Last night when Rob got home from work, we went for a walk in the forest. Our property directly borders Pachaug State Forest, Connecticut’s largest state forest. We walk out of our horse barn and are in the state forest in 20 yards. It is my absolute favorite thing about our house. Rusty loves the forest too!
There is something special and relaxing about hiking. I find it resets my inner peace. This time of year, the earthly smells of leaves and water, ground me like nothing else really does. Maybe the Japanese are right about that forest bathing thing…Exercise and nature fill up my bucket.
We didn’t hike for very long, we walked for about 2 miles. The sun was setting and Rob is still recovering from his accident. He took a few running steps and said: “Not yet”. Yes, I agree. Not yet. Patience is a virtue.
We walked over to the “water fall”, which is a popular destination for our kids when they hike or run in the forest and we contemplated new better ways to connect to the Yellow CT Horse Council trail without having to go out to the main gravel road first. Maybe this is a good project for Rob’s recovery this winter. We had found an overgrown forest path several years ago, but never finished clearing it.
As we came down the path to the house, the kids texted that goat chores were done. The light was fading and the view of the sunset across the road was, as always, spectacular.
Last weekend, Alex and Amanda joined me (Rob) at the CT Trailmixers Fall Fling trail race. It’s a 400 minute race around a 2.2 mile trail loop. You can do as many or as few loops as you want. This was Amanda’s first trail race. We left the house at 5:30 to get to the race and temperatures were in the upper 20s when we started. None of us had been training so we didn’t have high expectations. Amanda did 2 loops, Rob did 3, and Alex did 4 (just to do 1 more than Dad).
It was great to race with the kids, but I made the choice to stop after 3 loops to avoid doing too much while under-trained. It was a serious wake up call for how much fitness I have lost; the scales show the lack of commitment.
Much to Anna’s chagrin, I am a very goal oriented person (and maybe a little bit cyclic). Without a goal on the horizon, I don’t commit to incremental work that would sustain my fitness and weight. So it’s time to set some goals and commit to the journey. This is generally known as my bad idea’s amongst my close running friends; registering for events when I’m nowhere near trained or ready.
Twisted Branch 100k running race, August 2023. I have never run more than a trail marathon. I’ve been lurking on the edge of ultra-running, but haven’t committed to breaking through the distance ceiling. That ends in 2023.
Traprock 50k. In 2022, Alex and I ran the Traprock 17k. It’s a tough course and there was no way I would have finished the 50k in 2022. I registered for this one because if I can’t do a 50k by mid-April, then I’m way off track for the 100k in August.
It’s likely that there will be other trail races on the schedule (like the CT Trailmixers Spring Fling – 600 minutes on a 2.2 mile trail loop). Alex and I plan to do some Ride and Ties and there are some other goals for 2023, but regaining my fitness has to be #1.
I see this in meme’s all the time and the truth has become completely clear to me recently. “You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day… unless you are busy, then you should sit for an hour” – Zen Saying
Last week was the second week of August, which means it was time for our annual pilgrimage to Fryeburg, Maine and the Pine Tree Endurance Ride.
But before we get to the ride, we should do a little catching up. The last weekend of July is always the New London County 4-H Fair. Unfortunately after over 2 years of avoiding the ‘Rona, Amanda came home from 4-H camp with the big C. That meant she was still in isolation and unable to attend the 4-H Fair. Quinn and Kaylin (Amanda’s friend that leases our goats) were still able to attend and enjoy a weekend showing the goats. I also took some amateur radio equipment and got some kids interested in radio activities.
While Amanda was definitely disappointed to not attend the fair, she was focused on getting better for the trip to Maine. Since the rides didn’t start until Wednesday this year, Amanda and I were able to run in the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race on Sunday before going to Maine. Yes, 1 week post-Covid, Amanda ran a road race (with the assistance of her inhaler). With over 500 participants, it was the largest race she has done to date.
Monday morning, we got up at 3:30 to get horses and goats fed before hitting the road. With temperatures rising into the 90s, we wanted to get the traveling done before the heat got too bad. We made it to Fryeburg before lunch and got to work setting up camp. We decided to take a nap through the heat of the afternoon and then hand grazed the horses. Not too many people were in camp so it was a nice easy start to the week.
Tuesday morning included a tack ride to take the horses across the river and check out the first few miles of the trail. This was our 5th trip to Pine Tree and the river was the lowest we have ever seen; Rusty could walk all the way across. Here is a short video of the horses crossing the river. It was another hot day so they were all enjoying splashing water up on their bellies. Huey and Mojo decided to drop and roll in the sand on the other side of the river. Luckily, no one got rolled on, and horses were caught and remounted. After the ride, we went swimming before vetting in the horses and attending the ride meeting.
Wednesday morning brought a wake up at 0400! Alex and Quinn had a start time of 0600 for their 50 mile ride and Anna and Amanda followed at 0630 for the 25 mile start. There were 12 riders in the 50 miler and 13 in the 25 miler.
Quinn and Alex had a 16 mile loop to the first hold, the same loop Amanda and Anna would also follow. The first hold was an away hold at the Hemlock covered bridge which gave the horses a 45 minute break. The kids rode at a reasonable pace, keeping in mind that the goal was to finish and not to race; they had no trouble clearing the first vet check.
Anna and Amanda riding the 25 mile distance had the same 16 mile loop starting out. There was a bit of a pile up of LD (limited distance) riders at first, but the field of riders managed to space out as the ride went along. Anna and Amanda made it to the hold, and vetted through with no issues.
The second loop for Alex and Quinn was 22 miles. The first 7 miles of the second loop was the same for both groups of riders, however after crossing the river for the third time, the 50 milers went back into the fields and forest roads. Both groups crossed the river a fourth time for their second vet check and 45 minute hold at the fairgrounds.
Anna and Amanda had only 9 miles back to camp with three river crossings and the trails were nice, mostly back woods snowmobile trails that allowed a little faster pace. There was a little bit of gravel road and some winding through a local campground. Anna and Amanda made it back to camp with a ride time a little over 5 hours and vetted through for a completion.
So, what happens at an endurance vet check? First, your horse has to pulse down to whatever the pulse parameter is within 30 minutes of arriving. For the hold it is usually 64 beats per minutes (bpm), sometimes 60 bpm. For the finish it is almost always 60 bpm for limited distance. Your hold time doesn’t start until the pulse is reached. At the finish, your time doesn’t stop until the pulse parameter is reached (for limited distance riders). After checking pulse, the vet checks your horse for soundness, by watching the rider trot the horse in-hand out and back, as well as the CRI (cardiac recovery index), by retaking pulse a minute later after the trot out. Ideally, the pulse should stay the same or be lower. A 4 beat increase is usually acceptable, 8 is questionable, but more than that indicates your horse is really tired and you may have over ridden your horse. Amira was 60/48 at the finish, which means she needed to move around to get the cooled blood circulating and once she did, her heart rate dropped more. The vet also checks hydration parameters such as gum capillary refill, jugular refill, skin tenting, gut sounds in all four quadrants, and anal tone. The also checks for wounds, back soreness, tack galls, and other swelling. If your horse fails something other than pulse, you have 60 minutes to try and rectify it and do a recheck.
Alex and Quinn made it back from their second loop and the horses passed the vet check. They went to have some lunch in the trailer while we tended to the horses, fed them mash, cleaned off their sweat and let them graze. Alex and Quinn then headed out on their third loop of 14 miles, with 4 more Saco river crossings (bringing the total for the day to 8).
The kids made it back to the fairgrounds a little after 5 pm. The allowed time to complete a 50 mile ride is 12 hours including holds, so they made it. The horses were already at pulse having walked in so both Mojo and Missy vetted through with no issues. Eleven out of twelve riders finished the 50. While Alex and Quinn came in together, Alex stopped short of the finish line by 10 yards to allow the official clock to tick over by one minute to take the coveted last place “turtle” award which was a pair of turtle socks.
The goal for Anna and Amanda was to complete the Trifecta, three days of LD rides, so the next morning we got up and tacked up Huey and Amira for a 6 am start. Ride management had decided to start the 50s and the 25s at the same time to help manage time well at the away hold. The horses were a little less enthusiastic about heading out, but it was a nice morning and not too hot. The loops were the same as the previous day and Anna and Amanda got to the hold within 10 minutes of the previous elapsed time.
The second loop was uneventful and Amanda and Anna had their 2nd day of the Trifecta in the books.
Friday morning brought another 4am wakeup and 6am start. Anna, Amanda, Amira, and Huey were all feeling the effects of 2 previous days of 25 mile rides, but they hit the trail with a dwindling group. While 6 or 7 riders initially started the Trifecta, only 4 were still in it on day 3. The entire field of 50 and 25 mile riders was only 18 horses. As before, Amira and Huey had no problems with the course and still showed up at the away hold within 10 minutes of the first day elapsed time. While we didn’t capture any photos of it actually occurring, Quinn spent the day scribing for the vets.
Amira and Huey both enjoyed their mash and grazing with Ken and Liz. Rob’s parents made the drive from Alabama to Maine for the 4th time to spend the week at Pine Tree with the grandkids and crewing for the ride.
At the finish, Amira and Huey both made pulse easily. The wear of 3 days of 25 miles each was showing as both horses got a few B’s on the ride card in areas such as back soreness, hydration, and impulsion. BUT, both horses completed the Trifecta of 3×25 miles in 3 days! As if that wasn’t enough, this completion put Huey over the 500 LD mile mark, which was Amanda’s major goal for the season!
Missy and Mojo had been resting on Thursday and Friday after their successful 50 milers on Wednesday. On Saturday, it was back to work for them. Temperatures were in the 50s on Saturday morning, so we actually used rump rugs to keep the horses hind end muscles warm at the start. This time, Quinn headed out for a 25 mile ride on Missy while Mojo was in for 25 miles of Ride and Tie with Rob and Alex. If you haven’t read our previous explanations of Ride and Tie (R&T), it’s 2 people and 1 horse. Someone is running and someone is riding. Basically, the first rider sprints ahead, jumps off the horse, ties the horse to a tree, and takes of running. The second teammate starts on foot, runs until they find the horse, unties the horse, and rides the horse to pass the first teammate. They keep alternating like this for 25 miles.
The ride attendance on Saturday was very disappointing. There were only 2 riders in the 50 miler, 3 in the 25, and 1 R&T team. Quinn rode with our friend Caitlyn and they both had a plan to just complete the ride. With such a small field, there was really no reason to push the horses to race. Rob and Alex wanted to push themselves to get the R&T done in the best time they could. Since R&T doesn’t have a time limit, there is usually flexibility in the start time. We elected to start only 5 minutes after the rest of the field, but that turned out to be a mistake. You see, Mojo could see Missy and kept wanting to catch up. Quinn and Caitlyn were having a very leisurely first 2 miles of walking which meant we had to walk with Mojo to prevent overtaking them. Mojo doesn’t like to be held back at the start.
Once we finally had some separation, Alex and I were able to settle into a rhythm. Rob would ride Mojo around 3/4 of a mile and then tie him. Alex would come along and untie and start riding. By the time Alex would catch Rob, it had been far enough that they would do a “running tie” or basically just swap without tying Mojo. In the end, Rob and Alex did 23 exchanges (the minimum is 6 exchanges). At the hold, Mojo got excited because he saw the other horses again and he was super enthusiastic on the second loop.
Missy vetted through the finish with no issues. Mojo arrived just a few minutes later and also vetted through. Mojo clearly could have done 50 miles on Saturday based on how he was at the finish. Rob and Alex completed the 25 mile R&T in 5:20 for their 3rd R&T completion.
I made a video along the trail about R&T and how we leave Mojo in the woods. Check it out here!
Overall, we had an extremely successful week. 10 starts and 10 completions. 2 horses completed the 25 mile Trifecta and the other 2 did a 50 followed by a 25 3 days later. 75 miles for all 4 horses in 4 days. Huey got his first ride at Pine Tree and 19 completions later, he crossed the 500 miles in competition mark at Pine Tree. We have to thank Susan Niedoroda, the ride manager, and vets Art King and Joan Hiltz for making the event happen!
As is the tradition in our family (started by Liz and Ken), the last night in camp was spent blowing bubbles around sunset. We were able to convince a number of the others who were still in camp to join in.
Mojo carried Alex and Rob to a first place finish in the Foxcatcher 25 mile Ride and Tie at Fair Hill, MD!
On Friday, Alex skipped class and I took off from work to drive 6 hours South for a Ride and Tie competition. In case you missed our R&T debut in 2021 at NY Adventure, a ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). R&T events are typically held in conjunction with endurance rides, so occasionally there are other horses on the trail riding past horses tied to trees.
This was the first time we had been to Foxcatcher and the grounds were amazing. I thought we were in for an easy-ish 25 miles for the opening of the season, but as I found out over the ride, we covered over 2800′ of elevation (not nearly as flat as I hoped). We arrived in camp midafternoon on Friday and quickly set up our 1 pen for Mojo. This was also the first time we have only taken 1 horse to an event. It was amazing how fast you can set up camp when there are 2 people and 1 horse instead of our typical 4 horses.
Temperatures were in the low 50s, but it was windy and brisk. Mojo vetted in just fine, but was clearly aware that we were in ride camp. He was calling to all his friends that he hadn’t seen since last year and quite frisky. I took him for a very short tack ride to try out my new half chaps (why not use something new on race day) and take him through a tunnel. Fair Hill has tunnels under roads and bridges over roads; the horses have to cross both multiple times. I had to hand walk Mojo through the first tunnel during the tack ride, but after that he was fine. During the race, he even trotted through without worry.
After the ride meeting and dinner, temperatures started dropping quickly. Overnight lows were in the 30s and Alex and I were camping on cots in the back of the horse trailer. It was cold. I hated it. I want to be warm in ride camp.
We woke up around 5 Saturday morning (in the cold trailer) and got dressed inside our sleeping bags. We had some coffee and tea and got mentally ready for the day. Again, with 2 people and only 1 horse, it seemed like there was a lot more down time than I am used to. The 25 and 50 mile endurance riders started at 7 am. Ride and Tie started at 7:15.
There were 3 R&T teams – 2 in the 10 mile and 1 in the 25 mile. Ok, so Alex and I placed 1 of 1 in the 25 mile competition, but a win is a win in my book. There were also 2 10 mile Equathon riders not in the picture. Equathon is the bridge between endurance and R&T. A rider does a loop (in this case it was 10 miles), the horse gets vetted, and then a runner does a loop (also 10 miles at Foxcatcher). The rider and runner can be the same person or different.
Mojo was in full race mode on Saturday morning. He was ready to rock and with temps in the 30s, Alex and I were both ready to run and generate some heat.
Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated running and riding. Sometimes the legs were about 0.6 miles. Sometime around 1.5 miles. Our first loop was 10 miles and we finished in about 1:48. Mojo was a champ being tied throughout the day.
Mojo has to pass a vet check before continuing, but unlikely endurance, there is no hold time. Alex and I arrived in camp at about the same time and the rules require the riders/runners to do a mandatory exchange. Since Alex rode in, he had to run out, which was our plan since Mojo can be a handful during vetting. We spent a total of 11 minutes in base camp, but we weren’t worried about it and wanted to make sure Mojo was eating and doing well. Alex headed out about 8 minutes ahead of us on the second loop of 15 miles. It took 2.8 miles before I caught him, which was the longest leg of the day.
On the second loop, Mojo was less enthusiastic. Mostly because we were alone. I had requested being allowed to do the 10 mile loop first with the other R&T teams, but this put us on the 15 mile loop without any other horses. Mojo thrives on competition. We found ourselves becoming Mojo’s “rabbit to chase” until we neared the end and had some overlapping trail with a group on a different loop. Mojo came back to life and wanted to race to the finish.
Overall, the venue was amazing. The fields were huge and open. The footing for the horses was great, although it was a little challenging to run through because there wasn’t typically a worn path. Alex and looked back through the data and the run/ride time and distance was almost an exact 50/50 split. We did a total of 26 exchanges over the 25 miles and I burned 1890 calories!
After the finish, we ate some food and then packed up for the 6 hour drive home. We arrived back at home around 8:30. On the drive home, I asked Alex about our plans for another upcoming event and gave him and option of 30 miles of R&T or 30 miles of riding. He was clear that R&T is more interesting and challenging. Just riding is boring.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
Now if we can just make a post every week like we wanted…
All year, we knew the Pine Tree endurance ride in Fryeburg, Maine would be our big summer vacation. After all the problems around our kitchen fire in July, we needed a getaway. The week before we left was spent putting new shoes on all the horses and packing. In addition, Gem, the palomino 1/2 Arabian we got in April was sold because she wasn’t working out in our herd. My parents left from Alabama on Friday evening and were meeting us in Maine on Sunday. So, on Sunday, 8/4, we left for Maine with 5 horses (Mojo, Amira, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey) on the trailer, 3 dogs in the trucks, and the travel trailer loaded for a week of camping and riding.
Pine Tree is a special ride. It has 5 consecutive days of competition at the Fryeburg fairgrounds. There are stalls available for horses, electric and water hookups for trailers, a dump station on-site, showers and even a laundromat. This was our 3rd time at Pine Tree in the past 4 years, and it is a family favorite. The people are great (especially Sue, the ride manager) and there are plenty of things to do outside riding for the week.
When we arrive around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, you could tell it was going to be a busy week. Ride camp already was filling up fast and the first rides weren’t until Tuesday! We blocked out our area next to our CT friends, Rob and Mary Palumbo, and 2 down from the Coffey family. Everyone got to work setting up camp. I’m sure most of the people knew we had arrived, because 5 people configuring electric fences doesn’t always go smoothly and it’s possible, there was some yelling. A mere 3 hours later, the horses were settled into their pens happily munching on hay.
Monday morning we had a leisurely time around camp and went out to Walmart to pick up a few things for the week. Amanda got to find a friend for the week; Laney was another 9 yo who had driven up with her Dad, Jesse, from North Carolina. Laney and Jesse were in first place for the AERC family award with over 1100 miles already ridden this year. In the first 3 days, Laney rode 2 50 mile rides and 1 25 mile ride. It definitely inspired Amanda to step up her game and train Huey for more riding next season.
Monday afternoon, we saddled up the horses for a tack ride (a short test ride to make sure all the tack was set and ready for competition) and to check the river crossing. This is when things started to go awry. During the tack ride, Amira was HOT and giving Anna lots of attitude. All the horses were spunky and ready to run. There may have been some more elevated volume conversations (aka yelling) as we disagreed on how to handle the situation. Crossing back through the river, Vicki decided to work on sponging Duchess with a sponge on a rope. When the sponge floated in front of Duchess with a line trailing, I’m pretty sure Duchess thought it was a snake and promptly ditched Vicki in the river. She didn’t run off, and other than getting a little wet, Vicki was fine.
Coming up out of the river back to the trail, Amira decided to jump a log instead of going around it like the rest of the herd. Anna wasn’t expecting this and lost her balance in the fray. She got dumped and I’m pretty sure she hit her head on the log. This resulted in a minor concussion that ended Anna’s riding for the week. As we all jumped off our horses to help Anna and grab Amira, Teddy got scared from the commotion and threw Alex into the brush. We recovered all the horses headed back to camp. Needless to say, it wasn’t the successful ride we hoped for the day before competition.
That evening, we decided that we would not send 5 horses out on the trail together for competition. We have consistently attempted to obtain the goal of all 5 riding together, and it just hasn’t worked. There are too many demands of individual riders and horses to manage 5 in a competition. It does work if the 5 are split into separate distances, but we didn’t plan to ride any 50 milers during our week.
So, on Tuesday morning at 7:30, we started the 25 mile ride with me on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, and Vicki on Duchess.
The 25 mile course at Pine Tree goes out to a covered bridge that is about 11 miles from camp. The riders then go through a loop into what is known as “Fern Gully” before returning the to the covered bridge for the 45 minute hold and vet check. We did some cantering on the first loop as all the horses were feeling good. Here is a short video.
All 3 horses, Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess, made the 64 bpm pulse criteria with no problems and then we headed back on the return 11 miles. When we arrived back a base camp, Duchess was in 5th place and Mojo was 6th. Unfortunately, Teddy was lame on his right hind and didn’t get a completion. Teddy has been having problems on his right hind for a number of rides. This time, an extended discussion with one of the ride vets who assessed Teddy’s issue to be a hock problem. It looks like some hock radiographs and injections are in his future, because Alex and Teddy are a great team.
Once the ride ended, things went South for Duchess. We got her back to camp and she wouldn’t drink any water or eat any food. We offered her grain, carrots, and apples. She wanted to drop and roll. She wouldn’t eat fresh grass. It was clear we were dealing with a colic, likely from being dehydrated. During the hold we gave Duchess more senior feed and beet pulp than she normally gets. Our theory is, we didn’t have the feed wet enough and it sucked the water out of her gut, leading to dehydration, despite the fact that she kept drinking during the ride. So, 5 hours after completing, Duchess was checked in to an equine hospital and hour and a half from ride camp where she got a full colic exam to check for impaction or other problems, and 10L of fluid overnight.
Anna and I got back to camp about 9:30 pm, showered, took care of horses, and climbed into bed. Hauling Duchess to the vet wrecked our plan to do anything on Wednesday. Around 11:30 pm, as we were just climbing into bed, we heard a commotion outside followed by the sounds of a herd running – not what you want to hear in ride camp. It turns out, a stallion camping 2 spots down broke out, went running through some of our electric fence and into the next one over. That resulted in at least 3 more loose horses which then went back through our fencing and took down 4 of our 5 pens. In the end, Teddy and Mojo were still in camp and too scared to leave their electric fence (despite it being on the ground). Amira and Huey were running loose in camp with at least 3 other horses. Needless to say, many people were awakened by the commotion and lots jumped into action to help catch the loose horses. A little after 1 am, we had the fencing back into place and horses back in bed. At this point, I was definitely not having fun.
On Wednesday, Duchess got the all-clear at the equine hospital, so I made the drive back to get her. My Dad joined me for the ride and we had the chance to spend some quality time talking. When we got to the clinic, Duchess pinned her ears at me and spun her butt towards me. I could tell she was feeling much better. Vicki was happy to have her back in camp.
So, by Wednesday evening, Anna had a concussion, Teddy had been pulled for lameness and wasn’t going to ride again, and Duchess had spent the night in an equine hospital. We strongly considered packing it up and heading home. After a family conversation about the options, we decided to stay a little longer and hope that things got better.
On Thursday morning, there were heavy thunderstorms which delayed the ride start to 8 am. Alex, Amanda, and I went to the hold to help crew for Jesse and Laney. When we got back, we had a quick lunch and then headed out to go tubing on the Saco River. Each year, we think we will go tubing, but it never seems to work out so we made it happen. It turns out, tubing down the river is exactly what the family needed to relax. We got back to camp and vetted in the horses for Friday’s ride.
Since Anna had finally come to terms with a minor concussion, Vicki rode Amira, Amanda rode Huey, and I rode Mojo on Friday morning when we started the 25 miles at 6:30 am.
The first 15 miles of the ride went well. Vicki really enjoyed riding Amira and it brought her to terms with the fact that Duchess isn’t her long term endurance mount. When we rolled into the hold and vet check, Amira and Huey passed just fine. However, Mojo had some back soreness, which has been another recurring problem. We gave him some massage work and food and he cleared the vet, but I was concerned about him passing at the end of the ride. I made the quick decision to ditch my tack and do the 11 miles back to camp on foot.
It turns out, running in Ariat Terrain boots and long pants is challenging. The footing in the fields was deep soil with a wet top layer, which is hard to run on. Additionally, Mojo likes to invade my personal space when we run; he managed to step on my heel once and the side of my foot twice. It was hot and I consumed 2L of water in the first 10 miles. Before the hold, we were in last place and only had 2.5 hours to cover the 11 miles back to camp, which basically meant I needed to maintain at least 13:00 min/mile.
We made it back to camp with 7 minutes to spare and all 3 horses passed the final vet check. The vets agreed that Mojo’s back was better at the finish than the mid-ride vet check.
Friday evening was the traditional Pine Tree lobster dinner. We decided to head home on Saturday and give us a day to recover before starting the work week.
One of the reasons we switched to endurance was after a ride, the family was always excited about the next event. Even after our rough week, at dinner on Sunday the whole family was talking about what we learned during our week at Pine Tree 2019. We talked about what we learned about our horses and what we needed to changed before the next ride. We talked about modifying our training for future rides. But in general, we talked about the next rides. You know you are doing something the family loves when everyone is looking forward to the next event, even if that last one wasn’t perfect.
So, thank you to the ride management (especially you Sue) and all the volunteers at Pine Tree. We look forward to next year!
May and early June is always a wee bit crazy…and this year was no exception. After our trip to New Hampshire for Mother’s Day weekend, there has been no shortage of events on our calendar. Here’s a quick catch up post or highlight reel if you wish.
Amanda turned 9 on May 18. We had a skating birthday with her school friends that weekend and she had a blast.
At the end of May Alex was awarded an academic excellence award for his work in AP/ECE Environmental Science this past school year. Alex took two college level classes with ECE (Early College Education) credit, two honors classes, and still stayed on the high honors list all year. In addition, he participated all year in the 4H group “Teen Ambassadors” that focuses on citizenship, community service and leadership. The group went on a week long trip to Washington DC last week, and Alex had a blast.
Our new project pony Gem has a knack for getting hurt. With no horse sense to speak of, she had to learn what being in a herd is all about. She has so far been kicked by Mojo, stepped on a nail, and been bit by one of the mares, with all injuries requiring some level pf vet care. She has had her teeth done and her feet are improving, but she is definitely still a work in progress. Gem is very defensive of her food and requires us to be careful around feeding time. Unfortunately, I was not cautious enough and got kicked by her on June 1, causing me to be unable to ride for a week. She did go on her first short trail walk under saddle this week. No pics because I was leading Amanda, who was riding Amira.
June 2, most of the family rode in the first WGHA cross country pace (no jumps). I (Anna) did not as I was hurting too much from being kicked the day before. Rob recruited a client of his to ride Amira because she needed to be worked for the upcoming endurance ride. The kids placed second in the junior division, and Rob placed third in the open division. Good day.
Vicki promoted from 8th grade and is headed to the Marine Science Magnet High School in the fall. At the Griswold Middle School awards night, she received four awards: the VFW award for dependability, a creative writing award, a departmental math award for highest average in math (3 way tie), and an award for her expo project “Horses in Therapy”. We are very proud of her. She has also remained on the high honors list all year and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society. She attended the 8th grade dance and then there was promotion night. Her individuality is starting to show for sure.
Amanda is headed to fourth grade in the fall and doing just fine. She makes friends easily and does well at school. I went to field day for half the day and here are some pics.
Rob raced the Patriot Half Ironman on June 15. I went with him to the race to cheer him on and take pics. We camped in the travel trailer the night before. He finished in 6 hours and 38 minutes. I had a relaxing day of reading while waiting for Rob to return to transition between the different events.
Last but not least, Alex had a birthday. HE TURNED 16!!! Five guys for dinner and late night cupcakes for dessert because we were packing for an endurance ride. But we squeezed it in. He will go to get his driver’s permit on July 11 and his license when he is ready and has completed all the requirements (you can not actually get your license at 16 in CT it’s more like 16 and a half, if you are lucky).
Phew, I think that was all. Maybe. Until next time.
Daylight until 7:30ish each evening means dinner after 8 at our house because we are probably in the barn.
Last week was spring break for the kids. They rode horses basically every day it didn’t rain (or in between rain showers). They also got in a lesson with Ann Bowie. On Friday, Vicki rode Mojo and Alex rode Teddy as they went out together for a 6.5 mile ride in the forest. Living next to the trails has some significant advantages when you like to do distance riding.
All the rain is causing the grass to turn green and creating plenty of puddles for the peepers to start growing tadpoles.
Easter Sunday was no different. I went for a good 2 hour run in the morning to get ready for the Seven Sisters trail race coming up in 2 weeks. There were some lingering showers, so we delayed the family trail ride until the evening. Anna got a new (to her) Reactor Panel saddle for Amira for her birthday, so we have been making some adjustments to the tack. We didn’t start riding at Arcadia until 5pm. 2 hours of trails put us back home around 8 to do evening chores, eat dinner, and crash for the school week.
This evening, the weather was awesome. I went for a nice run after work and when I got home, Vicki was riding Duchess and Alex was tacking up Teddy. They both worked in the arena with Anna coaching from the side while I was doing some work around the house. Amanda saw that I had been running, so she changed clothes and laced up her sneakers. I saw her resetting Anna’s Garmin watch as she started running laps around the front pasture. It’s a 1/8 mile perimeter and she did her 8 laps to get in a mile. When I asked why she went running, she replied “I want to stay fit and I like running. It’s just something I find fun.”