Making memories

Tonight we played Trash pandas. With all the kids. Sometimes that’s what’s important. Amanda picked out the game at Walmart. It was cute. A little card game with a competitive streak. There was a little attitude about playing at first from some members, but it resolved. Rob got a picture of a raccoon on his game camera behind the house while we were playing. Coincidence?

ISO: Good friends to join me for bad ideas

Last weekend, Alex and Amanda joined me (Rob) at the CT Trailmixers Fall Fling trail race. It’s a 400 minute race around a 2.2 mile trail loop. You can do as many or as few loops as you want. This was Amanda’s first trail race. We left the house at 5:30 to get to the race and temperatures were in the upper 20s when we started. None of us had been training so we didn’t have high expectations. Amanda did 2 loops, Rob did 3, and Alex did 4 (just to do 1 more than Dad).

It was great to race with the kids, but I made the choice to stop after 3 loops to avoid doing too much while under-trained. It was a serious wake up call for how much fitness I have lost; the scales show the lack of commitment.

Much to Anna’s chagrin, I am a very goal oriented person (and maybe a little bit cyclic). Without a goal on the horizon, I don’t commit to incremental work that would sustain my fitness and weight. So it’s time to set some goals and commit to the journey. This is generally known as my bad idea’s amongst my close running friends; registering for events when I’m nowhere near trained or ready.

  1. Twisted Branch 100k running race, August 2023. I have never run more than a trail marathon. I’ve been lurking on the edge of ultra-running, but haven’t committed to breaking through the distance ceiling. That ends in 2023.
  2. Traprock 50k. In 2022, Alex and I ran the Traprock 17k. It’s a tough course and there was no way I would have finished the 50k in 2022. I registered for this one because if I can’t do a 50k by mid-April, then I’m way off track for the 100k in August.

It’s likely that there will be other trail races on the schedule (like the CT Trailmixers Spring Fling – 600 minutes on a 2.2 mile trail loop). Alex and I plan to do some Ride and Ties and there are some other goals for 2023, but regaining my fitness has to be #1.

I see this in meme’s all the time and the truth has become completely clear to me recently. “You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day… unless you are busy, then you should sit for an hour” – Zen Saying

Fall is for campfires

My favorite part of fall is sitting by an outside fire on Sunday evening before the week starts back. The brisk New England temperatures and early sunset are a perfect combination to relax and get ready for the next week.

We took Fiona on her first trail adventure last week.  I ponied her off of Missy while Anna rode Amira.

This weekend we replaced the roof on the concrete building that used to be a chicken coop and is now a goat shelter. Camellia wanted to help.

Once the goat shelter was finished, Amanda and I went to the gun range. She spent the hour before sunset shooting my .300BO to get ready for her first deer hunt next weekend. Her accuracy was surprisingly good and she enjoyed the swinging plates because the give immediate feedback.

I’m trying to find ways to slow down and do more with kids before they are gone.

A bit quiet

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.

Pine Tree Endurance Ride and Tie 2022

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.

Alex and Quinn before the start

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.

Alex and Mojo
Quinn on Missy, Alex on Mojo in the fields close to the hold

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.

Anna and Amanda coming out of the first fields

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.

Headed out on the third loop

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.

Some of the photos in this post were purchased from Wanda Clowater. All the ride photos can be viewed on her website.

North Stonington Fair 2022

The North Stonington Fair was held from Thursday-Sunday this past weekend, July 14-17, 2022. We were there with our goats and for the first time, Huey in the driving show.

On Thursday, we arrived before lunch and got our goats settled in. The kids hung out around the goat pens while I did some work on my laptop in the travel trailer. The fair opened up at 5pm and the kids headed out for some rides and fair food. Unfortunately, the fair had to close early at 9pm due to electrical problems. We were using our generator for the travel trailer, so it didn’t really affect our living situation.

Friday was spent with the kids clipping udders and managing the goats as the fair was again closed during the day and only opened for the night. The nice thing about this type of setup is it gives us an easy day, but it makes the entire event longer.

Saturday morning finally brought the goat show. Quinn, Amanda, and Kaylin all spent about 6 hours handling goats. Kaylin is one of Amanda’s best friends and leases goats for us through 4-H. She camps with us at all the fairs and contributes to the clipping and preps for the shows.

Kaylin beat Amanda in showmanship, placing 2nd to Amanda’s 3rd. This is huge because the judge said the difference between the two was confidence in the answers. While Amanda is usually pretty confident, it has been great to see Kaylin come out of her shell and feel comfortable with the goats. Amanda was using Camelia this weekend because we chose to leave Rainbow (her normal showmanship goat) at home due to her not being in top condition.

Our crew did a great job showing the 8 goats we took and we ended up with the Champion Jr Lamancha, Champion Sr Lamancha, and lots of other ribbons. The kids also got to handle some Nubians and Toggenburgs for other families.

On Sunday morning, the kids took care of chores and Anna brought Huey to the fair with his cart. The Connecticut Valley Driving Club (CVDC), which we are members of, was hosting the driving competition at the fair. In years’ past, we didn’t participate, but now that the kids are a little older, we decided to give it a show.

This was the first driving show for Huey, Amanda, and Rob. We watched a few YouTube videos to try and understand what to expect, and then decided to give it a shot. Amanda’s debut was in the “Ladies to Drive” class against three women with a lot more experience. We were all a little surprised when Amanda and Huey took the blue ribbon! Next, Rob and Huey were in the “Gentlemen to Drive” class and captured another blue ribbon. In the open driving class, Rob and Huey took 3rd. In the Novice class, Amanda again took 1st! After the lunch break, we had the cones class and scurry; we had never driven him in cones previously. Amanda got 5th in cones, but Rob took 1st out of 10 entries. In scurry, Rob dropped to 4th and Amanda had to leave for 4-H camp. Luckily, Quinn was able to step in for Amanda and take another 1st!

Of all the classes, I think Amanda’s performance in Novice to Drive was the most impressive. The class included 6 entries ranging from a mini stallion to a pair of 5yo Spotted Drafts. Amanda did a great job navigating the crowded arena and kept her cool for a class that was about 10 minutes long. Here is a video of most of the action.

All told, Huey took 1st place in 5 of the 6 classes he was entered in and racked up a whopping $390 in premiums! Not bad for a 21 year old pony’s debut in driving. The family was super excited with his performance and looks forward to some more driving shows as he eyes retirement from distance riding.

Firecracker Endurance Ride 2022 (among other things)

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.

Teddy is on the right

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!

Hi Autumn!

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!

Let’s play catch-up!

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.

VERDA Bare Bones 2022

This past weekend we drove up to Cornish NH to participate in the VERDA Bare Bones endurance ride. We loaded up Huey, Mojo, Amira and Missy and drove the three hours to the ride on Saturday morning.

For this ride we were all riding the 30 mile Limited Distance. We felt confident that the horses could handle this distance and we had to get back to CT Sunday night for Quinn’s AP Calculus exam at 8 am Monday morning. Rob also had a flight out at 7 am Monday in Providence to go to VA on business for the week.

Setting up camp, we placed Amira and Huey in our hard panels. Huey can camp in electric, but Amira does not respect electric. Missy and Mojo got electric pens set up.

Vetting in was uneventful. The horses were all good. Nick Kohut and Joan Hiltz were the ride vets. Rob was riding Missy, Alex was riding Mojo, Amanda Huey, and I (Anna) on Amira. Quinn is still recovering from a spinal facet joint issue causing sciatica and back pain, so Quinn was the designated crew person for this ride. We set up the crew stuff for the hold, and I made up electrolytes for the next day. I think I am going to start using a blender to make up electrolyte syringes ahead of time at home to make life easier at ride camp. We use Lyte now tubes for some of our horses, but I mix a special mix for Huey and Amira. Temps were going to be close to freezing so we blanketed horses for the night.

Saturday night I woke up around 4 am to the sound of panels clanking, and went out to check on the horses. I found Amira outside her pen, with the panels still standing. Huh. My guess is she pushed under them to reach grass and went too far and barreled through under them. She did not appear hurt, or scratched up. I put her back in, secured the ends to the trailer a bit better and had her checked out the next morning, but she was not hurt.

Sunday morning we tacked up for the 8 am LD ride start. Huey was full of it and tried to buck Amanda off. We took his rump rug off, but he was still fresh. When the trail was opened we walked out on trail immediately to get Huey thinking about other things than being naughty.

This ride had two loops of the same 15 miles with a 45 minute hold after a mid ride vet check. The loop is basically an out and back with a small lollipop loop at the midpoint. Some singletrack trail and some backroads gravel road. Oh and it’s not flat. My GPS says it’s around 1500 ft of elevation gain over the 15 miles, which is comparable to our home terrain, however the course starts by climbing a hill, and then going down hill through the woods and climbing over another woodsy singletrack hill. Then some roads, a covered bridge, wooded trails near water, and back to the fairgrounds.

We rode together for the first loop. It took us just over 2.5 hours. Rob and I had some disagreements and decided it would be best if we split up for the second loop. Mojo and Missy were charging ahead, creating a pace at which Amira either had to canter, and then trot, then canter to catch up and it was resulting in temperamental fits of bucking. Amira does great leading, but worries about keeping up with the herd when riding in a larger group. Amira’s and Huey’s road trot is 6-7 mph, where Mojo and Missy cruise along at 8+ mph. Which lead to me having choice words with Rob (shocker I know, LOL).

At the hold Missy and Mojo pulsed ahead of Huey, and Amira last (she takes about 10 minutes to reach pulse most of the time). All the horses were fit to continue. We decided that Rob and Alex could head out at their out time and Amanda and I would just ride separate for the last loop. When it came time for Amanda and I to leave, Amira was not so sure she wanted to head out again, and was looking for the others as we were leaving, but once past the first couple of hundred yards she was fine. Eventually, we caught up to Rob and Alex at the midway water stop and stayed together for the rest of the loop after that. Missy had lost some if her initial exuberance, but got a bit of second wind once we were all together and headed back.

Our second loop was a little slower than our first. We finished our second loop in about 2 hrs and 40 minutes. We took our time, let the horses graze some, and stopped to talk to one of the land owners gracious enough to put out water for the ride. They wanted to take pictures of Huey. Everyone loves seeing Huey and Amanda out there.

midway water stop

All our horses vetted through fine and got completions. Mojo went over 500 AERC LD miles with this ride. Huey now has over 400 LD miles with Amanda. We all made top ten, because it was a very small ride, I think only 12 or 13 started the LD. Rob decided to stand for best condition, to judge how Missy was doing an hour after the ride, since she is new to us. Based on end pulse, time, and weight reasons the rest of us opted out. We had a good conversation with Dr. Kohut about how the recovery score of the best condition judging is done. I had been curious since I had seen some very low recovery scores on Facebook after the recent No frills ride.

We ended up with some girth rubs on Missy, which her previous owner said has been a career long issue for her. We are going to try a mohair girth and crupper, and change to a biothane billet/dressage girth set up to see if that helps. We were already doing y style rigging with a toklat woolback western cinch.

Mojo’s welt

Mojo unfortunately also had rubs, not evident until the day after the ride. We have a new Skito saddle pad for him and the construction on the pad is slightly different leaving the half n half mid seam more proud right under the stirrup leather causing welts on both sides from the heat/ friction. He also had welts/rubs from the back biothane billets due to the saddle pad being shorter. May have to pad the strap or get a longer pad or girth. I put some caladryl on the affected areas and it was a lot less swollen that night. Sigh. On the good side, it seems the mohair girth has stopped the rubs he used to get in his arm pit area.

Our goal was to ride and get completions for all the horses we brought, and we accomplished that goal. What’s next? We will have to see how the next week goes in the recovery for Mojo and Missy. College finals, high school AP exams and finals, and Rob’s travels are taking a toll on the family schedule and gas and diesel prices are on the rise. We may have to take a step back and breathe for a few weeks.

We would like to say thank you to the VERDA ride management, the ride vets, and volunteers. Especially the volunteers. We were happy to see Sierra volunteering, she is who has Teddy now, and she let us know he is all good. Lovely trail marking, which is much appreciated. I hate getting lost on trail. Thank you to Jamie and Ranelle for sharing photos with us. Prayers and well wishes to the rider who came off her horse and got hurt at the ride. We hope you have a full recovery. Congrats to our friends completing 50s at this early ride, it is an accomplishment.

Ride on friends, doing what you love, with special people you care about, it is what matters!

The story of our lives with horses