Tag Archives: AERC

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.

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.

NEATO Endurance ride 2019

June 22 was the 2019 NEATO Endurance ride held in Arcadia WMA (Exeter, RI). Since the ride is less than 10 miles from our house, we always plan to attend. This year we had 3 entries for the 50 mile ride and 2 for the 25 mile ride. The weather was a little wet on Friday so I headed over to set up camp around lunch with Alex and Vicki and Anna and Amanda brought the horses a little later in the afternoon. Everyone vetted in just fine and we enjoyed the group dinner and ride brief. Since this ride is close to home, Anna went home for the night to take care of the horses who didn’t attend the ride, plus the dogs, rabbits, and chickens. She joined us again at 5:30 Saturday morning.

This ride has a very gentlemanly start time of 7am for the 50 mile riders which had 27 entries. Anna had Amira and Huey tacked up just in case they got upset when the other 3 left. The temperature at the start was in the 60s and the weather was clear. I was a little concerned about Mojo having race brain and wanting to just run the entire first loop, but he was actually very manageable compared to last year.

The first loop for Alex, Vicki, and I was 20 miles. There was a mandatory 10 minute stop at about the 9 mile point, which we used to give the horses some grain and water (and people got a bathroom break). There was one section of trail that goes down into a low elevation and heavy forest area. As the temperatures were rising and the previous day’s rain was baking off, the humidity spiked. There was also a lot of mountain laurel on the first loop that was in full bloom and very pretty, but I didn’t take a picture. Since it was a first 50 for both kid pairs, Alex on Teddy and Vicki on Duchess, we were riding conservatively to try and get completions for everyone. Unfortunately, as we were trotting along about mile 15, I noticed Duchess was a little off on her right hind. We have been working on the kids continuously eating in order to avoid meltdowns from lack of fuel. Each kid has figured out what fuels work for them and things went well on the first 20 miles.

Meanwhile, Amanda and Anna started their 25 mile ride at 7:45 with a 15 mile loop. Everything went well and both horses got along fine without the rest of the herd. Amira has really gotten strong as a leader on the trail and doesn’t rely on the other horses for confidence. Amanda kept asking to canter in order to pick up the pace (and apparently the cantering sections were the best part). Throughout the ride, Amira didn’t balk at any bridge crossing or trail entrances. Both Huey and Amira did a great job of eating consistently and drinking at the water stops. Anna and Amanda made it back to the vet check and 45 minute hold about 20 minutes before those of us on the other loop.

Unfortunately, the lameness we noticed on the trails caused Duchess to get pulled from the ride after the first 20 miles. Vicki was disappointed but took it well. She took care of Duchess at our camping area while the rest of us were out for our next loop. Anna and Amanda had 10 miles to go while Alex and I had 2 more 15 mile loops to do. I’m proud of the fact that we have kids who know enough about their horses that they can take care of them in ride camp even if Anna and I are not available. Of course, there are plenty of other adults around that will help out if needed, but Vicki had everything under control with her pony.

The second (and last loop) for Anna and Amanda went well. Amanda did start to run out of steam towards the end and they spent some time walking because her legs “felt like Jello.” They made it back to camp and passed the final vet check. Their ride time of 4:52 was good enough for a 12th place tie and got the Turtle award. In endurance, the Turtle is the last finisher who still gets a completion. It’s important to manage your horse so they pass the final vet check as “fit to continue”. If you fail the final vet check, you are disqualified and don’t get credit for the miles. In the end, only 1 horse in the 25 mile ride was pulled, 13 of 14 completed.

The second and third loops for Alex and I were fairly uneventful. We knew a number of riders had been pulled at the first vet check (including Vicki) and we were bringing up the rear of the ride. That didn’t bother us in the least. Alex in particular doesn’t have a competitive drive and just loves to spend time on the trails with Teddy. Mojo started to lose some steam around 40 miles, so Teddy would take the lead. At mile 45, Teddy picked up a strong canter like he was fresh out of the barn. Throughout the day, Teddy did great and I love to watch Alex with him. We made our way back into camp only about 5 minutes behind the next rider ahead of us. Both horses passed their vet check and we got our Turtle awards for the 50 miles with a ride time of 9:39. 20 of 27 riders completed the 50 mile ride. At this point, I can’t imagine doing a 100 mile ride, because I was wiped out after about 10 hours in the saddle. We took a break to eat some food and then packed up camp to head home.

Finished!

Do you know how to tell if the kids are legitimately enjoying the rides and endurance events? After riding all day, with some chaffing, sore muscles, and just plain exhaustion, the ride home still includes discussions (prompted by the kids) about the next event on the schedule. Not only that, there were conversations about altering training plans and what needs to improve for the next ride. To finish is to win.