For the first weekend in July, Rob and the kids went to Maine for an endurance ride weekend. Since we only have 2 horses competing this summer, Anna stayed home to care for the baby goats born in late June and everything else on the farm. Quinn and Alex both assisted with driving to Waterford, Maine for the Horses Across Maine Firecracker Endurance ride.
We headed up on Friday morning and set up camp. This was our third trip to this ride, so we knew what to expect. On Saturday morning, we got up at 0400 and everyone was ready for the 0600 start. Amanda rode Mojo (with our friend Mary sponsoring her) and Quinn rode Amira for a 30 mile LD. Rob and Alex were the crew. It was warm (about 70F) and very humid. Both horses were doing fine at the hold after the first 13 miles and headed out for the second loop. Quinn opted to ride separate from Mary and Amanda on the second loop and it was reported that Mojo had lots of go.
At the finish, Amira took an exceptionally long time to make her pulse of 60 required for completion. Her pulse was hanging around 72 no matter what we did, even though her body wasn’t particularly warm. Art King, one of the ride vets we see quite often suggested using some no-salt, which is Potassium Chloride. We gave Amira a hefty tablespoon of KCl in a syringe and her heart rate was under 60 in less than 1 minute! We had the same issue at New York Adventure and have finally figured out how to beat it. Mojo and Amira passed the final vet check without any other issues.
After Saturday’s ride, we took a nap and hung out around ride camp. 4 people for only 2 horses makes easy work of the chores. The horses got poultice on their legs and wraps overnight because they both had another 30 miles to do on Sunday.
Sunday morning was another 0400 wakeup and this time it was Alex on Mojo and Quinn again on Amira for 30 miles. It started raining before they even came in to the hold and basically didn’t stop until after the ride was over. Based on the lesson about KCl, as soon as we saw Amira’s pulse in the 70s, we dosed her. This resulted in much faster pulse times. This is a tool to keep in mind for any of the high-humidity rides. In the end, both Mojo and Amira did fine at the ride and looked great after back-to-back 30s. I didn’t get many pictures due to the rain.
Back at Father’s Day, we went to a local ropes course for a couple of hours of climbing fun. This was a Christmas gift from Rob’s parents. Anna isn’t a fan of heights and opted to be the event photographer. Rob and the kids had fun climbing through the courses and riding the ziplines.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been 6 weeks since our last blog post. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping up. This weekend, Team No Child Left Behind rode in the NEATO Endurance ride, held on our home turf at the Arcadia Forest in RI. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of pictures because the whole family was riding. Anna and I took all 5 horses over on Friday and set up camp while the kids were in school. The weather was awesome – lows around 50 and highs in the low 70s.
Anna rode Amira in the 25 mile ride with all 3 kids. Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey. Their ride started at 7:45. Unfortunately, on the first loop, Teddy slipped on a foot bridge and scraped up all 4 legs. When they arrived at the hold about 2 miles later, he was lame and was pulled from the ride. The injuries are not serious, but he will get a couple of weeks off (and antibiotics) to recover.
Anna was able to head back out of the second loop for 10 miles with Amanda and Vicki. They all did great and got their completion in about 4:25. That was about 40 minutes faster than the last 25 mile ride for Huey and Amira.
Mojo and I had a different day. We rode in our first 50 mile ride (first for both of us). Our ride started at 7:00. I saddled up and got on about 6:45 and Mojo was hopping. Literally. I took him in the arena and spent about 10 minutes making him trot circles, side pass, and just work to calm him down. He wasn’t thrilled about the rest of our herd being in camp, but he was amped up to race. After the Pine Tree rides, I decided to make some changes to Mojo’s feed. I felt he was running out of energy at the end of 25 miles, so we added about a quart of Triple Crown Complete to his breakfast. He definitely had the energy I wanted.
As soon as the trail opened, we headed out with the lead pack. Mojo was ready to race. There was a 10 minute stop and go (basically a forced 10 minute rest) that was 9 miles into the course. We arrived there in under and hour and tied for 1st place. Every time I tried to hold Mojo back, he wanted to just keep racing forward to stay with the leaders. Throughout the first loop of 20 miles, we spent better than 5 miles setting the pace in the lead. We completed the first 20 miles in 2:21 for an 8.5 mph average, in a 3 way tie for first with Catherine and Monica.
While I had an awesome time riding in the lead, I knew that Mojo couldn’t sustain that kind of speed all day and it took a few more minutes for him to make pulse during the hold than the other horses we were with. So the second loop started of 15 miles with us 5 minutes behind the leaders and all alone. While on trail alone, he wasn’t nearly as competitive and didn’t have the same drive for speed as when other horses were in sight. A group of 3 riders caught up to us about 4 miles into the second loop and Mojo and I rode with them for the rest of that loop. At the end of the second loop, we were in a 4 way tie for 3rd (with Evelyn, Jeff, and Mackenzie) and had completed 35 miles at about an 8.0 mph average. Still too fast.
Again, Mojo took a while to make pulse and he wasn’t eating as much as I would have liked. He was still drinking at every opportunity on the trail and his attitude was still good. He didn’t have the same zip as at the start, but he was still willing to race whenever he felt someone was challenging his position.
On the 3rd loop, Jeff and I left about 5 minutes after Evelyn and Mackenzie. During the hold, I had learned of Teddy’s injury and more specifically, where on the trail it happened. Right before I left, Anna and the girls came in for the end of their ride. As Jeff and I headed out, we both planned to slow things down for the last 15 miles and focus on taking care of the horses to ensure we got through the last vet check without issues.
Unfortunately, my focus on where Teddy got hurt predisposed me to thinking we were headed a certain way. I missed a critical warning and took a wrong turn, following the return of the loop we were on. By the time I realized we were in the wrong spot and got back to where we went off course, we ended up adding almost 3 miles to our ride. It wasn’t a huge issue because we had plenty of time. We didn’t see any other riders on our loop until we were within 3 miles of the finish. At that point, 5 others caught up to us. It was a little discouraging that we would have been done by then if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn, but it was nice that both of our horses immediately kicked back into competitive mode and raced to the finish. Jeff and I pulled up a little short of the finish to allow those who caught us to pass and take the spots in the top 10. We felt they had earned it riding us down in the 3rd loop.
In the end, Mojo passed his final vet check and we completed our first 50 miler (with some bonus miles) in 7:39, (6.8mph average) tied for 12th place. Mojo and I are both feeling the effects of the effort today, but I’m sure we will recover just fine and be ready to do more miles next season, as this was our final ride for 2018.
I want to send out a special thanks to Jennifer, Cate, Mary, and Janet who all crewed for our team. They made the holds so much easier, especially for Anna and the kids.
Yesterday Anna and I officially entered the endurance world with the completion of our first Limited Distance (LD) 30 mile ride at the Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA) in South Woodstock, VT. Back in June, I first posted about our plans do the ride and the start to our training (read the original plans here). It has been a very educational 4 months of training; we learned a more about conditioning our horses, tack selection, and conditioning ourselves. All rubs, on horse and rider, are magnified by 5+ hours in the saddle, so you have to pay attention to the details. As some of you may know, Misti basically had 2 weeks off due to a shoulder cut that required staples; the lack of work definitely gave her an excessive amount of spunk.
On Friday morning, we did the chores and then loaded up the trailer to head out. Some good friends with daughters a little older than our kids came over to do the farm/babysitting while Anna and I were out-of-town. Our drive to GMHA was about 3:30 plus a lunch stop at Cracker Barrel; we arrived about 3, unloaded our gear, and got the horses settled in to their stalls. One advantage of GMHA is all horses are required to be stalled overnight, so there is no concern about tying to the trailer or portable pens. GMHA is in the mountains and there was no cell service. They did have wifi in some buildings, so we sent a message back home that we would be out of contact for the next day and a half.
At endurance rides, there is a lot of focus on the health and condition of the horse. I think there were 4 vets on site for a little over 50 riders. Prior to the ride, everyone must “vet in”. You are given a “rider card” as part of your check in packet and that is your ticket for the ride. Everything about the horse is recorded on the card: name, age, breed, description, temperature, muscle tone, injuries, cardiac recovery (a 1 min test where they check pulse, trot out 125′ and back, check pulse again), gut sounds, etc.
Misti was not cooperative for the vetting in. Specifically, she was threatening kicking when her back leg muscles were probed and none of the vets were able to take her temperature. Clearly we have to work on that. She got a note on her card to reminder the vets to be careful throughout the event.
After vetting in, we set up our trailer for the night and went to dinner with all the other riders. Dinner was good (pasta and salad) and the “pre-ride briefing” started right after dinner. As soon as that ended, riders tucked in their horses and headed to bed. The 50 mile riders had a 7:00 start time, which meant most of them would be up by 5:00 getting horses fed and ready to go. Our 30 mile ride started at 8:30, so we didn’t get up until 6:00. That night, we were in bed by about 8:45. We slept in the horse trailer; Anna on an air mattress in the gooseneck, me on a cot in the back. It was cold. It was 37F when we got up the next morning and only peaked in the low 40s for the day. Next time, we will do something different. We will either rent a room at a local B&B or if we have a second tow vehicle, take our travel trailer.
We knew it was going to be a cold ride, which was quite a change from the training. During most of training, we were concerned about cooling the horses and sponging with water when we had the chance. Now, it was about keeping the horses, and us, warm. We had rump rugs to help keep their hind end muscles from getting too cold. Anna and I had layers on our tops to keep warm and block the wind.
Once we were saddled up, we warmed up for a couple of minutes while waiting for the start. Misti was explosive. She had been awful while I was putting her hoof boots on (both Misti and Dakota were ridden in Easy Care Gloves on all 4 hooves). Although we had practiced with it at home, I took the rump rug off Misti within 3 minutes and left it in base camp to reduce the number of stimulants. The time off gave her way too much energy. Once we were on the trail, she was ready to go and settled in quickly.
It was gorgeous. A number of times on the ride, Anna and I stopped to snap some pictures. The fall colors were just past their peak and we had leaves falling on us throughout the day.
The ride consisted of 2 loops, about 15 miles each. On the first loop, we didn’t want to push too hard because of the mountains. We only missed 1 turn when we were too busy looking at a maple syrup operation. We realized the error in about 1/4 mile, so it wasn’t a big deal. About 1.5 miles before the end of the first loop, the precipitation began. It was a constantly changing mix of light rain, sleet, and snow. It didn’t last long, but got us just damp enough to add a chill to our 45 minute stop.
We averaged about a 5.5 mph speed on the first loop and then arrived at base camp for the vet check and hold time. When you come in for the vet check, your arrival time is noted, but then your horse has to meet a “pulse down” criteria before your hold starts. In this case, the horses had to be under 64 bpm. We went from the arrival timer to the pulse checkers with only a 2 minute delay. Misti was already at 48 bpm (which is excellent and even confused the pulse check a little because it was so low already) while Dakota was still at 66 bpm. 4 minutes later and Dakota was under the threshold, so our 45 minute hold was in progress. We saw the vets and there were no issues to cause much concern (Misti’s attitude about getting poked and prodded was unchanged by 15 miles of effort).
Once vetting was done, we had about 35 minutes to get the horses a snack, get us a snack, use the bathroom, etc. By the time we left, I was shivering a little and needed to get going to warm up.
The second loop included a lot of unpaved roads. The roads were a compacted gravel dust and easy for the horses to move out on. We got passed at our 20 mile point by the leaders of the 50 mile ride. They had covered 40 miles in about 4 hours of saddle time and came flying by! The second loop was just as scenic, but since it was more roads and not quite as aggressive, we took it at about a 6 mph average speed.
For LD rides, your time doesn’t stop until your horse pulses down to the required level. For the finish, it was 60 bpm. Since we knew Misti pulses down quickly and Dakota doesn’t really get nervous about her being gone, we decided to split up when we arrived at the finish. We got our arrival time recorded, and I took Misti straight to the pulse check. She was at 52 bpm within a minute of our arrival in camp. I then had to go pull her tack off for the final vet check. Anna had already pulled Dakota’s tack and put a cooler on him to keep him warm. She hand grazed Dakota for a while and then went to the pulse check. Dakota was cleared with a 56 bpm pulse and we went to see the vets.
Dakota’s gut sounds were a little weak, so the vet cautioned to keep an eye on him, but it wasn’t a disqualifying issue. the vet also noted he was a little weak on his right hind, which was something we had noted before. That said, Dakota was moving better during the ride than we had seen in a while. Anna had given him a taper, so it looks like maybe he needs a little less volume. He definitely has the power and speed and mentality to be a good mount for the kids to do limited distance rides.
Misti’s vetting didn’t go quite as well. She was lame on her front right, with a grade 2 lameness. It wasn’t anything I had noticed under saddle and definitely caught me off guard. You have 30 minutes from arrival to pass the vet check, so I took her back to wash her leg and walk her around for a few minutes. Upon representing, the vet still felt she was off, however, to disqualify a horse, it requires 2 vets to agree. When the second vet checked (without any prompting from the first about what to look for) she didn’t see any issues. Therefore, the lameness is, by definition, a grade 1 (2 vets don’t always agree it is even present for a grade 1), and Misti was signed off for completion.
I think maybe we rode a little too aggressively on the downhills and that is what bothered her. I did remove her hoof boots before the final check, so maybe a boot was bothering her. Either way, it quickly resolved and she wasn’t showing signs of soreness as we moved her around.
My gps tracked our distance at 29.7 miles, with 4,630 feet of elevation gain and loss and an average moving speed of 5.8 mph. It took us 6 hours, including the mid-ride 45 minute hold. By comparison, our 20 mile training ride at home included only 1,050 feet of elevation change and an average moving speed of 5.3 mph. So overall, we did great! Many of the experienced 50 mile riders told us the GMHA rides are some of the toughest on the east coast, and I believe it.
Once the ride was done and the horses back in their stalls, we got some warm food and packed up. There was no big pomp and circumstance of awards, just a few announcements over the loudspeaker. As we loaded up and headed out, 50 mile riders were still riding. We drove home (with only 1 flat trailer tire on the way from another broken valve stem) and got in about 9:30.
It was a fun ride, and on the way home, Anna and I both agreed we would like to do more. So it looks like we will plan our next ride to be in May, at the endurance event only 15 minutes from home. We did discuss a long list of things to change about our camp setup and training, but for today, we will just take it easy and enjoy the fall weather.