Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Solstice Trail Ride

The Summer Solstice Trail Ride to benefit First Descents was held two weeks ago. I changed the format a bit and accepted an invitation from Fort Hill Farms (www.forthillfarms.com) in Thompson, Connecticut to hold the ride at their farm. Owners Peter and Kristin Orr have beautiful organic gardens, a dairy farm, and an ice cream stand. My trail ride coincided with their event, “Come to a Farm for the Health of it.” Usually I hold mileage rides, where there are at least 10 miles of marked trail, usually in a state forest. I told riders ahead of time that the ride at Fort Hill Farms would be a destination ride.

Twenty-three riders arrived the morning of June 18th to ride the carriage roads and fields of Fort Hill Farms. The ride began by climbing to the top of the hill where the Federal Aviation Association has a tower. From this spot, the view extends to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Riders progressed from here through the carriage road in the maple grove. Riders rode around the edges of cornfields and through the woods. Everyone rode in small groups and were able to enjoy each other’s company as well as our location.

As riders finished the trail, they came for a fresh lunch of chicken salad and fruit, generously sponsored by Nutrena and prepared by volunteer extraordinaire Kelly Trueb. All riders also received prizes from our sponsors in the equine community – including magazine subscriptions, a rope halter, gift certificates and the Equitrekking book and DVD set. At the end of the day, we tallied up the donations and had raised $2,550 for First Descents. I cannot thank my riders, sponsors, volunteers (Kiez Orr, Carolyn Stearns, Kelly Trueb, Peter and Kristin Orr) enough for their support.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Great Day!

Thank you Peter and Kristin Orr of Fort Hill Farms for hosting the Summer Solstice Trail Ride today. A huge thank you to Kiez Orr, Kelly Trueb and Carolyn Stearns for volunteering and for everyone that came to ride. We raised $2400 for First Descents! Thank you everyone!!!

A longer update and pictures will follow, but not today :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Personal Training vs. Horse Training

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been doing a lot of running lately. I haven't seriously run in years (okay, lets be honest, since high school).

What is my motivation? A friend convinced me to be on the all First Descents camper team for the Colorado Relay at the end of August. This is going to take some serious training. I have been running since March and its going well.

I think my horses get a big kick out of watching me run instead of me riding them while they run. Payback time.

But getting serious about my personal training again has made me a better horse trainer. Or at least a more aware and understanding horse trainer.

Running is a serious cardiac workout, as is carrying a rider around at a trot or canter a serious cardiac workout for a horse. The more I run and adhere to my training program, the more I incorporate my running program into my horse's work program. They get more walk breaks. I am much more diligent about picking one thing to work on during a session and about how much time we spend working.

And then there are the times that I am so tired from running that I don't get to work my horses. They seem to particularly enjoy those days.

I think all of the running has increased my athletic ability and made me a better rider (or at least a more balanced one that the horse has to compensate for less). Overall, I think being more aware of my personal training has made life better for my horses :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Acadia - Part 2

We took the horses to their stalls and I think they were a little relieved to be on solid (non-moving) ground. Angie squealed at her neighbor and John ate. Two more horses came in after us (hah, we were not last, they were going to vet in Saturday morning since the judges left).

Horses had hay, grain and water and were quiet, so we went off to wander through Acadia again and find our hotel. After much debate over our direction of travel and the directions on the map (why Debbie even asks me is beyond me, I took us an hour out of the way navigating a Pennsylvania road trip once) we found our hotel. We checked in and collapsed into bed.

I didn't sleep well, worrying about the ride, John, and getting the trailer home without a spare tire.

By 6 o'clock we were headed back to the stables to prep for the ride.

Here is what you have to know. Acadia National Park is simply stunning. The Rockefellers had carriage roads built, so we were riding on beautiful carriage roads, with occasional views of the ocean, ponds/lakes, waterfalls and beautiful forests. A lot of the time we had stunning views of fog too :) The location for riding makes the long drive completely worth the hassle.

We rode out of ride camp and onto the first 15 mile loop. One thing Debbie and I didn't consider was the difficulty of the trail. This was mentioned at the pre-ride meeting:

"You won't think its a hard trail because it is beautiful footing. But you are either going up or down the entire time you are out there."

Debbie said, "Huh, I guess thats where the 'Mount' part of Desert Island comes in."

I had offered to let another rider on the 30 mile ride go with us, her horse was also a rookie and she was feeling nervous. Unfortunately, her horse unhinged Angie, who had a hissy fit. We let the other horse go on ahead (he was fast) and Angie settled in and when she found her stride was really happy. John was much better than he's been on a ride in a long time, and was able to check back and settle in a lot easier than usual. He also did not try galloping off with carefree abandon, which made me happy.

We rode a slow first half, trying to pace Angie and make sure she did not have another fit. She finished strong and Debbie pulled her at the hold to end it on a positive note. I think she easily could have completed the 30 miles physically, but that for her mental well being, Debbie did the right thing. Angie pulsed down fine and trotted out in good form for the vets. John pulsed down to 40 with a respiration of 8 and was raring to go.

The other rookie horse was still at the hold when I was getting ready to go back out and asked to go back out with me, so we rode the second 15 miles together. Her horse was getting tired and we rode slowly again for a long time. She didn't want me to leave them behind, so I stayed. We ended up having to push (trot) the last three miles in. John and I got back to camp with four minutes to spare, phew!

Unfortunately he was a little warm from pushing into camp to make time so I dumped a lot of cold water on him. But he managed to pulse down to 44 with a respiration of 6. I was so proud of him for pulsing down at the end of the ride, its only the second time he has done that!

We vetted out and he scored a 99 out of 100. He lost 1/2 point for his windpuffs (they were slightly enlarged) and 1/2 a point for change in motion on the trot out. He won grand champion of the ride (there were only five of us, but I was proud of his score!) and happily settled into his stall for the night.

Sunday morning we went up to Cadillac mountain (stunning views!) while we waited for everyone in the 50 mile ride to ride out of camp. Then we packed up the horses and began the long drive home. Eight hours later, John was happily back in his own stall. What an incredibly long drive! At least there were no more unexpected stops.

Rarely does a trip or event live up to expectations. This trip exceeded my expectations, which is hard to do. I had a lot of fun crossing an item off of my bucket list, but I also really want to go back next year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Three weeks have gone by, now might be a good time to finally sum up the Acadia 30 mile competitive trail ride.

Honestly, I didn't even think we would get there. Debbie picked John up on Thursday and took him to her house for the night. I drove up Friday morning after work, running a little late because of a new calf, after a few more delays, we were on the road. Good, only running three hours late so far.

We were making pretty good time in minimal traffic and enjoying the ride. Horses were quiet and everything was good. We were just crossing the bridge on 95, over the river that separates New Hampshire from Maine when we heard a loud "BAM" like a gunshot. Debbie and I looked at each other, this was not good.

I looked in the passenger side mirror and sure enough, one of the trailer tires was spewing rubber all over the highway. We eased off onto the shoulder, just off the bridge as traffic zoomed by us at 75 mph. We could see the "Welcome to Maine" sign, but we really weren't getting to Maine anytime soon. I jumped out and went and looked at the tire. Yes, definitely flat. We wanted to check the horses, but getting to them (as traffic whizzed by) was out of the question. Since there was an exit right in front of us, Debbie decided we would be much safer limping off to a gas station and ruining the rim than waiting for help where we were.

We got to a truck stop safely, the horses were fine and unfazed and the rim was not damaged.

Debbie has Triple A. While she talked to her husband, I called Triple A. They do not service horse trailers, so they gave me two numbers to call. The first one was disconnected.

A guy named Mike answered the second phone number.

I explained in detail where we were, which tire blew out, etc. When I finished my long explanation, this is the conversation we had:

Mike: "What do you want me to do about it?"

Stacey: "Triple A said to call you and you could come change the tire, we have the spare."

Mike: "I wouldn't even know where to begin, I own a tug boat company."

Stacey: "Are you serious? I'm really sorry I bothered you."

Mike: "Good luck?"

After we stopped laughing, Debbie went into the truck stop, got the phone number for a local truck repair guy, DJ was there in 1/2 an hour and we were back on the road.

I called US Rider (Triple A for horse trailers) and joined their membership, the next time this happens (knock on wood there is no next time) I will not be speaking with a tug boat company.

I tried calling the ride managers to let them know we would be really late, but only got home numbers, no cell phones since everyone was at Acadia. I really hoped they were used to people coming late :)

Onward we drove, for a really long time. Just when we thought we should be arriving at Acadia, we drove for another few hours.

When we finally got onto the island, we saw signs for the "Evacuation Route." At this point we were both so overtired, we found it pretty funny. Although we kind of wondered if it was some sort of sign that we should just go home.

It was just getting dark and we pulled into Wildwood Stables at Acadia National Park. The last two horses were vetting in. I went over to the ride manager and checked us in and she said we should vet in now, they might not let us vet in in the morning.

We pulled the horses off the trailer, let them eat a little grass while the other two were finishing and then vetted in. Neither horse stood very still for the hands on (can you blame them) but the vets complimented John's trot in. I trotted Angie in for Debbie, since I hadn't really explained this part of the process to her.

To be continued...