VERDA Bare Bones 2022

This past weekend we drove up to Cornish NH to participate in the VERDA Bare Bones endurance ride. We loaded up Huey, Mojo, Amira and Missy and drove the three hours to the ride on Saturday morning.

For this ride we were all riding the 30 mile Limited Distance. We felt confident that the horses could handle this distance and we had to get back to CT Sunday night for Quinn’s AP Calculus exam at 8 am Monday morning. Rob also had a flight out at 7 am Monday in Providence to go to VA on business for the week.

Setting up camp, we placed Amira and Huey in our hard panels. Huey can camp in electric, but Amira does not respect electric. Missy and Mojo got electric pens set up.

Vetting in was uneventful. The horses were all good. Nick Kohut and Joan Hiltz were the ride vets. Rob was riding Missy, Alex was riding Mojo, Amanda Huey, and I (Anna) on Amira. Quinn is still recovering from a spinal facet joint issue causing sciatica and back pain, so Quinn was the designated crew person for this ride. We set up the crew stuff for the hold, and I made up electrolytes for the next day. I think I am going to start using a blender to make up electrolyte syringes ahead of time at home to make life easier at ride camp. We use Lyte now tubes for some of our horses, but I mix a special mix for Huey and Amira. Temps were going to be close to freezing so we blanketed horses for the night.

Saturday night I woke up around 4 am to the sound of panels clanking, and went out to check on the horses. I found Amira outside her pen, with the panels still standing. Huh. My guess is she pushed under them to reach grass and went too far and barreled through under them. She did not appear hurt, or scratched up. I put her back in, secured the ends to the trailer a bit better and had her checked out the next morning, but she was not hurt.

Sunday morning we tacked up for the 8 am LD ride start. Huey was full of it and tried to buck Amanda off. We took his rump rug off, but he was still fresh. When the trail was opened we walked out on trail immediately to get Huey thinking about other things than being naughty.

This ride had two loops of the same 15 miles with a 45 minute hold after a mid ride vet check. The loop is basically an out and back with a small lollipop loop at the midpoint. Some singletrack trail and some backroads gravel road. Oh and it’s not flat. My GPS says it’s around 1500 ft of elevation gain over the 15 miles, which is comparable to our home terrain, however the course starts by climbing a hill, and then going down hill through the woods and climbing over another woodsy singletrack hill. Then some roads, a covered bridge, wooded trails near water, and back to the fairgrounds.

We rode together for the first loop. It took us just over 2.5 hours. Rob and I had some disagreements and decided it would be best if we split up for the second loop. Mojo and Missy were charging ahead, creating a pace at which Amira either had to canter, and then trot, then canter to catch up and it was resulting in temperamental fits of bucking. Amira does great leading, but worries about keeping up with the herd when riding in a larger group. Amira’s and Huey’s road trot is 6-7 mph, where Mojo and Missy cruise along at 8+ mph. Which lead to me having choice words with Rob (shocker I know, LOL).

At the hold Missy and Mojo pulsed ahead of Huey, and Amira last (she takes about 10 minutes to reach pulse most of the time). All the horses were fit to continue. We decided that Rob and Alex could head out at their out time and Amanda and I would just ride separate for the last loop. When it came time for Amanda and I to leave, Amira was not so sure she wanted to head out again, and was looking for the others as we were leaving, but once past the first couple of hundred yards she was fine. Eventually, we caught up to Rob and Alex at the midway water stop and stayed together for the rest of the loop after that. Missy had lost some if her initial exuberance, but got a bit of second wind once we were all together and headed back.

Our second loop was a little slower than our first. We finished our second loop in about 2 hrs and 40 minutes. We took our time, let the horses graze some, and stopped to talk to one of the land owners gracious enough to put out water for the ride. They wanted to take pictures of Huey. Everyone loves seeing Huey and Amanda out there.

midway water stop

All our horses vetted through fine and got completions. Mojo went over 500 AERC LD miles with this ride. Huey now has over 400 LD miles with Amanda. We all made top ten, because it was a very small ride, I think only 12 or 13 started the LD. Rob decided to stand for best condition, to judge how Missy was doing an hour after the ride, since she is new to us. Based on end pulse, time, and weight reasons the rest of us opted out. We had a good conversation with Dr. Kohut about how the recovery score of the best condition judging is done. I had been curious since I had seen some very low recovery scores on Facebook after the recent No frills ride.

We ended up with some girth rubs on Missy, which her previous owner said has been a career long issue for her. We are going to try a mohair girth and crupper, and change to a biothane billet/dressage girth set up to see if that helps. We were already doing y style rigging with a toklat woolback western cinch.

Mojo’s welt

Mojo unfortunately also had rubs, not evident until the day after the ride. We have a new Skito saddle pad for him and the construction on the pad is slightly different leaving the half n half mid seam more proud right under the stirrup leather causing welts on both sides from the heat/ friction. He also had welts/rubs from the back biothane billets due to the saddle pad being shorter. May have to pad the strap or get a longer pad or girth. I put some caladryl on the affected areas and it was a lot less swollen that night. Sigh. On the good side, it seems the mohair girth has stopped the rubs he used to get in his arm pit area.

Our goal was to ride and get completions for all the horses we brought, and we accomplished that goal. What’s next? We will have to see how the next week goes in the recovery for Mojo and Missy. College finals, high school AP exams and finals, and Rob’s travels are taking a toll on the family schedule and gas and diesel prices are on the rise. We may have to take a step back and breathe for a few weeks.

We would like to say thank you to the VERDA ride management, the ride vets, and volunteers. Especially the volunteers. We were happy to see Sierra volunteering, she is who has Teddy now, and she let us know he is all good. Lovely trail marking, which is much appreciated. I hate getting lost on trail. Thank you to Jamie and Ranelle for sharing photos with us. Prayers and well wishes to the rider who came off her horse and got hurt at the ride. We hope you have a full recovery. Congrats to our friends completing 50s at this early ride, it is an accomplishment.

Ride on friends, doing what you love, with special people you care about, it is what matters!

Spring break is for riding

Amanda and Quinn have spring break this week. What else would you do but ride the horses? Quinn had driving lessons (in a car) this afternoon, so Amanda and I (Anna) headed out on a trail ride. Huey got some severe rubs from his new Scoots Boots on Saturday, so Amanda rode Missy for the first time. Huey gets a pass until Rob has the time to put shoes on him. We did almost 11 miles in a little over two hours. Amanda and Missy did fine together, walk, trot, and canter. Amira and Missy pace well together, and get along, with only the occasional mare face at each other. Of course, Rusty was happy to join us and should sleep well tonight.

Find time to go fishing

Amanda turns 12 in a few weeks, but right now, she’s still interested in doing things with Mom and Dad. She’s been asking to go trout fishing, but we keep running out of time. There are always chores and work around the farm. And the horses need to be ridden to stay in shape for competition season.

This afternoon we were going to go for a trail ride, and Amanda asked again when we could go fishing. So, I canceled the ride, she dug some worms, and we went fishing.

It was windy and we didn’t even get any bites. But I don’t think she’ll remember that part, because we went fishing.

Fishing

Foxcatcher Ride and Tie 2022

Mojo carried Alex and Rob to a first place finish in the Foxcatcher 25 mile Ride and Tie at Fair Hill, MD!

Post ride photo

On Friday, Alex skipped class and I took off from work to drive 6 hours South for a Ride and Tie competition. In case you missed our R&T debut in 2021 at NY Adventure, a ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). R&T events are typically held in conjunction with endurance rides, so occasionally there are other horses on the trail riding past horses tied to trees.

This was the first time we had been to Foxcatcher and the grounds were amazing. I thought we were in for an easy-ish 25 miles for the opening of the season, but as I found out over the ride, we covered over 2800′ of elevation (not nearly as flat as I hoped). We arrived in camp midafternoon on Friday and quickly set up our 1 pen for Mojo. This was also the first time we have only taken 1 horse to an event. It was amazing how fast you can set up camp when there are 2 people and 1 horse instead of our typical 4 horses.

Alex filling Mojo’s water. 10 minutes after arrival camp was set up.

Temperatures were in the low 50s, but it was windy and brisk. Mojo vetted in just fine, but was clearly aware that we were in ride camp. He was calling to all his friends that he hadn’t seen since last year and quite frisky. I took him for a very short tack ride to try out my new half chaps (why not use something new on race day) and take him through a tunnel. Fair Hill has tunnels under roads and bridges over roads; the horses have to cross both multiple times. I had to hand walk Mojo through the first tunnel during the tack ride, but after that he was fine. During the race, he even trotted through without worry.

Riding through a Fair Hill tunnel

After the ride meeting and dinner, temperatures started dropping quickly. Overnight lows were in the 30s and Alex and I were camping on cots in the back of the horse trailer. It was cold. I hated it. I want to be warm in ride camp.

We woke up around 5 Saturday morning (in the cold trailer) and got dressed inside our sleeping bags. We had some coffee and tea and got mentally ready for the day. Again, with 2 people and only 1 horse, it seemed like there was a lot more down time than I am used to. The 25 and 50 mile endurance riders started at 7 am. Ride and Tie started at 7:15.

All the R&T teams ready to start!

There were 3 R&T teams – 2 in the 10 mile and 1 in the 25 mile. Ok, so Alex and I placed 1 of 1 in the 25 mile competition, but a win is a win in my book. There were also 2 10 mile Equathon riders not in the picture. Equathon is the bridge between endurance and R&T. A rider does a loop (in this case it was 10 miles), the horse gets vetted, and then a runner does a loop (also 10 miles at Foxcatcher). The rider and runner can be the same person or different.

Mojo was in full race mode on Saturday morning. He was ready to rock and with temps in the 30s, Alex and I were both ready to run and generate some heat.

Mojo and Rob just before the start

Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated running and riding. Sometimes the legs were about 0.6 miles. Sometime around 1.5 miles. Our first loop was 10 miles and we finished in about 1:48. Mojo was a champ being tied throughout the day.

Mojo setting a good example for a nervous mare tied at the next tree over

Mojo has to pass a vet check before continuing, but unlikely endurance, there is no hold time. Alex and I arrived in camp at about the same time and the rules require the riders/runners to do a mandatory exchange. Since Alex rode in, he had to run out, which was our plan since Mojo can be a handful during vetting. We spent a total of 11 minutes in base camp, but we weren’t worried about it and wanted to make sure Mojo was eating and doing well. Alex headed out about 8 minutes ahead of us on the second loop of 15 miles. It took 2.8 miles before I caught him, which was the longest leg of the day.

Quick picture during the vet check between loop 1 and loop 2

On the second loop, Mojo was less enthusiastic. Mostly because we were alone. I had requested being allowed to do the 10 mile loop first with the other R&T teams, but this put us on the 15 mile loop without any other horses. Mojo thrives on competition. We found ourselves becoming Mojo’s “rabbit to chase” until we neared the end and had some overlapping trail with a group on a different loop. Mojo came back to life and wanted to race to the finish.

Overall, the venue was amazing. The fields were huge and open. The footing for the horses was great, although it was a little challenging to run through because there wasn’t typically a worn path. Alex and looked back through the data and the run/ride time and distance was almost an exact 50/50 split. We did a total of 26 exchanges over the 25 miles and I burned 1890 calories!

After the finish, we ate some food and then packed up for the 6 hour drive home. We arrived back at home around 8:30. On the drive home, I asked Alex about our plans for another upcoming event and gave him and option of 30 miles of R&T or 30 miles of riding. He was clear that R&T is more interesting and challenging. Just riding is boring.

Introducing Midkhnight Mischief (aka Missy)

Look what followed me home! Midkhnight Mischief (barn name Missy) is a 14yo, 15.2hh, 3/4 Arabian/Pinto mare. We purchased her today from Patty Christman in NY. Patty has competed with Missy for over 1000 ECTRA miles over the past 8 years, but made the very hard decision to shift to a less animated horse and offered her to us.

She was a little sweaty after getting off the trailer, but in true distance horse fashion, drank about 5 gal of water and started eating hay. She settled right in like she’s at ride camp. We look forward to hitting the trails with Missy and getting her out to some rides this season.

Here are some more pictures from Patty and Missy in the past.

2021 Distance Riding Awards and Review

The weather is warming up and we are riding more. Our horses get most of January and February off, as it is cold and yucky out and it takes enough energy just to take care of all our critters. It is also a good way to rest those little aches and pains we all get, both horses and humans.

As we start our 2022 riding season we would like to go back and evaluate our 2021 year. Last month we received two American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) jackets in the mail; one for Amanda and one for Quinn. Amanda got an award for 1st place Northeast junior mileage in the limited distance category and Quinn got second place in that same category. I get such a kick out of seeing that Dartmoor breed (Huey) up there on the list. Huey certainly is a one of a kind PONY.

Amanda in her new AERC jacket

Amanda and Huey had a good year, logging lots of miles in training and competition. Huey really needs to be well conditioned and ridden smart to do well at distance riding. He’s one of those ponies that lives on air and keeping weight off of him is really challenging. He eats a handful of ration balancer and timothy pellets. And hay. And never vets into a ride below “moderately fleshy” aka body condition 6. The struggle is real. But he motors down the trail and is safe for Amanda to ride and handle herself. Amanda and Huey had 195 miles together in Limited Distance (25-30 mile) events during the 2021 season. Our family attended 5 rides this year, and Amanda completed 7 rides, 3 of them at one event over 5 days (Pinetree).

Amanda and Huey at NEC, photo by Wanda Clowater
Quinn SO excited about me taking their pic

Quinn rode four 30 mile LD rides on Eli this season and one 50 miler, their first 50. Quinn gave up one LD ride to let her brother ride Eli, since Alex had been riding all the horses this year and doesn’t really have one of his own anymore.

Quinn and Eli
Alex and Mojo at NEC photo credit Wanda Clowater

Alex rode 4 LDs this year, on four different horses (our three big horses and a catch ride), and was the main conditioning rider for Mojo. Without Alex, Mojo would not have had enough miles to safely compete as much as he did. Rob and Alex also did their first ride and tie with Mojo which was 30 miles at New York adventure.

Alex and Rob before the start

Rob rode 3 rides in 2021, two LDs and one 50, all on Mojo, in addition to the ride and tie with Alex. Rob let me ride Mojo at the Bare Bones Ride in May, when Amira was injured the day before the ride, since it was on Mother’s day.

Anna and Mojo

Amira and I rode 135 LD miles last year. Alex rode her 30 miles at the Firecracker HAM ride, and she completed 75 miles in three rides over 5 days at Pinetree this year. I am very pleased with how she is turning out.

Anna and Amira

So, what is in store for 2022?!? Well, life is alive and well and we are battling some hurdles. Eli finished the season with a sore back and saddle fit issues along with a mystery stifle/hind end asymmetry. Eli had rest, we have remedied saddle issues and done chiropractic and are pursuing some imaging and injections to hopefully finish resolving his issues. Quinn has been struggling with sciatic nerve pain caused by some spinal facet joint swelling, so they are on the rehab train together.

Alex and Rob are sharing Mojo, and heading down to Foxcatcher to attempt another ride and tie. Alex has a 12 week internship this summer, so his ride availability will be limited, though I am sure he will ride when he can.

Amanda is quickly growing out of Huey, both sizewise and capability wise. He is turning 21 this year and is probably retiring to recreational driving later this year. He doesn’t appreciate riders over 80 lbs and Amanda just reached 70. She wants to take him to the milestone of 500 LD miles, which is another 5 25 milers or 4 30s. She also wants to ride a 50 on one of our horses this year. Not sure yet who, or when that will be. She rides all 3 of our big horses at home, but at a ride horses are always a little bit spicier.

Anna’s right hip

I am looking at a hip replacement or two in the not very distant future. My right hip in particular is done for. That said, I am hoping to complete a number of rides this season and I am contemplating trying a 50 miler in the fall at a cooler flatter ride. Planning to have surgery later this fall.

Our new horse Fiona will spend the summer in training (with us) but will not be competing this year. We hope to have her out at pleasure events this fall.

Introducing E.B. Farms LL Regal!

It’s kidding season and some of our does will kid soon, however, the first kid of the season arrived today from Exponential Blessings Farm in MD! E.B. Farms LL Regal was purchased to breed to the does we have kept out of Yoshi next fall. We don’t plan to allow outside breeding to Regal for this year.

Regal has a great pedigree that we are sure will help improve our herd.

The human kids are enjoying having a bottle baby in the house.

Introducing Fiona!

Fiona

In the fall, we decided it was time to start looking for another horse to add to our herd. We were all over the place with our criteria and considered a lot of different options: fully trained and competition ready endurance horses, yearlings, green but mature mares and geldings, and so on. We looked at local horses. We looked online at horses throughout the country. We considered trips to the West coast to look at horses (but didn’t go). Ultimately we settled on wanting a horse that was well-bred with a strong potential for endurance. That led to us having conversations with breeders from GA to ID and others in between. We found ourselves primarily looking at untrained mares that we could train, compete, and potentially breed in the future.

The searching led us to find Sun Arab Stables in Verona, KY. Daunna Sellers is in the owner and has bred Shagya Arabians for decades. We visited Sun Arab Stables in December during our holiday trip to Alabama and decided to purchase SA Fiona. Fiona made the trip from KY to CT this week and arrived late last night. Fiona is an 9yo, 15.1hh, bay Anglo-Shagya mare. Fiona’s sire is a well-known Shagya stallion, Bayram. Daunna owned Bayram for many years and he was a big part of her breeding program. Fiona’s dam, Flo Jo, is an Anglo-Arabian (half Thoroughbred, half Egyptian Arabian).

We talked with some others who also purchased horses from Sun Arab Stables over the years, and everyone had great things to say about Daunna and her bloodlines. One prominent endurance rider has actually purchased 9 horses from Daunna over the years and owns Fiona’s full brother, who is currently competing in endurance.

Fiona is green. She has had a saddle on her a few times, but is not trained to ride. We look forward to training Fiona to shape her into the horse we want her to be. She has a quiet demeanor and is very willing, hopped right on our trailer last night after riding in a different trailer for two days. She has a lot of the TB traits, including the classic thin coat – hence she got a blanket as soon as she arrived last night.

Shagya Arabian are essentially a different branch of Arabians and are a distinct breed from what most people refer to when they say “Arabian”. There are multiple Shagya registries in the United States, but the North American Shagya Society (NASS) has a great explanation of the breed here: https://shagya.net/shagya-arabian-breed. Fiona’s registration with NASS will be as a part-Shagya, since only her sire is a Shagya.

The story of our lives with horses