Friday, September 30, 2011

The Colorado Relay

Its been a month since the Colorado Relay, I guess I should probably blog about it!

I agreed to run on the First Descents All-Camper Team for the Colorado Relay in March. The Relay is a 200 mile relay race from Breckenridge, Colorado to Snowmass, Colorado. First Descents was a beneficiary of the race this year and the race director thought it would be neat to have an All-Camper team. Each team consists of ten people (unless you are an ultra-team with only seven), our team had ten. We were not going to be a fast team, but a team of cancer survivors, representing our camp, and having a great time. Since there was no expectation to be fast, just to finish, I said yes.

I began training in March, having not done any serious running since high school (a very long time ago). In June, I re-injured my knee (severely twisted it in college and then had it kicked by a horse a few years later - its a bit sensitive). I slowed down my training, ran my preparatory races slightly lame and kept slogging along. In July, my knee became pretty painful and I took some time off. By August, it was back to normal and I continued my training.

The thing about running, or any other commitment (whether it is athletic or of another endeavor) is that it takes a lot of time and dedication to do it well. Many of my other activities went unattended this summer as I ran. I rode my horses less, blogging became non-existent, communication with friends (which has never been my strong point to begin with) also went by the wayside. And I got less sleep, a runners no-no (and a cancer survivor no-no) because I still had to work, even if I was running.

The benefits of running did not go unnoticed though. And I was slowly getting faster and more efficient on my runs. The thing that worried me most about the Colorado Relay was the altitude. For those of you unfamiliar with Colorado geography, Breckenridge to Snowmass varies in altitude from around 6,000 feet to 10,000 feet. I was training at sea level.

It nagged at my conscience a bit that I had not trained more. I wish I could have gotten in more miles, done sprints, or more hill work, or something. I was nervous and I did not want to let my team down.

Bruiser, our team captain (and the only person on my team that I knew) sent out a final email, reminding us all that we were not racing to win, but to have fun. I felt better after reading that. On Thursday, August 25th, I flew to Denver.

Continued tomorrow...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Cows Come From California...

...And Secret would be happier if our cows went to California! This is as close as she was "comfortable" getting to the cows. Can you even see them in the picture? Another day, we will work on our fear of cows, but it made me laugh!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friesians and more!

The October/November issue of Massachusetts Horse magazine is online. Check out the article I wrote about Friesians - there are some beautiful horses in Massachusetts and Vermont.

I visited Friesians of Majesty in Vermont while working on the article, it is worth the trip up!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Mirror Has Three Faces

Pat and Linda Parelli of Parelli Natural Horsemanship have several advertising campaigns out in national horse magazines. The ads encourage horse owners to unlock the full potential of their relationship with their horse, by participating in a Parelli clinic or some other instructional format.

My favorite is a picture of a Chinese fortune cookie. The fortune reads, “Your Horse is a Mirror of You.”

If Pat and Linda are right, my mirror has three faces. In a way they are right. Each of my horses mirrors some of my strengths and weaknesses.

John has boundless energy and he is always busy. He can get so tense that it is like sitting on an accordion. But that horse has a huge heart and he puts every fiber of his being into his work (and in some cases, to getting out of his work!)

Secret is the boss mare and she knows it. But underneath her tough exterior, she second guesses herself and me and needs to be reassured. The mare has tons of athletic ability and can be the reason for one of the coolest rides.

Remi is all personality. If I walk out into the field to get one of the three for a ride, Remi is always the first to greet me. If I’m not looking for her, she will walk next to me and wrap her head and neck around me so that I cannot move forward, away from her. There is nothing wrong with that girl’s ego. She also has tons of athletic ability and a huge heart. Probably what I love the most is that when I teach her something, she gets it the first time and we rarely have to repeat the lesson.

If my horses really are mirroring me, I hope that I can continue to improve and build on that image.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

‎"It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Remembering all those who lost their lives or lost loved ones ten years ago today.

Colorado Relay Video

Brooks made this awesome video of the Colorado Relay and our team, check it out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Barnmice Contest

Hey Horse People:

Barnmice (a social media page for horse people) is having a friends contest. Please click here to view a picture of Debbie and me riding in Maine. "Like" the picture - and then set up your own page and add your own photo!

3rd Annual Fun In The Forest Trail Ride

Save The Date!

The 3rd Annual Fun In The Forest Trail Ride to benefit First Descents will be on Saturday, October 22nd at the Lost Silvermine Campground in Natchaug State Forest, Eastford, Connecticut.

Registration at 9 am and riders out on the trail at 10 am. Lunch is included with registration and as always, we will have great prizes!

Registration forms will be available soon, let me know if you need one!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Work-Life Balance

I subscribe to Jon Gordon's weekly e-newsletter. This past Monday (Labor Day) he sent one of the best yet, about the "work-life balance." For any of you that may struggle a bit with this balance (as I do!) read his post below:

Work Life Balance is a Myth

"Work-Life Balance."
It’s a phrase we hear often. But I don’t think it really exists. At least not in the way most "experts" talk about it.

I, like most people, have never been able to balance the scales of work/life on a day-to-day basis. Rather, I’ve come to realize that the dance between work and life is more about rhythm than balance.

There is a rhythm to life and there is a season for everything.

For me, there is a time to work hard and a time to rest. There is a time to be on the road and a time to be at home with my family.

My wife and I look at our year as whole and we plan our schedule according to the seasons of our life knowing I’ll be slammed in August, September and October and slower in December and July.

We plan for when I’ll be working and when I’ll be more engaged with the family.
You can do the same.

You may have a different rhythm and your seasons may be shorter or longer than mine but you can look at your life on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis and schedule times to work hard, recharge, renew, play, and engage with your family/friends/significant other.

However, regardless of your rhythm and work schedule I want to encourage you to fully commit to your seasons. People tell me all the time that they feel guilty that they are not at home with their family when they are at work. And to make matters worse they also feel guilty that they are not working when they are at home.

A double dose of guilt is a recipe for misery.

Instead, when you are working hard realize this is your season to do so... and also make plans for time to recharge, renew and spend quality time with the people you love.

When you are working, commit fully to your work. When you are home with your family or significant other, commit fully to engaging with them and enjoy your personal time.

By understanding your rhythm, planning and committing to the seasons of your life you may not achieve perfect work-life balance but you will create a flow and rhythm that makes you happier, more productive and...less guilty.

If you are interested in signing up for Jon's newsletter or learning more about him, visit his website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fun In The Forest Trail Ride Registration

3rd Annual Fun In The Forest Trail Ride
A benefit for First Descents
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Silvermine Campground
Natchaug State Forest
Eastford, CT
Registration: 9 am All Riders On Trail by 10 am

Registration form:

Name: ______________________________________________
Address: ___________________________________________
City: _______________ State: ________ Zip: __________
Phone: _____________________________________________
Email: ______________________________________________
Is The Rider a Youth ________ or Adult __________
Horse’s Name: ____________________________________
Horse’s Age: __________ Breed: ___________________

A copy of Current Rabies and Coggins Are Required With Registration

Registration Fee: $20 for adults and $10 for youth (under 18)
Checks should be made payable to First Descents.
Additional fundraising is appreciated. Lunch is provided!

Prizes will be awarded for: first to register, most fundraised, longest distance traveled, youngest rider, fundraisers of $25 and more, best behaved horse, and many others!

Send completed registration with check and health papers to:
Stacey Stearns
440 Mansfield City Road
Storrs, CT, 06268
(860) 377-6314

Fun In The Forest Trail Ride
A Benefit for First Descents

Fundraising Form

Name Address Amount Donated

All donations are tax deductible!
Please make all checks payable to First Descents and bring this form and all money to the trail ride on October 22nd.


In consideration for _________________________ (the “Rider”) being permitted to participate in a benefit trail ride sponsored and organized by Stacey Stearns, as a benefit for First Descents on October 22, 2011 at Natchaug State Forest in Eastford, Connecticut, the Rider and his/her parents (if Rider is under 18 years of age) agree that Stearns, Natchaug State Forest, First Descents, and their agents, members, volunteers and assistants shall not be liable for, and agree to hold them harmless from, any accident, personal injury, death or property damage that may be sustained by any person or entity, including without limitation the Rider, as a result in whole or in part from the Rider’s participation in the trail ride. This agreement is binding on the Rider and his/her parents whether or not said accident, personal injury, death or property damage is due in whole or in part to the negligence of Stearns, Natchaug State Forest, and First Descents or any of their agents, members, volunteers or assistants. The Rider and his/her parents (if Rider is under 18 years of age) agree to defend and indemnify Stearns, Natchaug State Forest, and First Descents and their agents, members, volunteers and assistants for any claims, demands, or suits arising from the Rider’s participation in the trail ride, including without limitation those arising in whole or in part from the negligence of Stearns, Natchaug State Forest or First Descents or their agents, members, volunteers or assistants.

This release is signed on ________________, 2011.



A Worthy Cause!

My sister Heidi is running the NYC marathon for CAMFED USA. Read about this organization that sends girls to school in Africa and consider making a donation!

Click here to visit my sister's fundraising page!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Thinks That Make You Go Hmm...

I rode two horses on the same trail today. There is a new low-hanging branch (from Irene) that is easy enough for a rider to get under, as long as you duck low.

Horse number one ducked its head when I ducked my head. We both passed under the branch unscathed.

Horse number two raised its head when I ducked my head - using its neck to push me back up a bit. We both got leaves to the tops of our heads (no serious damage...just something to make me go hmm).

Any guesses which is horse number one and which is horse number two? To make things a bit easier - Remi worked in the ring today - so whichever you guess, you have a 50% chance of being right!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Colorado Relay Video

One of my teammates on the First Descents All Camper Team at the Colorado Relay made a video of our team.

Click here to watch the video. I will be blogging about the Relay and my three legs (22 miles!) soon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

25 Miles Later

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, John and I ended up being the first ones out on the trail. Technically, two riders went out ahead of us, but they were 15 minutes ahead, re-checking the trail markers. This was good and bad. Good because there were no horses to “catch” and bad because there were not many hoof prints to reassure me that I was on the correct trail.

The first five minutes were extremely unpleasant. John was convinced he knew which trail we should be on (not the one I was trying to take us on) and he saw the photographer with her umbrella (did you know umbrellas eat horses?) I was very glad to be riding with the Mylar combination bit, because I can’t imagine what these five minutes would have been like in my smooth snaffle with a martingale. After about five minutes, he settled down and went to work. I never settled down.

Every time he took an odd step or shortened his stride, I was worried. Did he hurt himself? Will he be lame again? My better judgment told me that this horse has been taking missteps and misbehaving without problems for years, but its hard to wipe out one bad ride without at least one similar ride that went well. Mostly I worried about keeping my own thoughts at bay and keeping John at a slow, steady pace.

We came into the hold after about 2 hours. Perfect timing, with a 20-minute hold and 12.5 miles to go, I was right on track. John pulsed down easily to a 48 (woo-hoo – glad that problem is solved – he needed a 60). We went over to trot out and I was filled with trepidation. The horse that trotted out ahead of me got pulled – lame in three legs. I will let you imagine what was going through my mind.

We trotted the line and the vet said, “Very good, thank you.”


We went back to the trailer while I got a snack and then headed back out onto the trail. As we were riding out of camp, I noticed that I had not fastened John’s throatlatch when I re-bridled him. It was flapping in the wind with every step. Rather than dismount, I rode over to the P&R volunteers and asked one of them to fasten it.

As the gentleman fastened John’s throatlatch, one of the ladies exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, we need to tighten your girth too!”

The man said, “Wow, I guess so, I’m glad you noticed that!”

I quickly replied, “Oh no, I did that, please leave it where it is, its on 2 and 3. He doesn’t like it too tight”

The man looked at me incredulously and said, “A cat could crawl between your girth and the horse’s belly!”

I merely said, “But not a large cat, right? Thanks for fixing my throatlatch!” And I rode away.

It should be mentioned that the forecast for this Sunday in August said showers later in the afternoon. I packed rain gear for horse and rider, but after reading the forecast, unpacked it, in an effort to pack lighter. We would be riding early, before the rain came.

It started raining at 4 am. The photographer has a great shot of John and I coming out of the hold. He looks perky and ready for the 12.5 miles ahead. The look on my face says, “12.5 more miles and I can put dry clothes on.” It’s a great photo.

The second loop went much like the first. We rode the same trail so I knew where to walk and where I could make time. The only difference is that this time there were more horses around us, so we practiced following and not chasing, and riding our own ride. I still worried about every misstep.

I used almost all of the time I was allotted on the trail, riding back into camp after 4 ½ hours. The first thing anyone said to me was, “Did you ever tighten your girth?”


Once again, John pulsed down without a problem (another bonus of a rainy day – its good Morgan weather). We went to trot out and I was nervous again. Of course he could not match the antics of his trot in, (“Oh yeah, I remember what we’re doing now, I can behave mom.”) But that’s okay, we weren’t going for a perfect score, I needed a completion and a sound horse.

And that’s what I got. He scored a 95 out of 100, losing 1-½ points for change of gait on his trot out, 1-½ points for changes in his wind puffs and 1 point for suspensory tenderness (a new one for us). I was happy. Doubt and worry left the building.

Friday, September 2, 2011


To say I was nervous is an incredible understatement. Doubt and worry were my constant companions in the saddle at the NEATO 25 Mile Competitive Trail Ride on August 14th in Escoheag, Rhode Island.

Truth be told, I was ready and so was John. He would have competed at the end of July, but the Fryeburg ride we entered was cancelled. Since our fiasco at the Pine Tree Endurance ride (where John came up lame after 17.5 miles and then was trotting nearly sound before we went home) I had done my homework. I put John on a joint supplement, changed his bit for one that gave me a bit more control, and spent time working at home on transitions and other things that would help give me complete control of his feet.

But I was still nervous. Knowing myself, it was because I had six weeks in between rides to brew over Pine Tree and all of the things that could potentially go wrong at Escoheag.

We arrived at Arcadia Management Area early and found a good camp spot. I don’t remember much of the afternoon, but I think I wandered around carrying fence posts for at least 20 minutes before I was of any use to Burnie in setting up temporary paddocks. After the paddocks were up, the three horses went in. I dumped some sawdust in John’s to encourage him to pee outside. He had one end, Dolly had the other and Minnie was in the middle. After John shocked himself (always testing the boundaries!) he and Minnie were quite happy to groom each other over the fence.

My goal had been to vet in and then go for a training run (in preparation for the Colorado Relay – more on that later). I was exhausted and my heart really wasn’t in the run, so when the vet got stuck in traffic, I happily lazed around camp watching my horse and catching up with everyone.

Once the vet arrived, everyone headed over to vet in. We got a pretty good spot in line, and as we waited our turn, John stopped to pee in the middle of the grass arena. Even if the rest of the ride was a failure, this was a victory (and one that was a long time coming!)

We vetted in with Ann and one of her Haflingers. When it was John’s turn to trot out, I guess he thought I needed an ego check about the peeing outside thing. He put on quite a show, leaping and diving down the line and park trotting the circles. So much for my horse that had finally learned to trot out in a quiet and behaved manner! To be fair, we hadn’t practiced trot outs at all – the last time he did one was at Pine Tree in June. I added them back to my to-do list.

To be continued...

August blogs

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t blogged in awhile, to be accurate, the entire month of August. Things have been rather hectic and over the next few days (or weeks, we’ll see how it goes) I will attempt to fill in a couple of the blanks on what I have been up to.

For the brief synopsis:

I went to North Carolina at the beginning of the month and spent a few days with my sister and her family. It was great to play with my niece and nephew as well as catch up with some good friends while I was down there. The time flew by way too quickly. Next came the NEATO 25 mile competitive trail ride in Rhode Island. It was our first competition since the lameness issue at the Pine Tree Endurance Ride in June. I went up to Townshend, Vermont the next week to visit Friesians of Majesty for an article in Massachusetts Horse magazine. If you ever have the chance to visit Friesians of Majesty, it is a beautiful farm with fabulous horses and people.

The last weekend in August had been circled on my calendar for a long time. August 27-28 – the dates of the Colorado Relay. I was on the First Descents All Camper Team for this 200-mile relay race. There are so many things to say about this weekend (and the months of preparation that went into me being ready for it) that it will eventually get at least one post of its own.

And now, August is over and I feel a sense of relief, or at least peacefulness. It was a great month with several fun activities, major accomplishments and a lot of busy days in between those. I am looking forward to a slower fall!