Fresh snow! More sleigh rides!

We got a little snow on Thursday night and then a good dump yesterday.  After a late breakfast this morning, we had a solid 9+” of fresh powdery snow on the farm.  After the driveway was cleared and the horses were fed, we hitched up Huey to his Kingston Saddlery sleigh to cut some paths in the front pasture.  Everyone took a turn with the reins except Amanda, but she did get to ride until she was frozen.

The new addition for today’s session were sets of bells hanging off either side of the saddle and we got our side check in.  Huey didn’t care about the bells.  While we don’t usually need a side check, it keeps him from dropping his head too low (probably a bigger problem during grass season).  Not bad for his 3rd time hitched.

 

 

Dashing through the snow

Last night we got 3″ of snow.   The kids were excited to switch the wheels on our Kingston Saddlery cart to the sleigh runners.  Unfortunately, the snow switched to rain and it is warming up tonight, so the snow won’t be around for long.  However, we did get the chance to do a little “dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh”.  We did some loops around the house and through the front yard of our neighbors.  We look forward to more snow through the winter.

We also made a short video of Alex driving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbLSnzp3PdE  

Dakota returns

A few months ago, Dakota left to become an occasional trail pony.  While not every horse that comes to our farm is a lifetime horse (or pony), it was clear in the weeks and months after Dakota left, that both Anna and Alex really missed him and I had rushed the decision to move him on.  This week, we got the news that the girl who had Dakota had a fall and was scared to ride.  Time hadn’t helped the issue and the family was considering passing Dakota along to some other friends, but wanted to check with us first.   Their was no hesitation.  Anna and Alex picked up Dakota on Friday.  We are currently thinking we will keep Dakota as a trail pony and not stress this arthritic issues by doing arena work.  Maybe he will ride in a LD endurance event, but I don’t see 50 mile rides in his future.

This afternoon, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Teddy, and Anna rode Dakota for a very short route.  Alex and Amanda decided it was too cold to ride since it was in the upper 20s. I was testing a saddle (that didn’t work out), so about 30 minutes was plenty of ride time. Anna enjoyed the reunion (and I think prefers his calm demeanor over the Arabs that Vicki and I prefer).  Welcome home Dakota!

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

 

The story of our lives with horses