As most of our friends and blog followers know, we stay pretty busy. Lately, that has been an understatement. While I would like to be going to bed right now, I feel we are way overdue for a blog update, so I’ll get to it with a few recent highlights.
The kids participated in the Mystic Pony Club summer camp last weekend. Alex took Mojo, Vicki took Duchess, and Amanda took Huey. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s every day, but the kids did 2 lessons each day. Heather Navarrete was the instructor for 5 of their lessons and all 3 kids made very good progress on their eventing. Alex and Mojo turned out to be an excellent match. Amanda and Huey even did a small cross country course on the last day of camp.
Here are a few videos of the kids practicing cross country and pictures from camp.
After camp ended, the horses and kids got a couple of days off. I was fortunate that work gave us an extended 4th of July holiday. On Thursday, Alex and I went to the Mystic Seaport for a blacksmith private class. We spent 3.5 hours in the shop learning about tending a coal forge, different tools, and actually making some hooks. This is something Alex has been interested in for a while so we bought some lessons for his birthday last month. I have been working on acquiring some tools so we can do some projects at home.
On Saturday, we took Mojo and Duchess to the Horse Power Farm jumping derby. Alex rode Mojo in the pre-elementary division. They did pretty well with only 1 refusal. Alex was a little surprised at how hot Mojo was on the course because Mojo is so lazy in the warmup. It was a little funny to watch Mojo come alive out in the open.
Vicki rode Duchess in pre-elementary and also had 1 refusal (on the same jump as Alex). They are still making good progress as a team.
After they finished, I rode Mojo in Beginner Novice. My ride didn’t go quite as smoothly as I was thrown on the 7th jump. I was allowed to get back on and finish schooling, but then had 3 refusals on the last jump. Clearly we have work to do.
Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Hunter Pace #2. The whole family rode the 10 mile course and we took 1st place in the Hilltopper and Junior divisions. I didn’t take but a couple of pictures, so here is one:
The schedule for the summer is packed with horse activities, but that’s just what we do.
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…
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.
Today was the first hunter pace of the year. It was 9.4 miles and we finished in 1:38. This year we moved up 1 division to the Hilltoppers, which is supposed to be mostly trotting, with some canter and some walking. We did that, but apparently our horses trot too fast or too much because we were more than 16 minutes too fast. In fact, we were only 3 minutes and change off the pace for the hunter division. I think we will move up again next ride.
Last month, Ace joined our farm as a boarded horse. Alexis, who used to lease Huey, got to do her first hunter pace and Ace did great. In fact, all the horses did great. Alex and Alexis got 5th in the Jr division.
What does 12 miles in 2:35 on a gorgeous Sunday get you? 1st place in the Trailblazer division for me and 1st place in the Junior division for Alex. Today was our 3rd hunter pace of the summer and it was a fabulous day. King and Dakota were rock stars, as usual.
Alex is getting into the hunter paces and decided that we needed to match (I agreed). So, we wore our khaki breeches, blue farm shirts, matching Mystic Pony Club saddle pads, matching pommel bags, and even our protective vests match. While we aren’t setting any record speeds, I require the protective vests to instill good habits for the future when I expect he will want to jump a lot more than now.
Alex has also started to figure out it’s not always bad that there are not a lot of boys at the horse events…
Today was the second WGHA Hunter Pace. Since we sold Calli, and Vicki didn’t handle the distance very well last time, this one was me (Rob) on King and Alex on Dakota. We did the 10.3 miles in 2:10. That was good enough for me to get 2nd in the Trailblazer division and Alex to get 1st in the Junior division.
Alex got to choose his prize for winning the Junior division; he chose a new chair. Once he got home, he immediately set it up in the yard and shared the umbrella space with Amanda.
Today Alex, Vicki, Anna, and I (Rob) rode in our first family hunter pace. It was put on by the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association (WGHA) at Arcadia in RI. For those not familiar with hunter pacing, it is a long trail ride with optional jumps along the way. This one had 3 different divisions: Hunters (fastest group with lots of cantering), Hilltoppers (walk/trot with some cantering), and Trailblazers (walk/trot). We entered Trailblazers, but did some cantering early on with lots of walking towards the end.
The ride was 11.5 miles long and it took us 3:15. Here are the top 10 things we learned on our first hunter pace.
10. Make sure all the bridles loaded in the trailer have reins (luckily a friend/trimming client lived across the street and we were able to borrow some).
9. Leather braided roping reins stretch a lot when Calli pulls hard. They now reside in the trash.
8. Dakota is a ROCK STAR!
7. Alex is well conditioned for the time/distance.
6. Vicki is not well conditioned for the time/distance.
5. Vicki will get really tired and be ready to give up about 6.5 miles into the ride.
4. Vicki doesn’t like GU gels and won’t eat them to get her some nutrition.
3. Calli doesn’t like horses with bells trotting up behind her.
2. Easily accessible snacks are needed for Vicki (and Anna) on a long trail ride.
1. Despite over an hour of melting down, getting upset with her pony, and wanting to quit (in the middle of the woods), after some lunch and sugar, Vicki can start planning for the next hunter pace.
Alex and Vicki got ribbons for 5th place in the junior division. Ribbons always make a kid happy. The next Hunter Pace is in July. Vicki plans to do more 2+ hour trail rides to get ready.