It was a typical busy weekend for the family. Saturday morning started out early with the “Proud to Tri” youth triathlon for Alex and Vicki. It was held at Harkness Park and included an open water swim in the ocean. The temps were in the upper 40s when we got up but the kids weren’t cold once things got going. They have been practicing throughout the summer with the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team and this was the final event of the season. The swim was 200 yds, 4 miles on the bike, and a 1.5 mile run. They both had a good time at the race.
Saturday afternoon, Alexis and Christina came over to spend the night with Vicki and do a trail ride. Christina brought her horse, Fiona, and Alexis borrowed Mojo. Alex joined us on Dakota and I was riding Teddy. Mojo has been getting treated for Lyme for the past 2 weeks and been in a stall with only riding for exercise. As a result, he was being quite unruly on the trails, so Alexis and I switched mounts after the first mile. Teddy was a rock star and has turned out to be one of the more reliable loaner horses for trail riding. The group rode 6 miles and it was a great success for Christina and Fiona in particular, as it was their first trail ride together.
Sunday morning started with chores and loading horses onto the trailer to head out for lessons at Horse Power Farm. I rode Mojo for my lesson and then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Duchess. All three of us had outstanding rides and a lot of fun!
This weekend was spent in Buckfield, Maine at the Northeast Challenge endurance ride. We left on Friday morning with the whole family in the truck, 3 horses (Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess) on the trailer, and plenty of camping gear. After a little over 5 hours of driving, we arrived at a gorgeous base camp in a hay pasture. The sites were all marked off to show clear division of where your area was. Since we brought 3 horses, we were allowed to use 2 sites. We gave the horses a little break to eat some grass and drink water before vetting in. With just under 50 riders, there was no wait at the vet check. This was the first ride for Alex as a rider, Teddy, and Duchess, so we planned to keep it conservative during the ride.
The rider’s brief was at 5 and immediately after was a pig roast for dinner. The ride manager invites all the land owners (over 40) that allow the trails to cross their property to join the camp for dinner. The food was great and we got to meet some new friends around camp. Ride camps get quiet early the night before a ride. By 8pm the sun was setting, the temperatures were dropping, and everyone was headed to bed.
We got up at 5:00 to eat breakfast and watch the 100 mile riders head out at 6:00. The temperatures dropped into the low 40s overnight. The horses were happy to have a layer for warmth. Alex started the morning with a cup of hot water (we forgot to pack tea bags) and Vicki had a cup of coffee to warm up.
There is a note on our endurance camping packing list: “pack clothes warmer than you expect to need”. That was definitely true this time around. We started the ride at 7:00 with layers of clothes on for the first loop of 13.8 miles. The horses were peppy and ready to go. We didn’t take a break until 5 miles in when we stopped for some grass and water.
The trails through the woods were phenomenal. There was a lot of up and down through the mountains, but also plenty of areas that were flat and fast on grass paths through the trees.
We finished our first loop of 13.8 miles with a 4.8 mph average. It was a little slower than we planned, but the goal was to make sure we didn’t over stress Duchess in particular. We also knew the second loop was faster and we could make up a little time if needed.
All 3 horses cleared the vet check within minutes of arriving at base camp. We chose to go back to our trailer, remove tack, and let the horses have free time in their paddocks. The hold is only 45 minutes long, but this also allowed Alex and Vicki to eat food without holding horses. Anna and Amanda were our ride-crew for the weekend and had everything ready for us. We all had to shed layers of clothing for the second loop as the temperatures hit 70F by 10:00. Luckily, that’s about where the mercury stopped for the day making it perfect weather.
We headed out on our second loop which was 17 miles (although we thought it was only going to be 15 miles at the time). We managed to bump up our speed to an average of 5.4 mph on the second loop.
At the end of the day, we finished 30.7 miles in 6:09 (yes, 6 hours of saddle time). There was 3,768 ft of elevation over the ride. All three horses did wonderful and Alex and Vicki both had a great time (although Alex did say he wants to do more conditioning for himself in the future).
We chose to camp for a second night and watch the 50 mile riders finish (the have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, including 2 45 minute holds) and the 100 mile riders (24 hours allowed time including holds). I’ll confess, we didn’t stay up much past dark to watch 100 mile riders do vet checks and holds. This morning, there was a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony for the 100 mile riders. Three of the riders present completed the East Coast Triple Crown this year, which is the same horse/rider team completing these three tough 100-milers: the Old Dominion 100 in June, the Vermont 100 in July and the Northeast Challenge in August.
As the awards were being handed out, Vicki leaned over and whispered, “Dad, I want to ride the Triple Crown one day.”
I want to throw out a huge “Thank You” to Blaine, Sarah, and everyone else who made this a wonderful weekend for our family. The kids were talking about “next year” and who will ride what distance. Amanda is planning to toughen up and put the miles on her pony to be able to join the fun. We look forward to seeing everyone at more rides.
We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater. Support your ride photographers!
This morning I ran the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race at Buttonwoods Farm. At only 2.5 miles from the house, it doesn’t get much more local than that. Before I talk about the results, I want to give an update from my May post “Primal Diet and Fitness“. If you didn’t read it, or don’t remember it, please go back and take a look. It has been almost 3 months since that post. I have continued to follow the Primal diet and training approach for endurance sports. My weight loss steadied out with my new weight at 164 lbs; I lost 21 lbs. I may still lose a little more, but I feel great and I definitely feel that I have found a sustainable eating plan. On the training front, I have continued to limit my heart rate to 140 bpm in my marathon run training. I am not worried about a specific speed goal. On Thursday of this week, I did 16 miles in 3:00. It was my longest run to date and my heart rate did creep up in the heat. However, I wasn’t crippled from the run and recovered quickly.
With my focus on distance, I haven’t done any speed work at all. In fact, a sprint triathlon in June is the only other time I have truly tested my speed in the past 4 months. So today’s 6k race was a little bit of a question mark in my mind; I really didn’t know what kind of pace I could sustain.
It turns out, I was able to run the race in 26:21 for a 7:04 min/mile pace. That was good enough for 18th out of 566 runners and 3rd (out of 30) in the men’s 40-49 age group. I can live with that!
After I came home and had some breakfast (I don’t eat before running), we loaded up the trailer with 5 horses and headed to Arcadia in RI. Today I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Vicki rode Duchess, Alex rode Teddy, and Amanda rode Huey. This was a switch up ride for Alex and Anna to test out some things and the first time we have taken Duchess out for a trail ride at a different location. All the horses behaved for the most part. Mojo won the “Most Typical Arab” award for his spook at a butterfly flying across the trail. We didn’t ride too hard and did 10.5 miles in 2:30. When we got home, it was time to put some steaks on the grill and call it a day. The weather was great and we made the most of it.
On May 18th, Amanda turned 7. She has been making great strides with her riding skills and ability to ride on the trails for longer periods of time. After years of staying with a babysitter or a friend while the rest of the family rides a hunter pace, Amanda finally graduated to riding with us. Today was her first hunter pace with WGHA in Arcadia WMA in RI. So it was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Teddy, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Devil, and Amanda on Huey.
We covered 9.8 miles according to my GPS at a 5.0 mph average speed for a total ride time of 1:56. The ideal time for the Hilltopper division was 1:46, so Anna and I didn’t place, however, the kids managed to take 1st in the Junior Division!
Amanda was all smiles during the ride. WGHA hunter paces are held in a state forest, so there are no typical cross country jumps, only cavalettis spread throughout the course. The plan was I would do some jumping on Mojo and Vicki would jump on Devil. However, after a few of the jumps, Amanda started yelling out “Mom, I’m going to jump too!”. Of course, Anna yelled back, “Amanda, go around the jumps.” I was leading, so the next thing I hear from Amanda is “Nope! I going to do it!” And she did. Amanda and Huey jumped somewhere between 5-10 jumps over the rest of the course. And she is hooked.
Eventually, Alex decided to give a jump a go with Dakota. However, Alex was riding with saddle bags attached to the front of the saddle. When they went over the jump, the bags flapped and slapped Dakota on the neck, causing him to start crow hopping. That just caused more saddle bag flopping and more bucking. Alex held on for a while, but Dakota was too scared and sent Alex flying. He didn’t get seriously injured, but he was definitely sore from the fall. We took a short break and then everyone mounted back up and continued the ride. When I asked Alex later if he would prefer to ride a horse that is a better jumper, he simply replied, “No, I just want to ride Kota.” There is no denying the bound he has with that pony.
It’s definitely a unique thing that all 5 of us enjoy riding and get to share it at events like this.
We wrapped up the day with pizza and a movie. If you haven’t seen “A Dog’s Purpose” you should watch it. Warning, it’s a tear-jerker.
I made a short video during the ride, but I think it’s about time to invest in a GoPro. I heard Father’s Day was coming up…
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.
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.