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.
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.
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.
After a couple of cups of coffee yesterday afternoon, we completed unloading the trailer from the NEATO ride and started prepping ponies for the TriState Horseman’s Association Dressage Show today. We were taking 4 ponies (Nike for Alex, Devil for Vicki, Ace for Alexis, and Huey for Amanda). Amanda was very excited that she was finally allowed to wash her pony too. She also kept reminding us that she needed to clean her saddle, bridle, and polish her boots. Who am I to argue with such motivation?
A couple of weeks ago, the kids all ordered new sleezies for their ponies from Just for Ponies using allowance money. For you non-horsey readers, a sleezy is a stretchy hood that covered the horse’s mane and neck. The primary purpose is to keep the mane clean and all the braids intact once a pony is prepped for a show. Amanda had chosen one for Huey and was very excited to get to use it.
Once all 4 ponies were prepped and tucked into stalls, the trailer was loaded, and kids were washed, we were ready to crash. 5am came awful early, but we had to hit the ground running. We were at the show grounds by about 7:40 and discovered we were the first to arrive, which was fine since we also had the second ride time in one of the rings. We got our crew set up, ponies tacked up, and headed to the warm up field. Amanda was doing a lead-line dressage test, which means she is responsible for directing Huey and following the preset pattern, but I got to keep a line on his halter to make sure he didn’t try any funny business. After about 5 laps around the warm up field, I wasn’t sure about Huey, but I was definitely warmed up.
Alex and Vicki each did a dressage test (Introductory C) and competed in the 18″ 2 phase class which included jumping and the Introductory B dressage test. Neither of them had their best performances in the dressage ring, however, they both did very well jumping. Vicki did have 2 good rides without Devil trying to leave the dressage ring.
I was able to shoot video of the kids riding their jumping rounds.
In the end, the kids brought home a few ribbons and had a good day on their ponies. It was another busy horsey weekend for the farm. Luckily, next weekend only has 1 horse event.
How show season officially kicked off this weekend for Sawyer Family Farm. Friday evening was spent in the barn trimming hooves, kids clipping fetlocks and bridle paths, washing ponies, braiding manes, and loading the trailer. The kids elected to spend some allowance to buy a sleazy for each pony to keep the mane a little nicer overnight before a show. Devil didn’t seem to care about his purple sleazy as long as it had a hole to eat through. Nike was less impressed with his green sleazy, although I believe he has likely worn one many times before.
Saturday morning, everyone was up by 5:30 for breakfast and to load ponies. We were at the CT 4-H Horse Show by about 7:45 and spent over 9 hours on the show grounds. It was a bright, sunny day and great weather for showing. The Barnyard Buddies 4-H Club was represented by Alex on Nike, Vicki on Devil, and Alexis on Ace.
The 4-H Horse Show starts with Showmanship. All exhibitors must do Showmanship to participate in mounted classes. There was a bit of waiting around since Showmanship is one at a time. Vicki got the highest score of the three in Showmanship, but in reality, none of the three enjoy it or put much effort into Showmanship. They prefer to ride.
Throughout the day, Alex and Vicki were competing against each other. Vicki only moved up to walk/trot/canter classes for 1 show last year. There were 9 junior (under 13 as of Jan 1st) riders in the English W/T/C classes for Equitation (judging more of the rider position), Pleasure (judging more of the horse’s movement), and Discipline (correctly executing the movements within a specified time). Alex got 5th in all 3. Vicki got 6th in all 3. Alex was simply happy to beat Vicki. Vicki was disappointed, but I think it finally made her realize it is harder to show in those classes than she expected.
There was a fair amount of waiting in between classes while the senior riders did their classes. Devil and Nike were both extremely well-behaved. Nike is a seasoned show pony at 23 years old, so I think he was explaining it to Devil. One thing about Nike is that so many people recognize him. At this show, an instructor we had never met recognized Nike from when she taught the girl who owned him more than 10 years ago. He is one of those gems that makes the rounds in the local barns teaching kids how to ride.
Vicki chose to enter the English Trail class. In that class, the kids must ride a specified pattern that includes various obstacles such as a wooden bridge, weaving cones, and ground poles. One obstacle was to stop the horse in a box made from jump poles with 2 front hooves outside the box and 2 rear hooves inside. Then side pass the horse keeping the pole between the front and rear hooves, including a 90 degree turn around a corner. Vicki gave it a noble effort, but Devil just didn’t understand what she wanted and they didn’t complete that obstacle. However, the next obstacle was to back your horse through 2 cones, make a 180 degree turn around a 3rd cone, and continue to back out between the original pair. They completed the series flawlessly and the gate attendant mentioned Vicki did better at that than any other rider she had seen. In the end, Vicki was thrilled to learn she won the class!
Throughout the day, Amanda was very well-behaved. Her favorite event is the cake walk, which she looks forward to all year. She is very outgoing and always manages to find a new friend.
At the end of the day, the Gymkhana classes were held and included Bending Poles, Arena Race, and Barrels. This year, the W/T/C Gymkhana classes had 6 entries: all juniors and all riding English (which is a little different). It was nice to see some kids entering just to have a fun time. Devil was the smallest pony in the class and it showed in his times. The short legs make it hard to outrun the bigger horses. Alex was the most experienced in the class and as a result, got 1st in 2 of the events and 2nd in the 3rd event. That was good enough to win the Gymkhana Division (and gave him 6 total wins over his sister).
After a long day, we headed home. Luckily Chinese takeout was on the way home. We unloaded ponies and ate a quick dinner. After dinner, the trailer was unloaded of some items and reloaded with others, because Sunday was the 1st West Greenwich Hunter Pace for the season!
One really nice thing about the WGHA hunter paces is they are close. Since it is only a 15 minute drive, we can get up at 7 and still make it to the ride with plenty of time. Today, Anna rode Dakota with Alex on Nike, Vicki on Devil, and Alexis on Ace.
Amanda and I hung out at the trailer and I worked on changing out the interior trailer lights to LED lights while they were gone. They rode 11 miles in about 1:54. As soon as they got back, I could tell it hadn’t been a relaxing ride for the group. The fatigue from showing on Saturday had a definite impact causing some melt downs (Vicki) on the trail. Compounding the problem, Devil is in the best shape of his life and was full of energy and giving Vicki some trouble because he wasn’t tired at all. After a filling lunch, everyone was feeling better. Anna scored 3rd in her division and the kids placed 4th in the junior division. It was amazing to see 14 junior teams at the hunter pace today! Next time, maybe we won’t schedule the kids for 2 days of events. Maybe.
Tonight, I will be picking up a new horse for a pre-purchase trial. It will be after dark by the time we get home, so stay tuned for new pictures later this week.
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 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.
Today we said farewell to Misti as she was returned to her previous home. We owned her for 10.5 months, but she just wasn’t the right fit for us. Of course, you will have to stay tuned to future updates, as I doubt there will be an empty stall for long.
On Friday, we got a nice fresh 9″ of snow. Saturday afternoon, Alex, Vicki, Amanda, and Alexis (who boards Ace here) went out front for some more fun in the snow. Alexis and Vicki have decided to get brave and do bareback jumping with their ponies. Amanda was happy to ride around on Huey, but every now and then he would canter to catch up to the others. Vicki had to take a short turn to work with Huey. I took over 300 pictures, so I had to choose only the ones that really captured the moments. Enjoy the pictures!
Yesterday brought the first snow storm of the season and we got about 6″, which was perfect for some fun with the horses. This morning while working on chores, Vicki and Alexis disappeared. We discovered them riding bareback on their ponies in the front pasture.
Alex and Amanda finished their chores and spent some time trying to build a snow fort. Mack was helping.
After lunch, we saddled up all 7 horses for a short 4 mile trail ride.
We had a nice relaxing day on the farm with just the right amount of snow! The day ended with a pretty sunset as we did the evening chores.
Anna and I hosted the first Mystic Pony Club Pachaug Turkey Trot today. We didn’t have a very large participation from the club, but the kids that rode had a good time.
It was the first time I have ridden Misti in 4 weeks (since the infamous Ayer Mt Hunter Pace). Misti finished her Oxytetracycline for her Lyme treatment this morning and has been on Gastrogard for 5 days. We started with Anna working her on the lunge line for about 20 minutes. Then Anna rode her for a while in the arena. Then I rode her in the arena. She got a break while we tacked up the rest of the crew and then we mounted up for some more work in the arena as everyone warmed up. It was so nice to have a good ride. I was very anxious about how she would behave, and she was great.
During the warm up, Amanda worked on her trotting with Huey. You can watch the video here. During the trail ride, Anna kept a line from Dakota to Huey to prevent him from deciding to head home early.
Once everyone was ready, we headed out for a nice 4.5 mile ride. It was Alex on Nike, Christina on Saffron, Alexis on Ace, Vicki on Devil, Amanda on Huey, Anna on Dakota, and I was on Misti. We crossed water, encountered vehicles, hikers, and bikers with no drama. I have to say, the Best Pony Award goes to Dakota. He is just a rock star on the trails and doesn’t care if the lead line to Huey wraps around his legs, under his tail, or anywhere else. That pony is one of the best chances we ever took.
The bottom line is, we had a great day enjoying the outdoors and riding as a group. Misti spent over 3 hours under saddle and redeemed herself. Amanda rode Huey for 2 hours straight. I hope everyone else had a good conclusion to their holiday weekend. Enjoy the pictures.
Although it was a little drizzly this morning, we made it out to our last hunter pace of the year. It was at Ayer Mountain Farm and was also our shortest at only 6.5 miles. The kids had a good time and I was the only one who fell off when Misti decided to not object to the first jump, but buck until she threw me. It was definitely a challenging ride on Misti today, but Anna and the kids all had goodd easy rides to wrap up the season.