Category Archives: endurance

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

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!

They Grow Up So Fast

I’ve been at endurance rides where I see parents putting their young kids on these full size horses and hitting the trail. We have always stepped the kids up through various size ponies until they graduated to full horses as teenagers. Until Amanda. She is the 3rd child, so rules tend to go out the window.
Amanda has been spending time riding Mojo on short 2-3 mile trail rides with Anna. She rides Mojo in the arena at the walk, trot, and canter. But she wanted to give Teddy a try. So, this evening, I was planning to go out for a training ride with Mojo and I decided to let Amanda join me on Teddy. Of course, Rusty went too. It was her first time riding Teddy on the trails and she loved it. Teddy was a rock star.

We did 11 miles with lots of trotting. Of course, when we hit the nice open flat road, Amanda was begging to let them run, so we did. At one point, I looked down at my Garmin to see Mojo and I were moving 17.8 mph and Amanda and Teddy were passing me. Post workout analysis reveals we exceeded 24 mph this afternoon. Not bad for a 10 year old girl on an Arab.

As we rode, I kept thinking “So this is what it’s like to trust a horse.” Teddy isn’t perfect, but he takes care of Alex and now it seems he takes care of Amanda. Maybe Teddy will be Amanda’s next endurance mount (Huey isn’t done yet). They grow up so fast; the kids do too.

Living in Isolation

Life has changed for everyone. Anna and the kids stay home all day. We are fairly confident the kids will be schooling from home for the rest of the academic year. Since Anna used to home school the kids, it isn’t really that different except there are no group activities with other home schoolers. We are really enjoying the direct access to Pachaug State Forest. The kids walk the trails almost every day and the dogs are happy to have the extra attention.
I’m still working, but I telework some. Since I have to go out anyways, I am the one who goes to the store for groceries or anything else we may need.
Like everyone, pretty much everything in our life has been cancelled for now. No 4-H meetings. No swim banquet. No play dates. No horse club rides. No endurance rides.
Saturday, Alex learned how to do an oil change on my truck. We had plenty of time, so he did the whole thing.

All the horses are getting worked about 4 days a week. It’s very helpful to have the horses at home when something like this happens. Today, we took advantage of the direct access to trails and did a 15 mile ride that took 3.5 hours. While it is nice to have the access to the forest, the trails in Pachaug are pretty rough. The roads are in bad shape with lots of big rocks. The trails have so many rocks that a lot of time is spent walking. The net effect is we can’t ride as fast in Pachaug as we would in a competition, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good training. The longer time in the saddle is helpful for forcing the kids to figure out fueling strategies and encouraging the horses to eat and drink on the trail. With temps in the 50s, it was a great day in the woods. Rusty easily logged over 20 miles and is sleeping quite well this evening.

We are all hoping to stay healthy and weather the storm. Hopefully, when this is over all the horses will be in great shape and we can resume the endurance rides with whatever is left of the season.

Out and About

It’s easy to get into a routine of regular trail riding, which can be fun and is good for conditioning, but doesn’t always serve a purpose to fill a specific training gap. Recently, Anna and I decided to make some goals for a specific outing. Today, we took the horses to Arcadia WMA in RI for an 11 mile ride.

  1. Trailer the new herd all at the same time. We have a 4 horse trailer. To transport 5 horses, we collapse the rear tack and put 2 in the last spot. Historically, we put 2 ponies in that spot, but we no longer have 2 ponies. So today, Huey and Teddy shared that spot. Everything went fine.
  2. Expose Eli to more environments. Since we got Eli last fall, all of his trail miles have been directly from our house in Pachaug. Taking Eli to Arcadia lest us see if he was different elsewhere. We saw vehicles, people, dogs, and bikes. Eli was a little more cautious than on his home turf, but he was fine. Vicki is getting more and more confident with him.
  3. Check out Teddy’s movement following hock injections. Two weeks ago Teddy had his hocks and 1 fetlock injected. He has been gradually returning to work, so today’s ride was a test run to see how he looked. Teddy was moving very well, so it appears to be money well spent.
  4. Work on Eli’s water skills. Vicki has successfully ridden Eli into the water before, however, he has a tendency to jump into the water when we cross into creeks. I figured a boat ramp on a larger body of water would be a good place to work on it. So, after 6 miles of riding, Eli was a little thirsty and quite willing to walk right into the water without any drama. Training successful.
  5. Evaluate Amira’s new shoeing protocal. Amira has shown some tenderness, even in shoes. So earlier this week, I put her in shoes with leather rim pads. Anna reported that Amira didn’t feel tender or hesitant at any time, so we will keep with that protocol for a while.

We covered 11 miles at a 4.5 mph average. It was a good training ride and met all the goals that we laid out of the day. Since the temperature was 45F and dropping when we got back to the trailer, we put coolers on all the horses and let them eat some hay before loading up and heading home.

Tough Decisions

1 month ago, we posted about refocusing and getting back to riding being the “The Mane Thing“. Since then, I have been struggling with distractions. I was registered for the Traprock 50k race in April and spending every Sunday morning running to train. The problem was, I wasn’t really running as much as I needed and I wasn’t riding Mojo as much as I should to get him ready for our first ride in May. Last weekend, I raced the Colchester half marathon and the training issues caught up to me. It’s a hilly course (about 1000′ of elevation) and I ran a 1:55, which I was happy with, but I had a lot more fatigue in my legs than I should have and the tightness in my hamstrings lingered all week.

The reality was, I had fallen back into the same trap from last year. I was splitting my limited training time between two different sports that require a lot of commitment and training. I was doing just enough to (barely) get by in each and not enough to do well in either. Physically, the 2 days a week of long runs was catching up to me and I couldn’t keep it up.

So, today, I made the tough decision. I withdrew from the 50k. I do love to run, and I will still run trails. But my runs will be closer to 1 hr instead of 2-3 hrs. And I’ll do more runs with the kids, instead of running with others training for 50k races. And I’ll put more time into my training with Mojo to get us ready for our races together. Maybe I’ll take him running with me if I can teach him to stop stepping on my heels.

The Mane Thing.

Now if we can just make a post every week like we wanted…

Hydration While Riding

Hydration during a distance ride is important for both the horse and rider. There are a lot of ways to carry water for the rider and we have tried many of them. Let’s consider some of the choices.

In the picture above, Vicki has a cantle pack on the back of her saddle with Duchess. The pack allows for 2 water bottles and a storage in the middle for snacks. Vicki liked this setup because she could have 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle with Hammer Nutrition Caffe Latte in the other. The downside of a cantle pack is you have to swing your leg over it every time you mount. Additionally, if the water bottle bounces out, you may not notice until it’s long gone. Yes, it’s convenient to have that extra storage, but getting into a zipper pocket directly behind you can be troublesome and sometimes these packs result in rubs on the horse’s back.

In the same picture, Alex is riding Teddy with a pommel pack. Pommel packs offer the same arrangement as a cantle pack, but in front of the saddle, and frequently with more pockets and storage than the cantle pack options. This is actually one of the few pictures of Teddy in a pommel pack. One of the downsides of a pommel pack is they can flap against the horse. Depending on the horse, this can be problematic. In Teddy’s case, the flapping causes him to go faster, which causes more flapping, which causes him to go faster. As you can guess, this is not a good thing with an Arabian hyped up to ride long and hard. To be clear, some horses can be trained out of this type of behavior, but since Alex was 14 at the time, we elected to change the way Alex carried his water.

When it was time to try a new option for Alex, he tried on my Nathan hydration pack for running and has never given it back. The pack has a water bladder that holds 1.75L and has small pockets on the front for snacks. The pack has enough adjustment to allow him to wear it in summer or winter, over a heavy coat. To be honest, I didn’t have a problem giving up that pack to Alex. While it has some nice adjustment options, I didn’t really like how low it sat on my back and I couldn’t quite carry as much as I wanted for my phone, snacks, etc.

Amanda rides with a kid’s Camelback. While Camelback is known for producing hiking packs vs running packs, they are one of the few companies that makes a kid version. The gives her 1L of water, but all the storage is on the back. Therefore, she has a very small pommel pack on her saddle to hold the snacks.

A few years ago, I came across the Orange Mud packs. The first one I started with was the Gear Vest. It holds 1L of water and has some pockets on the front for phone, snacks, etc. What I really liked about it was it sits a lot higher on my back and doesn’t hold in the heat on my lower back. Unfortunately, Anna decided she liked it too and claimed it as her own. The main things she likes are the pack is lightweight, it sits up high on her back, and the straps don’t rub her boobs. Heavier packs put too much weight on her shoulders after hours of trotting.

Anna’s theft of my first Orange Mud pack resulted in the purchase of an Orange Mud Endurance pack that holds 2L, which I use regularly for both running and riding. Today, Vicki decided to try it out and “didn’t hate it.” The reason Vicki decided to shift to a hydration pack instead of cantle pack was because she didn’t want to take a chance on how Eli would react to a flapping pack against his side. It may be time to buy another Orange Mud pack. (If you are considering getting an Orange Mud pack, email me for a discount code – I’m on their Ambassador team, the Dirt Unit).

I have another hydration pack that I use for running and for riding. This one is an UltrAspire Alpha 4.0. This pack holds 2L of water and is more form-fitting than any of the other packs I have used. I alternate back and forth between the UltrAspire and Orange Mud pack. I love how the UltrAspire fits and distributes the weight. I also really like how the storage pockets are distributed, but it does sit lower on my back and holds heat that the Orange Mud pack eliminates.

There are 3 reasons I prefer the hydration packs to cantle or pommel packs. The first, I am convinced riders drink better (more frequent, small sips) when there is a hydration bladder hose to drink from vs a water bottle to pull out of a saddle mounted pack and it doesn’t require slowing the horse to a walk for even new users of a pack. Second, carrying the weight on the rider instead of the horse makes you more attentive to what you are carrying, and less likely to carry unneeded supplies. Finally, by carrying the water in a pack, the rider can hydrate at holds and vet checks. If you are looking for a hydration pack, start by checking out local running stores or an REI.

The Mane Thing

It’s time to get some focus back around the farm and make the “mane thing” the main thing. Anna and I have decided to commit to making at least 1 blog post per week through the rest of 2020 and instead of random family happenings, we are putting a common theme to our posts: endurance riding.

Why do we think people may be interested in subscribing to our blog (using the link on the front of our website)? As a family of 5 endurance riders, with 5 horses, we have a different perspective to offer. We accumulate experience with training at 5 times the rate of a person working with only 1 horse, including 3 youth riders (16 yo son, 14 yo daughter, 9 yo daughter). This will be our 6th season in distance riding. As a family, we have 38 AERC completions in 41 starts, on 8 different horses and 3 for 3 rides in ECTRA (competitive trail rides).

Our goal will be to talk about what goes well and when things don’t go well. We will post about the challenges of managing 5 horses, with 5 different riders, and the decisions we face along the way. What about logistics? How do you get 5 horses to a ride with all the required gear? How do you train as a family with horses at different levels of experience? What about hoof care choices? As the barn farrier, Rob is constantly assessing the hoof condition of each horse and modifying according to the needs of each horse. This season, we will have horses training and competing in Easy Boot Gloves, Easy Boot Epics, Scoot Boots, metal shoes, and synthetic shoes (and that’s just what we know about in February).

So, for newcomers to our blog, how about a quick introduction to the family.

Rain on the horizon

Rob: 13 of 13 completions for 390 miles, including 2 50s. Retired from the Navy in 2019 and works as a project manager 40+ hrs a week. Spends Saturdays working as a farrier. Completed 2 trail marathons in the Fall 2019 and has a trail 50k in April 2020. Rob is starting his 5th season and rides Mojo (aka Money Shot), a 14 yo Arabian/Dutch Harness gelding; Mojo has 15 completions (of 15 rides) for 440 total miles.

Anna and Amira

Anna: 6 of 6 completions for 155 miles, plus 1 15 mile CDR. Anna has hip problems that make it hard for her to spend extended hours in the saddle, and therefore is happier riding LDs. Anna is starting her 6th season (although 1 year didn’t include any competitions) and rides Amira, a 9 yo Mustang mare; Amira has 5 completions (of 5 rides) for 125 total miles.

Alex and Teddy at the vet check

Alex: 4 of 6 completions for 135 miles, including 1 50, plus 1 15 mile CDR . Alex is 16 years old and a junior in high school. Alex is starting his 4th season riding Teddy, a 13 yo Arabian gelding; Teddy has 5 completions (of 7 rides) for 160 total miles. Teddy had 2 pulls with Alex: 1 in 2018 due to an injury when Teddy slid off a wooden bridge and 1 in 2019 due to suspected hock issues. Teddy will be getting a vet exam and likely hock injections before the start of the competition season.

Vicki and Eli

Vicki: 9 of 10 completions for 235 miles on 4 different horses , plus 1 15 mile CDR . Vicki is 14 years old and a freshman in high school. Vicki is starting her 5th season and has a new horse, Eli who is a 8 yo Arabian gelding; Eli has never competed in distance riding.

Amanda does her own trot-outs with Huey

Amanda: 6 of 6 completions for 155 miles. Amanda is 9 years old and in 4th grade. Amanda is starting her 3rd season riding Huey (aka Hedgehog Hollow’s American Eagle), a 19 yo Dartmoor gelding; Huey has 6 completions (of 6 rides) for 155 total miles, including 1 high vet score at his debut competition. Huey and Amanda were featured in an April 2019 Endurance News article. Huey is the only Dartmoor ever registered with AERC.

2020 endurance riding goals:

Goal #1 – Compete at 5 separate events. The most we have ever attempted in a season is 3. The list currently includes VERDA Bare Bones (May), NEATO (June), Horses Across Maine (July), Pine Tree (August – family favorite with 5 days of competition), and we aren’t sure yet about the late season choices.

Goal #2 – Amira’s 1st 50. This is her 3rd season in competition.

Goal #3 – Vicki’s 1st 50. Last year, Vicki got pulled on Duchess in their 1st 50 attempt. This year, Vicki is itching to ride a 50. Since Eli is going to be limited to LDs until we see how that goes, it will likely be on Amira, Teddy, or Mojo.

Goal #4 – Place in the top 10 of the AERC Bill Thornburgh Family Award.