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!
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.
Not every boot fits every horse. While we use a lot of Easy Care products on our own horses, they fall short for horses that tend to over reach with the hind feet. There is nothing quite as frustrating as a ripped gaiter right before a competition. Dakota really taught us a lot about this issue last year when training for our endurance ride.
Renegade hoof boots have a molded plastic cage design that captures the heel bulb of the hoof. It is particularly effective for horses that tend to over reach. Additionally, Renegade boots are easier to put on and remove than the Easy Care products. I am now offering fitting and sales of Renegade boots.
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.
Our blog has been rather quiet lately because I have been trying to figure out what, it anything, to write about things that have been going on. I finally think I know how I want to say, what I want to say.
We generally try to keep our blog posts focused on the positive things in life, but that leaves out a lot of other things. On Nov 1, we rode in the Ayer Mt Hunter Pace and that was our last post. The aspect of that story that was understated was how bad the ride really was for Misti and I. While not every ride on a horse is the always rewarding, there are only a few that stand out as truly horrible. Ayer Mt was horrible on top of Misti (the rest of the family had a great time). In fact, it was so bad, we were ready to just get rid of Misti and give up on her. We even started down the path of finding her a new home.
However, by Wednesday of that week, we had calmed down and decided to try and figure out some possible medical causes of the situation. Since we already had the vet coming that week, we added Misti to the list of patients to be seen.
In June 2012, Devil had surgery to remove some cancer. Dr. Anne Schwartz of Tri State Equine Surgical Specialists performed the surgery with Dr. Cara Knesser doing to the anesthesia. It had been about 2.5 years since Dr. Schwartz had seen Devil, so we had her out for a follow up. The very good news is Devil is doing great and there are no additional treatments planned for him.
King has been with us for 13 years. At 21 years old, he was starting to show some weakness in his hind end, so we wanted to investigate if joint injections might hell him out. Dr. Schwartz did an exam and concluded, yes, he would probably benefit from hock injections. However, during the exam, she honed in on a number of neurological symptoms that we hadn’t picked up on. After some blood work to confirm her suspicions, it was determined King has both Lyme and EPM. Here is a good reference for any of our friends who want to know more about EPM. King has been started on Marquis to treat the EPM and we are hopeful that he will have a full reversal of all symptoms, as is common in 60-70% of horses. After the EPM is treated (which will likely take 2 months), we will deal with the Lyme treatments. Then the hock injections. King also had an episode of choke recently which got him an after hours visit from Dr. Ennis for a tube down his throat.
And that brings us back to Misti. Anna and I suspected Lyme and ulcers both as possible causes of her behavior. It turns out, we were right. She has both. She is almost done with her 2 weeks of IV oxytetracycline for the Lyme treatment and she was just started on her Gastrogard for the ulcers. Dr. Schwartz used a scope to confirm the ulcers. Dr. Knesser was also present to participate in the procedure (and she just loves to come to our farm).
Since we are already dealing with treating Misti for ulcers, we decided to go ahead and treat Huey too, but went with symptom diagnosis instead of a full scoping. We are going to get past all the treatments for Misti, and then see where we are with behavior issues and figure out the way forward.
As anyone with animals knows, vet bills are not cheap. In fact, we have almost spent more on horse vets this month than the combined purchase price of all our horses. This is why I cringe when people want to own a horse, but can’t afford to purchase one. The purchase price isn’t what you should be worried about.
So all of that information simply brings me to the point on this Thanksgiving Day. I’m not thankful for the vet bills. But I am thankful for a family where everyone agrees, we will treat the horses. There haven’t been any arguments about wasting money or “your hobby” like I know many owners deal with. Horses are a family affair for us. I’m thankful to have the horses at home which greatly simplifies all the treatments. But most of all, I’m thankful for both my Navy job and my hoof care business that allow us to be able to buy the medicine our horses need and pay the vets to treat them.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family. Love what you have.