Last weekend was family trail riding. Amanda rode Huey for 6 miles, including about 3 miles of it by herself, off the lead line.
This morning, Alex and Vicki had a jumping lesson with Pony Club. It was a nice cool morning and they both did great. Both pairs, Alex/Nike and Vicki/Devil are very well matched and we hope they will have a lot of fun together this summer.
There are no photos, but King went back into work this week. He has recovered better than we expected from his EPM. He has definitely lost a lot of fitness over the winter, so it will be a long, slow conditioning program. We are cautiously optimistic that he will be in the 60-70% that are able to make a complete recovery from EPM and resume full activity.
Today we said farewell to Echo. While we loved his personality and got along great with him, he just wasn’t quite the right match for what we are looking for. So, our search for the next horse resumes.
Today, we joined a group ride with NEATO (New England Arabian Trail Organization) at Pattaconk State Forest, which was a new venue for us. We rode just the single 10 mile loop. We were originally planning to do 18 miles, but the day got started a little later than planned and we had 5 flat tires on the trail. A “Flat Tire” on the trail is our code word for a boot problem. We have been having a lot of boot problems lately, but we have some Renegade boots on order and hopefully, that will reduce the number of boot casualties.
This comic is such an amazingly accurate illustration of my relationship with Echo. Don’t get me wrong, Echo and I are getting along great. But out on the trail, he goes into full Arab mode. Last summer, Misti literally spooked at a Butterfly crossing the road ahead of us. It seems Echo is quite untrusting of rocks. In particular large rocks on the side of the trail, flat rocks in the road, and rocks that are a different color than other rocks. Throughout the ride today, as Echo would veer to the side, Anna would laugh and say “Perhaps a bush.” It was the scary mud puddle that caused a spook resulting in my forward somersault over Echo’s shoulder.
Even though we didn’t ride as far as originally planned, it was a good training ride and I think we are still on track for Alex and Vicki to do their first 25 mile ride in May. Echo, Dakota, Nike, and Devil all did great.
This morning we awoke to just under an inch of snow. This has been one of the weirdest winters (and now springs) since we moved to CT 10 years ago. By the time we went out for morning chores, it was still snowing, but the snow on the ground was melting. By lunch, the wind was blowing enough to drop the wind chill a fair amount and the snow on the trees was turning to ice. So we went for a trail ride.
Amanda came to breakfast in her mermaid wrap that was made for her at Christmas by a family friend.
Today’s trail ride featured 6 miles of an air temperature about 37F, wind chill in the 20s, and ice constantly hitting us (and the horses) as it blew out of the trees. There were only 4 of us on today’s ride: I was on Echo, Alexis on Ace, Vicki on Devil, and Alex on Dakota. The 3 ponies did great. Echo was great for the first half. When we hit the turnaround point, I moved him from lead horse to last horse. He didn’t care for that and it made the second half of the ride more interesting. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t want to trot behind the others. It is definitely an area we will have to keep on working on. I did decide to run him out a little to burn off some of the energy (the ponies were all happy to keep trotting along quietly as we pulled away for a couple of minutes). Echo established a new top end speed today at 25.8 mph. He sustained higher than 20 mph for 1/4 mile, but we had to pull up when 3 of his 4 boots had come off and were holding on by the gaiters. I’m not really convinced the Gloves (hoof boot) are designed for speeds above 20 mph because that seems to be when we consistently have problems. I also rode Echo in an S Hack today for the first time. I was overall satisfied with the control and stopping power. The advantage of riding in a hackamore when doing trail/distance riding is it is easier for the horses to stop and eat/drink at breaks along the way. Next weekend we will do a longer conditioning ride with at least Dakota, Devil, and Echo as we continue to prepare for our first 25 miler of the season in May.
This morning the kids were up and hunting eggs at 7. There are no pictures, because like I said, the kids were up. They did follow the “rules for the egg hunt”. Vicki decided to make up rules for the Easter egg hunt and posted them on the fridge yesterday. Here are the rules:
No waking anybody ’till 7:00.
No starting to gather eggs ’till everybody is up and ready.
No opening eggs ’till you are inside (plastic eggs filled with candy).
No stealing eggs from other egg hunters. (Amanda’s rule)
No bikes. (Amanda’s rule to prevent the older siblings from having an advantage)
No candy before breakfast.
Apparently, it was also a competition (because Vicki is quite competitive) and there were pre-determined criteria for the winners.
1st place – Golden egg
2nd place – Silver egg or most eggs
3rd place – Least eggs
It took about 30 minutes for the egg hunt to be completed and judged. I know this, because at 7:30 Amanda showed up in our room crying because she lost. Actually, she got second, which was evident when Alex got upset because a 5-year-old beat him. Vicki collected 70 eggs including the golden egg (can you tell she is competitive). Amanda had 43. Alex had 39. There was no sympathy for the losers. We had a discussion about losing. Not everyone wins in this family.
Earlier in the week, we spent almost 6 hours (4 of which included all the kids) working on cleaning up the tack room in the barn. Saddles and bridles were cleaned. Tack was reorganized. Items were identified to be sold. This morning, we cleaned up the tack room in the horse trailer and then loaded the trailer to haul out for a trail ride.
Today was the first time we ever hauled 5 horses and ponies in our trailer so the whole family could ride off-site. We have a 4 horse slant load trailer, but the rear tack folds flat. Devil and Huey have no problem sharing that space. We left them loose like in a stock trailer and they had plenty of room to move and turn around. We hauled out to Arcadia, which is less than 20 minutes away. Amanda has been on many trail rides with Huey at home, but this was the first time she got to ride him at an away event. Anna still keeps a lead line from Dakota to Huey.
The weather was nice in the mid 50s by the time we were ready to ride and we opted to ride from the Midway parking area, which gives immediate access to nice open fields. The ride wasn’t as peaceful as some, because Amanda kept yelling “Faster!” “Canter Huey, Canter!” We knew her stamina wouldn’t be great with the trotting and cantering (and the temps). Huey was a rock star. He walked, trotted, and cantered at all the right times. Amanda had a blast. She is definitely a speed demon. While she probably isn’t ready for the hunter paces quite yet, she is light years ahead of where Alex and Vicki were at her age as far as trail experience and confidence goes.
Amanda was satisfied after 4.3 miles in 50 minutes (a 5.1 mph average). When we arrived back at the trailer, there was a quick change of Alex off Nike and onto Dakota. Nike and Huey stayed at the trailer with Anna and Amanda while Echo, Dakota, and Devil went back out with Alex, Vicki and I for another 5.7 miles. The second outing was almost all trotting except for short walk breaks and a little cantering at the end. Alex and Vicki have decided they plan to join me for a 25 mile ride in May and it’s time to get kids and ponies ready for the ride.
The second round was a good workout for all involved. Devil is the one we are most concerned about because his legs are so much shorter than Echo’s and Dakota’s. We determined that Devil was able to maintain a nice consistent trot up to almost 8 mph. We were able to average 6.3 mph on our second round, which is well above what we need to average to complete the ride in May. With the kids, faster is actually better because time in the saddle and keeping them fueled with calories will be the biggest challenges. Alex and Vicki tested out wearing their Camelbacks during the ride and that seemed to work. It eliminates them needing any kind of saddle bags and allows them to sip water continuously during the ride. We also bought both of them triathlon shorts to wear under their riding pants to reduce the risk of rubs from 4-5 hours of saddle time as we increase the distances.
By the time we wrapped things up, temps had dropped back into the 40s. Everyone was happy to get home, unload all the gear, do evening chores, and head inside for dinner. We enjoyed some Easter cupcakes for dessert made by Anna, Vicki, and Amanda.
It’s true. Vicki is fearless when it comes to horses. Every horse that comes on our farm is a target. She isn’t satisfied until she gets up in a saddle on top of the horse. Today, she finally got to ride Echo. I started by working Echo in the arena; it’s not that he needed me to work anything out, but rather, we needed to work together. Anna sat in the corner barking instructions “Support with your inside leg!” “Inside leg to outside rein” “Thumbs up! You have piano hands!” “Push forward!” “Loopy reins!” I have flashbacks of Ann Bowie every time Anna gives me a lesson.
Echo has been doing very well with basic dressage training. He is very light when I ride with a loose ring, french link snaffle. He will collect, but it is clearly work for him. It’s amazing how he has so much forward energy on the trails, but is actually a little lazy in the arena (so am I). He has already shown improvement at his canter transitions and picked up the correct lead every time today.
About half an hour into my ride, Vicki came out of the barn wearing her helmet, boots, and half chaps. She took up position on the swings to watch, clearly expecting her turn, so we gave her some saddle time with Echo. At 16.1hh, Echo is a little taller than Devil (actually about 15″ taller). Vicki was riding in my 18″ saddle which is a little big for her, but she did great handling Echo. If Echo continues like today, he will achieve King’s level of sainthood with the kids. Vicki did walk, trot, and canter work with Echo for 30 minutes until our light was fading and we returned to the barn. Then she assisted me with a few more trailer loading drills with Echo. I think we have that problem taken care of at this point, but he still hesitates just a little, so we will keep at it until he is as reliable as the others in the herd.
With temps in the low 60s, I don’t know of a better way to spend a March evening. At dinner, Vicki was comparing and contrasting the ride on Echo to King, Dakota, and Devil. Devil is still her pony, but I have the feeling she is looking at her options for the future and already sizing up my new mount for herself.
This year has been one of the mildest winters we have ever experienced in CT. The nice weather means more time in the saddle on the trails. On Sunday, Anna, Alex, and I went out for a ride with some new friends (including Echo’s owner). We rode about 8 miles and the temps were in the upper 50s.
Our long time friends, Jeremiah and Tracy Minner have been in the area for a few weeks while Jeremiah is in school in Newport. Anna and Tracy have been getting together with the kids for activities a couple of times each week. Today, Anna took the kids to Newport where she and Tracy took them to The Breakers and spent time walking along the cliffs and shore. Then they headed back to the resort where the Minners are staying for some time in the pool.
When I got home from work and it was 70F outside! Anna and the kids were still in Newport, so I saddled up Echo for some solitude on the trails. This was my first time taking Echo out alone and it went great. We headed out without a specific agenda. I put some Gloves on him for the first time before we went out. It is quite rocky on the forest roads and I see it as cheap insurance. Echo has been ridden in Renegades in the past, but I prefer Gloves for jumping and wanted to see how he did in them. We didn’t have any issues with interference or boots coming off. It was a short sleeves day when I headed out, but I put a lightweight wind breaker in my pack just in case. By the time it was getting dark, temps had dropped to around 60 and there were a few drops of rain hitting me, so I put on the jacket. Echo kept on moving while I flapped a jacket around and got it on – it didn’t phase him in the least. The last mile and a half was a good 30 minutes after sunset. Echo didn’t have any problems continuing to trot down the trails in the dark. It was nice to do a ride on a horse that moves forward and isn’t afraid of every shadow. I a really enjoying his pace and I think we will be a good team. When it was all done, we had covered 9.5 miles – not bad for a weeknight.
I’m looking forward to more riding in the early spring weather!
The weather has been great and the horse activities are in full swing. Alex and Vicki participated in a Pony Club games clinic on Saturday afternoon and again Sunday morning. After a quick bite of lunch, Anna and I loaded Dakota in the trailer and headed out to meet “Oh Electric Echo”. We have been in conversation for a while with Echo’s owner, and today was out test ride. We joined up for a trail ride that was about 5 miles long. Everything seemed to go well, so our trailer returned home with 2 horses instead of 1.
It was after dark by the time we got home, so a couple of pictures in the barn was all we could grab. We did get a nice group photo from the ride. In the group photo, Anna is the second from left on Dakota and I am the right hand rider on Echo.
Echo is an 11-year-old (12 in May), 16.1hh, chestnut Arabian gelding. He did 3 limited distance endurance rides last year. From our test ride today, he has a serious go button, but was very confident and not nervous on the trails. We encountered a number of logs and small things to try as jumps, and I think he has a good mind for jumping (even) though he has no experience jumping. We have Echo on a 6 month lease to try him out, with a purchase option. This summer promises to be a very busy horse riding summer for the entire family!