Driving Huey

For those who don’t know, Huey is our 16yo Dartmoor who’s registered name is Hedgehog Hollow’s American Eagle.  While he has been a good riding pony for Amanda, and still goes on trail rides, Amanda is preferring to ride Devil in the arena.  Huey needs a job and so we have been slowly working on teaching Huey to drive for the past few months.  Even though we were told he was driven before we owned him, we wanted to take everything slowly and actually step through the entire training process.  It was also beneficial for the kids to see the intermediate steps of training a driving horse.  We have been ground driving Huey, including teaching Alex and Vicki how to ground drive and Huey has pulled a tire on the ground.

I recently built a set of false shafts which are poles designed to give the pony pressure like a cart, but without the expensive cart.  Here is the document I used to make our false shafts: false shafts instructions.  This afternoon, Anna did a little lunging with Huey in his harness and then we hooked him up with the false shafts.

Anna and I took turns ground driving Huey with the false shafts  and made him walk and trot around the arena.  He didn’t show any concern at all about the shafts, so we decided to move to the next step.

We decided to purchase our easy entry cart new from Kingston Saddlery.  It wasn’t much more expensive than most used ones and we knew we could get replacement parts as needed.  We were also able to purchase sleigh runners, so we are looking forward to the snow arriving.

Alex and Vicki were on hand to assist with the initial hitching of Huey to the cart.  We started by approaching him with the cart and removing it to make sure he wouldn’t react (I think he slept through it).  Then we actually hooked him to the cart and I ground drove while he pulled the cart.  Anna started with a lunge line attached to his bridle in case things went wrong, but we removed the extra tending line pretty quickly.

Since everything was going well, the next step was to get in the cart and drive around.  Alex and Vicki didn’t want to be left out and both took turns driving Huey around the arena.

We need to get a side check for the harness (that’s what the blue baling twine is doing right now) and some sleigh bells.  The kids were singing Dashing Through The Snow as they rode around together, and Huey was a rock star.  Now they are discussing plans for driving him at the 4-H fair in the summer.

 

Painting Party

This weekend, Vicki was finally able to have her birthday party (almost 2 weeks after her birthday.  She had a couple of friends join her for a trip to The Drunken Palette in New London where they painted a horse picture (I assisted Amanda a little bit).  After, we returned home for a sleepover.  The girls decorated the birthday cake (Vicki is a stickler for the cake decorations and insists on decorating her own cake) as a group project, played hide-and-go-seek outside in the dark and temps in the 40s, and watched Ernest Goes to Camp.  Instead of actually eating cake last night, they elected to defer birthday cake to breakfast.

A cold November ride

Alex has not yet gotten to do an endurance ride and Vicki wants to try a 50 this year.  We have told them both, it requires lots of time on the trails for the horse and rider.  Yesterday, it was in the 60s and gorgeous.  Unfortunately, I spent the day trimming hooves (for others) and didn’t get home until after dark.  This morning, it was in the 30s and windy, but we saddled up anyways.  I rode Mojo, Alex rode Teddy (their first trail ride together) and Vicki rode Devil.  It was very windy so we expected the horses to be spooky and flighty.  We were pleasantly surprised to find they were not  much different from a regular ride.  We did a nice loop into some field that we hadn’t ridden on for a couple of years and then headed up into the main part of the forest.  It was wicked cold on top of the hills and we decided to cut the ride a little short.  We ended up only riding 7 miles in 1.5 hours, but Teddy did great with Alex.

After we got back, Teddy and Devil had both worked up a good sweat, so they got coolers and some stall time with hay and water to warm up and dry off.  An hour later, Devil was lame from what we believe was Tying Up.  For those not familiar, it’s basically muscle cramps.  Hand walking helped some.  We dosed him with electrolytes and did call the vet a little to discuss things with her.  If it hasn’t resolved by morning, we will have her out to see if we are missing something.  In the summer, it’s easy to think about adding salt and keeping horses hydrated, but in the winter, we don’t think about it as much.  I suspect Devil was just a little low on fluids before we started the ride and with his thick winter coat, he sweated enough out to cause a minor problem.

Anna also got to take King out for a short 4 mile ride later in the afternoon, but Amanda elected to spend most of the day inside because she doesn’t have enough (read any) body fat to maintain temperatures when it’s blustery out.

A momentous ride for the family

On Sunday morning, there was  a distinct chill in the air, everything was wet from the 3.5+” of rain we received Friday-Saturday, and the wind was blowing steady.  Like many other weekends, everyone was up early and we headed out to the barn to load up horses.  We were headed to the WGHA Ghost Ride at Goddard State Park in RI.  However, this particular Sunday outing was different for 2 important reasons: Amanda got to take Huey on the ride and King was going as well.  Amanda and Huey have been doing a lot of rides from the house and also lessons with Pony Club.  However, until now, Amanda didn’t get to join the family at trail riding events away from home.  They were finally ready to join us on the trails with other riders around.  Last weekend, Alex rode King 4 miles on the trails from home.  King hasn’t left our farm for a ride since the summer of 2014.   He has been combating injury from a tendon strain, Lyme, general arthritis, and more recently, EPM.  In all honesty, after this summer, we thought it was unlikely he would ever go to an organized ride again.

The ride was at Goddard State Park which has 6 miles of bridle paths.  While the trails are open, wide, and scenic, the park is usually crowded.  This weekend we got to share the area with a 5k race being held on the roads of the park.  Alex and King led our group for most of the ride.  Alex describes riding King as “smooth” and “light as a feather” with his floating trot and high energy (but without the spookiness characteristic of the arabs).  I’m sure it also feels different considering King is 8″ taller than Dakota.  Amanda did great controlling Huey.  The temperature definitely sucked the energy out of Amanda faster than normal, so I did put a lead line on Huey for the second half of the 6 mile loop.

While we had the option of doing multiple loops, we elected to stop after 1 successful loop.  Amanda really wants to ride the hunter paces next summer, so she plans to try to ride for longer periods of time.  It is nice for our whole family to be able to ride as a group at the events.

October Updates

It has been almost 3 weeks since we made a blog post.  It’s not that nothing has been blog-worthy, but rather, we have been so busy we haven’t had time to sit down and catch up.

Last weekend was our annual trip to the Hartford County 4-H Camp for Pony Club Columbus Camp.  We took 4 of our horses – Mojo (for Alex and Rob), Teddy (for Vicki), Devil (for Vicki), and Huey (for Amanda).  It started to rain on us Saturday afternoon and rained all day Sunday.  All the kids did 1 lesson in the pouring rain on Sunday and then decided to skip the afternoon lesson.  Devil was getting seriously underutilized and came home on Sunday afternoon.  He was literally climbing the walls in the stall and losing his mind.  He was much happier to be turned out with King when he got home.

Alex ended up riding 3.5 lessons on Mojo, including jumping.  I picked up 2.5 lessons on Mojo and we were able to loan him out for 2 more lessons when another kid had her horse go lame.  In the end, Mojo did 8 lessons in 2.5 days.  And he was awesome for every lesson.

Vicki rode Teddy for 3 lessons and 1 on Devil.  Teddy was calm and cool with Vicki and they were able to work on some jumping.  Amanda did 4 lessons on Huey; we were much more focused on the experience for them rather than a specific lesson goal.  I’m sure we didn’t take nearly enough photos, but here are a few.

The horses were happy to be home after camp.

King standing watch while the group who went to camp sleep in the next morning
King standing watch while the group who went to camp sleep in the next morning

Since Vicki is outgrowing Devil, and Amanda is moving up to ride Devil occasionally, Huey is getting used a little less.  We have decided that he will stick around and become our driving pony.  We were lucky enough to find a harness locally that fit him, so he has been getting worked for some ground driving.  This week, Vicki and Alex both got to start learning how to ground drive Huey.

On Friday evening, Alex and I were able to spend a couple of hours in the stand hunting deer.  We got to see 3 young bucks and 1 doe, but came home empty-handed.  Saturday morning, Alex and I took Mack out for the opening of pheasant season.

Today, we did a family trail ride. King’s health over the past year has been up and down as he combats EPM.  For the last few days, he has been doing surprisingly well.  Today, Alex was able to ride him for an hour covering 4 miles on our trail ride.  All 5 members of our family rode with all 5 of our horses.  Vicki rode Huey since he has been giving Amanda attitude on the trails and Vicki can work the spunk out of him if needed.

Once the ride was over, we did a little work outside and came in for dinner.  Fried pheasant from yesterday’s hunt, rice and gravy, and cole slaw with a cabbage picked from our garden this afternoon.

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There is no question that October and November are my favorite months in New England.

 

A visit to Roseland Cottage

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Roseland Cottage is a step into the Victorian era of Connecticut. Saturday September 24th was National Smithsonian Day and several museums around the area were offering free admission. The kids and I took advantage of the opportunity to go see this museum I’ve been thinking about for a while and went to visit Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, CT.  Alexis came with us as well.  Situated not quite 45 minutes from our house, this house is on the National Historic Register and proved very interesting , even to the kids. I believe Alex could count this day as a school day field trip!

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We showed up a few minutes late for the one o’clock tour, so we had some time to kill before our two o’clock tour.  Turns out the old horse stalls of the barn and carriage building have partially been turned into rest rooms, which the kids got a kick out of.

The kids enjoyed playing some Victorian games while we were waiting, such as the game of graces or french hoops, trundle hoops, ball in cone, spinning tops, and croquet.

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There was a civil war reenactment camp going on with a collection of dressed up soldiers, muskets, and a cannon. To Alex’s dismay, the cannon was not usable, but he got a lesson in how they loaded it.

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They had a kids activity set up to learn how to build a bridge for the soldiers and their wagons to cross rivers and the kids worked on this project for a while.

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At two, we started our tour. The gardens have the original boxwood gardens with 600 feet of hedge in a parterre style.

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We had to put on booties to enter the house, except Amanda who went barefoot, since the booties were so big they were a trip hazard.  Roseland Cottage was built in 1846 as a summer house for Henry and Lucy Bowen. They entertained important guests, including three presidents at this house. It is built in a gothic revival style, but later redecorated in a more Victorian style, including massive stained glass windows, fancy wall coverings and dark elaborate carpets. The house had 5 bedrooms, and we also saw the dining room, conservatory and sitting room.

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After the house we got to see the indoor bowling alley. Roseland Cottage has one of the oldest bowling alleys in the US. It is not part of the house itself, but rather a section of the barn and carriage house. Tucked into the bowling alley was an old carriage, which drew more attention from the girls than the bowling alley itself.

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After the house tour the kids returned to the now finished bridge project and got to walk over the finished bridge.

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We finished off our visit by talking to one of the soldiers and he showed Alex how the muskets worked and Alex and I were surprised to find that they were so slow to reload.

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We had a great visit, and I would definitely recommend this field trip to others, although young kids may not enjoy the house tour. Amanda was getting pretty restless at the one hour mark, but perked up when we went to the bowling alley and loved playing all the Victorian games.

If you are interested in more information about Roseland Cottage, here is a web site to get you started:  http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/roseland-cottage/roseland-cottage-history

 

Ayer Mt Farm Autumn Daze 2016

2 weeks ago, we rode as a family at the Lyme Trails Association Hunter Pace (aka Lord Creek Hunter Pace).  I rode Mojo with Alex as my teammate on a trial pony, Zippy.  Anna rode Teddy and Vicki rode Devil.  While Zippy was a good trail mount, we decided he wasn’t quite what we were after to replace Dakota, so we have since returned him.  However, we were thankful for the chance to ride as a family at a great venue.  For the past 2 years, horse or people injuries have resulted in only 3 of the 4 of us getting to ride.  Anna and Alex went around the jumps this year, as neither was ready for that on their mounts.  Vicki and I went over jumps… a lot of jumps.  It was AWESOME.  Mojo and I went over jumps that were bigger than anything I have ever attempted previously and only gave me 1 refusal all day.  Here are links to the Judy Bosco’s site, who was the ride photographer.  I bought a copy of Mojo and I jumping.

This weekend was Ayer Mt Farm’s Autumn Daze, which is also known as Jump, Jump, Jump.  It is a 3 phase jumping show which includes stadium jumping, derby jumping, and cross-country.  Derby jumping is a combination of stadium and cross-country jumps.  For any of our local riding friends, this is an amazing little show (I think there were 16 entries) and tons of fun.  I highly recommend you do it next year if they don’t cancel due to low numbers.

Since the previous weekend went so well, I decided to bump Mojo up to the Elementary Division (max 2’3″ jumps) while Vicki and Devil rode in the Grasshopper Division (max 18″ jumps).  To be clear, I had never actually ridden a stadium jump course on Mojo at anything other than 18″, so Anna considered my choice of divisions completely impulsive and irresponsible.  Anyone who knows my approach to riding will understand, it’s just my style to go for it and not worry about failure.  It turns out, Vicki has the same go-for-it attitude.

Anna had this to say about the following picture: “This picture is one of the proud mama moments I had as Devil was a total brat pony all day and Vicki totally rocked her confidence as she made her pony do what he didn’t have any intention of doing. He refused this jump twice before she made him jump it and then stayed on for the mega leap.”

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Vicki did get eliminated during her derby round because Devil did a spin refusal approaching a log jump and she came unseated (meaning hit the ground).  Despite that, she never lost her reins, bounced back up, and was back on Devil before the nearby fence judge could get there.  The event is “schooling friendly” and still allowed her to complete the rest of the derby round and ride her cross-country course.  Vicki was all smiles despite the elimination.

Things went a little better for Mojo and I.  In stadium, he knocked down 1 rail over a roll top (which was almost a refusal).  In the cross-country round, we had 2 refusals at a coop which were my fault.  I realized on the second refusal I was reading all the words on the side of the coop and Mojo was spooking at it because I was looking down.  As soon as my eyes came up, so did his front feet.  Despite these minor issues, we were able to take 2nd place for the day.  I think it was the best showing experience I have ever had and continues to show how much heart Mojo has.  I definitely benefited from recent lessons with Ann Bowie and Julia Cronin who both gave me insight that aided our performance.  We have plenty to work on to get better at our jumping, but it’s so nice to have a willing partner that forgives my errors.

One last thing.  For all the riders who feel pressured to put shoes on your horse, I rode Mojo barefoot for the stadium phase (because the grass was a little slick) and in Easy Care Gloves for the other 2 phases.

Dakota

Update – only a few minutes after posting, a long time friend got in touch about Dakota.  They already came to visit him and he will be going to their farm this week to be a trail pony for grandkids.  If things don’t work out, he will come back to us.

For the past few months, we have struggled with some indications that Dakota was not cut out for the volume of riding and competition that we, as a family, participate in.  After a recent round of lameness, we pursued further examination of Dakota’s legs to determine what was going on.  The results were devastating for Anna and Alex in particular, as both has developed a significant bond with Dakota.  Dakota has a cyst on both left and right front pastern bones and arthritis (diagnosed by a vet with xrays).  These issues make him not suitable for a high-use home like ours.  He is currently pasture sound, but shows some lameness if worked in the arena.  As a result, we have decided to start the process of looking for a new home for Dakota.  His info/ad is listed below.  Please feel free to share a link to this post if you know of a good match for Dakota.

Dakota is a 9yo, 14.1hh grade pinto pony.  He is some sort of gaited horse cross because he will gait when bitted in a curb bit, but otherwise is a W/T/C pony.  We have owned Dakota for almost 3 years.  He is barefoot, has a current Coggins/rabies, and his teeth were done in the spring.  Dakota trailers very well and is an easy keeper – he currently eats hay and hay pellets with supplements.  He lives in a herd (currently geldings only, but he gets along with mares) and prefers to be out at night, but will stall as well.

Dakota has logged hundreds of trail miles since we got him and did a 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride last fall and 25 mile Limited Distance in the spring.  He has also done many hunter paces, participated in Pony Club camp, and has been ridden by adults and kids. He has camped over-night.  Dakota doesn’t test electric, but if spooked, he will bolt through electric fencing.  Therefore, he needs a hard fence, with or without electric inside.

Unfortunately, Dakota has a cyst on both left and right front pastern bones and arthritis (diagnosed by a vet with xrays).  These issues make him not suitable for a high-use home like ours.  He is currently pasture sound, but shows some lameness if worked in the arena.  Dakota would do best as an occasional trail horse or as a companion.

I am a barefoot trimmer and pulled his shoes 3 years ago.  He is absolutely fine for trimming and he will go to a new home with a current trim and full set of 4 Renegade Vipers for trail riding.   Dakota is not very trusting of new people until he has a bond with the handler.  We believe Dakota was mishandled by a farrier prior to us owning him, based on my experience as a farrier.

Dakota has been handled by kids the entire time he has been here.  He is kid safe; he actually prefers to be handled by kids over adults.  He is wary of men (see farrier issue above) but not dangerous, just nervous.

Dakota trail rides in a hackamore and is best suited for a quiet, balance rider because he is sensitive and forward under saddle.  He has good brakes, but he is not a kick ride.  He will cross water, logs, bridges, etc, but does get a little nervous around motorcycles and bikes.  He is not a spooky/looky horse on the trails.  He has been regularly trail ridden by 10-12 year old kids.

Dakota is offered free, but vet and farrier references will be required and checked.  A home visit will also be done, either in advance or as part of delivery.  We are willing to trailer him to you.

Follow this link to read all our family blog posts related to Dakota http://thesawyerfarms.com/?s=Dakota

WGHA 2016 Hunter Pace #3

Last Sunday was the WGHA 2016 Hunter Pace #3.  This time, I (Rob) rode on Teddy, Alex rode Mojo, Vicki rode Devil, and Alexis rode Ace.  We had a good 12 mile ride that took us 2:16.  It was good enough to earn me 6th place and the kids got 5th in the Jr division.

Experiencing the family farm lifestyle from years past.