Mojo carried Alex and Rob to a first place finish in the Foxcatcher 25 mile Ride and Tie at Fair Hill, MD!
On Friday, Alex skipped class and I took off from work to drive 6 hours South for a Ride and Tie competition. In case you missed our R&T debut in 2021 at NY Adventure, a ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). R&T events are typically held in conjunction with endurance rides, so occasionally there are other horses on the trail riding past horses tied to trees.
This was the first time we had been to Foxcatcher and the grounds were amazing. I thought we were in for an easy-ish 25 miles for the opening of the season, but as I found out over the ride, we covered over 2800′ of elevation (not nearly as flat as I hoped). We arrived in camp midafternoon on Friday and quickly set up our 1 pen for Mojo. This was also the first time we have only taken 1 horse to an event. It was amazing how fast you can set up camp when there are 2 people and 1 horse instead of our typical 4 horses.
Temperatures were in the low 50s, but it was windy and brisk. Mojo vetted in just fine, but was clearly aware that we were in ride camp. He was calling to all his friends that he hadn’t seen since last year and quite frisky. I took him for a very short tack ride to try out my new half chaps (why not use something new on race day) and take him through a tunnel. Fair Hill has tunnels under roads and bridges over roads; the horses have to cross both multiple times. I had to hand walk Mojo through the first tunnel during the tack ride, but after that he was fine. During the race, he even trotted through without worry.
After the ride meeting and dinner, temperatures started dropping quickly. Overnight lows were in the 30s and Alex and I were camping on cots in the back of the horse trailer. It was cold. I hated it. I want to be warm in ride camp.
We woke up around 5 Saturday morning (in the cold trailer) and got dressed inside our sleeping bags. We had some coffee and tea and got mentally ready for the day. Again, with 2 people and only 1 horse, it seemed like there was a lot more down time than I am used to. The 25 and 50 mile endurance riders started at 7 am. Ride and Tie started at 7:15.
There were 3 R&T teams – 2 in the 10 mile and 1 in the 25 mile. Ok, so Alex and I placed 1 of 1 in the 25 mile competition, but a win is a win in my book. There were also 2 10 mile Equathon riders not in the picture. Equathon is the bridge between endurance and R&T. A rider does a loop (in this case it was 10 miles), the horse gets vetted, and then a runner does a loop (also 10 miles at Foxcatcher). The rider and runner can be the same person or different.
Mojo was in full race mode on Saturday morning. He was ready to rock and with temps in the 30s, Alex and I were both ready to run and generate some heat.
Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated running and riding. Sometimes the legs were about 0.6 miles. Sometime around 1.5 miles. Our first loop was 10 miles and we finished in about 1:48. Mojo was a champ being tied throughout the day.
Mojo has to pass a vet check before continuing, but unlikely endurance, there is no hold time. Alex and I arrived in camp at about the same time and the rules require the riders/runners to do a mandatory exchange. Since Alex rode in, he had to run out, which was our plan since Mojo can be a handful during vetting. We spent a total of 11 minutes in base camp, but we weren’t worried about it and wanted to make sure Mojo was eating and doing well. Alex headed out about 8 minutes ahead of us on the second loop of 15 miles. It took 2.8 miles before I caught him, which was the longest leg of the day.
On the second loop, Mojo was less enthusiastic. Mostly because we were alone. I had requested being allowed to do the 10 mile loop first with the other R&T teams, but this put us on the 15 mile loop without any other horses. Mojo thrives on competition. We found ourselves becoming Mojo’s “rabbit to chase” until we neared the end and had some overlapping trail with a group on a different loop. Mojo came back to life and wanted to race to the finish.
Overall, the venue was amazing. The fields were huge and open. The footing for the horses was great, although it was a little challenging to run through because there wasn’t typically a worn path. Alex and looked back through the data and the run/ride time and distance was almost an exact 50/50 split. We did a total of 26 exchanges over the 25 miles and I burned 1890 calories!
After the finish, we ate some food and then packed up for the 6 hour drive home. We arrived back at home around 8:30. On the drive home, I asked Alex about our plans for another upcoming event and gave him and option of 30 miles of R&T or 30 miles of riding. He was clear that R&T is more interesting and challenging. Just riding is boring.
At the start of last week, temps in CT broke 90F. We were running AC units in the house and debating heat strategies for the upcoming New York Adventure ride. However, a cold front moved through that started the rain on Friday and kept going all weekend. Heat was the exact opposite of what we had to deal with.
I took Friday off work and we printed out all the packing lists. It takes a logistics plan to get 4 horses, 5 people, 2 trucks, and 2 trailers loaded and out the door on time. With the rain setting in Friday evening, we wanted to have everything loaded before dinner (~8pm at our house in the summer) so we could get to bed early.
Saturday morning, horses were fed, travel mugs filled with coffee, and sleepy kids loaded into the trucks. We were on the road at 6:30 for the 270 mile drive to upstate NY. We made it to ride camp about 12. It had been rainy a lot of Friday and continued with some on-off showers, which made the hay fields we were camping in slick. We got the trailers unloaded and camp set up before heading to vet in.
Now would be a good time to explain that we were not all entered in the same event. Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were riding in the 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride. As of when we headed to the event, I think there were 56 riders entered. We expected some would probably scratch due to the weather. On Sunday morning, there were 50 starters in the LD – definitely the largest field we had ever ridden in.
But that’s not what Alex and I were doing; we were entered in the 30 mile Ride and Tie. A ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). There were only 3 teams in the 30 mile ride and tie and 1 team in the 12 mile ride and tie.
I was already awake when the alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. We had some coffee and a light breakfast. Alex and I started at 6:15, while the rest started at 7. It was clear with temps around 40F as we got Mojo ready to go. We decided I would start on Mojo since he is usually ready to rock at the start of a ride. True to form, Mojo was ready to rock.
We were fortunate to start with a more experienced R&T team, so we decided to just match their plan for the first few miles. Janice was the other rider and Jennifer was running with Alex. We only went about 3/4 mile before doing the first tie. A tie is when you hop off the horse, tie them to a tree, and take off running. Janice and Jennifer planned their ties more based on time. Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated between time and distance as our metrics for ties.
I knew we would not be able to stay with Janice and Jennifer for too long without burning ourselves out, so by about 4 miles into the first 12 mile loop, we backed off the pace and let them go on about their way. It didn’t bother Mojo to be without the others. Mojo figured out the game with no problem. When one of us would untie him, he would run down the runner until we tied again. As we ran off, he would give a little whinny to say goodbye. A few times as I approached, he called out to me, encouraging me to keep up the pace. When riders in other distances passed me, they commented on how amazing it was that my horse was willing to wait, tied to a tree. They were right, it was amazing to witness. At one point, Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were coming off a trail onto the road right as we were passing by that trail. Mojo was a little confused on why we didn’t link up with them.
We finished our first loop at a faster pace than I expected. As were headed in to the vet check, the first place team was headed out. Ride and Tie doesn’t have a hold because the horse gets rest while tied. There is also a mandatory switch at the vet check. I ran in, so Alex topped off his water and ran out while I was handling Mojo, who had no problem making pulse criteria. We spent about 15 minutes at the vet check, which could have been shorter, but I didn’t want to rush things for our first R&T.
The second loop for us was advertised as 18 miles, but turned out to be a little over 19. The second loop sucked. It was muddy. It was raining. The trails were slick and torn up from the previous riders. At least it wasn’t hot. I didn’t take any pictures on the second loop due to the rain. The leaders of the 50 mile ride were overtaking us since they were on the same loop as us. Mojo loved it when they would come by and he could sprint with them, then wait on a tree for a little while. Mojo never lost his go. The longest run Alex had ever done was about 7 miles – 1 week before the event. On race day, Alex did more than a half marathon as we split the running about 60/40. We completed our 30.8 miles, with 4300′ of elevation, in 6:35 for a second place finish.
Anna, Quinn and Amanda started their first 18 mile loop at 7 am. They headed out at a walk for about half a mile to let all the front horses and hot crazy antics settle. Amira feeds off of other horses’ behaviors and does best with other settled horses or in her own group.
The first loop soon turned out to be a challenge. Most of the loop, that was actually 19.5 miles, not 18 miles, according to GPS, was muddy single track. There were stretches of road here and there, but mostly single track with deep boot sucking mud. It was cold and raining on and off.
The most amazing part of the first loop was that all of Huey’s boots stayed on. Huey wears 4 Mini 3 Scoot Boots and while the gaiter protectors got a little torn up they did not come off or cause rubs.
The group maintained roughly a 5.0 mph average, trying to trot wherever they could without sacrificing the horses legs. Not going to lie, it was rough going. Somewhere in the middle of the loop Anna and the kids encountered Mojo and Rob on a slim chance while the red and pink loops crossed. Talk about coincidence!
Anna and the kids came into the hold at 10:42. Anna could tell Amira was hot. A quick pulse check had her at 80bpm, and only dropping slowly. The pulse criteria was 64. Being a non-arab (mustang), she doesn’t pulse down as fast as is desired sometimes and we are still dialing in her electrolyte needs. It became obvious she needed electrolytes and had not had enough grazing time on trail.
Anna pulled her saddle, gave some electrolytes and started sponging. Quinn ended up having to hold Amira to keep her from eating, while Anna worked on cooling her. Amira’s pulse increases if we allow her to eat while cooling. In hind sight, Quinn and Amanda should have vetted through, as Eli’s hind quarters got cold and he was almost pulled with a cramp, and if Anna had been pulled the kids would have had a better chance finding a sponsor for the last loop. Anna finally got Amira cooler and she made 48 pulse at 11:06 (has to make it within 30 minutes of arrival). Amira’s gut sounds were only good in 2 quadrants and her CRI was elevated, so she was held for a recheck for gut sounds before she could head out on the second loop. Anna set her in front of her mash and she started chowing down right away. We had decided to use Lyte Now tubes of electrolytes this time around instead of mixing our own, and they were so stiff and hard in the cold weather they were hard get into the horses. Looking back, considering Amira spit out most of her morning electrolytes, and not stopping to electrolyte mid loop, was part of the problem for the vet check. Anna ran off to the trailer to mix up some more liquid electrolytes to give and take on trail. This caused Quinn to get overwhelmed trying to handle all three horses and Amanda at the hold resulting in an argument. Phew, this is fun, right?!
Amira passed her recheck, and Anna and the kids headed back out at 11:51. The second loop was advertised as 12 miles. In reality it was a bit less according to our GPS. Cut off time for the limited distance 30 miler is 7 hours and 15 minutes (2:15 pm). With the extra time spent at the hold cooling Amira, Anna and Quinn knew they had to keep a much higher average on the second loop, all while still allowing the horses to grab and go grass more than on the first loop and make a stop for extra electrolytes.
Anna set out at a steady trot, stopping every 3 miles or so to let the horses get some grass. Due to the intensity and stress of the hold, none of the people had eaten well at the hold, and a few disagreements and arguments happened along the second loop. They stopped to give some Enduramax electrolytes just past the midway point.
Anna started feeling a little tightness in Amira’s hind end toward the end of the ride, and pulled her rump rug over her and kept down hill trotting to a minimum. Quinn convinced Eli to lead the group for a while as Amira was starting to lose her go. The group walked in the last 3/4 mile. Anna hopped off Amira, and walked her in to help her out.
In the last 1/4 mile, Huey and Eli were chased by a great Dane coming out from a private property and they both took off cantering. Luckily, they stopped when they reached Amira just ahead.
Anna and the kids reached the in timer at 2 pm. Quinn untacked and Eli made pulse at 2:08, Huey at 2:10 and Amira at 2:13. They all completed. Amira had a beginning cramp in her right hind, and got a B on gait and impulsion, but her CRI was 48/50 this time and her gut sounds were back. Anna was the last rider to complete the 30, and therefore got the turtle award. The kids got the junior turtle awards. We have a collection of those at home. To finish is to win, right?!
The rain was steady at this point and Anna and the kids put coolers and winter blankets on the horses, gave them food and water and went to get dry and eat some lunch.
After the ride, everyone cleaned up, ate, and rested in the trailer. We stayed over an extra night to let the horses recover and enjoy the trip without the pressure and stress of getting home late. We slept in until almost 7 Monday morning, then broke camp and drove home.
While there were times of stress and maybe some raised voices, in the end, we all got completions. Considering that there were about 84 horses that started the ride, and only 66 completed, I’m thrilled with our 100% completion rate for this ride.
Endurance riders are always tweaking their equipment. One thing our family has settled on is Orange Mud hydration packs. At this ride, all 5 of us were using Orange Mud packs. Alex and Rob had coyote brown Endurance Packs, Quinn had a black Endurance Pack, Amanda uses a green Gear Vest Pro, and Anna uses a black Gear Vest Pro. check out the selection at Orange Mud. The packs sit higher on the back so they don’t interfere with the saddle and you can choose the amount of water you want to carry. The pockets make it easy to store gels, chews, or other snacks and the bungee cords on the back hold layers when you need to shed a lightweight jacket mid-loop.
How do you know you have found the right sport for your family? After the ride, Quinn and Amanda were in the travel trailer eating lunch, still wearing their wet, dirty ride clothes. They looked at me and together asked, “When is our next ride?”. The rest of the day and ride home kept coming back to when we would be at the next ride camp and which horses would do a 50 miler instead of LD next time. Stay tuned for more adventures throughout the summer.
Nothing gets me moving like registering for a race. I’ve been in a slump, so today, the whole family registered for the NY Adventure Endurance Ride. But there’s a twist.
Last June, Teddy was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM); you can learn about it here if you have never heard of it. . He was treated for a couple of months and has been recovering. The problem is, EPM never completely goes away. EPM is what eventually killed King after 2 years of treating it. Horses with EPM are at risk for relapses and stress is a trigger for such a relapse. Endurance rides are stressful (trailering, camping, racing/excitement on trail, trailering again, etc.). It is unlikely that Teddy will ever compete in an endurance ride again, but time will tell. Regardless, Alex has outgrown Teddy, so if Teddy does make it back to competition, it will probably be with Amanda.
With the weather in the upper 40s, it was a horse riding kind of day. This morning, Quinn took Eli out on the trails and Amanda got to tag along on Huey, they only did about 3.5 miles, but they they rode (together).
After lunch, Anna and Amanda took Amira and Teddy out for a 4.5 mile ride today. Teddy was sound and spunky. Amanda will ride anything.
But this is really about Ride and Tie. The NY Adventure Endurance ride is in late May and is likely the first opportunity for a ride we will have. With Teddy out of competition for now, we only have 4 horses for the 5 of us to ride at events. Enter, Ride and Tie. From www.rideandtie.org: “The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The objective is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange (which is called a “flying tie”), or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all this, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical.”
Ride and Tie events have been slowly making their way into New England and the NY Adventure Endurance ride is also sanctioned as a Ride and Tie event. This morning, Alex and I watched the AERC webinar about R&T and then discussed options about NY Adventure (there was a scenario where we could have borrowed a horse for the ride) to make sure Alex understood what was involved (I have been interested in R&T for a couple of years). Alex agreed, that using Mojo for a R&T sounded like more fun than a standard endurance ride. So this afternoon, we did our first training session.
We started with changing some of the riding attire to make it more comfortable for both riding and running. I previously switched to using my Altra trail running shoes for riding (we use caged stirrups), but Alex has been riding in paddock boots. Alex switched to a pair of Topo trail running shoes that I had that in the closet but didn’t particularly like (since he is the same size shoe as me it was an easy trial). Alex elected to still use his breeches while I rode in my running tights (we both chose tri-shorts underneath). We saddled up Mojo in the Big Horn saddle. We chose the Big Horn because it has synthetic fenders that won’t rub our legs, it has a tree and will be more stable with lots of mounting and dismounting, and it has a lot of places to tie off packs or other items. Another benefit of your son growing up is we are the same height, so our stirrup length is the same.
We started our training ride together, I was on Mojo and Alex was on foot. We went about 1/4 mile and then decided to try the first tie. Since we had never done this with Mojo, we weren’t sure how he would react. Alex stopped just out of sight and I tied Mojo to a tree and then went down trail out of sight. Alex waited a minute and then went to Mojo, untied him, and mounted up. Mojo didn’t care about being tied. We went anther half mile and then repeated, this time Alex executing the tie and heading off down the trail. Again, Mojo didn’t care.
Next we decided to step it up a little. I rode away from Alex and cantered Mojo up a hill. At the top, I hopped off, tied Mojo, and took off running. Alex was within sight, about 100 yards away. We were on a more open section of trail roads and we were able to start moving at a faster pace. Alex rode about 3/4 mile, passing me along the way, tied Mojo and headed out to our turn around point.
At the turnaround, we did a flying tie (just a hand off between riders) and then headed back. On the way home, we did 2 more ties. Unfortunately, after the last tie there was a miscommunication about the planned route home. I went the way we came out. Alex took an alternate trail. Since he never caught up to me, I got worried and back tracked. Eventually, I called the house to send Quinn out to the barn where they found Alex arriving. Clearly, better route communication is going to have to improve.
The day was an overwhelming success; Mojo was a rock star. We covered 5 miles, completed 6 ties and 1 flying tie. We did have some technical issues with the lead rope coming loose from how we tied it to the saddle between ties, so we need to work on our plan for how we will handle that. As we did more of the exchanges, Mojo seemed to figure out that he was supposed to chase down the runner. We also need to make sure Alex has his cell phone when we are out practicing R&T. We have 3 months to increase the running mileage and get ready. I’m looking forward to it.