Tag Archives: dakota

Run and Ride

This morning I ran the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race at Buttonwoods Farm.  At only 2.5 miles from the house, it doesn’t get much more local than that.  Before I talk about the results, I want to give an update from my May post “Primal Diet and Fitness“.  If you didn’t read it, or don’t remember it, please go back and take a look.  It has been almost 3 months since that post.  I have continued to follow the Primal diet and training approach for endurance sports.  My weight loss steadied out with my new weight at 164 lbs; I lost 21 lbs.  I may still lose a little more, but I feel great and I definitely feel that I have found a sustainable eating plan.  On the training front, I have continued to limit my heart rate to 140 bpm in my marathon run training.  I am not worried about a specific speed goal.  On Thursday of this week, I did 16 miles in 3:00.  It was my longest run to date and my heart rate did creep up in the heat.  However, I wasn’t crippled from the run and recovered quickly.

With my focus on distance, I haven’t done any speed work at all.  In fact, a sprint triathlon in June is the only other time I have truly tested my speed in the past 4 months.  So today’s 6k race was a little bit of a question mark in my mind; I really didn’t know what kind of pace I could sustain.

It turns out, I was able to run the race in 26:21 for a 7:04 min/mile pace.  That was good enough for 18th out of 566 runners and 3rd (out of 30) in the men’s 40-49 age group.  I can live with that!

After I came home and had some breakfast (I don’t eat before running), we loaded up the trailer with 5 horses and headed to Arcadia in RI.  Today I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Vicki rode Duchess, Alex rode Teddy, and Amanda rode Huey.  This was a switch up ride for Alex and Anna to test out some things and the first time we have taken Duchess out for a trail ride at a different location.  All the horses behaved for the most part.  Mojo won the “Most Typical Arab” award for his spook at a butterfly flying across the trail.  We didn’t ride too hard and did 10.5 miles in 2:30.  When we got home, it was time to put some steaks on the grill and call it a day.  The weather was great and we made the most of it.

2017 New London County 4-H Fair

Last weekend was fair weekend.  Friday evening was move in night.  We took 5 rabbits (all we have remaining at this point) and items for the exhibit hall.  We also moved a full trailer load of jumps to the fairgrounds in preparation for the Horse Expo on Saturday.  Due to low participation numbers, the horse show was removed from the NLC 4-H fair a few years ago and New London combined with other counties in a state 4-H horse show.  Ever since, the horse kids haven’t had a way to participate with their animals at the fair.  Last year, I came up with the idea of a Horse Expo where the kids participate in a various classes and clinics throughout the day.  It was a non-competitive event that allowed the horse project kids to spend time with their peers similar to how the youth do in the goat and cow barn.  It was a great success and the kids had fun.  Each Club took a period of time to host a class; the classes included a showmanship clinic, jumping demo, costume class, trail clinic, and gymkhana class. Vicki and Duchess and Alex and Dakota all had a good time at the fair.

Saturday was also rabbit showing.  Alex and Vicki both participated with their Dutch bunnies.  Vicki got 1st in Jr Showmanship, Alex got 4th in Sr Showmanship, and Vicki’s Rhinelander (Winter Rose) won Best in Show Pet Division.

On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda participated in the Rabbit Hopping competition with their Rhinelanders (Winter Rose and Pretty Paw).  This is a fun activity and the girls let others use their rabbits to learn about hopping.  Winter Rose had the first and second fastest runs through the jump course.

Alex participated in the Robotics Competition.

The weather was great and the kids had a good time.  Alex won Best in Show with his Lego Technic tractor (the 3rd year in a row?).

There was one development through the weekend which was a little harder to accept.  It’s no secret, kids grow up.  On the way to the fair Sunday morning,  we played music from Vicki’s phone.  Her playlist had definite signs that she has developed her own identity, which is fine.  Vicki spent a lot of time hanging out with her “friends” which seemed to include more guys than in years past.

All-in-all, it was a good weekend.

Playing Catch Up

Summers are always busy and as the kids get older, that becomes an understatement.  It’s been over a month since we have posted, so I’m going to lump a lot of different happenings from the last 5+ weeks into a single post.

The kids finished up the school year and are ready to move on.  This was the first year back in public Vicki was 1 of 3 6th graders at Griswold Middle School who were tested to skip 7th grade Math.  None of them passed the test with a high enough score to actually skip 7th grade Math, but Vicki was close.  She finished the school year with all A’s.  Alex (who is now 14!) has decided to start his freshman year of high school at Griswold High School in the fall. 

We have been riding a lot. All 3 kids did Pony Club camp. Alex took Dakota, Vicki on Duchess,  and Amanda on Huey. All 3 learned a lot and had fun. Here are some videos from camp.

Amanda and Huey

Alex and Dakota

Vicki and Duchess
We did another hunter pace and in general, things have been busy with horses. Here are a few pictures. 

Amanda’s First Hunter Pace

On May 18th, Amanda turned 7.  She has been making great strides with her riding skills and ability to ride on the trails for longer periods of time.  After years of staying with a babysitter or a friend while the rest of the family rides a hunter pace, Amanda finally graduated to riding with us.  Today was her first hunter pace with WGHA in Arcadia WMA in RI.  So it was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Teddy, Alex on Dakota, Vicki on Devil, and Amanda on Huey.

We covered 9.8 miles according to my GPS at a 5.0 mph average speed for a total ride time of 1:56.  The ideal time for the Hilltopper division was 1:46, so Anna and I didn’t place, however, the kids managed to take 1st in the Junior Division!

Amanda was all smiles during the ride.  WGHA hunter paces are held in a state forest, so there are no typical cross country jumps, only cavalettis spread throughout the course.  The plan was I would do some jumping on Mojo and Vicki would jump on Devil.  However, after a few of the jumps, Amanda started yelling out “Mom, I’m going to jump too!”.  Of course, Anna yelled back, “Amanda, go around  the jumps.”  I was leading, so the next thing I hear from Amanda is “Nope! I going to do it!”  And she did.  Amanda and Huey jumped somewhere between 5-10 jumps over the rest of the course.  And she is hooked.

Eventually, Alex decided to give a jump a go with Dakota.  However, Alex was riding with saddle bags attached to the front of the saddle.  When they went over the jump, the bags flapped and slapped Dakota on the neck, causing him to start crow hopping. That just caused more saddle bag flopping and more bucking.  Alex held on for a while, but Dakota was too scared and sent Alex flying.  He didn’t get seriously injured, but he was definitely sore from the fall.  We took a short break and then everyone mounted back up and continued the ride.  When I asked Alex later if he would prefer to ride a horse that is a better jumper, he simply replied, “No, I just want to ride Kota.”  There is no denying the bound he has with that pony.

It’s definitely a unique thing that all 5 of us enjoy riding and get to share it at events like this.

We wrapped up the day with pizza and a movie.  If you haven’t seen “A Dog’s Purpose” you should watch it.  Warning, it’s a tear-jerker.

I made a short video during the ride, but I think it’s about time to invest in a GoPro.  I heard Father’s Day was coming up…

The video can be seen on YouTube.

Here are some pictures from the day.

Not every ride is perfect

80+F on Easter?  In CT? That is definitely horse riding weather. After doing a few small projects around the farm this morning, the family went on an afternoon trail ride from home.  We only rode for about 5 miles in 1:20, but there were some important lessons learned.

Amanda is building her confidence and endurance in the saddle on the trails.  She did the whole ride today without any leadline assistance, including 4 small water crossings which are usually a challenge for her on Huey.  She didn’t have any problem handling the trotting.

Vicki rode Duchess.  This is only her second time out on the trails with Duchess and they are making progress.  Today she rode in a bitless bridle and that definitely helped.  It’s definitely different having a mare back in the herd.  Duchess isn’t completely comfortable with all the boys yet and she will threaten to kick or bite any horse that enters her space.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of motorcycles out today as well and in the first encounter, Huey ended up too close and Duchess kicked him, hitting Amanda’s foot.  It didn’t actually hurt Amanda, just scared her.  That also rattled Vicki a little.  Later in the ride, Duchess threatened to kick Dakota when he rode up too close on her butt and it made Vicki really upset.  She decided to get off and walk for a while (about a half mile) and then mounted back up when she had calmed down.  While it may not seem like much, it was an important lesson for Vicki about backing off when her emotions run too high and calming down to handle the situation.

Overall, the ride was a success.  No one got thrown.  No one got hurt.

When we got back home, Vicki stayed on Duchess and joined Mojo and I in the front pasture for a little jumping.  This was the first time Vicki has gotten to taken Duchess over anything other than ground poles.  We didn’t work too long and we kept everything low, but they did very well together.  Vicki has learned to control her canter speed and in the bitless bridle, they seem to be getting along better.  I didn’t have much opportunity to take pictures because I was jumping Mojo (who was a rock star!) but I did shoot a short video clip of Vicki trying a simple approach at the canter.  Despite the challenges on the trail, after over 2 hours of saddle time, she was all smiles as we headed in to the barn.

It’s all Run and Games

This morning I (Rob) did my 5th half marathon at the Colchester half (all 5 have been there).  In very uncharacteristic weather, it was 60F when we started at 10:00.  I completed the 13.1 miles and 881′ of elevation in 1:58 (9:00 min/mile pace).  Nothing like burning 1800 calories before lunch.

Just finished the Colchester Half Marathon

After a quick shower and bite to eat, I met Anna and the kids an hour and a half after I finished the race.   They had a trailer load of horses and it was time for Pony Club mounted games practice.  I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, and Amanda rode Huey for the first session.  Then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Devil.  Everyone had a great time, but if this weather continues we will need to body clip some ponies! By the time we got home and unloaded the trailer, everyone was ready for some dinner and a movie.

 

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!

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

Eventing and trails

Now that May is coming to an end, our schedule is calming down a little.  Things have been non-stop with music concerts and horse activities.  This weekend, Alex and Vicki participated in the local Pony Club eventing rally at Mystic Valley Hunt Club.  At a Pony Club rally, the parents can help set up the area first thing in the morning, and then the rest of the day is up to the kids.  We arrived at MVHC at 7 and didn’t leave until about 5:45 that evening.  The kids had horse management inspections (including verifying all required equipment was present and labeled), a written test, formal inspections of rider and mount, dressage tests, stadium jumping, and cross country jumping.  Parents are not allowed in the areas at all, so it is all up to the kids.

Eventing Rally Team L-R Alex, Nina, Vicki, Christina, Alexis
Eventing Rally Team
L-R Alex, Nina, Vicki, Christina, Alexis

It was a long and hot day, but the team managed to keep their spirits up and had some good rides.  Alex and Nike had great jumping rounds.  The jumping Steward (keeping track of which rider was next and sending them into the arena) turned to me after their first jumping round and said “Is he your son?”  I said yes.  She replied, “I was not prepared for how well he would ride.  They are a really good team.”  It perfectly captured Alex.  He was moping around during the course walk and acting like he hated everything.  But as soon as they enter the jumping course, it’s pure business and Alex had a huge smile on his face.

As good as Alex’s day was, Vicki’s was even better.  She rode the best dressage test I have ever seen her ride and it was reflected in her 69 score.  Then on the stadium and cross country courses, she had clear rounds and loved every minute of it.

At the end of the day, the team won 1st place in Horse Management and 5th overall.

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Yesterday was wet and still hot, so we gave the horses a break.  This evening, we decided to head out for a trail ride.  Alex really didn’t want to go, so he got a pass (I’m sure Nike didn’t mind).  For those who have been following, King had EPM over the winter.  We have been bringing him back into work slowly and are cautiously optimistic that he might actually make it back to competitions this summer.  This evening, Anna rode King, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Dakota, and Amanda rode Huey.

Amanda is becoming quite the trail rider.  We only rode 5 miles over 1:15, but Amanda was constantly announcing when we needed to trot or walk based on the terrain, although her default is always more speed.  They did plenty of trotting and cantering.  She and Huey are a great team.  Mojo was great.  I love his trail demeanor and he is very level headed.  He is definitely powerful and loves to race, which makes him a great match for me.

Hands down, the best part of the ride tonight was watching King back in work.  King was the first horse that was “my horse”.  We bought him in 2002 for me and he has been a rock star.  The last 2 years have been rough with injuries and illness, but tonight he had every bit of his power back and was moving great.  I look forward to his return to hunter paces.

20160531_194839
Anna and King enjoying the sunset in Pachaug

NEATO 25 2016

This morning, Anna and I rode the NEATO 25 mile Limited Distance Endurance ride at Arcadia in RI.  Anna rode Dakota and I rode on Mojo.  Since Mojo only arrived on Sunday, this was a bit of a gamble.  He has experience in LD rides, but the longest I had previously sat on him was about 45 minutes.  We took the horses over yesterday afternoon and vetted them in.  We set up some corral panels that were tied to the side of our trailer and the horses shared the space (Dakota and Mojo get along great).  Alex hung out with me at horse camp while Anna took Vicki and Amanda to their music concert.  The girls stopped by on the way home to drop off a few things forgotten in the barn and to pick up Alex; I really like the 15 minutes from home rides.  I camped over with the horses.

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This morning, we had a sitter at the house at 6 so Anna could get back to the ride.  We tacked up and waited a few minutes to head out after the ride started at 7:15.  I had been warned that Mojo tends to be strong and hot for the first few miles.  I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t crazy, he just wanted to go.  We held back some and worked on patience and listening.  After the first 4 miles, we had been averaging a 7 mph pace which was faster than we planned.  We slowed the horses and made sure we didn’t overdo it.  Anna was concerned that Dakota was not as fit as at the GMHA ride last fall.  We also had some technology issues.  While we love our Garmin 310XTs for tracking distance and speed, we also use them for watching the heart rates on the horses.  Today, we didn’t have good connections and Dakota’s heart rate reading was running about 35-40 bpm higher than it should have.  There was a lot of discussion during the ride about whether or not Dakota was in distress.  Of course, every time Anna put him in front and let go of the reins, he started trotting at 12+ mph.  I voted that he was fine.

When we came in from the first 15 mile loop, Dakota actually pulsed down to under 64 bpm (the required level) faster than Mojo.  That ended the concerns about his fitness and proved that technology isn’t always great.  I ended up riding the second loop without the heart rate monitor recording on Mojo because of the bad data.  It is just a distraction that isn’t needed and I think Anna and I are both going to shift to using heart rate as an occasional training tool, but compete without it.  Maybe.

NEATO 25

After our 45 minute hold we headed back out.  We ended up averaging about 6.2 mph on the first loop which was fine.  We took it easy on the second loop of 10 miles.  In the end, we completed the 25 miles with a ride time of about 4:15 and averaged just over 6 mph.  Both horses cleared the vet check at the end and were deemed fit to continue, which is the criteria to be awarded a completion.

NEATO 25 Mojo

Mojo and I had a good ride together.  We have a few things to work on, such as personal space.  Mojo likes to be in my space and stood on my feet more than once.  He also likes to use me (and Dakota) as a scratching post for his head.  Despite these minor things, he moves out very nicely on the trail and has a powerful trot.  He had no problem holding a trot up to 12+mph.

I do have a few things I want to change before another distance ride.  Anna and I have both been somewhat unhappy with the halter/bridle combos we bought last year.  She has recently switched to using a rope halter and adding a basic trail bridle.  I think I’ll be making the same change.  Also, I got a few rubs from my clothing (like sock tops on my calf where the calf and saddle touch) that require fine tuning before going up to any longer distances.

In the end, it was a good ride, but now we have to get ponies ready for the kids to show tomorrow!