Tag Archives: trail riding

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.

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.

 

Teddy hits the trail

It’s been a long day.  I did some trimming this morning while Anna and the kids did chores.  After lunch, we had a swim with some friends, then back home to ride some horses.  Vicki spent some time riding Devil bareback, including jumping him to get ready for the show tomorrow.  Of course, tomorrow she will likely be using a saddle.  Alex and Vicki both rode Nike for a short session.  After that, Vicki rode Dakota (her third ride for the day), Amanda rode Huey, and Alexis rode Ace.  Anna and I were able to go for a short trail ride to evaluate Teddy on the trails.  Teddy is making great progress with he fear of ears being handled.  We are able to halter him reliably and bridle him, although it requires disassembling the bridle.  He is not ready to have a bridle passed over his ears and it requires patience to put the brow band back across his head.  Anna has been working on this with him every day, and he is showing a lot of improvement.  I am confident he will continue to get better and we will get past the problems eventually.

On our trail ride, I was on Mojo and Anna was on Teddy.  We just did a 5 mile ride because it was late and the deer flies were ridiculously bad.  I had a few that made it into my mouth, my ears, and swarmed my eyes.  Teddy is definitely an Arab.  He has a nice solid trot, but does have that Arab mindset that large rocks and logs could be a hiding place for a mountain lion.  Nothing too dramatic, but just enough to keep the ride interesting.  We have introduced Teddy to Glove boots.  He wasn’t too fond of them on his hind feet, but once we got moving, he didn’t have time to worry about it.

I did manage to take a short video while we trotted through the corn fields.  Anna thinks maybe we should invest in a GoPro to mount on my helmet.  Teddy walked through water, has a nice ground covering trot, and Anna looks good on him.  His first trail ride was an overwhelming success.  The only thing he is lacking is conditioning, but we know how to fix that.

 

 

 

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.

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Anna and King enjoying the sunset in Pachaug

Snow riding

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.

 

Pachaug Turkey Trot 2015

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.

 

Training my farrier apprentice

This evening, I needed to trim some of our horses.  Vicki has been asking for me to teach her to trim Devil, so I let her work on him.  She attempted his right front hoof.  I helped.  She decided it was a lot harder than it looked when I did the work.  But she wants to keep learning and do her own trimming when she is a little stronger.

On Sunday afternoon, we did a family trail ride.  It was the first time in almost 5 months that everyone has been healthy enough to ride at the same time!  Of course, Misti wasn’t able to go, so I went on King.  Amanda is loving trail rides on Huey (although Anna keeps her on a tether).  We did a 4 mile loop and the temps were well into the 50s by the time we got done.  It seems like fall didn’t waste any time making itself known.

Non-stop fun

It’s been 2 weeks since I posted.  It’s not that there hasn’t been anything going on, but rather, we have been so busy I’ve been too tired to sit down and write.

On May 16th, we had the CT State 4-H Horse Show.  6 kids from our club, the Barnyard Buddies, attended and had a great time.  Vicki managed to win the walk-trot division and the 18″ hunter division.  On the 17th, our club participated in PetTopia in Jewitt City.

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Monday, the 18th was Amanda’s fifth birthday.  We had a small family party Sunday evening before my parents (who had been in town for the previous 2 days), left with all 3 kids and our travel trailer Monday morning.  They took a trip to Steamtown, PA and had a great time.  I don’t have any pictures because I stayed home with Anna.

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A friend who knits made Amanda a “big pink stocking” in accordance with her repeated requests.

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Of course, while they were gone we got some good trail riding in on Dakota and Mysti.  We have found a nice 6 mile loop for conditioning the horses.  We also have a 4 mile loop and occasionally even ride in the arena.

This weekend, the weather was amazing.  Since I had both Friday and Monday off work, we did a family trail ride on Friday (6 mile loop) with everyone geared up for the first hunter pace which is 2 weeks away.  Never try something new on race day!  The plan this year is Vicki and Anna will ride in the slower division and Alex and I will ride in the middle division.  So, today, Alex and I went out and ratcheted up the speed.  Dakota and Mysti are an amazing team on the trails.  Dakota is a rock star in the lead!  Mysti has found her confidence and is very sure-footed.  She isn’t ready to be a leader, but we will work on that later in the summer.  We logged about 20 miles in the past 8 days, so her conditioning is progressing nicely!  When we got back today, Vicki hopped on to cool her off in the arena.

Sunday was Amanda’s “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” birthday party.

This afternoon, Anna and I worked on planting more in garden – this will be our biggest garden yet.  Anna also spent about 4 hours teaching lessons in the arena today.  After dinner tonight, Amanda insisted that we have a Memorial Day party, so Vicki and Amanda did an impromptu performance of dog tricks with Turbo and Mack.

Luckily, I go back to work in the morning so I can rest up for next weekend!

 

Back in the saddle and hitting the trails

Now that the weather has improved, we are back in the saddle and riding regularly.  The kids are riding 5-6 times a week.  Considering last year my rides were measured more in “times per month”, the fact that I have ridden 4 times in the last week is a huge increase.

Last week, I took 2 days of leave.  On Thursday, all the kids were at activities, so Anna and I hit the trails with Dakota and Mysti.  I was our first longer ride of the season and we went a little over 6 miles in just under 2 hours.  We definitely were not pushing the pace too hard, because we were testing out a number of new items along the way.

Anna decided she wanted a Garmin GPS watch for tracking her mileage on the trails.  We also decided to buy 2 horse heart rate monitors that interface with our Garmin watches.  It isn’t a big concern, but more of a neat thing to have and see how the horses are doing from a conditioning perspective.  Since my goal with Mysti is to ride some limited distance endurance with her, it will be a nice accessory for training.

We did get plenty of water and Mysti is fine with it now.  The horses both did well, although, I’m not knocked out with the fit of my English saddle on Mysti. I have an Endurance saddle on loan that was used on a 4 mile ride this evening for the first time.  While that fit her much better, I’m not sure I like how it fit me.

Overall, we are off to a good start and will be ready for our first hunter pace in early June.

Spring = Trail riding and training Calli

It was over 50F this afternoon which was perfect weather for riding the horses.  Vicki and her best friend Alexis (who takes riding lessons with Anna) hopped off the bus, had a quick snack, and headed to the barn.  A short while later, they headed out on the trails – Alexis on Huey, Vicki on Devil, and Anna on King.  It was Alexis’ first trail ride and they had a good time.  When they got back, the group went to the arena for a little more riding and Amanda grabbed her helmet for a turn on Huey too.

By the time the girls got back, I had finished trimming Calli’s hooves and Alex and I saddled up.  Alex mounted Dakota, while I was finishing in the barn with Calli. I heard a scuffle and then the sound of a running pony.  I darted out of the barn with Calli in tow to find Alex on the ground at the start of the trail and Dakota about 50 yards away.  Alex got up, brushed off, and slowly made his way to catch his pony.  He and Dakota returned to the barnyard.  By this time, Anna had arrived on scene and held Dakota as Alex mounted.  Exactly what happened wasn’t clear, but it seems Dakota started walking away from the mounting block when Alex got on and Alex lost his balance.  As his weight shifted around, it spooked Dakota more, eventually leading to Alex coming off.  Luckily, no injuries.

So, Alex and I headed out.  What would make this ride interesting was the high volume of rain we had last weekend.  Every low area and creek was still flooded and Calli isn’t known for her confidence crossing water.  This time, I tried a different approach.  Our first water crossing after leaving the barn is about 150 yards down the trail.  With the amount of rain we had, it is over 15′ wide, but only about 1 foot deep at the middle.  Calli was nervous as soon as she saw the shimmer.  So, I hopped off and lead her through the creek.  I had planned for this and wore appropriate boots.  I was also riding Calli in her new Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle set up with roping reins to make it easy for me to take have extra length to lead her as needed without being too close if she spooked.

It is hard to describe, but as I led her through, I felt her calm down.  Everything about her behavior and body language signaled it.  It was clear, she immediately trusted me more because I walked through the water with her.  After that, I mounted and we headed on down the trail.  When we came to the next water, Calli walked right through.  Calli balked a couple of times at the third water crossing, but before I got off, the same calm came over her and she walked into the middle of the water, and reached down for a drink.  While she stood there, Dakota (who had hung back as Calli threw her small fit) walked into the water with us.  I wished there was someone on the side with a camera to catch the Alex and I on the horses in the water.

For the rest of the ride, Calli didn’t hesitate at any of the water we encountered.  In total, we did 12-15 water crossings during our 40 minute ride.

The only other real excitement was while Alex and I were trotting down a road through the forest.  We were almost side be side, when I saw panic come over his face and he started to slide right.  At first I thought his saddle was rolling off Dakota’s back.  I quickly stopped Calli, which caused Dakota to slow and allowed Alex to stop.  It turns out, Alex had lost his right stirrup, and by lost, I mean his entire stirrup leather and iron had come off the stirrup bar and was laying in the road behind us.  Nothing was broken, so I don’t know why it came off.

It definitely unsettled Alex, but a few minutes and a few water crossings later, we trotted along again.  In the end, we had an awesome ride.  Alex got thrown before the ride started, but got back on and did the ride.  Calli overcame her water issues.  And when we got home, Anna was exercising Precious in the arena.  All 6 horses got ridden, and everyone in the family participated.  It should be a good summer with a lot more rides!