with a wet top layer, which is hard to run on. Additionally, Mojo likes to invade my personal space when we run; he managed to step on my heel once and the side of my foot twice. It was hot and I consumed 2L of water in the first 10 miles. Before the hold, we were in last place and only had 2.5 hours to cover the 11 miles back to camp, which basically meant I needed to maintain at least 13:00 min/mile.

We made it back to camp with 7 minutes to spare and all 3 horses passed the final vet check. The vets agreed that Mojo’s back was better at the finish than the mid-ride vet check.

Friday evening was the traditional Pine Tree lobster dinner. We decided to head home on Saturday and give us a day to recover before starting the work week.

One of the reasons we switched to endurance was after a ride, the family was always excited about the next event. Even after our rough week, at dinner on Sunday the whole family was talking about what we learned during our week at Pine Tree 2019. We talked about what we learned about our horses and what we needed to changed before the next ride. We talked about modifying our training for future rides. But in general, we talked about the next rides. You know you are doing something the family loves when everyone is looking forward to the next event, even if that last one wasn’t perfect.

So, thank you to the ride management (especially you Sue) and all the volunteers at Pine Tree. We look forward to next year!

NEATO Endurance ride 2019

June 22 was the 2019 NEATO Endurance ride held in Arcadia WMA (Exeter, RI). Since the ride is less than 10 miles from our house, we always plan to attend. This year we had 3 entries for the 50 mile ride and 2 for the 25 mile ride. The weather was a little wet on Friday so I headed over to set up camp around lunch with Alex and Vicki and Anna and Amanda brought the horses a little later in the afternoon. Everyone vetted in just fine and we enjoyed the group dinner and ride brief. Since this ride is close to home, Anna went home for the night to take care of the horses who didn’t attend the ride, plus the dogs, rabbits, and chickens. She joined us again at 5:30 Saturday morning.

This ride has a very gentlemanly start time of 7am for the 50 mile riders which had 27 entries. Anna had Amira and Huey tacked up just in case they got upset when the other 3 left. The temperature at the start was in the 60s and the weather was clear. I was a little concerned about Mojo having race brain and wanting to just run the entire first loop, but he was actually very manageable compared to last year.

The first loop for Alex, Vicki, and I was 20 miles. There was a mandatory 10 minute stop at about the 9 mile point, which we used to give the horses some grain and water (and people got a bathroom break). There was one section of trail that goes down into a low elevation and heavy forest area. As the temperatures were rising and the previous day’s rain was baking off, the humidity spiked. There was also a lot of mountain laurel on the first loop that was in full bloom and very pretty, but I didn’t take a picture. Since it was a first 50 for both kid pairs, Alex on Teddy and Vicki on Duchess, we were riding conservatively to try and get completions for everyone. Unfortunately, as we were trotting along about mile 15, I noticed Duchess was a little off on her right hind. We have been working on the kids continuously eating in order to avoid meltdowns from lack of fuel. Each kid has figured out what fuels work for them and things went well on the first 20 miles.

Meanwhile, Amanda and Anna started their 25 mile ride at 7:45 with a 15 mile loop. Everything went well and both horses got along fine without the rest of the herd. Amira has really gotten strong as a leader on the trail and doesn’t rely on the other horses for confidence. Amanda kept asking to canter in order to pick up the pace (and apparently the cantering sections were the best part). Throughout the ride, Amira didn’t balk at any bridge crossing or trail entrances. Both Huey and Amira did a great job of eating consistently and drinking at the water stops. Anna and Amanda made it back to the vet check and 45 minute hold about 20 minutes before those of us on the other loop.

Unfortunately, the lameness we noticed on the trails caused Duchess to get pulled from the ride after the first 20 miles. Vicki was disappointed but took it well. She took care of Duchess at our camping area while the rest of us were out for our next loop. Anna and Amanda had 10 miles to go while Alex and I had 2 more 15 mile loops to do. I’m proud of the fact that we have kids who know enough about their horses that they can take care of them in ride camp even if Anna and I are not available. Of course, there are plenty of other adults around that will help out if needed, but Vicki had everything under control with her pony.

The second (and last loop) for Anna and Amanda went well. Amanda did start to run out of steam towards the end and they spent some time walking because her legs “felt like Jello.” They made it back to camp and passed the final vet check. Their ride time of 4:52 was good enough for a 12th place tie and got the Turtle award. In endurance, the Turtle is the last finisher who still gets a completion. It’s important to manage your horse so they pass the final vet check as “fit to continue”. If you fail the final vet check, you are disqualified and don’t get credit for the miles. In the end, only 1 horse in the 25 mile ride was pulled, 13 of 14 completed.

The second and third loops for Alex and I were fairly uneventful. We knew a number of riders had been pulled at the first vet check (including Vicki) and we were bringing up the rear of the ride. That didn’t bother us in the least. Alex in particular doesn’t have a competitive drive and just loves to spend time on the trails with Teddy. Mojo started to lose some steam around 40 miles, so Teddy would take the lead. At mile 45, Teddy picked up a strong canter like he was fresh out of the barn. Throughout the day, Teddy did great and I love to watch Alex with him. We made our way back into camp only about 5 minutes behind the next rider ahead of us. Both horses passed their vet check and we got our Turtle awards for the 50 miles with a ride time of 9:39. 20 of 27 riders completed the 50 mile ride. At this point, I can’t imagine doing a 100 mile ride, because I was wiped out after about 10 hours in the saddle. We took a break to eat some food and then packed up camp to head home.

Finished!

Do you know how to tell if the kids are legitimately enjoying the rides and endurance events? After riding all day, with some chaffing, sore muscles, and just plain exhaustion, the ride home still includes discussions (prompted by the kids) about the next event on the schedule. Not only that, there were conversations about altering training plans and what needs to improve for the next ride. To finish is to win.

Verda brown bag and bare bones 2019

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.

Horsepower Farm Cross Country Derby May 2019

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.

Links to videos below:

Vicki (placed 4th)

Alex (placed 1st!)

Skijouring

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.

Amanda’s video

Vicki’s video

Alex’s video

Anna’s video

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.

Ayer Mt Farm Autumn Daze 2016

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.”

ayer-mt-autumn-daze-150

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.

WGHA 2016 Hunter Pace #3

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 Endurance Ride 2016

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!