Ride and Tie training, Day 1

Nothing gets me moving like registering for a race. I’ve been in a slump, so today, the whole family registered for the NY Adventure Endurance Ride. But there’s a twist.

Last June, Teddy was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM); you can learn about it here if you have never heard of it. . He was treated for a couple of months and has been recovering. The problem is, EPM never completely goes away. EPM is what eventually killed King after 2 years of treating it. Horses with EPM are at risk for relapses and stress is a trigger for such a relapse. Endurance rides are stressful (trailering, camping, racing/excitement on trail, trailering again, etc.). It is unlikely that Teddy will ever compete in an endurance ride again, but time will tell. Regardless, Alex has outgrown Teddy, so if Teddy does make it back to competition, it will probably be with Amanda.

With the weather in the upper 40s, it was a horse riding kind of day. This morning, Quinn took Eli out on the trails and Amanda got to tag along on Huey, they only did about 3.5 miles, but they they rode (together).

After lunch, Anna and Amanda took Amira and Teddy out for a 4.5 mile ride today. Teddy was sound and spunky. Amanda will ride anything.

But this is really about Ride and Tie. The NY Adventure Endurance ride is in late May and is likely the first opportunity for a ride we will have. With Teddy out of competition for now, we only have 4 horses for the 5 of us to ride at events. Enter, Ride and Tie. From www.rideandtie.org:
“The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The objective is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange (which is called a “flying tie”), or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all this, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical.”

Ride and Tie events have been slowly making their way into New England and the NY Adventure Endurance ride is also sanctioned as a Ride and Tie event. This morning, Alex and I watched the AERC webinar about R&T and then discussed options about NY Adventure (there was a scenario where we could have borrowed a horse for the ride) to make sure Alex understood what was involved (I have been interested in R&T for a couple of years). Alex agreed, that using Mojo for a R&T sounded like more fun than a standard endurance ride. So this afternoon, we did our first training session.

We started with changing some of the riding attire to make it more comfortable for both riding and running. I previously switched to using my Altra trail running shoes for riding (we use caged stirrups), but Alex has been riding in paddock boots. Alex switched to a pair of Topo trail running shoes that I had that in the closet but didn’t particularly like (since he is the same size shoe as me it was an easy trial). Alex elected to still use his breeches while I rode in my running tights (we both chose tri-shorts underneath). We saddled up Mojo in the Big Horn saddle. We chose the Big Horn because it has synthetic fenders that won’t rub our legs, it has a tree and will be more stable with lots of mounting and dismounting, and it has a lot of places to tie off packs or other items. Another benefit of your son growing up is we are the same height, so our stirrup length is the same.

We started our training ride together, I was on Mojo and Alex was on foot. We went about 1/4 mile and then decided to try the first tie. Since we had never done this with Mojo, we weren’t sure how he would react. Alex stopped just out of sight and I tied Mojo to a tree and then went down trail out of sight. Alex waited a minute and then went to Mojo, untied him, and mounted up. Mojo didn’t care about being tied. We went anther half mile and then repeated, this time Alex executing the tie and heading off down the trail. Again, Mojo didn’t care.

Next we decided to step it up a little. I rode away from Alex and cantered Mojo up a hill. At the top, I hopped off, tied Mojo, and took off running. Alex was within sight, about 100 yards away. We were on a more open section of trail roads and we were able to start moving at a faster pace. Alex rode about 3/4 mile, passing me along the way, tied Mojo and headed out to our turn around point.

At the turnaround, we did a flying tie (just a hand off between riders) and then headed back. On the way home, we did 2 more ties. Unfortunately, after the last tie there was a miscommunication about the planned route home. I went the way we came out. Alex took an alternate trail. Since he never caught up to me, I got worried and back tracked. Eventually, I called the house to send Quinn out to the barn where they found Alex arriving. Clearly, better route communication is going to have to improve.

The day was an overwhelming success; Mojo was a rock star. We covered 5 miles, completed 6 ties and 1 flying tie. We did have some technical issues with the lead rope coming loose from how we tied it to the saddle between ties, so we need to work on our plan for how we will handle that. As we did more of the exchanges, Mojo seemed to figure out that he was supposed to chase down the runner. We also need to make sure Alex has his cell phone when we are out practicing R&T. We have 3 months to increase the running mileage and get ready. I’m looking forward to it.

Mojo watching Alex run away

Happy New Year!

Well, after 14 years in New England, we’ve gone native. New Year’s Eve dinner included lobster (purchased live and cooked at home), steak (from a local cow), and pheasant from a hunt last weekend. We had some brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and bell pepper slices to go with all that protein.

After dinner, we had a game of Kids Against Maturity.

Dessert is homemade goat milk ice cream and brownies with a toast to the new year.

NibbleNets!

We have had NibbleNets in continuous use on our farm since 2012. After over 8 years of DAILY use by horses and goats, some of them are starting to wear out. Don’t be fooled by imitations! The original NibbleNet is not a cheap product, but it definitely is worth the investment!

We will be placing an order for NibbleNets in early January.  If you would like to purchase one for yourself, please email me by Jan 10 with what you want and we will add it to the order.  The full list of choices is here. Our favorite and most versatile net is the 12″ DoubleNibble with 1.5″ openings on both sides.  

In return for your patronage, you will receive a 10% discount on all MSRP prices for the items you advance order.  You will not have to pay shipping, but CT Sales Tax does apply.  If you have any questions, please email or give me a call.

In case you missed it:
NibbleNets are a hay slow feeder designed to make it take your horse longer to consume their hay.  This has a lot of benefits, including relieving boredom, improving digestion, and reducing waste.  They work well whether you stall your horse at night or leave them turned out all the time.  AND they are great as feeders for the side of your trailer.  Don’t be deterred by the price – they are worth every penny.

Feel free to share this offer with your friends.
We are also dealers for Uckele and can usually beat any online prices for supplements you may be feeding. Let me know if you want to compare prices.
Thanks,
Rob and Anna Sawyer
860-884-0110 

Snow Day!

Today was a snow day on the farm. We got a good 10 inches of snow overnight. It kept snowing until around noon time. The two older kids had a traditional snow day. Griswold had decided to forego the snow day for a virtual learning day, but most of Amanda’s teachers gave short easy assignments that left room for some snow play between classes.

This morning was spent snow clearing and doing the every-day chores that seem to take twice as long on a day like this. Trudging through thick snow to get food and water to all the critters is hardly a glorious task, albeit necessary.

Rob and Alex used the tractor and snow blower to clear the drive way and around the house. We all fed and watered the horses, goats, chickens and rabbits. The rabbits have moved to the basement until the weather gets better.

Amanda spent her lunch break skiing, and convinced her brother to build a snow fort with her after school. We decided to hitch Huey his Kingston easy entry cart with sleigh runners and drive him around for a bit. He was a good sport, although it was getting cold and the sun was fading.

Enjoy some pictures from our day and a three short videos here:
Rob and Amanda cutting fresh tracks
Rob and Amanda driving Huey
Anna and Amanda driving Huey

The Farm Provides

Dinner tonight was potato soup and fresh bread (2 loaves of gluten free and 2 loaves of regular) cooked by Quinn. The potatoes were from our garden.

Amanda has been learning to milk the goats. We use the milk every day.

Dessert was mint chocolate chip ice cream with milk from the goats and eggs from the chickens.

Of course, you only use egg yolks to make ice cream, so you have leftover egg whites. Why not make a few meringues?

Maybe tomorrow we will make another batch of goat cheese and pair it with some red wine after dinner. Speaking of dinner, I think steaks from our locally sourced beef, spaghetti squash from our garden, and homemade mashed potatoes from our garden sounds like a good idea. Of course, herbs from the garden are handy for flavoring the cheese.

Introducing Quinn

After a 5 year hiatus, we have decided to get back into goats (it was mostly Rob’s idea). Lamanchas were our preference and we have started gathering our new herd of Lamanchas. In this picture is Tulsi, a 4 year old doe in milk we purchased last weekend with her kid from this year. Tulsi is currently giving us a little over 2 quarts of milk per day with her kid still nursing.

Milking Tulsi is Quinn, or as they were formerly known, Vicki. A few weeks ago they decided to change their name to Quinn. While we haven’t processed the full court name change yet, it will likely happen in the future.

WGHA Cross Country Pace 9-27-2020

Sunday we went to Arcadia RI for a WGHA Cross Country Pace. Anna rode with the kids and Rob helped volunteer at the ride. Teddy is still recovering from his EPM diagnosis and is not in shape for a long ride. The loop was 8.5 miles and we rode it in an hour 39 minutes or so. The horses were feeling good and we didn’t worry about being fast, because we wanted to ride a second loop. Anna came in fifth and the kids came in second in the junior division. Their time was indeed the fastest in the open division and the closest to the average time wins…oh well.

Anna and Amanda went out on a second loop with Amanda riding Mojo. Huey got a break, he needs a clip, he got sweaty with his new fur coat on, and Amanda likes to ride the big horses. Eli just came back sound from his injury at the endurance ride, this was his first longer ride, so we are just playing it safe with him. Amanda cantered Mojo down the Midway stretch and thought it was great. Mojo really moves out with no weight on his back! But he was good.

Fall colors are out! Go enjoy the outdoors.

Snakes

A few weeks ago, I was moving a load of manure to a family in Lisbon. When I dumped the load, I saw a soft shelled egg sitting on top of the manure pile. I did a little digging and discovered 9 snake eggs (the size of a small chicken egg). I collected them and brought them back home to show the family. A little investigating around the edge of our manure pile revealed another 8 eggs, for a total of 17 snake eggs. Earlier this year, we had a black rat snake that was about 5′ long hanging around the manure pile. Apparently, she decided the edges of our pile were a good place to lay eggs. I thought I took some pictures at the time, but I guess I didn’t get any. Since Anna wouldn’t let us keep them in the house, we buried them back into the manure pile.

Today, Amanda went to investigate where we buried the eggs, and we found 3 juvenile rat snakes. We stopped digging to prevent disturbing any unhatched eggs. Anna still won’t let the kids keep one as a pet, but all 3 kids took turns holding the baby snakes.


Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

“It’s called Northeast Challenge, not Northeast Walk-in-the-park”
-Dr. Art King, as quoted by Sue Niedoroda

First, I want to say a huge thank you to Sarah Jack for stepping up and being the ride manager this year. Without her willingness to volunteer to take over from her parents, we wouldn’t have had a ride to attend. That said, Sarah outdid herself with emphasizing the “Challenge” portion of the ride legacy.

Riding endurance with a whole family is all about the logistics. I took Thursday off work to load the horse trailer and the travel trailer so we could leave on time. In this case, we were taking 2 tow vehicles and 2 trailers for 4 horses and 4 riders. Since Teddy is still recovering from EPM, he wasn’t attending the ride. Alex stayed home with him to take his SAT test, but that was cancelled due to COVID, so Alex had the weekend to just hang out at home with Teddy and the dogs.

Northeast Challenge is held in Buckfield, Maine, which is only about 235 miles from our house. The Jack family generously hosts this event in their hay fields and marks the trails on surrounding public and private land.

On Friday, 8/28, we hit the road about 9:00 and headed towards Maine. Our lunch stop at a rest area took longer than desired, but we were on track to make the trip with only 1 stop and about 5 hours of travel time. Unfortunately, about an hour from the ride, we got a flat tire on the horse trailer. We use a Doran 360RV tire pressure monitoring system for our horse trailer. Coming home from our first endurance ride in 2015 we got a flat tire due to a broken valve stem. It turns out you need to have solid valve stems if using a TPMS on the end of the valve stem. We had that corrected, however, when we bought new trailer tires 2 years ago, the tire shop changed out one valve stem to a rubber one and I never noticed…. until we got a flat in Maine.
I figured out a long time ago it pays to be ready for flat tires. We travel with a Jiffy Jack in each trailer. I also invested in a Ridgid impact wrench and set of impact sockets that travel with us. So, when Anna got the alert on the TPMS that a tire was losing presssure, she was able to pull off the road before it went fully flat and ruptured. We had the flat off and spare on in about 12 minutes. We dropped the flat at a tire shop that was 20 minutes from ride camp to get a new, SOLID valve stem, and then continued on to camp.

When we arrived at ride camp, we discovered there were only 21 entries for the ride (10 for the 50 miler and 11 for the 30 miler) including our family of 4. Needless to say, there was plenty of room to set up camp. We chose a site next to our CT friend Mary Palumbo and Stacey Stearns. We set up the hard panels for Eli and Amira to share since they don’t respect electric and electric pens for Mojo and Huey.

We went to the vet-in and all horses were just fine to start the ride. I took a trip back into town to pick up the repaired trailer tire. We attended the short question period (not a ride meeting), had dinner, and started tucking into bed a little after 8pm. Reveille was held at 0430 because the ride started at 0630.

Now would be a good time to discuss the weather. All week we had been watching the forecast, as Hurricane Laura made her way up towards New England. The predictions had ranged from 50% to 80% chance of rain for Saturday. As of the ride meeting Friday evening, the estimate was rain showers in the morning with about 0.5″ throughout the day. Since temperatures Friday night were close to 50F, we decided to put light blankets on the horses because they hadn’t been gettting that cool at night. We were pleased to wake up to about 52F and cloudy skies, but no rain.

Tacking up for the start was uneventful. We had eggs and bacon with plenty of coffee for breakfast and were ready to head out when the trail opened at 0630. We walked the horses for about the first mile to make sure we didn’t have any issues since it was Eli’s first ride and the trail started with a climb uphill. The whole day was basically spent going up or down; there were very few flat areas.

The 50 mile riders and 30 mile riders were all riding the same first loop, but since the field was so small, everyone spread out pretty quickly. Our family of 4 was basically alone for most of the loop. The horses were all moving well, however, we were struggling to maintain speed. The area we live in doesn’t have significant hills for climbing. While we can average around 100′ of elevation per mile, Northeast Challenge had multiple climbs of 300-500′ at a time and totaled over 4100′ of elevation. Overall, we weren’t too worried (yet) because we only had a completion as our goal for the day. The horses enjoyed the stops for grass and the cool weather was very pleasant.

Then it started to rain. We had less than 4 miles to go on our first loop when the rain started. It wasn’t very heavy at first, but the temperature immediately dropped back below 60F and visibility was reduced. Right about this time, we started riding around a corn field and we lost the trail. In the end, we rode over a mile back and forth trying to figure out where the trail was supposed to exit the field. The problem was a turn marker had blown away and a ribbon had tangled in some brush making it hard to see. As we were riding back and forth, Amira spooked as some other riders came around a corner in the field and Anna had an unplanned dismount, landing on her left hip. She was dirty, but able to continue the ride. We eventually called the ride manager and found the exit from the field and headed back to ride camp for the vet check.

We don’t have any pictures that we took after this point, because it rained the entire rest of the ride, which was about 5 more hours including the hold. Less than a mile from camp, there was a creek bed to pass through. This had been discussed at the pre-ride meeting and there were 2 options. 1. Go through the mud and rocks. 2.Cross a wooden foot bridge. Anna took Amira through the creekbed. I took Mojo across the bridge. Vicki and Amanda followed me. Eli spooked on the bridge and slid off the left side of the bridge. It didn’t seem significant at the time, however, when we arrived at the vet check, Eli was quite lame on his right front. My theory is when he slipped, his right hoof actually slid to the outside and stressed his shoulder. There were no visible injuries to his leg and no swelling. Unfortunately, even with some icing, Eli was too lame to continue and he was pulled.

We had an hour for the hold after the horses met the 64 beat per minute pulse criteria. It was pouring rain. We put fleece coolers and blankets on the horses to keep them warm. They all ate mash and hay. We grabbed some food and hot coffee (prepped at breakfast and stored in a thermos). Some of us changed into dry clothes, but that only lasted a few minutes. Mojo had a sore back (got a B from the vet) at the vet check. This was my first competition using the Ghost treeless saddle and I had brought an extra saddle just in case. I made the risky decision to change the whole saddle and saddle pad for the second loop. I put a Skito pad with Big Horn endurance saddle on him as we tacked up to leave.

Due to temperatures (now in the mid-upper 50s) and constant rain, we put rump rugs on Mojo, Amira, and Huey to keep their upper leg muscles warmer for the second loop. As we headed out of camp, it was miserable. The rain was creating constant runoff and the mud was making it slow going. Our pace suffered and after an hour of riding, we had barely covered 4 miles. Anna and I were getting quite concerned about the ability to finish within the allowed time (7:15 total elapsed time, including the 1 hour vet hold). There was nothing to do but keep pushing and make up time where we could.

Eventually, we hit a relatively flat area and were able to pick up some cantering and consistent trotting. Gradually, our average speed picked up and we became more confident in the ability to get a completion. The loop was lasting longer than we hoped and around 2.5 hours, we had to convince Amanda to eat some extra food and keep the calories going into her. I personally felt the impact of the fatigue and decided to consume about 300 calories in short order though a combination of Sport Beans, gels, and Honey Stinger chews. The calorie boost worked for everyone and suddenly we found ourselves rounding the last corner and back at ride camp! We made it with a total elapsed time of 6:53. Almost exactly as we crossed the finish, the rain stopped (much to the relief of the 50 mile riders who were still competing).

Mojo, Amira, and Huey all passed the final vet check without issue! Huey had a great cardiac recovery index (CRI) of 52/48, which means his pulse dropped by 4 beats per minute from the initial check to after a trot-out, which is awesome. Additionally, Mojo got an A for his back score after the second loop and didn’t had any of the soreness he exhibited at the first vet check.

We spent the rest of the evening drying out, resting, eating, and hanging out (at least 6′ apart) with endurance riding friends. We camped over and headed home on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful (except for the extra 45 minute detour when Anna got on 95N instead of 95S). On Monday, the front brakes on the F350 failed at our house. If our drive had been 40 miles further, we would have broken down with the horses in the trailer (I got the brakes replaced without any issues). Count your blessings!

Wanda Clowater was at the ride taking photos and got some good pics of us. We will be buying some of her images. You can check out her photos here. Check out pages 3, 4, 6, 11, 13-15, and 18 for pics of our family.

Vacation to Great Pond Maine

Last week we spent time at a military campground at Great Pond in Aurora, ME. We took our travel trailer and drove up to Maine for 5 days.

The first day there, Monday, we rented a canoe, kayak and a paddleboard. We chilled out at the campground.

Tuesday we went to visit Acadia National Park. It was about an hour drive from the campground. It was very crowded and besides lots of hiking and woods, we do not really see a reason to return there. Check the box and move on. We had a really yummy lobster lunch in Bar Harbor before seeing the park and swimming at Sand Beach in the ocean. It was cold!

Wednesday was spent back at camp hanging out and doing a bit more boating on the lake. Rob and Amanda did some fishing in the evening.

Thursday started with some boating and then we went to do go karts and mini golf. Ended the day with sunset boating and s’mores.

Friday we left the campground to go home. It was a nice get away, but we were ready to get home to our farm friends. We had a quiet relaxing time and would love to go back.

The story of our lives with horses