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

No more uniforms

I have a DD214. For those not familiar with the military, that means I have my discharge papers. Today was my last day in uniform. While I am still technically on active duty until June 1st, I am on terminal leave and my naval career is over. No more morning musters. No more duty days. No more PRTs. No more uniforms.

My first day in uniform, June 30, 1995

I still remember the first time I really thought about joining the military. I was on a camp out with my Boy Scout Troop at Camp Sequoya in 1992. One of the leaders on the camp out was telling stories about his time in the Navy and how Scouting prepared him for military service. While I didn’t really tell everyone, that was when I first knew I would go into the military. It just seemed right.

I have been to 15 countries on 6 continents. I have surfaced a submarine through the ice at the North Pole. I have been to the crossing of the Equator and Prime Meridian. I have spent time at sea on 12 different submarines. My career path was different from some of my peers. About half way through my time, I shifted to a staff officer role. While that impacted my upward mobility for promotions, it gave me opportunities with my family that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We spent 13 years in the Groton, CT area. We have a herd of horses. I have been working as a part-time farrier for 7 years.

My last day in uniform, February 21, 2019

I am excited to start the next phase of my life. In a few months, Anna and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Next week, I will start at Sonalysts, Inc in Waterford, CT. Next fall, we will have 2 kids in high school. Life moves on and things change. I’m happy to have served in uniform. I’m proud to be a veteran.

Scoot Boots

If you ride horses on trails, you have probably heard about Scoot Boots. As relative newcomers to the boot market compared to other brands, the Australian company offer color options on the boots, a different design approach to the actual fit, and claims of easy application without sacrificing the ability to stay secure during the ride.

At the Equine Affaire in November 2018, I spent a lot of time with the Scoot Boot reps who had traveled from Australia to present their product. I was honestly surprised as I found myself going back 3 times with follow-up questions and thoughts to look at the boots over and over. In the end, I decided the company really was on to a good idea with their approach and became a stockist (dealer). I now have a full fit kit of all the Scoot Boot sizes and offer Scoot Boots in addition to Renegades and Easy Care products.

Elijah sporting his new Scoot Boot slims with Lime Green straps!

What I love about these boots: open heel bulb design to prevent build up of sand and debris that causes rubs, more forgiving fit which would be useful when booting as a temporary solution following a lost shoe, and easy of application (no mallet required).

Since these are boots we don’t have experience with on our personal horses, I have already purchased a full set for Teddy to use in his conditioning as we get ready for the upcoming endurance season.

Feel free to contact me to discuss your booting needs!

Family Fitness

Sunday morning long runs with Rusty are one of my guilty pleasures. This morning, I knew a couple of different groups were getting together, but I decided to stay home and run in Pachaug. Alex has a desire to run a half marathon, so we decided I would come by the house and pick him up for a couple of miles before I finished. When Amanda heard that, she immediately declared she was going with us. So, after the first 11.5 miles, I swung into the house and and Alex, Amanda, and Mack joined Rusty and I for another 2 miles.

Mack went swimming (as in, up to his neck swimming) 3 times in 2 miles.

Along the way, Amanda said “I need to do more running to improve my stamina.” I replied “OK, what are you training for?” Amanda’s reply “Triathlons.”

Later in the afternoon, the whole family went out for a short trail ride. It was a great day.

Traveling thoughts

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport on my way home from Chile. It was a very short trip that included 2 red eye flights in 4 days. This was likely my last international trip on active duty. There are a few things that are glaringly obvious to me after each of these trips:
1. Americans are in extremely poor health. The percentage of people who are fit vs obese is essentially inverse in the US compared to other countries. The lack of fitness and health crisis is disturbing and makes me more and more committed to a better diet for my family and participating in fitness activities (running, biking, triathlon, etc). I did get 1 short run in during the 2 nights in Chile.

2. Americans are overly focused on material acquisitions and not appreciative of what we have. Riding around in these countries and seeing how much of the world lives in poverty is eye opening. It doesn’t mean I am going to give everything away and move into a tiny house, but I want to ensure I raise my kids to appreciate their advantages in life and be respectful for the opportunities we have in life.

3. While traveling for work is nice to a degree, I miss my family and being involved in the lives of my kids.

4. As my military career comes to an end, I understand with more clarity how different my life is compared to the average submarine officer. The direction my career proceeded has given me opportunities in my personal life that I am very grateful for.

5. Work to live. Don’t live to work. There are more important things than the bottom line. I have yet to meet traveling businessman who regrets the time he spent with family, but the number of regrets for lack of family time is amazing.

6. I love my family and look forward to spending the holidays with them with focus on relationships instead of things.

Fall rides

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Turkey Trot at Goddard Park in RI.  I rode Mojo, Anna rode Amira, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Alex had another commitment for today, so Alexis joined us and rode Teddy.  We all enjoyed the crisp fall air and beautiful colors of fall.  The horses had a good time riding on the beach and were willing to go out into the water.

Anna and Alex did get a late evening ride on Friday.

Anna has been enjoying some time out in the woods during the day, and even took Mojo and Rusty out earlier this week.

Horse Power Farm Derby

Vicki and I headed out to Horsepower Farm’s cross country derby tonight. It was 4.30 pm by the time we made it, but we made it work. Duchess was great, and Vicki had fun. Vicki decided that having a successful ride was more important than trying the next level up. She turned the wrong way after one of the jumps, but didn’t jump anything out of order. The pelham definitely is working for more control and they had a good partnership today.

Here is a video:

NEATO Endurance Ride

It’s been 6 weeks since our last blog post. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping up. This weekend, Team No Child Left Behind rode in the NEATO Endurance ride, held on our home turf at the Arcadia Forest in RI. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of pictures because the whole family was riding. Anna and I took all 5 horses over on Friday and set up camp while the kids were in school. The weather was awesome – lows around 50 and highs in the low 70s.

Anna rode Amira in the 25 mile ride with all 3 kids. Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey. Their ride started at 7:45. Unfortunately, on the first loop, Teddy slipped on a foot bridge and scraped up all 4 legs. When they arrived at the hold about 2 miles later, he was lame and was pulled from the ride. The injuries are not serious, but he will get a couple of weeks off (and antibiotics) to recover.
Anna was able to head back out of the second loop for 10 miles with Amanda and Vicki. They all did great and got their completion in about 4:25. That was about 40 minutes faster than the last 25 mile ride for Huey and Amira.

Mojo and I had a different day. We rode in our first 50 mile ride (first for both of us). Our ride started at 7:00. I saddled up and got on about 6:45 and Mojo was hopping. Literally. I took him in the arena and spent about 10 minutes making him trot circles, side pass, and just work to calm him down. He wasn’t thrilled about the rest of our herd being in camp, but he was amped up to race. After the Pine Tree rides, I decided to make some changes to Mojo’s feed. I felt he was running out of energy at the end of 25 miles, so we added about a quart of Triple Crown Complete to his breakfast. He definitely had the energy I wanted.

working Mojo before the start

The Trail is open!

the view from the front of the race

As soon as the trail opened, we headed out with the lead pack. Mojo was ready to race. There was a 10 minute stop and go (basically a forced 10 minute rest) that was 9 miles into the course. We arrived there in under and hour and tied for 1st place. Every time I tried to hold Mojo back, he wanted to just keep racing forward to stay with the leaders. Throughout the first loop of 20 miles, we spent better than 5 miles setting the pace in the lead. We completed the first 20 miles in 2:21 for an 8.5 mph average, in a 3 way tie for first with Catherine and Monica.

waiting to head out on the second loop

waiting to head out on the second loop

While I had an awesome time riding in the lead, I knew that Mojo couldn’t sustain that kind of speed all day and it took a few more minutes for him to make pulse during the hold than the other horses we were with. So the second loop started of 15 miles with us 5 minutes behind the leaders and all alone. While on trail alone, he wasn’t nearly as competitive and didn’t have the same drive for speed as when other horses were in sight. A group of 3 riders caught up to us about 4 miles into the second loop and Mojo and I rode with them for the rest of that loop. At the end of the second loop, we were in a 4 way tie for 3rd (with Evelyn, Jeff, and Mackenzie) and had completed 35 miles at about an 8.0 mph average. Still too fast.

Again, Mojo took a while to make pulse and he wasn’t eating as much as I would have liked. He was still drinking at every opportunity on the trail and his attitude was still good. He didn’t have the same zip as at the start, but he was still willing to race whenever he felt someone was challenging his position.

On the 3rd loop, Jeff and I left about 5 minutes after Evelyn and Mackenzie. During the hold, I had learned of Teddy’s injury and more specifically, where on the trail it happened. Right before I left, Anna and the girls came in for the end of their ride. As Jeff and I headed out, we both planned to slow things down for the last 15 miles and focus on taking care of the horses to ensure we got through the last vet check without issues.

Unfortunately, my focus on where Teddy got hurt predisposed me to thinking we were headed a certain way. I missed a critical warning and took a wrong turn, following the return of the loop we were on. By the time I realized we were in the wrong spot and got back to where we went off course, we ended up adding almost 3 miles to our ride. It wasn’t a huge issue because we had plenty of time. We didn’t see any other riders on our loop until we were within 3 miles of the finish. At that point, 5 others caught up to us. It was a little discouraging that we would have been done by then if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn, but it was nice that both of our horses immediately kicked back into competitive mode and raced to the finish. Jeff and I pulled up a little short of the finish to allow those who caught us to pass and take the spots in the top 10. We felt they had earned it riding us down in the 3rd loop.

In the end, Mojo passed his final vet check and we completed our first 50 miler (with some bonus miles) in 7:39, (6.8mph average) tied for 12th place. Mojo and I are both feeling the effects of the effort today, but I’m sure we will recover just fine and be ready to do more miles next season, as this was our final ride for 2018.

I want to send out a special thanks to Jennifer, Cate, Mary, and Janet who all crewed for our team. They made the holds so much easier, especially for Anna and the kids.

Pine Tree Endurance Ride, 2018

5 riders, 5 horses, 3 dogs, 2 trucks and trailers, 8 days in Fryeburg, Maine.  Team “No Child Left Behind” completed a total of 10 Limited Distance 25 mile rides in 5 days of competition.

All year, our family has been looking forward to the Pine Tree endurance ride week, which is held out of the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in Maine.  It was the family’s top priority for “vacation” this year.  The logistics associated with packing for an 8 day trip with 5 horses, 5 riders, and 3 dogs is daunting.  We maintain a packing list that gets tweaked with each trip and customized a little depending on the location.  We departed CT on Sunday, 8/5, but we started packing and loading trailers. on Wednesday.  Luckily, a local rider offered to deliver hay to the Fryeburg Fairgrounds.  We took 8 bales with us and purchased another 15.  The weather on Saturday was heavy rain, so it was good that we decided to move up our timeline and have most of the packing done by Friday.

Horses never seem to completely cooperate with plans.  Rumor has it, Vicki whispered to Duchess on Friday that she was going on a big trip to ride lots of trails.  Duchess apparently wasn’t fond of that idea and came in out of the pasture limping on Saturday evening with a twisted shoe on her left hind and a swollen fetlock.

I replaced the shoe and Duchess got legs wrapped.  We didn’t give her any anti-inflammatory medications in hopes that she would be sounds enough to ride before the week was over.

Sunday morning, we got up and hit the road by about 10.  Since we were taking both the travel trailer and horse trailer, Anna and I both drove.  We managed to cover the 230 miles with only a single 40 minute lunch stop, that included feeding all members of the family, walking all 3 dogs, refilling horse hay, and offering the horses water (which they wouldn’t drink).  The temps were over 90F so we kept on moving to get to the fairgrounds.  We arrived at camp at set up the electric fencing for the horses and our area.  The rides didn’t start until Tuesday, but we went up a day earlier to ensure we had a good spot and enough area for our team.

It’s time to explain that the crazy is actually genetic.  My parents, Liz and Ken, joined us in Maine.  From Alabama.  With their travel trailer.  The full story is, back in the spring, they asked for our summer schedule to figure out when they could visit.  I gave it to them.  They quite astutely noted that EVERY weekend was booked with something.  I suggested it might be a good adventure for them to join us in Maine for a week of horse riding/camping.  They decided to take us up on the offer.  It turned out to be a huge help for us when dealing with 4 riders on trail at a time.  And Amanda was happy to move into their trailer.  So were the dogs.

The week before we arrived in Maine, it rained.  In fact, it rained enough to create questions about the safety of crossing the Saco River, which happens twice on the 25 mile rides, and 6 times on the 50 mile rides.  On Monday afternoon, we tacked up the 4 horses who were sound (Duchess wasn’t) and went for a short 3 mile ride to include two river crossings.  It was good to let the horses stretch their legs, but we also needed to know if Huey would have to swim the river or could touch.

Huey only had to swim a little and the river was dropping quickly by the day.  We were also a little concerned about the temperatures on Tuesday – highs were predicted in the mid 90s with high humidity driving the heat index well over 100F.  The ride management moved the ride start to 5:00 to try to beat the heat as much as possible.  We had some concerns about Huey’s fitness for handling those conditions, but decided that if we went slow, he could probably finish in the allowed time.  So it was settled.  Tuesday ride was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex (15 years old) on Teddy, and Amanda (8 years old) on Huey.

We you are starting a ride at 5 in the morning with 4 horses and kids involved, that means you get up at 3.  On “vacation”.  For “fun”.

The river crossing and fields were gorgeous as we rode during the sunrise.  One of the challenges of Pine Tree is there is an away hold.  That means that the vets do a check on the condition of the horses, but it’s not in base camp.  This is where my parents came into play. They loaded up the horse feed and people food  (along with tack and other items we might need) and met us at the hold to assist with cooling horses and refueling kids.

It turns out, there were not a lot of entries on Tuesday. Maybe because of the heat.  As a result, our 5:07 ride time was good enough to place in the top 10.  I should note, you only have 5:15 to complete the ride.  We did exactly what we planned and made sure not to overdo it with Huey.  Despite only having 8 minutes to spare, we didn’t turtle, which was surprising.  In endurance, the “turtle” is the last rider who completes the ride in the allowed time (those who go over time are disqualified).

Since we made the top 10, we had 3 of the horses stand for “Best Condition”.  Pine Tree elected to give out a “High Vet Score” award this year, which is one of the components of the Best Condition scoring.  At the awards ceremony, we were completely shocked to find out that Huey, a 17 year old Dartmoor in his first ride, won High Vet Score; the prize was an amazing blanket donated by one of the other riders.  Not only that, I got confirmation from AERC that Huey is THE ONLY Dartmoor registered in AERC.

The rest of Tuesday was spent recovering.  Amanda fell asleep for 3 hours.  We went to the river for a swim to cool off and everyone was ready for an early bedtime.

Wednesday was a day off.  We needed to recover a little from Tuesday and the temperatures were still high.  We basically hung out at camp and took care of the horses.  The kids did go on a short hike with Grandma and Grandpa.  While they were gone, I worked on Amira’s shoes.  On Tuesday, she managed to lose 2 shoes (1 front and 1 hind) in the first 10 miles of trail.  I had all my shoeing supplies with me in case we needed anything, so I pulled her remaining shoes and made some changes to her setup. She was only put into shoes for the first time ever 4 weeks before the ride.  I suspected I needed to put her in a smaller size shoe, but on the trails at home she wasn’t interfering so I rolled the dice.  I lost.  In the ride, she was moving with a new level of determination and interfering whenever she was in the front of our group.  Amira wasn’t exactly cooperative during her shoeing on Wednesday, but the change was exactly what she needed for later in the week.

We took the horses for a little evening hand walking and grazing.

Since Duchess was still borderline on soundness, we decided Vicki would ride Teddy on Thursday and Rob would ride Mojo.  The start time on Thursday was 5:30.  We got up at 3:30.  On vacation. Again.

Mojo and Teddy were in great shape and had plenty of energy. More riders had arrived in camp by this point, so our 4:02 ride wasn’t in the top 10, but we had a blast completing our 25 miles.  It was still hot in the upper 80s and Teddy was a little sore in his legs after the ride, but not enough to be a big problem. At least that’s what we thought at the time.

Over the course of the week, 2 other girls (with ponies) in Amanda’s age range (7-8 years old) had arrived in camp. The three quickly became great friends and even spent time grazing ponies together.

Friday was another day off.  This time, I volunteered as a scribe for the vets.  It was very educational because I got to see how the horses at the front looked compared to the middle of the pack.  I also got to see what various problems looked like with soundness, tack galls, and dehydration.

Friday afternoon, we assessed Duchess and decided she was sound and could go on a test ride. We tacked up all 5 horses and went out for 4 miles.  We needed Duchess to go through the river and do some faster work to make sure we didn’t still have a lingering problem.

Duchess looked great and had plenty of excess energy from not working all week.  So, the plan for Saturday was all 5 horses and all 5 riders.

Saturday morning, we got up one more time at 3:30 for a 5:30 start.  On vacation.

Unfortunately, during a quick trot out before the start, Teddy was lame.  A quick probe of his hind leg muscles revealed extreme sensitivity and some residual cramps.  Grandma noted Alex was actually smiling when he got told to untack Teddy and keep him in camp.  Alex enjoyed his ride on Tuesday, but was fine with only doing 1 25 miler for the week.  So, we headed out with Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.

Over the course of the week, Amanda had figured out that she could keep her feet dry if she took them out of the stirrups.  Friday night, the temperatures dropped into the 50s and the highs were only in the low 70s during the ride.  It was a welcome change after a week of heat, but the temperature drop likely contributed to Teddy’s tight muscles.

The 25 miles on Saturday were great for Mojo, but young girls who have been in camp all week and already spent a lot of time in the saddle can be challenging on the last ride of the week.  We all completed the ride, but there were a few tears (from sore legs and kids who didn’t want to trot any more).  We finished around the 5 hour mark.  Again, the ride was small on the last day as many riders headed home, so all 4 of us were in the top 10.  We competed for Best Condition, and this time, the shock was that Duchess won High Vet Score!  Vicki also got a great blanket!

Throughout the week, Amanda insisted on handling Huey for her vet checks.  She occasionally needed some assistance, but she did a great job with her pony.

On Sunday morning, we were not in a rush to get out of camp since it would only take about 6 hours to get home.  As a result, we got hired by some other riders to clean their stalls before we left.  We hit the road around 10 and did the drive home with only a single stop again.  About 8 miles from home, Rusty got tired of laying in the floor and decided to sit with Vicki for the last few miles.

Overall, it was a great ride week.  10 rides, 10 completions.  We look forward to next year!

The story of our lives with horses