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.
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.
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.
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.