A week in Chile

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I spent the past week in the Valparaiso area of Chile having meetings with the Chilean Navy, including a session with the CNO. Of all the trips I have been on, this was one of the better ones. The food was pretty good, but the wines were excellent. The only real disappointment was the coffee – most of it was instant coffee.

I manages to get 3 good runs in along the coast and 1 bike ride in the hotel exercise area.

There were a few things that jumped out at me during my trip. The first is fitness. It is amazing how overweight Americans are relative to the rest of the world. I truly believe there are some serious health consequences in what Americans have accepted as “the standard American diet” and it shows dramatically when you travel outside the US.

I also saw people who were happy with less. We (Americans) seem obsessed with the next new thing. Our kids go from holiday to holiday looking for the next big present. Yet, in Chile, the average family lives in houses that are 1/2 (or less) the size of Americans. They don’t collect the stuff we do but they are just as happy. As I went out for my runs, I saw families walking together, couples holding hands, and people exercising every day.

We did have a couple of earthquakes during the trip. Of note, there was a 4.7 that woke me up on the 3rd night.

Overall, I found Chile to be a fascinating place to visit and I would definitely return, in particular, to spend time in the mountains.

Easter Weekend

This past weekend we took it easy. Relatively.

On Thursday we took 6 horses out on the trails with the help of Alexis. We rode around 5 miles.

On Friday we stripped stalls and cleaned pastures while Rob removed two dump loads of manure and got 3 yards of stall fill to level our stalls. We added stall fill to the stalls and half a dump load of sawdust.  That took most of the day.

Saturday morning Rob helped Carrie and Alexis cut and remove three downed trees from their pasture while we did chores and then the family headed off to the Kingston bike path. Vicki had added an entry to our calendar two months ago to go roller blading on the bike path and we made good on our promise. Rob and I brought our bikes and the kids brought roller blades. Rob was pulling our bike stroller, just in case we had tired kids halfway through. Turns out the stroller works well for standing behind and hitching a ride. Alex skated the whole way to the ice cream shop in Wakefield, which is 5.5 miles, while his sisters hitched a standing ride every now and then. I think Vicki underestimated the work required to skate 5 miles! After ice cream, Rob helped a fellow biker with a flat tire (cause that is what he does) and I decided to roller blade back and let Alex ride my bike. He has the same shoe size as me now, so it all worked out.  Amanda rode in the trailer on the way back, and fell asleep. Vicki skated a lot less and hung on the back of the trailer quite a bit on the way back.

On Sunday the kids had an egg hunt in the yard and then we headed off for lessons at Horsepower Farm with Ann Bowie. We brought 4 horses and rode in pairs. It went well, and everyone has some home work.

After we got back from lessons we chilled for the rest of the day, so much so that this is what we woke up to Monday morning:

A horse knowledge weekend

This weekend was busy with horse knowledge competitions.  Saturday, Anna went to the CT 4-H Hippology competition with Vicki and Amanda. Vicki and Alexis were competing as Juniors in the 10-13 year old division on a team with another member of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H Club.  Amanda was in the Novice division, 7-10 year olds, that all compete as individuals.  Hippology consists of a written test, slide identifications, stations, horse judging videos and team group questions. Vicki’s team took 1st place in the Junior division and Amanda had the high score for the Novice division.

While the girls were away, Alex spent the day with riding with me to trim some horses, starting with a visit to see Nike.  Alex groomed Nike and was happy to reconnect with his buddy.

On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda went with me to the Regional Pony Club Quiz Rally to represent Mystic Pony Club (along with Alexis).   In this competition, Alexis was competing as a Senior, so it was the first time in a long time that Vicki and Alexis haven’t been on a team for quiz.  Since we only had 2 Juniors, Amanda and Vicki ended up on different teams -but they didn’t mind.

Pony Club quiz is a team competition with team made up of 3-4 individuals. A 3 man team is a disadvantage as a 4 man team can drop the lowest score for each competition phase. The kids also get individual scores which determine individual placings for high score and national intent.  The phases of the competition are written test, stations, barn phase, mega room and class room. The stations score is not included in the individual score because it is a team effort (everyone works together to answer questions).

All 3 girls did a great job.  Alexis got the highest overall individual score and was presented the trophy by Vicki, who won last year.
Vicki had the high score for the Jr D’s and 3rd overall individual.
Amanda is clearly learning from her “sisters” as she was 10 of 24 Jr D’s and actually outscored 3 Jr and Sr D’s with National Intent.

Alexis and Vicki both qualified for Nationals and will be the team captains for the Sr and Jr D teams respectively when they go to Tryon, NC in July.

Meanwhile at home, Anna and Alex went for a 2-hour trail ride on Teddy and Amira.  Amira had a tough time keeping up with Teddy today as he was feeling good and showing off his moves.

National Junior Honor Society

Thursday night Vicki and I joined 34 of her class mates at Griswold Middle School for her induction into the National Junior Honor Society. The requirements to join were an average grade point of 93 or higher and a record of leadership, service, citizenship, good behavior, scholarship, and character. Griswold Middle School nominates students based on their grades from 6 quarters starting in 6th grade. They are then required to fill out an application detailing their record of achievement in order to be inducted as members in NJHS. Our family is very proud of Vicki’s hard work and we hope she keeps it up for years to come. Below is a short clip from the cermony.

Vicki looks beautiful in her new dress.
Chapter members light candles and read passages about the pillars of NJHS.
Waiting to receive her certificate.

No Child Left Behind

It’s been a while since we posted, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on.  This year, we are participating in the Green Bean Endurance Challenge.  We are the only team that is a full family (I think) and our team name is “No Child Left Behind”.

Since we have 7 horses and plan to ride a lot of miles this year, we have been working on getting in slow conditioning miles rides.  The weather hasn’t been very cooperative, but today was decent, so we saddled up 5 mounts and headed out.  We rode for just under 2 hours and only covered about 7.5 miles.  The goal wasn’t speed, but rather restoring fitness that has been lost through the winter.

I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Amira and Devil stayed home for this outing.  As I mentioned last fall, we are going to be riding in shoes this year.  So far, Mojo and Teddy are both shod all the way around and Devil has front shoes.  I’ll be honest, I’m really impressed with how much nicer Teddy moves in shoes over boots.  I am working on spreading out the herd’s shoeing schedule so all 7 are not due at the same time.  The move to shoes from boots (after 12 years riding without shoes) is a big shift for our family and has come due to a number of reasons.

First, is quality of the boots.  I have given my honest feedback to the boot companies.  I have seen a decline in the quality of a number of boot products and I’m frustrated with the constant wondering what will fail next.

Second is cost.  Yes, I am a dealer for multiple boot companies which means I get boots at a discount.  However, I also don’t pay labor for the shoeing.  Based on the decline in quality, we are wearing out boots faster than in years past.  That coupled with the increased cost of the hoof boots means it is now cheaper for our family to ride shod horses over booted horses.  This wouldn’t be the case if we were paying for my labor expense associated with shoeing.  For perspective, I recently found a receipt for a pair of Epics we purchased in 2006 for $102.  Those same boots today, purchased from the same retailer, would cost $199.82!  I’m not sure what all is driving the cost of boots up, but it is driving me away from using the product.

The last factor is convenience.  Let’s be honest.  Booting gets tedious.  It’s really nice to pick out a hoof and ride without having to pound boots on all the hooves.

Due to all the rain, we crossed plenty of water.  The creek running near the entrance of Pachaug turned into a water-crossing training site.  It was between 2.5-3′ deep and everyone went through it (some a few times).  Here’s a short video of the kids crossing the creek.  Enjoy the pictures from our ride!

Fun and games with horses

After weeks of frigid temperatures, this weekend was a welcome relief with highs in the upper 40s.  Saturday morning, Alex took Dakota out for a short solo trail ride.  Saturday afternoon Vicki rode Duchess and Amanda rode Huey at Pony Club games practice.  This was Duchess’ first group practice and she did awesome.

This morning started with 4 hours of tack and tack room cleaning to kick off the ride season.  After a break, we tacked up for a ride.  As usual, I took Mojo and Vicki rode Duchess.  Alex rode Teddy, which will be a regular occurrence this year as they will be competing together at endurance rides.  Amanda elected to ride Devil, which was interesting, as Devil is a lot hotter on the trail than Huey.  Finally, Anna rode Amira for their first time in the woods.

Here is a short video of our group trotting (and maybe a little cantering) up a hill.

We rode for 1:15 which was just about perfect for today.  The temperatures were dropping, but everyone had a good time.  Amira did great – she crossed water without hesitation, took turns leading, following, and bringing up the rear of the group.  Amira fits in well with the herd and had a great first outing.  The sun set before our ride ended and we got to ride in at dusk with another beautiful New England sunset.

Introducing Amira!

If 6 horses are good, 7 must be better!  Today we brought home a 6yo, 15hh chestnut BLM Mustang mare named Amira.  On 2/15/2012, Amira was captured as a yearling from the Stone Cabin Horse Management Area (HMA) located in Nevada.  Here is a link to the information about Stone Cabin HMA. She lived in the holding pens until October of 2015 when she was processed for an internet adoption and shipped to Rhode Island.  She was only started under saddle about 8 months ago by local trainer Jeremy Reid.  We watched Jeremy compete at the Mustang Makeover in 2015 and we were impressed with his talent.  From what we have seen of Amira so far, he did a good job.  Amira went to a new home where she continued to get training, although life commitments led the owner to offer her up for sale.  Amira lived at Outback where we boarded our own horses in the past, and she even had the stall that Precious once occupied.  Anna kept remarking about how similar Amira and Precious look, although Amira has a few inches on Precious (maybe 10″).

Although Amira is 15hh, she has a very narrow build.  Our primary objective with Amira is distance riding and she will fill that niche as a possible mount for multiple family members.  With that said, she is Anna’s horse and Anna will be doing the majority of the continued training with her, including lots of trail work, dressage, and jumping.  We have big goals this year of doing a lot of distance riding and everyone is looking forward to our ride schedule.

It was late when we got home, so I don’t have any pictures from our farm to share, however, I did steal some from her sale ad.

If you want to follow along with the adventures of Amira and the rest of our herd, you can always subscribe via email on our website.

Christmas Lights

Last night we drove up to Amarante’s Winter Wonderland in Dayville.  We are new to this local attraction and just learned about it this year.  In its 11th year, Amarante’s is a local house that has 160,000 lights, 43 inflatable holiday characters and 36 Christmas trees.  They were nominated for “The Great Christmas Light Fight” show on ABC and won the competition.  For our local friends, it’s a nice family outing (I recommend Sirius XM channel 70 as your tunes to/from the display).

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Ken and Liz (Rob’s parents) joined us in CT this year and brought the Powell family pineapple turkey decoration to put together with the kids.

In 2011, Rob and Chris Calhoun first served together at the Nautilus.  Since then, we have shared Thanksgiving (all of them?) together.

“Black Friday” was spent relaxing. We took all three dogs to Hopeville State Park for a short walk.  One good thing about cold weather is it tires a puppy out pretty quickly.

Afterwards, we all rode the horses.  The only pictures taken were of Amanda riding Devil.  While Amanda and Devil have worked together before, there is a growing likelihood that this will be a more regular pairing.

Amanda and Devil

After spending hours outside in the chilly weather, we all gathered around our first fire of the year to drink some cocoa and warm up.

The first fire of the season

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Rusty Red Waggin’

Our new Brittany puppy, Rusty Red Waggin’ came home yesterday night.  He has had a busy first day meeting Mack and Turbo.  It was a rainy day, but finally cleared up enough this afternoon that they could run around outside for a while.  Mack was happy to have another dog in the family.  Turbo was more skeptical, but finally decided it was ok.

Today is also Vicki’s 12th birthday.  As usual, she demanded to bale her own cake.  Anna bought her a new cake pan that is a 3-D cupcake.  It is baked as 2 cakes and then assembled and decorated.  She made a unicorn cupcake, complete with fondant ears and horn.

 

The story of our lives with horses