Polo lessons with Stage Hill Polo

As I sit here watching Love at the Christmas Table on Lifetime snuggled up with my pup and some hot chocolate, its tough to remember just how cold I was Saturday morning up at Stage Hill Polo! Mizpah (the pup) is actually a bit damp right now because I had to bathe girlfriend after she got into something on the trails today…traildogprobs.

Anyway, I might be in love with polo. I don’t think I have aspirations of playing the crazy upper level polo, but I had so much fun Saturday! We just worked on hitting an arena polo ball at nothing more than a walk. Next time I am hoping for a trot. We’ll see. The groupon deal for these lessons was crazy affordable so I can actually afford to keep riding at my barn too while I take a few more polo lessons.

Not having a horse, finding opportunities like this to spend time with horses is amazing. Stage Hill Polo is run by Peter Poor and they compete at Myopia Polo’s tournaments. His father Joseph Poor and him are both polo legends. I mean, the arena at Myopia is named after Joseph Poor. Peter’s two daughters Amanda & Alyson are also amazing polo players.  I watched Stage Hill Polo play at Myopia recently actually (see the post here!). Dan Keating of Newport Polo learned how to play polo with Stage Hill. Here are some pics from the morning thanks to my amazing fiancé. I rode a horse named Salsa, owned by the Poor family, and her photo hangs at the Polo Museum Hall of Fame. The horses were all in awesome condition, you can tell they are truly loved and taken care of at Stage Hill.

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I think that there is a movement right now to make polo more accessible to the masses….instead of 3 amazing polo players and one rich guy which is what we often see in the higher level polo world, Stage Hill Polo is trying to create a polo community….where many moderately committed horse people pay bits of money to participate in the great sport of polo. Making polo less exclusive is profitable. Maybe one person for ever five that shows up for a lesson actually sticks with it, but the more people into the sport, bringing money into these barns, the better for everyone. More teams, more tournaments, more players….sounds good for Myopia. Now I am not saying that there isn’t some serious high quality polo going on at Myopia, because there is, but developing this community will create a feeder system, of younger athletes. We might not be socialites or royalty, BUT we just want to pay a fee to learn and use your horses. We aren’t at a place in our lives where we want our own barn of polo ponies to take care of, but we will contribute to yours in exchange. Stage Hill Polo doesn’t want to hide polo, or hold it up above our heads. Peter Poor wants to bring people in to the world of polo, not keep people out. Do as much as you can do or want to do.

Steve Rudolph was our instructor for this lovely lesson, and he was great. Everyone at Stage Hill was great, it was an awesome experience. The price thanks to Groupon was just right too 😉

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Prized Show Jumper Slaughtered in FL Close to Barn

I hate the negative, I want my blog to be positive and happy, puppies & candy canes, but this story sort of rocked my little world today. I am not even going to link a news story, there are so many now. Just google and pick one, I wouldn’t even know which one to pick for you.

I started riding back in 2007, right around the time that we were fighting in the US to close the last horse slaughter house in Illinois. Well once we shut down the last US slaughterhouse, the auctions didn’t stop, the killbuyers didn’t stop, now our horses just get transported to Canada & Mexico. At least when the slaughterhouses were here in the US, we could go in and regulate them, we could go in and make our PETA propaganda videos! Now why are we slaughtering horses at all you ask? Countries in Europe, Japan, and South America eat horse meat. Its a delicacy in some places, sweeter and leaner than beef. In Cuba especially horse meat is thought to have mystical powers, like sexual potency. Every year we breed thousands of unwanted horses, thoroughbreds that don’t earn their keep at the track, foals from the PMU industry (thats a whole other topic), and just family horses that people can’t afford to keep that are sold to kill buyers unknowingly. Its very sad for horse lovers to think about…..someone selling their horse to someone who they think is giving their horse a new home when they are really just taking that horse to auction for slaughter….sold by the pound.

Many surprising horses have ended up at slaughter houses. One that sticks out in my memory is Ferdinand, a grandson of Northern Dancer, winner of the Kentucky Derby & Preakness back in 1964. Quite a few have been saved once someone realized who they were, like Secretariat’s brother, Straight Flush.

Ok, so thats the history..what happened this past weekend is the horse meat black market in Florida really stepping into the spotlight. Horse meat on the black market is going for up to $40/lb. Thats crazy when you think about a horse being about 1,300 pounds. This past weekend Phedras de Blondel, a beautiful Grand Prix show jumper that I believe had just arrived to Steve & Debbie Stephens’s farm in Palmetto FL was led from its stall, killed, and then butchered for meat.

The person(s) who killed him was experienced, a professional, very precise cuts. I won’t go into too much detail, but I imagine the people who actually saw what was left of him will have trouble forgetting it. I think I read that just this year there has been 17 slaughterings like this in Florida. Florida is home to many horses, and the population of Florida is very diverse. Some have hypothesized that this might be happening in Florida because of the Cuban population in the area.

I just don’t know. Horse barns are usually sort of open. Tack rooms might be locked, but we really rely on people self policing at the barn, asking strangers what they are up to. People live there full time, which is helpful because a person or a dog might hear thieves…motion lights help. Now in Florida people are having surveillance systems set up and hiring security guards.

I feel for the Stephens family….Debbie is an amazingly accomplished rider and her husband Steve is an awesome course designer, and they had big plans for Phedras de Blondel. I can’t even imagine how much money the horse was worth, but I know they have a reward out for any information about the incident.

The attention this is getting will hopefully curb the issue…but part of me can’t help but wonder if this is our fault. Did we do away with horse slaughter that could be monitored and provided lots of jobs just to have the black market make it even more violent and sinister now? Thinking about someone unlatching a stall door, sweetly whispering to a horse, slipping a halter over his perfect velvet ears, and then calmly walking a hundred yards away to do what these people did (because I doubt he/she could have done this alone) is just disturbing.

Anyway, this is certainly not pleasant. I hope that the reward money is enticing enough to catch these people. One of the hallmarks of prep/preppy/trad culture is the sport. Crew, tennis, polo, golf, fox hunting, lacrosse, whatever…..most of us enjoy at least one….and what happened in Florida….I don’t know, it would be like somebody burning down Wimbledon and watching the grass scorch….or taking every 8 in the Harvard boathouse and sinking them in Boston Harbor….

Here he is, in all his glory, just 12 years old.

Photographie Eric KNOLL. Palaiseau 2014. CSI 2*. Jumping. Equestrian Event. Christian HERMON (FRA). PHEDRAS DE BLONDEL
Photographie Eric KNOLL. Palaiseau 2014. CSI 2*. Jumping. Equestrian Event. Christian HERMON (FRA). PHEDRAS DE BLONDEL

Ears forward, gentle but focused eye, perfectly tucked front legs, and muscles rippling. This horse was meant for great things with some amazing athletes.

Alright, this was a rough post to write. Horses have given me more than I could ever give back to them, but paying tribute where tribute is due, and not forgetting this crime is a little thing I can do. Hug your ponies and appreciate them everyday!

End rant, on to the weekend! Love to you all! Here is the latest Matt Bellassai video to lighten the mood here! It’s perfect, the worse things about Halloween….

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Brand new to me: Equestrianista

This week instead of investigating the latest prep craze to buzz across my social media, I am introducing a brand that I have been checking out. The brand is Equestrianista. The woman that started the company, Julie Frykman, is an equestrian who worked in high fashion in NYC, returned to Chicago to settle down with a family, got herself a beautiful OTTB (off track thoroughbred), and turned her love for fashion and horses into Equestrianista.

Sadly,  I don’t know if they have made it out my way for any horse events. I think they are hanging more in the midwest, and they do have a setup for Rolex in Kentucky every year. Girlfriends should come on out to Equine Affaire in MA! This would be a hot booth there!

Here are my personal favorites…..with the disclaimer that due the nature of a smaller company, items and sizes do sell out. If you fall for something that is out of your size, contact them, they will probably be able to tell you if more are coming! They also have some items for girls on the site, and some saddle pads/ear net bonnets for the horse in your life.

Snaffle Bit Blouse for $75.00

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Fox Hunt Sweater for $110.00- This is such a cute sweater with the foxhunter jumping over your shoulder to find the elusive fox on the back! This piece is a little out of my price range, but might be nice for a gift, a splurge item, or to watch if it goes on sale!

Tartan Plaid Poncho for $45.00- This item has already sold out at least once this fall!!

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Riding Boot Sweatshirt for $60.00- This looks like such a comfy piece to wear over your show shirt to keep it clean or just around the barn/town!

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Navy Herringbone Scarf for $25.00- I get so used to really only seeing black/gray herringbone, its so nice to see it in navy!

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Check Wrap for $45.00

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Riding Sport Black Shirt for $52.00, final sale

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Stock Pin for $18.00- I love this! It would make such a nice addition to your own wardrobe, but also an awesome gift for someone too!

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Equestrian fashion is not just for equestrians anymore. The popularity of many equestrian themed items has some out there saying that many are living a lie. I say wear what you like, like what you wear, and honestly I think the only item in my list that is really more for the sport than the style is the Riding Sport long sleeve. Its going to be 70 today in Mass, so I am hanging on to summer in my sperrys, sockless…..oh and Sterling stepped on me so hard last night, my sperrys are really the only shoes I could put on this morning. #horseprobs.

Which items above would you consider for yourselves or a friend?

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Prep Craze: Dubarry Galway boots & alternatives

Ok, so I am just starting to see these make an appearance in the blogger/instagram world. In the world of riding, there are riding boots or paddock boots for riding, and then there are rubber wellies, and finally there are basically leather wellies. People call them country boots sometimes? Some people do actually ride in them, but they usually don’t hold up to that because the leather is softer & easier to damage than riding boot leather.

Dubarry carries the most expensive and most enviable options. I have a few friends from the barn that have the Dubarry Galway because they literally wear them every day in the mud, mucking stalls, walking miles in the ring teaching riding lessons, they pretty much live in them. For that kind of wear, the price tag of $489, I can see. Where I live the best place to get these is Dubarry Galway Boot, but they sell them through Tuckernuck & Dubarry too. I would just choose to support a tack shop if I was going to get them. Here they are, one of my friends has them in black too, really nice.

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Here are the Dubarry Longford Boots, slightly higher price point at $529.

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Dubarry’s are popular among some of the bloggers. Sarah Vickers of Classy Girls Wear Pearls and Rachel Timmerman of Something Delightful have featured them. Alright so now that we have addressed some boots that are a few car payments, let me tell you about some alternatives!

Here are the Dublin River Boots at $189. A lot of women at the barn have these, they are really nice and come in black too.

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Dublin also makes the Dublin Ria Boot for $169.99.

There are also boots from Middleburg, the Middleburg H2O Country Boot for $159.99 but honestly the reviews for Middleburg boots aren’t great, so I can tell you they exist, but I wouldn’t recommend them.

Finally, the boots that I own!! Save the best for last right? I love the dubes, but I knew I couldn’t spend that kind of money on boots, and I wanted something different than the Dublin boots. I found Toggi! Toggi is popular in the UK I believe, but really isn’t seen around here much.

Here are the Toggi Canyon Long Leather Boots for $150. I got the brown ones, and I love them. I wear mine around the barn, when I groom for people at shows, and walking the cross country course with friends before it starts.

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The Canyon Boots in action!

I like these ones too, the Toggi Berkeley Country Boot . They are little more expensive though at $199.00. They look pretty similar to the Dubes huh!?

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Toggi Berkeley Country Boots

I love my Toggi boots, and I do get a sense of satisfaction that they were within my budget, they are great quality, and they are pretty much unknown around here. The Dublin boots are awesome too. If you want to splurge and get the Dubarrys, go for it, they are beautiful, BUT know that they aren’t the only option for a nice waterproof leather country boot. Tack shops like Smartpak & Dover have awesome stuff, and Country and Stable has great stuff too that sometimes hasn’t become popular yet in the US.

Dubarrys are awesome, but they aren’t everything, don’t let someone who got their pair for free tell you different 😉

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Volunteering at my barn’s last three phase of the year

The barn that I ride at has 3-4 schooling shows a year. There is usually one in April that is just a two-phase, dressage & stadium jumping. The cross country field is usually not ready in April. Then there might be one in June, then a three phase in August, and then in the past they have done a three phase or a cross country derby in October.

I don’t own a horse, and I don’t have a lease currently, so I am happy to volunteer at the shows. The clientele at our shows are usually middle school to college age, and then people in their forties/fifties who are financially secure, have kids that are older. Riders in the middle like myself are usually trying to save money for other things and can’t own or show a horse OR they are showing at a higher level. Volunteering is so much fun, and its an awesome way to learn more about how shows and judging works.

In the past I have scribed for the dressage judge (which is so cool), judged at xc jumps, timed for xc, and been the ring steward for stadium. I always learn a ton and have a lot of fun with everyone. Scribing for the dressage judge is hard work but you learn a lot about what they look for. Cross country is exhilarating and beautiful to watch. Watching horse and rider gallop through fields, and through water, (hopefully) effortlessly leaping over coops and walls is breathtaking. Stadium jumping is great too, sometimes I realize I am actually holding my breath while one of the girls who I have watched from pony camp to now jumping 2’6″ zoom around the course.

The dressage arena- a square/rectangle space marked with letters around the perimeter where riders do a series of movements called a dressage test
The dressage arena- a square/rectangle space marked with letters around the perimeter where riders do a series of movements called a dressage test
Autumn decor at C in the dressage arena
Autumn decor at C in the dressage arena
Stadium jumping
Stadium jumping 

I think I will probably make the cross country fields its own post, there are so many fun things to photograph out there, from the jumps to the water feature.

Volunteering at horse shows is an awesome way to get involved in the horse world. I used to volunteer for MSPCA’s Nevins Farm in Methuen MA. I mucked stalls, filled waters, and volunteered at events like Groton House Farm Trials and the Fidelity Jumper Classic (now held in NH) in Hamilton, MA. Definitely a cool way to be present and involved without necessarily having a horse. Plus you are donating your time to others to help, which always feels good!

I just recently started jumping again after doing just dressage for a year or so. I was at the point where I was out jumping in the xc field and doing in that 2′ area in the ring. Here is what I was jumping recently, this beautiful little cross rail haha! I will get back there eventually….

Oh hai cross rail!
Oh hai cross rail!

I love Monday holidays because it means only a four day work week! I am really looking forward to this weekend already, Oyster Fest on the Cape Saturday, Head of the Charles Sunday…..we just need this rain forecast for Sunday to change!

Hope you all had a lovely day!!

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As the leaves turn…

It has been a week! It is finally Friday and this work week has come to a rainy end. I was going to do a ride today with one of the school horses after school today but he is still lame and sadly all the other horses had dates this Friday afternoon. Now…when we say a horse is lame, that means that his gait is off for some reason, not that he is a loser ha. The vet narrowed is down to a hoof and thought rest and bute (horse tylenol), would be just the trick, but the lameness has persisted. We don’t ride our horse friends until they are sound again, meaning the issue that has caused the lameness has been resolved. Some horses do have chronic issues and vets can give people the ok to ride a horse like that, but generally we want our horses to have 4 happy legs/hooves for riding.

While I was there, I took a couple snaps of the trees just starting to turn. The barn I ride at is literally one of the most beautiful places on the planet, I’m so lucky.

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The barn is on a property that used to be an apple orchard. That’s pretty typical for central Massachusetts, so for the next couple weeks, free apples at the barn!

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Enjoy the apples, just return the baskets! 😉

I would have taken some if I didn’t already have plans to go apple picking tomorrow! We’ll see, if we get rained out I might be going back to the barn for some free apples 🙂 Have a great weekend!!

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Sunday Funday at Myopia Polo

Yesterday a few girlfriends and I ditched football and spent that afternoon watching some polo! Myopia Polo is the oldest active polo club in America, the grounds are beautiful. They host matches for Harvard, Boston Polo, international matches, and they have quite a few family teams from the area that play in tournaments for Myopia. Yesterday’s matches were between some of the Myopia teams in remembrance of Patti Lahey who passed away from cancer in August. She was an amazing woman in Massachusetts’ North Shore horse community. They had her friends come up and tell stories about Patti during breaks in the match, it was very sweet and touching.

One of the Myopia teams is called Stage Hill Polo and they also do lessons. I am planning on doing a lesson with them in November thanks to an awesome Groupon!  Other places in New England that do lessons for polo are Newport Polo in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which also does matches and tailgating, and then Patch Wood Farm in Sandown NH does lessons for other riding disciplines too. I did a lesson at Newport Polo and it was awesome, but its just too far a drive. I am so happy I saw the Groupon for Stage Hill. I love finding new things to do with horses 🙂

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It was a lovely fall afternoon. They charge $10/pp for admission, and we grabbed some champagne, OJ, Boursin  & crackers from the grocery store. My friend brought some smoked bluefish caught right off Martha’s Vineyard. Like our table?? Its a cooler with my friend’s horse’s Baker sheet over it ha! Not too shabby!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend and got outside to enjoy some fall weather activities!

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The Ferrari of Ponies

Last night I was so blessed to be able to get a lesson with one of my best friends on her amazing intermediate event horse. I have been riding since January 2007, and I have had a few leases, but have mostly ridden school horses, or horses that belong to the barn for lessons. School horses have taught me sooooo much. They can be frustrating to work with because they will really make you work for everything, but I  think they are very rewarding too.

My friend’s horse is an OTTB, or off-track thoroughbred. He wasn’t meant for the racetrack but he is a brilliant event horse, especially the cross country phase. We did a dressage lesson in the indoor arena, and it was so fun. His level of training is so much higher than the school horses, so I really just got to ride instead of spending the whole time trying to work through issues brought on by too many bouncy little kids 🙂 Riding him is kinda like leaving the 1988 Honda Civic to ride in a ferrari. He’s perfect. Someday when she retires him from competing, I know he will be the best eventing/dressage school master.

She took a few pics, they are blurry but I actually kinda like how the blurriness softens the pictures. IMG_2016 IMG_2017

It was the kind of night when you drive home smiling the whole time, like nothing could bother you after that. That’s the good stuff. Happy Friday!

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Spotted: Foxhunt in the town forest!

This morning my fiancé took our dalmatian, Mizpah, for a trail run at the town forest in Groton, MA. Old Northbridge Hounds were also there for a hunt! I guess all the hounds were ahead of the horses and swarmed Mizpah, she must have felt like the belle of the ball. They were called back to the master and the hunt went down a different path. In the past, my fiancé and Mizpah were actually on the same path as the hunt and little Mizpah walked right next to the horses like she was in the pack before coming back.

I am attaching a few pictures from my fiancé. He said there were probably ~20 horses today. Everyone is wearing their informal hunt attire, formal hunt attire doesn’t start until October. I know of 3 hunt clubs in Massachusetts- Old Northbridge is in Concord, Myopia is up on the north shore in Hamilton, and Norfolk Hunt Club is in Dover. They do hunts usually on Tues/Sat and also hunter paces that some people from my barn go to with their horses. All of them are drag hunting clubs. That means there is no fox, they drag the scent through the woods for the hounds to follow. There is usually some sort of reception afterwards like a tea or luncheon.

A really fun way to learn more about fox hunting is to read Rita Mae Brown’s fox hunting mysteries. I absolutely love them. It took me a little bit to get used to the fact that the animals all have dialogue in her books, but now I like it ha. Here is her website: Rita Mae Brown Books She also writes books about cats…..

Here are links to the Massachusetts Hunt Clubs:

Old Northbridge Hounds

Myopia Hunt

Norfolk Hunt

If I had my own horse, I would definitely want to get involved in a hunt club. They are great social groups and its great exercise for all species involved 🙂 Maybe someday when I have extra money…soooo probably not until retirement!!!

Here is the older picture from last year of Mizpah, the blur between some horses. It must have been later in the fall because they are wearing formal attire!

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Hope everyone had a fabulous Tuesday! I think this week’s Prep Craze is going to be quilted vests because I just got a really nice navy one from J. Crew Factory, 35% off- Free Shipping! Gotta find ways to get those fall essentials without ruining your budget right!? Stay tuned!

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Barn wedding weekend & Great LLBean Story

Today I definitely had a case of the Mondays ha. I had an amazing weekend as a bridesmaid for one of my best friend’s weddings. She got married at her family’s horse farm. She came in to the ceremony next to the family’s beautiful antique farm house on a carriage pulled by a chestnut morgan with her father and met her groom under a trellis in front of a beautiful old oak tree. Her child, aka her horse, was in a paddock nearby for pics afterward, absolutely stunning. The reception was down in the cross country field under a tent. The decorations and lighting were magnificent. The food was delicious and we drank Veuve Cliquot out of the bottle and our favorite Barefoot chardonnay while we danced all night long. It was truly a magical night and I was so happy to be a part of it. Work this morning was a harsh reality after living in a fairytale all weekend 🙂

This morning I heard a great story about one of my favorite companies, LLBean. Leon Gorman passed away on September 3rd. I was actually up in Freeport that weekend! Leon was the grandson of the founder L.L. Bean and served as CEO from 1967-2001. He was on the board as chairman after that until 2013, and then served as chairman emeritus until he passed away at 80 years old. By all accounts, he was an amazing man and is credited with much of the success LLBean now has. The flagship store in Freeport is open 24 hours/day and closed on Sunday for 4 hours so that everyone could go to Leon Gorman’s memorial service. The doors don’t even have locks so they draped a rope through the handles of the doors. The flagship store only closed 2 other times, when JFK was assassinated, and when L.L. Bean himself passed away. I just thought it was so nice that the company realized that celebrating Leon’s life was more important than any sale they would make that morning. Truly, I have often thought I would love to work for LLBean when I retire, because its such a great company.

You can read the story about the store closing here: LLBean remembers Leon Gorman

Here are some pics of the amazing wedding 🙂

Veuve cliquot for the head table, so good
Veuve cliquot for the head table, so good
The centerpieces were beautiful fresh flowers in horse show trophy cups. Metallic sandals were the bridesmaid shoe of choice- here are some of our Jack Rogers taking a break while we danced!
The centerpieces were beautiful fresh flowers in horse show trophy cups. Metallic sandals were the bridesmaid shoe of choice- here are some of our Jack Rogers taking a break while we danced!
My fiancé sent this as a snapchat, ha, too funny, but honestly, the tent was stunning.
My fiancé sent this as a snapchat, ha, too funny, but honestly, the tent was stunning.

It was truly a magical weekend with all my best friends from the barn, so nice to see so many of the riders dressed up and dancing together. I hope you all had lovely weekends too! Its starting to get cooler and darker earlier, we have to soak up whats left of the nice weather here in New England!

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