Category Archives: horse

Northeast challenge 2021

This past weekend we traveled to Buckfield, Maine to ride the 30 mile Limited Distance ride at Northeast Challenge. This was the third time we have attended this ride. The ride has a very welcoming and encouraging atmosphere and offers a substantial discount for juniors and young riders. It is hosted by the Jack family and Sarah Jack is the ride manager for this ride. We left home early Friday morning and drove up to Maine with 4 horses and two dogs. We arrived around noon time and started to set up camp.

Rusty likes to help navigate

The camp at Northeast challenge is in a big hay field; wide open with a couple of porta potties. We chose a spot within a reasonable distance of the vet check so we could just crew out of our trailer.

The plan for this ride was to let Alex ride Mojo, since he has been conditioning him all year and had yet to ride an actual ride on him. They are a great match together. Rob volunteered to crew so Anna riding Amira was the designated sponsor for Quinn and Amanda. Quinn and Amanda are responsible for finding the markers and turns, because we all know Anna is going to convince herself they missed a turn.

Friday afternoon we vetted in the horses. They got their pulse taken and all their hydration parameters checked along with soundness checks. Huey vetted in with a pulse of 36!!!

Dinner was a pig roast for the riders and landowners who allow us to ride on their land for this event. It was delicious. Pork, chili, three bean salad and more.

Rob and Anna took the dogs for a walk to check out the last bit of trail before the hold and then we went to bed early.

We got up at 4:30 am to feed horses, eat breakfast and tack up horses. We got on about ten minutes before the 6:30 start.

At the start of the ride

The course at Northeast challenge is moderately hilly and includes gravel roads and lots of snowmobile trails. The trail also passes through several fields of hay and corn. There are a couple of steep up and downs, so not a fast, flat and easy course.

The morning started out with some excitement when Huey decided he was feeling spunky and decided to test out Amanda’s riding skills, dropping his head and bucking. We recently changed Huey’s bit for a jumping hackamore, so Amanda had even less leverage pulling his head up. We decided to just move on out when the trail opened and Huey settled down in the first couple of miles. Alex got in the lead on Mojo followed by Eli, and Huey and Amira alternated being in the last spot.

The first loop was a little over 14 miles. The terrain is very pretty and for the most part the footing was good. A couple of rocky sections, but nothing really crazy. There were a couple of normal incidents along the way that slowed us down a bit, two pee stops, Eli’s breast collar came apart, another horse came running through and the rider broke her stirrup in two, and Amira got stung by a yellow jacket. But overall, we made forward progress and made it back to camp in about 2.5 hours. The kids have decided that all ride photos now have to include at least one t pose. There were several during this ride.

At the mid point vet check Eli was a bit back sore and had to do a recheck at the end of the hold. We had changed his pad and had his saddle reflocked after Pine Tree due to pressure points and a slightly sore back from the sand there. The pad we use now is a Toklat Matrix with ortho impact inserts and we decided to take the inserts out for the next loop to see if less foam was better. We gave him some electrolytes and CMPK, hoping that maybe the increased elevation climbing caused some muscle tightness along the back that could be relieved. We kept a cooler on him for the hold and he passed his recheck. The plan was to take our time and change up gaits a bit for the second loop to get completions for everyone.

The second loop was also a bit over 14 miles and we basically trotted most of the way, broken up with a few miles of cantering, and walked half of all the hills. The strategy seemed to work and we finished the second loop at a similar pace to the first loop. We got off the horses and walked in the last quarter mile or so. The second loop was pretty straightforward except for an argument about two pointing at the canter between Quinn and Anna and an encounter with cows. Quinn argued they cannot two point in a dressage saddle, while Anna thought it may help Eli out…the joys of having teenagers… Amira is pretty certain cows should stand still and not run up to the fence and make noise. Amira practiced her laterals going down the road while keeping a close eye on the noisy monsters.

We completed the second loop with about an hour to spare. The total elevation change for the ride was in the 3300 ft range, which is about 1000 ft less than when we first rode this ride in 2017 due to course changes. Last year we rode this ride in the pouring rain, an aftermath of whatever hurricane was coming up the coast and it was miserable. This year the weather was in the 70s and it was very pleasant. The horses vetted through. Alex and Amanda tied for 9th and Alex stood for BC, which means best condition. The top ten riders are eligible, and the formula consists of a combination of vet score (recovery pulse and Cardiac Recovery Index, gait score, wounds etc), rider weight and time (first rider gets highest score, points deducted for x time off that time). It involves a vet exam one hour after your finish and gives you insight into how your horse is doing after the ride. Amanda chose not to stand as she has no shot at BC weighing in at just over 60 pounds.

We let the horses eat and rest for a while, had lunch, and then it was time for LD awards. We got an assortment of completion awards and junior and young rider awards. Our friend Connie Walker won the LD and BC on her TB mare Miss May.

Sarah Jack at the awards

We had promised the kids to drive home Saturday night to help everyone get ready for school starting Monday and to allow Alex to get his college homework done. He had started college classes on Thursday and had to skip a lab on Friday to attend the ride. Alex is learning about the homework load associated with the 22 credits he is taking this fall. It was a tough drive home due to fatigue, but we made it by 10 pm.

We had fun. We met some new friends and visited with old friends. I admire everyone for the time and dedication they put into their horses and their welfare. Distance riding is a great way to spend time with your family and your horse. Some of the pictures in our blog post were purchased from ride photographer Wanda Clowater. Thank you Wanda for capturing the antics! Thank you also to the Jack family, the ride vets and volunteers. We sincerely appreciate you all.

Pine Tree 2021

Last week we made our annual trek to Fryebrug, Maine for the Pine Tree Pioneer Endurance ride. The event is held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds and includes 5 consecutive days of endurance rides. 2 of our kids had their first endurance rides at this event in the past, so this is a special event for our family and is the big “vacation” before school starts. This is a long post, but here are some stats up front:
11 starts and 11 completions
325 miles of competition (all 4 of our horses rode 75 miles and we borrowed 1 horse for 25 miles)
61 hours and 16 minutes of saddle time

Mojo is very tolerant of Rob’s antics

Some of the photo in this post were purchased from Wanda Clowater. You can see all her ride photos on her website at http://www.clowaterart.com/. Support your ride photographers and buy the images you want to share on social media!

My parents left Alabama on Friday and got to our house late Saturday evening. This is the 3rd time they have driven their travel trailer up from Alabama to join us for a week in Maine. We hit the road Sunday morning about 7:30 and made it into ride camp at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds at 12:30. We were able to get the horse pens set up and camp established by mid afternoon. Monday was a day off, so we went for a 3 hour float down the Saco River.

Monday evening, we vetted in the horses and tried to get some sleep.

Tuesday morning we got up at 4:00. Rob and Quinn started the 50 mile ride at 6, while Anna, Amanda, and Alex started the 25 mile ride at 6:30. This season has been great for Eli who already completed 3 30 mile rides with excellent vet card marks and great recoveries. Quinn decided it was time to try a 50. Quinn had attempted a 50 previously on Duchess, but was pulled for lameness in the first loop so there was definitely a little anxiety going into the ride.

Our first loop on the 50 was 20 miles and we averaged 6.6 mph. Mojo and Eli did great and passed the vet check with ease. They both ate and drank during the hold before we headed out on loop 2. The second loop was 14.9 miles and our average for that loop was 5.4 mph. The horses were slowing down some as the temperatures rose, but nothing to be concerned about. It was hot in the fields and we were happy to cool off a little crossing the river headed back to camp.

During the second hold, everything went well except I got distracted and forgot to give the horses electrolytes during the hold. Anna realized this as we were saddled and heading back out on course. I thought both were still eating and drinking well so we would just give them another dose mid-loop. In hindsight, I should have given them a dose before we left camp, because Mojo in particular was starting to fade. I ended up stopping about 3.5 miles into loop 3 to dose the electrolytes. I have started taking a quart ziplock of senior feed and Outlast and the horses eat it right after the electrolytes. I think this helps prevent issues with the electrolytes causing an upset stomach. Mojo didn’t drink on the 3rd loop until we had been 10 miles, while Eli drank at every water stop along the way. Mojo finally started drinking and was perking up, so we were able to increase speed. We had only managed about 4.0 mph for the first 10 miles, but by the end of the 16.8 mile loop, we had come back up to a 4.7 mph average.

We finished our 50 miler at 5:50; we had 10 minutes to spare. Both horses passed the vet check and were “fit to continue.”

While Quinn and Rob were tackling the 50, Anna, Amanda, and Alex were riding a 25 miler. Alex was “catch riding” on a 20 year old Appaloosa mare named Cinco de Mayo that our friend Lilly Becker brought from NY for him to use. Alex is old enough that he can ride alone, but he still prefers to ride with the family. About 5 miles into the first loop of 11 miles, one of Alex’s stirrups broke. Anna got out some vet wrap and they did a temporary repair to try and hold it together. During the repair, Rob and Quinn actually came along and joined the rest of the family, as both distances overlapped for another 6 miles. 2 miles later, the second stirrup broke. At that point, we had to split up. Anna and Amanda had already ridden ahead, because they had the least slack in the day to make up time. Rob and Quinn headed out while Alex continued on foot. It’s a good thing he has been doing some running recently.

Anna had called our crew (Rob’s parents) who had gone back to camp to get a bin of spare tack. Ken was able to meet Alex along the road so he could switch the stirrups and get back into the saddle. Alex made up time coming into the hold. While Anna and Amanda departed the hold ahead of Alex, he caught up to them about 3 miles into the 15 mile second loop. Everything held together for the second loop and they finished with about 10 minutes to spare.

Tuesday evening we learned there are skunks in the field outside camp…Rusty took off after something in the dark and came back covered in skunk smell. A quick trip to Walmart for supplies and a few baths later, he was not as stinky anymore. Phew!

We took Wednesday off of riding, but Rob, Liz, and Amanda volunteered at the ride. Amanda walked around the hold area assisting any rider who didn’t have crew by holding their horse while they untacked, took a bathroom break, or just had a few minutes of rest.

Anna and Amanda rode in the 25 mile ride on Thursday. The day started out overcast, hot and humid and ended sunny/bright, hot and humid. The ride out to the hold in the fields was in dense fog and it was hard to see. Anna was glad to be wearing contacts as many glasses wearers were complaining they could not see a thing due to the humidity at nearly 100%. We keep a steady long rein trot “mustang shuffle” except when the munchkin calls out for “a little faster”, or we have to walk. Our typical average speed is somewhere between 6-7 mph. We got to the hold after 12 miles in a little under 2 hours. The last few rides Anna has started adding potassium chloride to Amira’s regular electrolytes and dosing her immediately upon arriving at the vet check. This practice has helped Amira pulse in and cool down much faster at holds. After a near elimination midride at NY Adventure earlier this year due to electrolyte issues, Anna has been experimenting with different protocols for Amira during training rides and this new strategy appears to be working. This week Amira consistently pulsed at 48 or even 44 bpm.

Anna and Amanda headed back out on trail the 15ish miles back to camp after the 50 minute hold. This 25 miler was actually more like 27…The second loop consisted of a mix of fields, gravel road and forest trails, thankfully mostly in the shade, as the sun was starting to beat down the closer we came to mid day. The pair stopped at “the house in the woods” where a couple has a tub and a hose out for cooling horses, and electrolyted mid loop. Anna and Amanda finished the ride and the horses completed with no issues. Ride number two done for Amira and Huey.

Since we only have 4 horses, we have to take turns with the riding (although Amanda gets Huey to herself). On Friday, Rob on Mojo and Alex on Eli rode the 25 miler. Alex has only ridden Eli a few times, but like on his catch ride, he just gets on and goes. We planned to ride a slow ride and just make sure we got completions on both horses since they had done a 50 miler on Tuesday. The horses had other plans. Right from the start both Mojo and Eli were ready to race. They were at the front of the pack and showed no signs of fatigue from earlier in the week. We didn’t let them overdo it, but we completed the first loop of 11ish miles with a 7.9 mph average! Both horses made the 60 bpm pulse criteria in under 5 minutes and ate and drank throughout the hold.

We got back on trail for the second loop and slowed down some, but the horses were still flying down the trail. We completed the 25 miles with a 6.9 mph average, which is one of the fastest LDs we have ridden. Again, both horses cleared the vet check. Mojo had some minor girth rubs and Eli had some minor back soreness (which may have been from the deep footing), so we decided not to take a risk with another ride and gave them Saturday off.

Friday evening it was time for the annual lobster dinner. Anna, Rob and Quinn all had lobster. Also included was corn on the cob, salad, potatoes, and butter. Yum!

Friday before the lobster dinner Rob and Anna got Amira and Huey out and evaluated their movement and attitudes. We agreed that Anna and Amanda would try to ride a third day. Amira looked slow and pokey as usual, but sound, and alert, while Huey really looked same as always, with a little ‘tude to go with it. We said “Let’s give it a go”.

Saturday morning came and Amanda was dragging a bit getting up and Anna’s hips and knees were complaining, but both got on their horses and rode off on the first loop. The fields were not as foggy as on Thursday morning and there was even a rainbow as we came up from the river.

At the hold the horses pulsed down, passed the vet check and ate mash and grass. Rob and Alex helped crew, along with our friend Mary.

The ride back to camp was uneventful. We kept on keeping on and finished the ride in a pretty steady manner. The horses were pretty tired, but somehow we managed to be in the top ten coming in. Both Amira and Huey finished three rides of 25 miles this week at Pinetree, which for them is quite the accomplishment! In fact, each ride through the week was faster than the previous!

We always enjoy going to Pinetree for the friendly, easy going, and encouraging environment. This week we saw some old friends, rode 11 rides, helped out others, made some new friends and acquaintances. Our family would like to thank all the vets and volunteers, along with those special people (you know who you are), who help us out when we need it. A special thank you goes to Susan Niedorora for keeping the ride going despite all the headaches.

Thank you also to Liz and Ken, for coming to see us all the way from Alabama, filling in the needed gaps and feeding the family(and getting the peroxide, baking soda and dish soap to clean the Rusty).

Now the horses get some time off before heading out to Northeast Challenge at the end of the month.

Firecracker Endurance Ride 2021

For the July 4th weekend, we headed to Maine for the Horses Across Maine Firecracker Endurance ride. Horses Across Maine is a Non-Profit organization that plans various riding events in an effort to raise funds for and awareness of various issues facing Maine veterans and animal awareness. We drove up on Friday, 7/2 with the travel trailer to the Waterford, Maine fairgrounds. This was a very small ride with only 10 entries in the 30 mile Limited Distance event and 7 entries in the 50 mile event. The horses were able to be stalled in cattle barns and other fairgrounds facilities, which was wonderful on the second night when it was pouring rain.

We had 4 entries in the 30 mile event: Rob on Mojo, Alex on Amira, Quinn on Eli, and Amanda on Huey. We arrived early on Friday afternoon and quickly got camp set up since we didn’t have to prepare paddocks for the horses. While they do have electric hookups at the fairgrounds, we decided to park our travel trailer next to the barn where the horses were stalled and the electric was off there. Luckily, we had decided to bring our Honda generator just in case. It was a little wet on Friday so we vetted in the horses, hung out around the trailer, attended the ride meeting, and went to bed early. We did drive out to the away hold location so Anna wouldn’t get lost on Saturday.

We got up at 4:30 on Saturday because the ride start was at 6. Everyone was a little slow getting moving and we felt a little time crunched for the start, but I don’t think getting up earlier would have helped. Temperatures Saturday morning were in the low 50s and light drizzle with a high around 60, which made it tough to decide what to wear. I went with short sleeves and the kids all opted to wear a lightweight rain jacket.

The course was about 14 miles to an away hold, 40 minute hold, then back to camp on a slightly different route. The trails were flat relative to what we are used to (less than 50′ of elevation per mile on average) and sandy in sections. With such a small ride, everyone started together, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Since the temperatures were low for the time of year and the trails were very forgiving, a number of riders were going much faster than us. We had a very comfortable first loop averaging about 6.5 mph. The horses were drinking and eating fine, so we really didn’t have any concerns on the first half of the ride.

At the vet check, Mojo and Eli were under the required 64 bpm pulse as soon as we arrived. The family has become accustomed to the fact the Amira and Huey will require more time and cooling, so we have gotten in the habit of splitting into pairs for the vetting instead of trying to get everyone to the vets at the same time. This allows us to get 2 horses through the vets quickly and then assist with sponging and holding horses if needed. It took less than 10 minutes for Amira and Huey to be cooled off and they passed the vet check just fine. The 40 minute wait allowed everyone to eat some snacks and take a break.

The second loop was relatively uneventful. Mojo is quite fit, but if he doesn’t have horses to compete against, he gets lazy. To combat that, we took turns having Amira and Eli lead the group some. At one small creek crossing, the horses enjoyed the fresh grass and drank their fill.

We did slow down some on the second loop. At the finish, my watch showed 27.5 miles in 4:37 for an average of 6.0 mph. There was no need to race to the finish, so we walked the horses in the last .3 miles. Again, Mojo and Eli were ready for the final vet check immediately and Amira and Huey were ready in about 10 minutes. Everyone passed the final vet check without any drama or issues. Mojo and Eli were both certainly doing well enough they could have been in the 50 mile ride that day, but we don’t want to rush Eli’s first full season of competition.

Since there were only 10 entries in the 30 mile ride, we all qualified to stand for Best Condition. We don’t make the kids compete for BC, but it is a good opportunity to get some experience with that portion of the sport in a small ride. Standing for BC requires weighing in with all the weight the horse carried (saddle, rider, helmet, bridle, etc.). The horse is returned to the vet 1 hour after finishing and given another evaluation for heart rate, gait evaluation, muscle tone, gut sounds, and the other portions of a vet check. The trotting portion includes trotting in circles instead of just a straight line. After all the evaluations, there is a formula the vets use to determine who wins BC that accounts for the amount of weight carried relative to the others who stood for BC, time factor compared to the winning time, and the vet exam. Alex opted to not do BC with Amira, but Mojo, Eli, and Huey were all entered for BC.

In the end, Mojo was awarded Best Condition for the 30 mile ride!

After the horses were settled in to recover, everyone showered and the kids took a nap. We had planned to stay over Saturday night because we didn’t need to rush home. Amanda got out our hammock and decided to sleep in it all night next to the horses.

It rained all night and into the morning, so it was a soggy mess getting out on Sunday morning. We hit the road and made the 240 mile ride home in good time. Overall, the Horses Across Maine group put on a good ride, the facility was nice for a ride camp, the trails are forgiving, and everything went well for our weekend. I’m sure we will be back for more miles in Waterford, Maine in the future. Next on the ride calendar: Pine Tree in Fryeburg, Maine.

NY Adventure 30 mile Endurance Ride and Tie

Was it wet? Yes.

Was it muddy? Yes.

Was it cold? Yes

Did we have fun? Absolutely.

At the start of last week, temps in CT broke 90F. We were running AC units in the house and debating heat strategies for the upcoming New York Adventure ride. However, a cold front moved through that started the rain on Friday and kept going all weekend. Heat was the exact opposite of what we had to deal with.

I took Friday off work and we printed out all the packing lists. It takes a logistics plan to get 4 horses, 5 people, 2 trucks, and 2 trailers loaded and out the door on time. With the rain setting in Friday evening, we wanted to have everything loaded before dinner (~8pm at our house in the summer) so we could get to bed early.

Saturday morning, horses were fed, travel mugs filled with coffee, and sleepy kids loaded into the trucks. We were on the road at 6:30 for the 270 mile drive to upstate NY. We made it to ride camp about 12. It had been rainy a lot of Friday and continued with some on-off showers, which made the hay fields we were camping in slick. We got the trailers unloaded and camp set up before heading to vet in.

Now would be a good time to explain that we were not all entered in the same event. Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were riding in the 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride. As of when we headed to the event, I think there were 56 riders entered. We expected some would probably scratch due to the weather. On Sunday morning, there were 50 starters in the LD – definitely the largest field we had ever ridden in.

But that’s not what Alex and I were doing; we were entered in the 30 mile Ride and Tie. 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). There were only 3 teams in the 30 mile ride and tie and 1 team in the 12 mile ride and tie.

I was already awake when the alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. We had some coffee and a light breakfast. Alex and I started at 6:15, while the rest started at 7. It was clear with temps around 40F as we got Mojo ready to go. We decided I would start on Mojo since he is usually ready to rock at the start of a ride. True to form, Mojo was ready to rock.

We were fortunate to start with a more experienced R&T team, so we decided to just match their plan for the first few miles. Janice was the other rider and Jennifer was running with Alex. We only went about 3/4 mile before doing the first tie. A tie is when you hop off the horse, tie them to a tree, and take off running. Janice and Jennifer planned their ties more based on time. Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated between time and distance as our metrics for ties.

I knew we would not be able to stay with Janice and Jennifer for too long without burning ourselves out, so by about 4 miles into the first 12 mile loop, we backed off the pace and let them go on about their way. It didn’t bother Mojo to be without the others. Mojo figured out the game with no problem. When one of us would untie him, he would run down the runner until we tied again. As we ran off, he would give a little whinny to say goodbye. A few times as I approached, he called out to me, encouraging me to keep up the pace. When riders in other distances passed me, they commented on how amazing it was that my horse was willing to wait, tied to a tree. They were right, it was amazing to witness. At one point, Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were coming off a trail onto the road right as we were passing by that trail. Mojo was a little confused on why we didn’t link up with them.

We finished our first loop at a faster pace than I expected. As were headed in to the vet check, the first place team was headed out. Ride and Tie doesn’t have a hold because the horse gets rest while tied. There is also a mandatory switch at the vet check. I ran in, so Alex topped off his water and ran out while I was handling Mojo, who had no problem making pulse criteria. We spent about 15 minutes at the vet check, which could have been shorter, but I didn’t want to rush things for our first R&T.

The second loop for us was advertised as 18 miles, but turned out to be a little over 19. The second loop sucked. It was muddy. It was raining. The trails were slick and torn up from the previous riders. At least it wasn’t hot. I didn’t take any pictures on the second loop due to the rain. The leaders of the 50 mile ride were overtaking us since they were on the same loop as us. Mojo loved it when they would come by and he could sprint with them, then wait on a tree for a little while. Mojo never lost his go. The longest run Alex had ever done was about 7 miles – 1 week before the event. On race day, Alex did more than a half marathon as we split the running about 60/40. We completed our 30.8 miles, with 4300′ of elevation, in 6:35 for a second place finish.

Anna, Quinn and Amanda started their first 18 mile loop at 7 am. They headed out at a walk for about half a mile to let all the front horses and hot crazy antics settle. Amira feeds off of other horses’ behaviors and does best with other settled horses or in her own group.

The first loop soon turned out to be a challenge. Most of the loop, that was actually 19.5 miles, not 18 miles, according to GPS, was muddy single track. There were stretches of road here and there, but mostly single track with deep boot sucking mud. It was cold and raining on and off.

The most amazing part of the first loop was that all of Huey’s boots stayed on. Huey wears 4 Mini 3 Scoot Boots and while the gaiter protectors got a little torn up they did not come off or cause rubs.

The group maintained roughly a 5.0 mph average, trying to trot wherever they could without sacrificing the horses legs. Not going to lie, it was rough going. Somewhere in the middle of the loop Anna and the kids encountered Mojo and Rob on a slim chance while the red and pink loops crossed. Talk about coincidence!

Anna and the kids came into the hold at 10:42. Anna could tell Amira was hot. A quick pulse check had her at 80bpm, and only dropping slowly. The pulse criteria was 64. Being a non-arab (mustang), she doesn’t pulse down as fast as is desired sometimes and we are still dialing in her electrolyte needs. It became obvious she needed electrolytes and had not had enough grazing time on trail.

Anna pulled her saddle, gave some electrolytes and started sponging. Quinn ended up having to hold Amira to keep her from eating, while Anna worked on cooling her. Amira’s pulse increases if we allow her to eat while cooling. In hind sight, Quinn and Amanda should have vetted through, as Eli’s hind quarters got cold and he was almost pulled with a cramp, and if Anna had been pulled the kids would have had a better chance finding a sponsor for the last loop. Anna finally got Amira cooler and she made 48 pulse at 11:06 (has to make it within 30 minutes of arrival). Amira’s gut sounds were only good in 2 quadrants and her CRI was elevated, so she was held for a recheck for gut sounds before she could head out on the second loop. Anna set her in front of her mash and she started chowing down right away. We had decided to use Lyte Now tubes of electrolytes this time around instead of mixing our own, and they were so stiff and hard in the cold weather they were hard get into the horses. Looking back, considering Amira spit out most of her morning electrolytes, and not stopping to electrolyte mid loop, was part of the problem for the vet check. Anna ran off to the trailer to mix up some more liquid electrolytes to give and take on trail. This caused Quinn to get overwhelmed trying to handle all three horses and Amanda at the hold resulting in an argument. Phew, this is fun, right?!

Amira passed her recheck, and Anna and the kids headed back out at 11:51. The second loop was advertised as 12 miles. In reality it was a bit less according to our GPS. Cut off time for the limited distance 30 miler is 7 hours and 15 minutes (2:15 pm). With the extra time spent at the hold cooling Amira, Anna and Quinn knew they had to keep a much higher average on the second loop, all while still allowing the horses to grab and go grass more than on the first loop and make a stop for extra electrolytes.

Anna set out at a steady trot, stopping every 3 miles or so to let the horses get some grass. Due to the intensity and stress of the hold, none of the people had eaten well at the hold, and a few disagreements and arguments happened along the second loop. They stopped to give some Enduramax electrolytes just past the midway point.

Anna started feeling a little tightness in Amira’s hind end toward the end of the ride, and pulled her rump rug over her and kept down hill trotting to a minimum. Quinn convinced Eli to lead the group for a while as Amira was starting to lose her go. The group walked in the last 3/4 mile. Anna hopped off Amira, and walked her in to help her out.

In the last 1/4 mile, Huey and Eli were chased by a great Dane coming out from a private property and they both took off cantering. Luckily, they stopped when they reached Amira just ahead.

Anna and the kids reached the in timer at 2 pm. Quinn untacked and Eli made pulse at 2:08, Huey at 2:10 and Amira at 2:13. They all completed. Amira had a beginning cramp in her right hind, and got a B on gait and impulsion, but her CRI was 48/50 this time and her gut sounds were back. Anna was the last rider to complete the 30, and therefore got the turtle award. The kids got the junior turtle awards. We have a collection of those at home. To finish is to win, right?!

Turtle awards

The rain was steady at this point and Anna and the kids put coolers and winter blankets on the horses, gave them food and water and went to get dry and eat some lunch.

After the ride, everyone cleaned up, ate, and rested in the trailer. We stayed over an extra night to let the horses recover and enjoy the trip without the pressure and stress of getting home late. We slept in until almost 7 Monday morning, then broke camp and drove home.

While there were times of stress and maybe some raised voices, in the end, we all got completions. Considering that there were about 84 horses that started the ride, and only 66 completed, I’m thrilled with our 100% completion rate for this ride.

Endurance riders are always tweaking their equipment. One thing our family has settled on is Orange Mud hydration packs. At this ride, all 5 of us were using Orange Mud packs. Alex and Rob had coyote brown Endurance Packs, Quinn had a black Endurance Pack, Amanda uses a green Gear Vest Pro, and Anna uses a black Gear Vest Pro. check out the selection at Orange Mud. The packs sit higher on the back so they don’t interfere with the saddle and you can choose the amount of water you want to carry. The pockets make it easy to store gels, chews, or other snacks and the bungee cords on the back hold layers when you need to shed a lightweight jacket mid-loop.

How do you know you have found the right sport for your family? After the ride, Quinn and Amanda were in the travel trailer eating lunch, still wearing their wet, dirty ride clothes. They looked at me and together asked, “When is our next ride?”. The rest of the day and ride home kept coming back to when we would be at the next ride camp and which horses would do a 50 miler instead of LD next time. Stay tuned for more adventures throughout the summer.

Verda Bare bones 2021

This past weekend four of us drove to Cornish, New Hampshire to attend the 30 mile limited distance ride at Verda Bare Bones. Amira came in on Friday with a nasty bite to her flank and could not go.

Amira’s injury

I asked Rob if I could ride Mojo instead, because it was, after all, a Mother’s Day ride. He agreed. So, we loaded the trailer, got the groceries, and put the three horses in to go. Eli, Mojo, and Huey. Alex was staying at home to work and take care of the farm. Alex has been mostly riding and conditioning Mojo this year, since Teddy is recovering after his bout with EPM last year. Alex didn’t mind getting some time to himself, and we needed someone to keep an eye on the brand new baby goats.

Quinn worked Saturday am and we left with the horse trailer and travel trailer for New Hampshire around noon time . The Verda ride is only a short three hour drive from home. We made it to camp a little after three PM. The field for camping was almost full as we arrived due to some construction at the fairgrounds, but we managed to squeeze in and get set up. We use hard panels for Eli and Amira, but with Amira not going we used them for Huey instead. Hard panels makes me feel a bit more confident in the horses’ accommodations and helps me sleep at night. We made an electric pen for Mojo, powered off the charger run by the horse trailer battery; he camps just fine in electric.

We vetted in the horses and spent some time making up electrolytes and feed for the next day. The temps were dropping fast, so we blanketed the horses. We saw friends we haven’t seen in a bit. We ate dinner and went to bed early to get up at 6 am for an 8 am ride start.

Sunday morning came and we tacked up. Rob helped us all get ready. Mojo was ready to go! I was a bit concerned he might be naughty, but he never was. He did however act like a freight train the whole first loop of 15 miles. Next time I will ride him in the pelham bit for the first loop to save my fingers. Letting Mojo run was not an option as we need to pace properly for Huey to complete. Rob’s saddle rubbed my knees a bit, but not too bad. We maintained between a 6 and 6,5 mph average for the first loop.

The mid ride vet check was fine. The horses passed with no issues. Mojo was in the 40s by the time we made it up to the check. This ride had only a 30 minute hold, so getting the horses some mash and going to the bathroom was really all we had time for.

The second loop went by a bit slower. Mojo lost his Mojo a bit as he lost sight of other horses in front of him and the excitement of the ride wore off. The horses have a little extra weight from eating rich second cut this winter and our conditioning has not quite been what it should. Our goal was to finish and so we rode accordingly. Mojo is the leader of the bunch and I had to motivate him to keep moving along. We settled on a 5ish mph pace, and finished the second loop 15 mile loop in a little under three hours.

The post ride vet check was uneventful. We had walked the horses in and the Arabs were at pulse immediately, and Huey shortly after pulling his saddle. The horses all passed. It was the first LD completion for Quinn and Eli and Amanda and Huey’s 8th LD ride.

I am blessed to be able to ride a ride like this with my kids on Mother’s Day. Thank you to my husband, who took a nap, went for a 6 mile run while we were out riding, and helped us crew for the horses. Thank you to VERDA for organizing the ride and discounting entries for juniors! Thank you also to the vets and all the volunteers.

Below are a few pictures from the day. The covered bridge marks close to the half way point on the 15 mile loop, and is very quaint. Some of the photos are courtesy of Ranelle Kohut.

Ride and Tie training, Day 1

Nothing gets me moving like registering for a race. I’ve been in a slump, so today, the whole family registered for the NY Adventure Endurance Ride. But there’s a twist.

Last June, Teddy was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM); you can learn about it here if you have never heard of it. . He was treated for a couple of months and has been recovering. The problem is, EPM never completely goes away. EPM is what eventually killed King after 2 years of treating it. Horses with EPM are at risk for relapses and stress is a trigger for such a relapse. Endurance rides are stressful (trailering, camping, racing/excitement on trail, trailering again, etc.). It is unlikely that Teddy will ever compete in an endurance ride again, but time will tell. Regardless, Alex has outgrown Teddy, so if Teddy does make it back to competition, it will probably be with Amanda.

With the weather in the upper 40s, it was a horse riding kind of day. This morning, Quinn took Eli out on the trails and Amanda got to tag along on Huey, they only did about 3.5 miles, but they they rode (together).

After lunch, Anna and Amanda took Amira and Teddy out for a 4.5 mile ride today. Teddy was sound and spunky. Amanda will ride anything.

But this is really about Ride and Tie. The NY Adventure Endurance ride is in late May and is likely the first opportunity for a ride we will have. With Teddy out of competition for now, we only have 4 horses for the 5 of us to ride at events. Enter, Ride and Tie. From www.rideandtie.org:
“The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The objective is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange (which is called a “flying tie”), or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all this, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical.”

Ride and Tie events have been slowly making their way into New England and the NY Adventure Endurance ride is also sanctioned as a Ride and Tie event. This morning, Alex and I watched the AERC webinar about R&T and then discussed options about NY Adventure (there was a scenario where we could have borrowed a horse for the ride) to make sure Alex understood what was involved (I have been interested in R&T for a couple of years). Alex agreed, that using Mojo for a R&T sounded like more fun than a standard endurance ride. So this afternoon, we did our first training session.

We started with changing some of the riding attire to make it more comfortable for both riding and running. I previously switched to using my Altra trail running shoes for riding (we use caged stirrups), but Alex has been riding in paddock boots. Alex switched to a pair of Topo trail running shoes that I had that in the closet but didn’t particularly like (since he is the same size shoe as me it was an easy trial). Alex elected to still use his breeches while I rode in my running tights (we both chose tri-shorts underneath). We saddled up Mojo in the Big Horn saddle. We chose the Big Horn because it has synthetic fenders that won’t rub our legs, it has a tree and will be more stable with lots of mounting and dismounting, and it has a lot of places to tie off packs or other items. Another benefit of your son growing up is we are the same height, so our stirrup length is the same.

We started our training ride together, I was on Mojo and Alex was on foot. We went about 1/4 mile and then decided to try the first tie. Since we had never done this with Mojo, we weren’t sure how he would react. Alex stopped just out of sight and I tied Mojo to a tree and then went down trail out of sight. Alex waited a minute and then went to Mojo, untied him, and mounted up. Mojo didn’t care about being tied. We went anther half mile and then repeated, this time Alex executing the tie and heading off down the trail. Again, Mojo didn’t care.

Next we decided to step it up a little. I rode away from Alex and cantered Mojo up a hill. At the top, I hopped off, tied Mojo, and took off running. Alex was within sight, about 100 yards away. We were on a more open section of trail roads and we were able to start moving at a faster pace. Alex rode about 3/4 mile, passing me along the way, tied Mojo and headed out to our turn around point.

At the turnaround, we did a flying tie (just a hand off between riders) and then headed back. On the way home, we did 2 more ties. Unfortunately, after the last tie there was a miscommunication about the planned route home. I went the way we came out. Alex took an alternate trail. Since he never caught up to me, I got worried and back tracked. Eventually, I called the house to send Quinn out to the barn where they found Alex arriving. Clearly, better route communication is going to have to improve.

The day was an overwhelming success; Mojo was a rock star. We covered 5 miles, completed 6 ties and 1 flying tie. We did have some technical issues with the lead rope coming loose from how we tied it to the saddle between ties, so we need to work on our plan for how we will handle that. As we did more of the exchanges, Mojo seemed to figure out that he was supposed to chase down the runner. We also need to make sure Alex has his cell phone when we are out practicing R&T. We have 3 months to increase the running mileage and get ready. I’m looking forward to it.

Mojo watching Alex run away

NibbleNets!

We have had NibbleNets in continuous use on our farm since 2012. After over 8 years of DAILY use by horses and goats, some of them are starting to wear out. Don’t be fooled by imitations! The original NibbleNet is not a cheap product, but it definitely is worth the investment!

We will be placing an order for NibbleNets in early January.  If you would like to purchase one for yourself, please email me by Jan 10 with what you want and we will add it to the order.  The full list of choices is here. Our favorite and most versatile net is the 12″ DoubleNibble with 1.5″ openings on both sides.  

In return for your patronage, you will receive a 10% discount on all MSRP prices for the items you advance order.  You will not have to pay shipping, but CT Sales Tax does apply.  If you have any questions, please email or give me a call.

In case you missed it:
NibbleNets are a hay slow feeder designed to make it take your horse longer to consume their hay.  This has a lot of benefits, including relieving boredom, improving digestion, and reducing waste.  They work well whether you stall your horse at night or leave them turned out all the time.  AND they are great as feeders for the side of your trailer.  Don’t be deterred by the price – they are worth every penny.

Feel free to share this offer with your friends.
We are also dealers for Uckele and can usually beat any online prices for supplements you may be feeding. Let me know if you want to compare prices.
Thanks,
Rob and Anna Sawyer
860-884-0110 

Snow Day!

Today was a snow day on the farm. We got a good 10 inches of snow overnight. It kept snowing until around noon time. The two older kids had a traditional snow day. Griswold had decided to forego the snow day for a virtual learning day, but most of Amanda’s teachers gave short easy assignments that left room for some snow play between classes.

This morning was spent snow clearing and doing the every-day chores that seem to take twice as long on a day like this. Trudging through thick snow to get food and water to all the critters is hardly a glorious task, albeit necessary.

Rob and Alex used the tractor and snow blower to clear the drive way and around the house. We all fed and watered the horses, goats, chickens and rabbits. The rabbits have moved to the basement until the weather gets better.

Amanda spent her lunch break skiing, and convinced her brother to build a snow fort with her after school. We decided to hitch Huey his Kingston easy entry cart with sleigh runners and drive him around for a bit. He was a good sport, although it was getting cold and the sun was fading.

Enjoy some pictures from our day and a three short videos here:
Rob and Amanda cutting fresh tracks
Rob and Amanda driving Huey
Anna and Amanda driving Huey

Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

“It’s called Northeast Challenge, not Northeast Walk-in-the-park”
-Dr. Art King, as quoted by Sue Niedoroda

First, I want to say a huge thank you to Sarah Jack for stepping up and being the ride manager this year. Without her willingness to volunteer to take over from her parents, we wouldn’t have had a ride to attend. That said, Sarah outdid herself with emphasizing the “Challenge” portion of the ride legacy.

Riding endurance with a whole family is all about the logistics. I took Thursday off work to load the horse trailer and the travel trailer so we could leave on time. In this case, we were taking 2 tow vehicles and 2 trailers for 4 horses and 4 riders. Since Teddy is still recovering from EPM, he wasn’t attending the ride. Alex stayed home with him to take his SAT test, but that was cancelled due to COVID, so Alex had the weekend to just hang out at home with Teddy and the dogs.

Northeast Challenge is held in Buckfield, Maine, which is only about 235 miles from our house. The Jack family generously hosts this event in their hay fields and marks the trails on surrounding public and private land.

On Friday, 8/28, we hit the road about 9:00 and headed towards Maine. Our lunch stop at a rest area took longer than desired, but we were on track to make the trip with only 1 stop and about 5 hours of travel time. Unfortunately, about an hour from the ride, we got a flat tire on the horse trailer. We use a Doran 360RV tire pressure monitoring system for our horse trailer. Coming home from our first endurance ride in 2015 we got a flat tire due to a broken valve stem. It turns out you need to have solid valve stems if using a TPMS on the end of the valve stem. We had that corrected, however, when we bought new trailer tires 2 years ago, the tire shop changed out one valve stem to a rubber one and I never noticed…. until we got a flat in Maine.
I figured out a long time ago it pays to be ready for flat tires. We travel with a Jiffy Jack in each trailer. I also invested in a Ridgid impact wrench and set of impact sockets that travel with us. So, when Anna got the alert on the TPMS that a tire was losing presssure, she was able to pull off the road before it went fully flat and ruptured. We had the flat off and spare on in about 12 minutes. We dropped the flat at a tire shop that was 20 minutes from ride camp to get a new, SOLID valve stem, and then continued on to camp.

When we arrived at ride camp, we discovered there were only 21 entries for the ride (10 for the 50 miler and 11 for the 30 miler) including our family of 4. Needless to say, there was plenty of room to set up camp. We chose a site next to our CT friend Mary Palumbo and Stacey Stearns. We set up the hard panels for Eli and Amira to share since they don’t respect electric and electric pens for Mojo and Huey.

We went to the vet-in and all horses were just fine to start the ride. I took a trip back into town to pick up the repaired trailer tire. We attended the short question period (not a ride meeting), had dinner, and started tucking into bed a little after 8pm. Reveille was held at 0430 because the ride started at 0630.

Now would be a good time to discuss the weather. All week we had been watching the forecast, as Hurricane Laura made her way up towards New England. The predictions had ranged from 50% to 80% chance of rain for Saturday. As of the ride meeting Friday evening, the estimate was rain showers in the morning with about 0.5″ throughout the day. Since temperatures Friday night were close to 50F, we decided to put light blankets on the horses because they hadn’t been gettting that cool at night. We were pleased to wake up to about 52F and cloudy skies, but no rain.

Tacking up for the start was uneventful. We had eggs and bacon with plenty of coffee for breakfast and were ready to head out when the trail opened at 0630. We walked the horses for about the first mile to make sure we didn’t have any issues since it was Eli’s first ride and the trail started with a climb uphill. The whole day was basically spent going up or down; there were very few flat areas.

The 50 mile riders and 30 mile riders were all riding the same first loop, but since the field was so small, everyone spread out pretty quickly. Our family of 4 was basically alone for most of the loop. The horses were all moving well, however, we were struggling to maintain speed. The area we live in doesn’t have significant hills for climbing. While we can average around 100′ of elevation per mile, Northeast Challenge had multiple climbs of 300-500′ at a time and totaled over 4100′ of elevation. Overall, we weren’t too worried (yet) because we only had a completion as our goal for the day. The horses enjoyed the stops for grass and the cool weather was very pleasant.

Then it started to rain. We had less than 4 miles to go on our first loop when the rain started. It wasn’t very heavy at first, but the temperature immediately dropped back below 60F and visibility was reduced. Right about this time, we started riding around a corn field and we lost the trail. In the end, we rode over a mile back and forth trying to figure out where the trail was supposed to exit the field. The problem was a turn marker had blown away and a ribbon had tangled in some brush making it hard to see. As we were riding back and forth, Amira spooked as some other riders came around a corner in the field and Anna had an unplanned dismount, landing on her left hip. She was dirty, but able to continue the ride. We eventually called the ride manager and found the exit from the field and headed back to ride camp for the vet check.

We don’t have any pictures that we took after this point, because it rained the entire rest of the ride, which was about 5 more hours including the hold. Less than a mile from camp, there was a creek bed to pass through. This had been discussed at the pre-ride meeting and there were 2 options. 1. Go through the mud and rocks. 2.Cross a wooden foot bridge. Anna took Amira through the creekbed. I took Mojo across the bridge. Vicki and Amanda followed me. Eli spooked on the bridge and slid off the left side of the bridge. It didn’t seem significant at the time, however, when we arrived at the vet check, Eli was quite lame on his right front. My theory is when he slipped, his right hoof actually slid to the outside and stressed his shoulder. There were no visible injuries to his leg and no swelling. Unfortunately, even with some icing, Eli was too lame to continue and he was pulled.

We had an hour for the hold after the horses met the 64 beat per minute pulse criteria. It was pouring rain. We put fleece coolers and blankets on the horses to keep them warm. They all ate mash and hay. We grabbed some food and hot coffee (prepped at breakfast and stored in a thermos). Some of us changed into dry clothes, but that only lasted a few minutes. Mojo had a sore back (got a B from the vet) at the vet check. This was my first competition using the Ghost treeless saddle and I had brought an extra saddle just in case. I made the risky decision to change the whole saddle and saddle pad for the second loop. I put a Skito pad with Big Horn endurance saddle on him as we tacked up to leave.

Due to temperatures (now in the mid-upper 50s) and constant rain, we put rump rugs on Mojo, Amira, and Huey to keep their upper leg muscles warmer for the second loop. As we headed out of camp, it was miserable. The rain was creating constant runoff and the mud was making it slow going. Our pace suffered and after an hour of riding, we had barely covered 4 miles. Anna and I were getting quite concerned about the ability to finish within the allowed time (7:15 total elapsed time, including the 1 hour vet hold). There was nothing to do but keep pushing and make up time where we could.

Eventually, we hit a relatively flat area and were able to pick up some cantering and consistent trotting. Gradually, our average speed picked up and we became more confident in the ability to get a completion. The loop was lasting longer than we hoped and around 2.5 hours, we had to convince Amanda to eat some extra food and keep the calories going into her. I personally felt the impact of the fatigue and decided to consume about 300 calories in short order though a combination of Sport Beans, gels, and Honey Stinger chews. The calorie boost worked for everyone and suddenly we found ourselves rounding the last corner and back at ride camp! We made it with a total elapsed time of 6:53. Almost exactly as we crossed the finish, the rain stopped (much to the relief of the 50 mile riders who were still competing).

Mojo, Amira, and Huey all passed the final vet check without issue! Huey had a great cardiac recovery index (CRI) of 52/48, which means his pulse dropped by 4 beats per minute from the initial check to after a trot-out, which is awesome. Additionally, Mojo got an A for his back score after the second loop and didn’t had any of the soreness he exhibited at the first vet check.

We spent the rest of the evening drying out, resting, eating, and hanging out (at least 6′ apart) with endurance riding friends. We camped over and headed home on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful (except for the extra 45 minute detour when Anna got on 95N instead of 95S). On Monday, the front brakes on the F350 failed at our house. If our drive had been 40 miles further, we would have broken down with the horses in the trailer (I got the brakes replaced without any issues). Count your blessings!

Wanda Clowater was at the ride taking photos and got some good pics of us. We will be buying some of her images. You can check out her photos here. Check out pages 3, 4, 6, 11, 13-15, and 18 for pics of our family.

Happy 4th!

This weekend we were planning to finally get in an endurance ride in PA, but we recently suffered some bad news. Teddy has EPM. Due to the cost of treating Teddy and general stress levels, we decided to stay home and take it easy. Teddy is off the riding list for now, so we have been time-sharing the 4 horses that are still healthy.

I took time off on Friday and Amanda and I went fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but she loves to go out.

Saturday was spent working on some projects and grilling burgers. Vicki made the holiday themed cake and we did some sparklers once it got dark. Anna made a short video. We also watched Hamilton, at Vicki’s request.

Sunday was more relaxing with a late afternoon ride and drive. We originally planned to go to Arcadia, but an accident closed the road so we went back to Pachaug. Anna rode Amira, Alex rode Mojo, Vicki rode Eli, and Amanda and I drove Huey. It was a short outing of only 5 miles and 1 hour, but it was significant because this was the first time we drove Huey with the other horses and it was the highest speed we have maintained with Huey. It seems maybe Huey prefers driving. Here’s a short video from our drive.

If you go back up, you will notice Huey has a nice new ear net on, that Anna made. It’s purple and pink and matches his riding tack. Happy Independence Day!