It’s been 2 months since we made a blog post. Not too much has been happening around here, but we thought we should share an update regardless. School started back in August.
Huey is officially retiring as a riding pony and we have a better harness on order for him. We are keeping an eye out for a nicer cart for him, probably a type of two wheeled road cart. The goal for Huey will be distance driving and pleasure driving with a possible CDE. The last weekend in August, we took Huey to a driving clinic with the Barre Riding and Driving Club in MA on Saturday.
On Sunday that weekend we showed goats at the Brooklyn fair. Rob won adult showmanship!
Labor Day weekend we took Huey to a get together with the Connecticut Valley Driving Club to work on cones and marathon style obstacles at a local farm.
Taking care of the farm has been on the back burner this summer and we have a few unfinished projects that need our attention before winter sets in. The first work weekend was mid-month. We tore down two rotten three board fence lines and replaced them with no climb and top boards and painted everything that was wood white. It looks great.
We spent the next weekend replacing two main posts holding up the back side of the barn and adding support skirts to keep the dirt inside the stalls. This included replacing most of the siding and taking off all the boards lining the stall walls, as well, since we had to strip the boards off to get to the framework.
Mojo is getting his own harness and learning to drive. Rob bought a project marathon cart that needs some work on the brakes, and the goal is to have Mojo driving next spring. He already ground drives and long lines, and we have skijoured off of him, so I think he is game.
The weekend of 9/24-25 Rob, Anna, and Amanda decided to take a staycation break. We camped out at Arcadia in RI. It was a joint event hosted by NEATO and West Greenwich Horsemen’s Association. We are members of both. Unfortunately, NEATO is folding due to lack of membership and no new leadership willing to step in, and this was a Farewell Ride for NEATO.
Quinn and Alex came over to ride Mojo and Amira Saturday morning, but had their own plans for the rest of the weekend. Rob drove Huey with Amanda on Saturday and drove Huey alongside our friend Melissa and her mini on Sunday, totaling 19 miles of driving in 2 days. Amanda rode Mojo with Anna on Amira on Sunday, giving Mojo and Amira about 25 miles over the 2 days. Amanda got some hammock time.
That week, on Thursday through Saturday, Quinn took Phaylene, Jasmine, and Pepper to the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) for the 4-H Youth Show. They had a nice time, earning second place in Fitting, and Phaylene won best senior lamancha, while Pepper won best junior lamancha. They learned a lot and plan to attend next year (Amanda will also be old enough to attend). Quinn was asked to join the advisory committee for the show for next year.
Amanda was chosen to be one of the two middle school representative to the board of education. She attends meetings about once a month to give an update on what is happening in Griswold Middle School. Luckily, she doesn’t have to stay for the whole meeting.
Earlier in the summer, Amanda attended the Green Mountain Conservation Camp in VT and completed her hunter safety courses. She has been practicing on the skeet field and is now carrying her own 20ga shotgun; she took her first pheasant last weekend.
Rob and Amanda took Huey to a pleasure drive in Litchfield CT at the White Memorial park last weekend. It was a gathering of 3 different driving clubs and they drove Huey 7.5 miles.
Last year, Amanda and Anna won the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association pumpkin/vegetable decorating contest at the annual Fall Fest potluck. This year, Amanda created an “Under the Sea” scene with a sea anemone, clown fish, and octopus and successfully defended her title. Anna also won best dessert.
Other than that, it’s been pretty quiet around here.
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.
This weekend we took 4 horses to the Horses Across Maine Firecracker endurance ride to participate in the 30 mile Limited Distance. But first, let’s catch up on what else happened last week.
Quinn went to Washington DC with the Connecticut 4-H contingency to Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF). Alex participated in the same program in 2019. At CWF, the 4-H’ers get to learn about the government in hands-on legislation workshops, tour Washington DC sights, meet CT Congressional representatives, and develop new friendships through the 4-H program. The trip started at 6am on Sunday with a bus ride to DC and Quinn got home on Friday evening. Here are some photos from the trip.
While Quinn was headed South, Amanda went North to the Vermont Conservation Camp in Castleton, VT. Anna drove her 4+ hours away last Sunday and dropped her off for a week. We heard about the camp through a hunting companion at my gun club. The camp was a great deal at only $250 and they only take 56 campers per week. It included archery shooting, .22 shooting, shotgun shooting, fishing, swimming, canoeing, overnight in the woods, and the full bowhunter and gun hunting safety courses. She has a great time and is asking to attend the advanced courses next year. Camp ended on Friday evening with a little graduation ceremony and dinner for family members.
Since we had to pick up Amanda in VT, but Quinn wasn’t getting home from Washington DC until late Friday, it was a divide and conquer approach. I took Friday off work and headed out just before lunch with the travel trailer. It turned out that the woman who got Teddy from us lived along the route between where I needed to pick up Amanda and the endurance ride in Maine. It only added about 15 minutes to stop by Sierra’s farm on the way to get Amanda and drop off the travel trailer. I even said hi to Teddy, who looked great and is best friends with Sierra’s young gelding.
After I retrieved Amanda from Camp, we stopped for some ice cream on the way out of town. While waiting in line, I noticed the young woman handing out ice cream cones and through, “gosh that looks a lot like Autumn Kelly.” (Autumn is our friend Vikki Fortier’s granddaughter) She kinda looked at me then got more ice cream. After 2 or 3 times, she said “Rob?” I said “Autumn?” It turns out the camp is in the town where Autumn lives!
Amanda and I made it back to the travel trailer and got some sleep. We had about a 3.5 hour drive through the gorgeous Green Mountains and White Mountains crossing Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine on our way to the ride. Meanwhile, Anna, Alex, and Quinn loaded up 4 horses and headed out from CT to meet us at ride camp.
There was a minor mishap while I was hooking up the travel trailer on Saturday morning. I didn’t have the truck exactly straight to the trailer. For those not familiar with weight distributing hitches that involve chains from the load bar to the bracket, not being straight results even more tension than normal on one side. It also makes it harder to get the retaining pin into the bracket. And that’s how I found myself wiggling the pipe on the bracket with one hand while trying to get the pin in the retention hole with the other. In case you didn’t know, when the the 18″ pipe flips back over under heavy tension, you will wonder if your femur is broken, or your quad is just shredded. No bones were broken, but it was a good thing I didn’t have to ride 30 miles the next day. My hand can almost cover the current bruise. I walk with a limp.
The Horses Across Maine endurance ride is held at the Waterford, ME fairgrounds. This was our second year going to this ride and they limited entries to allow a single vet to handle all vetting. While there were 2 days for competition, we could only pull off riding on Sunday. With a small field of riders, there was no shortage of space to set up. Additionally, the fairgrounds allows riders to use the cattle barns for stalls if desired. We desired. Once the horses arrived in camp, we had them settled and camp set up in about 30 minutes (definitely a Sawyer family record).
Vetting in went fine and we grilled some hamburgers for dinner. The ride meeting was at 6:30 and the kids wanted to be in bed at 8 so they could get 8 hours of sleep. The start time on Sunday morning was 0600!
Since the teenagers don’t need sponsors, and since Missy and Mojo like to move out faster than Huey and Amira, the group split into pairs for the ride. The first loop was 17 miles. While they were gone, I was a good crew member by cleaning stalls, prepping feed for the hold, taking a nap, and walking the dogs.
Alex and Quinn came in at about a 6.8 mph average and vetted through easily. Anna and Amanda were only about 12 minutes behind and also had no problems vetting. All the horses were happy to have some mash and the stalls made it easy for the family to get some snacks of their own in out travel trailer. They all headed back out for the second loop and about another 2 hours of riding. When they returned, all horses pulsed down just fine and cleared the final vet check. There were 12 starters and 10 completed. Alex and Quinn tied for 6th, Amanda was 8th, and Anna was 9th.
Wanda Clowater of Clowater Art and Photography was there to capture ride photos. Here are the ones we bought to save the memories!
Even though they were done with the 30 miles by noon, we had decided to stay over and enjoy camping with the horses. The family all climbed into the air conditioned travel trailer and took a nap. Then we hung out around the fairgrounds as all the other riders packed up and headed home. By dinner, we were the only ones left and it was just fine. Monday morning, we got up early and packed up; we were home by 1.
This ride puts Huey at 440 Limited Distance miles; he needs 60 more miles for Amanda to achieve her 500 mile target with him. The next event will be Pine Tree in August!
May rivals December in our house for busiest month of the year. There haven’t been any blog posts for about a month because we have been so busy, not because nothing was happening. So, here’s what we have been up to since our last update.
Amanda had her 6th grade band concert. She has been playing trumpet for 2 years now, but this is the first concert due to all the COVID issues.
We attended the Connecticut Dairy Goat Association show with our herd. Quinn and Amanda both had a good time, but it was a LONG day. We left home at 5:30am and didn’t get back until 7:30pm. They both agreed that fairs are better (but I think it’s because of the fair food). Amanda was 2 of 10 and Quinn was 9 of 12 in showmanship. I even got in the ring with Cinnamon. The kids did a great job getting the animals ready and managing them for the day.
Amanda turned 12 and wanted to go on a bike ride on her birthday. Specifically, she wanted to ride on the Kingston bike path where there is a convenient ice cream shop about 5.5 miles into the ride. We ended up doing 12 miles on her 12th birthday.
Quinn had junior prom. They chose to make a variant of a jacket/skirt combo. This was an original design, completely sewn by Quinn (including the buttons and button holes). This will go into their portfolio for fashion design school, which is the leading choice post-high school pursuits.
Anna and Amanda have been spending a lot of time in the garden. Amanda has her own sections of the garden for planting what she wants. They work together to map out which veggies go where.
For Memorial Day weekend, we decided not to attend the New York Adventure endurance ride. We had a few tack issues at VERDA and with the cost of fuel, we just decided it was too much. Instead, we stayed local and camped with West Greenwich Horsemen’s Association in Exeter, RI (about 9 miles from home). The weather was stormy on Friday night, so Amanda and I set up camp and Anna, Alex, and Quinn brought the horses over on Saturday morning. Only 1 mile in to the first ride on Saturday, Quinn determined Missy was lame and came back to camp. We loaded her up on the trailer and went home to get Eli instead. Eli got some hock injections earlier this season and has been slowly making a return to heavier work. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, Amira, Mojo, and Huey got around 27 miles each and Eli got 15. Quinn and Alex elected to stay at home Saturday night and take care of the rest of the animals.
Quinn was inducted into the National Honor Society and also won an Excellence in Mathematics award at school to wrap up their junior year. Oh yeah, and they have a driver’s license now.
Today was our 23rd Anniversary! We celebrated with a ride on the horses. Amanda (on Huey) joined Anna (on Amira) and I (on Missy) for 11 miles this morning. After lunch, Alex (on Mojo) and Quinn (on Eli) went out for a ride as well. They got a little turned around and ended up doing 14 miles.
Now we are ending the week with some Princess Cake that Amanda and Anna made. Apparently we also ate it 23 years ago today.
Amanda and Quinn have spring break this week. What else would you do but ride the horses? Quinn had driving lessons (in a car) this afternoon, so Amanda and I (Anna) headed out on a trail ride. Huey got some severe rubs from his new Scoots Boots on Saturday, so Amanda rode Missy for the first time. Huey gets a pass until Rob has the time to put shoes on him. We did almost 11 miles in a little over two hours. Amanda and Missy did fine together, walk, trot, and canter. Amira and Missy pace well together, and get along, with only the occasional mare face at each other. Of course, Rusty was happy to join us and should sleep well tonight.
The weather is warming up and we are riding more. Our horses get most of January and February off, as it is cold and yucky out and it takes enough energy just to take care of all our critters. It is also a good way to rest those little aches and pains we all get, both horses and humans.
As we start our 2022 riding season we would like to go back and evaluate our 2021 year. Last month we received two American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) jackets in the mail; one for Amanda and one for Quinn. Amanda got an award for 1st place Northeast junior mileage in the limited distance category and Quinn got second place in that same category. I get such a kick out of seeing that Dartmoor breed (Huey) up there on the list. Huey certainly is a one of a kind PONY.
Amanda and Huey had a good year, logging lots of miles in training and competition. Huey really needs to be well conditioned and ridden smart to do well at distance riding. He’s one of those ponies that lives on air and keeping weight off of him is really challenging. He eats a handful of ration balancer and timothy pellets. And hay. And never vets into a ride below “moderately fleshy” aka body condition 6. The struggle is real. But he motors down the trail and is safe for Amanda to ride and handle herself. Amanda and Huey had 195 miles together in Limited Distance (25-30 mile) events during the 2021 season. Our family attended 5 rides this year, and Amanda completed 7 rides, 3 of them at one event over 5 days (Pinetree).
Quinn rode four 30 mile LD rides on Eli this season and one 50 miler, their first 50. Quinn gave up one LD ride to let her brother ride Eli, since Alex had been riding all the horses this year and doesn’t really have one of his own anymore.
Alex rode 4 LDs this year, on four different horses (our three big horses and a catch ride), and was the main conditioning rider for Mojo. Without Alex, Mojo would not have had enough miles to safely compete as much as he did. Rob and Alex also did their first ride and tie with Mojo which was 30 miles at New York adventure.
Rob rode 3 rides in 2021, two LDs and one 50, all on Mojo, in addition to the ride and tie with Alex. Rob let me ride Mojo at the Bare Bones Ride in May, when Amira was injured the day before the ride, since it was on Mother’s day.
Amira and I rode 135 LD miles last year. Alex rode her 30 miles at the Firecracker HAM ride, and she completed 75 miles in three rides over 5 days at Pinetree this year. I am very pleased with how she is turning out.
So, what is in store for 2022?!? Well, life is alive and well and we are battling some hurdles. Eli finished the season with a sore back and saddle fit issues along with a mystery stifle/hind end asymmetry. Eli had rest, we have remedied saddle issues and done chiropractic and are pursuing some imaging and injections to hopefully finish resolving his issues. Quinn has been struggling with sciatic nerve pain caused by some spinal facet joint swelling, so they are on the rehab train together.
Alex and Rob are sharing Mojo, and heading down to Foxcatcher to attempt another ride and tie. Alex has a 12 week internship this summer, so his ride availability will be limited, though I am sure he will ride when he can.
Amanda is quickly growing out of Huey, both sizewise and capability wise. He is turning 21 this year and is probably retiring to recreational driving later this year. He doesn’t appreciate riders over 80 lbs and Amanda just reached 70. She wants to take him to the milestone of 500 LD miles, which is another 5 25 milers or 4 30s. She also wants to ride a 50 on one of our horses this year. Not sure yet who, or when that will be. She rides all 3 of our big horses at home, but at a ride horses are always a little bit spicier.
I am looking at a hip replacement or two in the not very distant future. My right hip in particular is done for. That said, I am hoping to complete a number of rides this season and I am contemplating trying a 50 miler in the fall at a cooler flatter ride. Planning to have surgery later this fall.
Our new horse Fiona will spend the summer in training (with us) but will not be competing this year. We hope to have her out at pleasure events this fall.
Fall weather means colorful trees, cool weather, and early sunsets. We had all of those this evening when we saddled up 3 horses and headed out for a nice 5 mile ride. Amanda had her first trail ride on Eli. If Quinn isn’t careful, Amanda will steal him.
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.
Last week we made our annual trek to Fryebrug, Maine for the Pine Tree Pioneer Endurance ride. The event is held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds and includes 5 consecutive days of endurance rides. 2 of our kids had their first endurance rides at this event in the past, so this is a special event for our family and is the big “vacation” before school starts. This is a long post, but here are some stats up front: 11 starts and 11 completions 325 miles of competition (all 4 of our horses rode 75 miles and we borrowed 1 horse for 25 miles) 61 hours and 16 minutes of saddle time
Some of the photo in this post were purchased from Wanda Clowater. You can see all her ride photos on her website at http://www.clowaterart.com/. Support your ride photographers and buy the images you want to share on social media!
My parents left Alabama on Friday and got to our house late Saturday evening. This is the 3rd time they have driven their travel trailer up from Alabama to join us for a week in Maine. We hit the road Sunday morning about 7:30 and made it into ride camp at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds at 12:30. We were able to get the horse pens set up and camp established by mid afternoon. Monday was a day off, so we went for a 3 hour float down the Saco River.
Monday evening, we vetted in the horses and tried to get some sleep.
Tuesday morning we got up at 4:00. Rob and Quinn started the 50 mile ride at 6, while Anna, Amanda, and Alex started the 25 mile ride at 6:30. This season has been great for Eli who already completed 3 30 mile rides with excellent vet card marks and great recoveries. Quinn decided it was time to try a 50. Quinn had attempted a 50 previously on Duchess, but was pulled for lameness in the first loop so there was definitely a little anxiety going into the ride.
Our first loop on the 50 was 20 miles and we averaged 6.6 mph. Mojo and Eli did great and passed the vet check with ease. They both ate and drank during the hold before we headed out on loop 2. The second loop was 14.9 miles and our average for that loop was 5.4 mph. The horses were slowing down some as the temperatures rose, but nothing to be concerned about. It was hot in the fields and we were happy to cool off a little crossing the river headed back to camp.
During the second hold, everything went well except I got distracted and forgot to give the horses electrolytes during the hold. Anna realized this as we were saddled and heading back out on course. I thought both were still eating and drinking well so we would just give them another dose mid-loop. In hindsight, I should have given them a dose before we left camp, because Mojo in particular was starting to fade. I ended up stopping about 3.5 miles into loop 3 to dose the electrolytes. I have started taking a quart ziplock of senior feed and Outlast and the horses eat it right after the electrolytes. I think this helps prevent issues with the electrolytes causing an upset stomach. Mojo didn’t drink on the 3rd loop until we had been 10 miles, while Eli drank at every water stop along the way. Mojo finally started drinking and was perking up, so we were able to increase speed. We had only managed about 4.0 mph for the first 10 miles, but by the end of the 16.8 mile loop, we had come back up to a 4.7 mph average.
We finished our 50 miler at 5:50; we had 10 minutes to spare. Both horses passed the vet check and were “fit to continue.”
While Quinn and Rob were tackling the 50, Anna, Amanda, and Alex were riding a 25 miler. Alex was “catch riding” on a 20 year old Appaloosa mare named Cinco de Mayo that our friend Lilly Becker brought from NY for him to use. Alex is old enough that he can ride alone, but he still prefers to ride with the family. About 5 miles into the first loop of 11 miles, one of Alex’s stirrups broke. Anna got out some vet wrap and they did a temporary repair to try and hold it together. During the repair, Rob and Quinn actually came along and joined the rest of the family, as both distances overlapped for another 6 miles. 2 miles later, the second stirrup broke. At that point, we had to split up. Anna and Amanda had already ridden ahead, because they had the least slack in the day to make up time. Rob and Quinn headed out while Alex continued on foot. It’s a good thing he has been doing some running recently.
Anna had called our crew (Rob’s parents) who had gone back to camp to get a bin of spare tack. Ken was able to meet Alex along the road so he could switch the stirrups and get back into the saddle. Alex made up time coming into the hold. While Anna and Amanda departed the hold ahead of Alex, he caught up to them about 3 miles into the 15 mile second loop. Everything held together for the second loop and they finished with about 10 minutes to spare.
Tuesday evening we learned there are skunks in the field outside camp…Rusty took off after something in the dark and came back covered in skunk smell. A quick trip to Walmart for supplies and a few baths later, he was not as stinky anymore. Phew!
We took Wednesday off of riding, but Rob, Liz, and Amanda volunteered at the ride. Amanda walked around the hold area assisting any rider who didn’t have crew by holding their horse while they untacked, took a bathroom break, or just had a few minutes of rest.
Anna and Amanda rode in the 25 mile ride on Thursday. The day started out overcast, hot and humid and ended sunny/bright, hot and humid. The ride out to the hold in the fields was in dense fog and it was hard to see. Anna was glad to be wearing contacts as many glasses wearers were complaining they could not see a thing due to the humidity at nearly 100%. We keep a steady long rein trot “mustang shuffle” except when the munchkin calls out for “a little faster”, or we have to walk. Our typical average speed is somewhere between 6-7 mph. We got to the hold after 12 miles in a little under 2 hours. The last few rides Anna has started adding potassium chloride to Amira’s regular electrolytes and dosing her immediately upon arriving at the vet check. This practice has helped Amira pulse in and cool down much faster at holds. After a near elimination midride at NY Adventure earlier this year due to electrolyte issues, Anna has been experimenting with different protocols for Amira during training rides and this new strategy appears to be working. This week Amira consistently pulsed at 48 or even 44 bpm.
Anna and Amanda headed back out on trail the 15ish miles back to camp after the 50 minute hold. This 25 miler was actually more like 27…The second loop consisted of a mix of fields, gravel road and forest trails, thankfully mostly in the shade, as the sun was starting to beat down the closer we came to mid day. The pair stopped at “the house in the woods” where a couple has a tub and a hose out for cooling horses, and electrolyted mid loop. Anna and Amanda finished the ride and the horses completed with no issues. Ride number two done for Amira and Huey.
Since we only have 4 horses, we have to take turns with the riding (although Amanda gets Huey to herself). On Friday, Rob on Mojo and Alex on Eli rode the 25 miler. Alex has only ridden Eli a few times, but like on his catch ride, he just gets on and goes. We planned to ride a slow ride and just make sure we got completions on both horses since they had done a 50 miler on Tuesday. The horses had other plans. Right from the start both Mojo and Eli were ready to race. They were at the front of the pack and showed no signs of fatigue from earlier in the week. We didn’t let them overdo it, but we completed the first loop of 11ish miles with a 7.9 mph average! Both horses made the 60 bpm pulse criteria in under 5 minutes and ate and drank throughout the hold.
We got back on trail for the second loop and slowed down some, but the horses were still flying down the trail. We completed the 25 miles with a 6.9 mph average, which is one of the fastest LDs we have ridden. Again, both horses cleared the vet check. Mojo had some minor girth rubs and Eli had some minor back soreness (which may have been from the deep footing), so we decided not to take a risk with another ride and gave them Saturday off.
Friday evening it was time for the annual lobster dinner. Anna, Rob and Quinn all had lobster. Also included was corn on the cob, salad, potatoes, and butter. Yum!
Friday before the lobster dinner Rob and Anna got Amira and Huey out and evaluated their movement and attitudes. We agreed that Anna and Amanda would try to ride a third day. Amira looked slow and pokey as usual, but sound, and alert, while Huey really looked same as always, with a little ‘tude to go with it. We said “Let’s give it a go”.
Saturday morning came and Amanda was dragging a bit getting up and Anna’s hips and knees were complaining, but both got on their horses and rode off on the first loop. The fields were not as foggy as on Thursday morning and there was even a rainbow as we came up from the river.
At the hold the horses pulsed down, passed the vet check and ate mash and grass. Rob and Alex helped crew, along with our friend Mary.
The ride back to camp was uneventful. We kept on keeping on and finished the ride in a pretty steady manner. The horses were pretty tired, but somehow we managed to be in the top ten coming in. Both Amira and Huey finished three rides of 25 miles this week at Pinetree, which for them is quite the accomplishment! In fact, each ride through the week was faster than the previous!
We always enjoy going to Pinetree for the friendly, easy going, and encouraging environment. This week we saw some old friends, rode 11 rides, helped out others, made some new friends and acquaintances. Our family would like to thank all the vets and volunteers, along with those special people (you know who you are), who help us out when we need it. A special thank you goes to Susan Niedorora for keeping the ride going despite all the headaches.
Thank you also to Liz and Ken, for coming to see us all the way from Alabama, filling in the needed gaps and feeding the family(and getting the peroxide, baking soda and dish soap to clean the Rusty).
Now the horses get some time off before heading out to Northeast Challenge at the end of the month.
For the July 4th weekend, we headed to Maine for the Horses Across Maine Firecracker Endurance ride. Horses Across Maine is a Non-Profit organization that plans various riding events in an effort to raise funds for and awareness of various issues facing Maine veterans and animal awareness. We drove up on Friday, 7/2 with the travel trailer to the Waterford, Maine fairgrounds. This was a very small ride with only 10 entries in the 30 mile Limited Distance event and 7 entries in the 50 mile event. The horses were able to be stalled in cattle barns and other fairgrounds facilities, which was wonderful on the second night when it was pouring rain.
We had 4 entries in the 30 mile event: Rob on Mojo, Alex on Amira, Quinn on Eli, and Amanda on Huey. We arrived early on Friday afternoon and quickly got camp set up since we didn’t have to prepare paddocks for the horses. While they do have electric hookups at the fairgrounds, we decided to park our travel trailer next to the barn where the horses were stalled and the electric was off there. Luckily, we had decided to bring our Honda generator just in case. It was a little wet on Friday so we vetted in the horses, hung out around the trailer, attended the ride meeting, and went to bed early. We did drive out to the away hold location so Anna wouldn’t get lost on Saturday.
We got up at 4:30 on Saturday because the ride start was at 6. Everyone was a little slow getting moving and we felt a little time crunched for the start, but I don’t think getting up earlier would have helped. Temperatures Saturday morning were in the low 50s and light drizzle with a high around 60, which made it tough to decide what to wear. I went with short sleeves and the kids all opted to wear a lightweight rain jacket.
The course was about 14 miles to an away hold, 40 minute hold, then back to camp on a slightly different route. The trails were flat relative to what we are used to (less than 50′ of elevation per mile on average) and sandy in sections. With such a small ride, everyone started together, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Since the temperatures were low for the time of year and the trails were very forgiving, a number of riders were going much faster than us. We had a very comfortable first loop averaging about 6.5 mph. The horses were drinking and eating fine, so we really didn’t have any concerns on the first half of the ride.
At the vet check, Mojo and Eli were under the required 64 bpm pulse as soon as we arrived. The family has become accustomed to the fact the Amira and Huey will require more time and cooling, so we have gotten in the habit of splitting into pairs for the vetting instead of trying to get everyone to the vets at the same time. This allows us to get 2 horses through the vets quickly and then assist with sponging and holding horses if needed. It took less than 10 minutes for Amira and Huey to be cooled off and they passed the vet check just fine. The 40 minute wait allowed everyone to eat some snacks and take a break.
The second loop was relatively uneventful. Mojo is quite fit, but if he doesn’t have horses to compete against, he gets lazy. To combat that, we took turns having Amira and Eli lead the group some. At one small creek crossing, the horses enjoyed the fresh grass and drank their fill.
We did slow down some on the second loop. At the finish, my watch showed 27.5 miles in 4:37 for an average of 6.0 mph. There was no need to race to the finish, so we walked the horses in the last .3 miles. Again, Mojo and Eli were ready for the final vet check immediately and Amira and Huey were ready in about 10 minutes. Everyone passed the final vet check without any drama or issues. Mojo and Eli were both certainly doing well enough they could have been in the 50 mile ride that day, but we don’t want to rush Eli’s first full season of competition.
Since there were only 10 entries in the 30 mile ride, we all qualified to stand for Best Condition. We don’t make the kids compete for BC, but it is a good opportunity to get some experience with that portion of the sport in a small ride. Standing for BC requires weighing in with all the weight the horse carried (saddle, rider, helmet, bridle, etc.). The horse is returned to the vet 1 hour after finishing and given another evaluation for heart rate, gait evaluation, muscle tone, gut sounds, and the other portions of a vet check. The trotting portion includes trotting in circles instead of just a straight line. After all the evaluations, there is a formula the vets use to determine who wins BC that accounts for the amount of weight carried relative to the others who stood for BC, time factor compared to the winning time, and the vet exam. Alex opted to not do BC with Amira, but Mojo, Eli, and Huey were all entered for BC.
In the end, Mojo was awarded Best Condition for the 30 mile ride!
After the horses were settled in to recover, everyone showered and the kids took a nap. We had planned to stay over Saturday night because we didn’t need to rush home. Amanda got out our hammock and decided to sleep in it all night next to the horses.
It rained all night and into the morning, so it was a soggy mess getting out on Sunday morning. We hit the road and made the 240 mile ride home in good time. Overall, the Horses Across Maine group put on a good ride, the facility was nice for a ride camp, the trails are forgiving, and everything went well for our weekend. I’m sure we will be back for more miles in Waterford, Maine in the future. Next on the ride calendar: Pine Tree in Fryeburg, Maine.