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Blessed

The line up

Today I went for a trail ride with my three kids. I feel blessed to be able to, to share the experience and bond with horses with them. It’s about so much more than riding. It’s about work ethic, caring for something other than yourself, even when you don’t want to or it is 20 degrees outside. It’s about going out there in the 90 degree heat and deer flies and going anyway. We went for a pretty slow 12 miles just out the back into Pachaug. It was not perfect, it was buggy, but we managed a long stretch of canter and only a few whines from Amanda about getting peppered with rocks from Amira’s feet (Amanda and Huey are just the right height). Rusty came along and found enough water to stay cool. We rode for about 2 and a half hours and I am truly thankful I get to do this with my kids.

A few of the pics in the gallery are from yesterday. Amanda and I went for a hike to Heron Marsh and “the waterfall “(which only had a trickle). 2 miles in an hour and a half. Hills and bush whacking, climbing rocks and dogs swimming in the pond.

Happy 4th!

This weekend we were planning to finally get in an endurance ride in PA, but we recently suffered some bad news. Teddy has EPM. Due to the cost of treating Teddy and general stress levels, we decided to stay home and take it easy. Teddy is off the riding list for now, so we have been time-sharing the 4 horses that are still healthy.

I took time off on Friday and Amanda and I went fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but she loves to go out.

Saturday was spent working on some projects and grilling burgers. Vicki made the holiday themed cake and we did some sparklers once it got dark. Anna made a short video. We also watched Hamilton, at Vicki’s request.

Sunday was more relaxing with a late afternoon ride and drive. We originally planned to go to Arcadia, but an accident closed the road so we went back to Pachaug. Anna rode Amira, Alex rode Mojo, Vicki rode Eli, and Amanda and I drove Huey. It was a short outing of only 5 miles and 1 hour, but it was significant because this was the first time we drove Huey with the other horses and it was the highest speed we have maintained with Huey. It seems maybe Huey prefers driving. Here’s a short video from our drive.

If you go back up, you will notice Huey has a nice new ear net on, that Anna made. It’s purple and pink and matches his riding tack. Happy Independence Day!

Homemade Hay Feeders

We have used NibbleNet brand hay feeders since the Fall of 2012. Over the years, we have hung them in stalls, hung them on trees, and used them on the ground. When the horses were barefoot, it was fine to fill a NibbleNet and put it on the ground for the horses to eat out of, however, if your horse is shod, it’s a really bad idea; the shoes can get the webbing under the heel and cause an injury or at least a pulled shoe. I want to emphasize that I think NibbleNets are the best slow-feed hay net out there. We have nets that have been in continuous, use for 7.5 years and are not worn out. Our favorite is the Double Nibble 12″ with 1.5″ openings on both sides, as it holds a lot of hay and is versatile in usage options. There are other options available that hold even more hay.


Why do we like the slow feeders? First, they actually make the horses take longer to eat the hay. Second, (and more importantly) the horses waste MUCH less hay when eating out of the slow feeders. The one problem we have had with feeding from the NibbleNets is topline. The topline on the horses has been deteriorating and I am convinced it has a lot to do with the horses eating hay from a mid-height hanging position. There is a chance it is also related to the fact that I don’t like to do dressage work in the arena. If you watch a horse standing in the pasture eating grass, you will clearly see the back muscles (i.e. topline) raise up and level out as the horse lowers his head to eat. When the horse eats from a mid-height, such as in a hanging hay bag, the back doesn’t stretch in the same manner. Over time, this results in a hollow back and less topline muscling. Additionally, the motion of a horse pulling hay out of a slow feeding net is generally a sideways motion that results in building up the underside of the neck muscles, which further contributes to the hollow back.
If you look at this picture of Mojo’s back, you can see the muscles in his back are slightly atrophied inside the yellow outline.

So, to combat the deteriorating topline, we decided to take all the hay nets out of the stalls and off the trees. The horses went back to eating all hay off the ground. It didn’t take very long of raking up wasted hay to realize we wanted to find a new solution. So, after a little consideration, Anna decided we would make hay feeders that used the NibbleNets at ground level. We posted on Facebook looking for damaged water troughs, as they would be the base for the hay feeder. We already had 1 damaged 100 gallon Rubbermaid trough and in very short order, we had 4 more to add to the collection and it was time to build the feeders.

Step 1: drainage holes. Drill a lot of 1/2″ drain holes in the bottom of the trough to prevent rain water from collecting in the trough.

Step 2: install D-rings. These surface mount d-rings are available as a 4 pack from Lowe’s for about $6. We have installed these d-rings in the tack room of the horse trailer to add ratchet and tie down points for holding bins in place. In this case, 1 package per hay feeder was just right. I elected to install them with 3/16″, 1/2″ long rivets. 1 d-ring was put in each of the “corners” of the trough, about 8″ off the bottom (you can see all 4 installed in the previous picture).

It’s important if you use rivets to attach the D-rings that you make sure the rivet shafts are snapping off clean and smooth. Part way through the assembly, I opened a new package of rivets (from a different manufacturer) and the rivets started leaving a pointy “thorn” sticking out. That’s a recipe for a cut horse nose and a vet bill, so I used a file to smooth down all the rivets that didn’t break off smooth.

Step 3: add NibbleNet. When you purchase a NibbleNet, you have the option of buying it with straps or with double snaps. I always buy them with straps because you can buy a 6-pack of double snaps at Tractor Supply for $13. Simply use the double snaps to close the hay feeder and attack all 4 corners of the bag to the 4 d-rings.

Within minutes of finishing the project, Amira was completely comfortable with the new arrangement. There is almost no wasted hay and the horses are eating in a more natural position with their heads down low.

Where does the time go?

It’s hard to believe we haven’t made a blog entry in over 7 weeks. Things have been busy, so I guess we should do a catch up post.

We have 2 kids in high school: Alex is a junior and Vicki is a freshman and Amanda is in 4th grade! All the kids are doing great in school. Alex and Vicki are participating with the Mystic YMCA Hammerheads swim team again this year and Alex is in driver’s ed class 2 nights a week.

In August, Eli came to the farm on trial. Vicki rode him at home, on trails, and in a lesson at Horse Power Farm. He did great in each endeavor, and after a pre-purchase exam, we bought him.
Alex loves Teddy and is committed to riding Teddy in endurance, but he takes some lessons on Mojo because Mojo is awesome as a teacher for Alex.

We went the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association (WGHA) Fall Fest. The kids won the junior division year end award for the country pace series and all got new jackets. Rob won the Open division and also got a jacket (tied with our friend LuAnn). We (Rob and Anna) were not on a team this year because Anna was injured at the first ride so we completed the series as individuals.

Life has been busy. We are still working on barn repairs (and probably will be until the snow sets in). We have been without a kitchen floor for 6 weeks. We hope to have a floor back before Thanksgiving.

I’ve been doing some trail running this year. Amanda loves to join me on the trails and has done runs of 2-3 miles without a problem. As usual, I jumped in by signing up for a race without training first. I had to back off some of my expectations and drop down some distances, but I have enjoyed the adventures. I ran the Macedonia 25k in Kent, CT. It was a 15.5 mile race with 3900′ of elevation. A few weeks later, I ran the Nipmuck Trail Marathon in Ashford, CT. That race didn’t go quite as planned due to some serious IT band pain, but I did finish the race (with a lot of hiking).

Alex rode Mojo in the final jumping derby at Horse Power Farm and got second in the derby and reserve champion for the year in the pre-elementary division.

This morning was the first day of bird hunting for the fall (we hunted chukar today). Amanda loves to go take Rusty out for a hunt and she was in my room at 6 this morning to make sure we weren’t late. Rusty did great finding birds and pointing.

Despite the busy schedules, we still try to carve out some time to ride as a family. So, this afternoon we went out with all five horses for a 6.5 mile ride in Pachaug. The weather was perfect (temps in the 60s) and the fall colors were spectacular.

Sometimes, when things are going just right, you have to kiss the one you love. Even if you happen to be riding on a horse at the time.

And the day ends, with another colorful sunset.

WGHA Country Pace #3

Sunday, we went to WGHA’s third Country Pace. It was a new type of ride this year, similar to a hunter pace, but there are no jumps. Also, instead of riding against an (unknown) ideal time, the ride times are averaged according to the division you enter and whomever is closest to the average, wins. It’s an interesting twist because there is no requirement to ride at any particular speed and the average can fall anywhere. In reality, the ride is a fun social gathering with a chance to win some prizes.

The ride went pretty well. Anna did get dumped when Amira spooked a little. It would have been fine if Anna had let go of the reins, but she decided to hold on and got drug a few feet. Luckily, she only lost a little skin on an elbow; her concussion from Maine wasn’t made any worse.

At the end of the ride, we enjoyed lunch until the awards. At the awards, we were pleased to find out the kids got 1st in the Junior division, I got 2nd in the Open division, and Anna got 1st in the Open division.

4H Fair

This past weekend we participated in the New London County 4H Fair.

The kids brought horses to the horse EXPO Saturday morning. The State 4H horse show is the actual points competition for the horse kids of New London county based on previous years lack of participation at the local fair show, so this is just for fun. There was jumping, trail obstacles, costume class and gymkhana.

Amanda also did some rabbit hopping with Pretty Paw and Winter Rose first thing Saturday morning.

We had our travel trailer on the grounds and Rob and Amanda stayed there all weekend.

Vicki and Amanda showed rabbits on Saturday afternoon, Vicki as a senior, and Amanda as a junior. They both got third place in showmanship.

Sunday was spent practicing for robotics (Alex) and actually competing in robotics. Alex got 2nd in the senior competition.

The girls helped with the ice cream social,did a pet costume class ( Vicki) and 4H Olympics on Sunday. And ate fair food.

Here are some pics.

Pony Club Camp

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Last weekend the kids spent some time at Barbara Kil’s house participating in the annual “Around 4th of July” Mystic pony club camp. While we decided last fall not to renew with pony club this year (for a lot of reasons-ask  us if you want to know), the kids have done this camp for 6 years so we decided to send them this year as well. The each had 7 lessons, lots of pool time and sunshine over the course of 4 days.

Amanda and Huey rode all 7 lessons together and Huey was, well Huey, sometimes he is great, other times he is stubborn and difficult. I came away with the realization that Amanda is becoming quite strong in her riding and knowledge, and her ability to handle Huey’s antics has definitely improved.

Vicki took two horses to camp, Duchess and Amira. Amira came to expose her to more situations, let Vicki lesson on her and to allow Duchess a break since she had a lameness pull at the endurance ride. Vicki rode Amira on the flat and did her jumping on Duchess. It was evident that Vicki’s swim team time this winter has helped her become a stronger rider and Amira helped show Vicki how riding with softer elbows is good.

Alex took both Mojo and Teddy to camp. The horses both completed a 50 two weeks prior, so we decided Alex could use lesson time on both of them and neither would be idle or overused. Alex rode Teddy on the flat and in the field, learning about pacing and he jumped with Mojo.

Prior to coming to camp we took the kids to the Horsepower Farm derby and Vicki got a 2nd and Alex a 6th in the pre-elementary division. Alex had an unfortunate refusal when Mojo looked at the “Flag Jump”.

Thank you to the Kil’s for hosting and for keeping Amanda a few extra days.

No more uniforms

I have a DD214. For those not familiar with the military, that means I have my discharge papers. Today was my last day in uniform. While I am still technically on active duty until June 1st, I am on terminal leave and my naval career is over. No more morning musters. No more duty days. No more PRTs. No more uniforms.

My first day in uniform, June 30, 1995

I still remember the first time I really thought about joining the military. I was on a camp out with my Boy Scout Troop at Camp Sequoya in 1992. One of the leaders on the camp out was telling stories about his time in the Navy and how Scouting prepared him for military service. While I didn’t really tell everyone, that was when I first knew I would go into the military. It just seemed right.

I have been to 15 countries on 6 continents. I have surfaced a submarine through the ice at the North Pole. I have been to the crossing of the Equator and Prime Meridian. I have spent time at sea on 12 different submarines. My career path was different from some of my peers. About half way through my time, I shifted to a staff officer role. While that impacted my upward mobility for promotions, it gave me opportunities with my family that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We spent 13 years in the Groton, CT area. We have a herd of horses. I have been working as a part-time farrier for 7 years.

My last day in uniform, February 21, 2019

I am excited to start the next phase of my life. In a few months, Anna and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Next week, I will start at Sonalysts, Inc in Waterford, CT. Next fall, we will have 2 kids in high school. Life moves on and things change. I’m happy to have served in uniform. I’m proud to be a veteran.

Family Fitness

Sunday morning long runs with Rusty are one of my guilty pleasures. This morning, I knew a couple of different groups were getting together, but I decided to stay home and run in Pachaug. Alex has a desire to run a half marathon, so we decided I would come by the house and pick him up for a couple of miles before I finished. When Amanda heard that, she immediately declared she was going with us. So, after the first 11.5 miles, I swung into the house and and Alex, Amanda, and Mack joined Rusty and I for another 2 miles.

Mack went swimming (as in, up to his neck swimming) 3 times in 2 miles.

Along the way, Amanda said “I need to do more running to improve my stamina.” I replied “OK, what are you training for?” Amanda’s reply “Triathlons.”

Later in the afternoon, the whole family went out for a short trail ride. It was a great day.