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.
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.
Yesterday Anna and I officially entered the endurance world with the completion of our first Limited Distance (LD) 30 mile ride at the Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA) in South Woodstock, VT. Back in June, I first posted about our plans do the ride and the start to our training (read the original plans here). It has been a very educational 4 months of training; we learned a more about conditioning our horses, tack selection, and conditioning ourselves. All rubs, on horse and rider, are magnified by 5+ hours in the saddle, so you have to pay attention to the details. As some of you may know, Misti basically had 2 weeks off due to a shoulder cut that required staples; the lack of work definitely gave her an excessive amount of spunk.
On Friday morning, we did the chores and then loaded up the trailer to head out. Some good friends with daughters a little older than our kids came over to do the farm/babysitting while Anna and I were out-of-town. Our drive to GMHA was about 3:30 plus a lunch stop at Cracker Barrel; we arrived about 3, unloaded our gear, and got the horses settled in to their stalls. One advantage of GMHA is all horses are required to be stalled overnight, so there is no concern about tying to the trailer or portable pens. GMHA is in the mountains and there was no cell service. They did have wifi in some buildings, so we sent a message back home that we would be out of contact for the next day and a half.
At endurance rides, there is a lot of focus on the health and condition of the horse. I think there were 4 vets on site for a little over 50 riders. Prior to the ride, everyone must “vet in”. You are given a “rider card” as part of your check in packet and that is your ticket for the ride. Everything about the horse is recorded on the card: name, age, breed, description, temperature, muscle tone, injuries, cardiac recovery (a 1 min test where they check pulse, trot out 125′ and back, check pulse again), gut sounds, etc.
Misti was not cooperative for the vetting in. Specifically, she was threatening kicking when her back leg muscles were probed and none of the vets were able to take her temperature. Clearly we have to work on that. She got a note on her card to reminder the vets to be careful throughout the event.
After vetting in, we set up our trailer for the night and went to dinner with all the other riders. Dinner was good (pasta and salad) and the “pre-ride briefing” started right after dinner. As soon as that ended, riders tucked in their horses and headed to bed. The 50 mile riders had a 7:00 start time, which meant most of them would be up by 5:00 getting horses fed and ready to go. Our 30 mile ride started at 8:30, so we didn’t get up until 6:00. That night, we were in bed by about 8:45. We slept in the horse trailer; Anna on an air mattress in the gooseneck, me on a cot in the back. It was cold. It was 37F when we got up the next morning and only peaked in the low 40s for the day. Next time, we will do something different. We will either rent a room at a local B&B or if we have a second tow vehicle, take our travel trailer.
We knew it was going to be a cold ride, which was quite a change from the training. During most of training, we were concerned about cooling the horses and sponging with water when we had the chance. Now, it was about keeping the horses, and us, warm. We had rump rugs to help keep their hind end muscles from getting too cold. Anna and I had layers on our tops to keep warm and block the wind.
Once we were saddled up, we warmed up for a couple of minutes while waiting for the start. Misti was explosive. She had been awful while I was putting her hoof boots on (both Misti and Dakota were ridden in Easy Care Gloves on all 4 hooves). Although we had practiced with it at home, I took the rump rug off Misti within 3 minutes and left it in base camp to reduce the number of stimulants. The time off gave her way too much energy. Once we were on the trail, she was ready to go and settled in quickly.
It was gorgeous. A number of times on the ride, Anna and I stopped to snap some pictures. The fall colors were just past their peak and we had leaves falling on us throughout the day.
The ride consisted of 2 loops, about 15 miles each. On the first loop, we didn’t want to push too hard because of the mountains. We only missed 1 turn when we were too busy looking at a maple syrup operation. We realized the error in about 1/4 mile, so it wasn’t a big deal. About 1.5 miles before the end of the first loop, the precipitation began. It was a constantly changing mix of light rain, sleet, and snow. It didn’t last long, but got us just damp enough to add a chill to our 45 minute stop.
We averaged about a 5.5 mph speed on the first loop and then arrived at base camp for the vet check and hold time. When you come in for the vet check, your arrival time is noted, but then your horse has to meet a “pulse down” criteria before your hold starts. In this case, the horses had to be under 64 bpm. We went from the arrival timer to the pulse checkers with only a 2 minute delay. Misti was already at 48 bpm (which is excellent and even confused the pulse check a little because it was so low already) while Dakota was still at 66 bpm. 4 minutes later and Dakota was under the threshold, so our 45 minute hold was in progress. We saw the vets and there were no issues to cause much concern (Misti’s attitude about getting poked and prodded was unchanged by 15 miles of effort).
Once vetting was done, we had about 35 minutes to get the horses a snack, get us a snack, use the bathroom, etc. By the time we left, I was shivering a little and needed to get going to warm up.
The second loop included a lot of unpaved roads. The roads were a compacted gravel dust and easy for the horses to move out on. We got passed at our 20 mile point by the leaders of the 50 mile ride. They had covered 40 miles in about 4 hours of saddle time and came flying by! The second loop was just as scenic, but since it was more roads and not quite as aggressive, we took it at about a 6 mph average speed.
For LD rides, your time doesn’t stop until your horse pulses down to the required level. For the finish, it was 60 bpm. Since we knew Misti pulses down quickly and Dakota doesn’t really get nervous about her being gone, we decided to split up when we arrived at the finish. We got our arrival time recorded, and I took Misti straight to the pulse check. She was at 52 bpm within a minute of our arrival in camp. I then had to go pull her tack off for the final vet check. Anna had already pulled Dakota’s tack and put a cooler on him to keep him warm. She hand grazed Dakota for a while and then went to the pulse check. Dakota was cleared with a 56 bpm pulse and we went to see the vets.
Dakota’s gut sounds were a little weak, so the vet cautioned to keep an eye on him, but it wasn’t a disqualifying issue. the vet also noted he was a little weak on his right hind, which was something we had noted before. That said, Dakota was moving better during the ride than we had seen in a while. Anna had given him a taper, so it looks like maybe he needs a little less volume. He definitely has the power and speed and mentality to be a good mount for the kids to do limited distance rides.
Misti’s vetting didn’t go quite as well. She was lame on her front right, with a grade 2 lameness. It wasn’t anything I had noticed under saddle and definitely caught me off guard. You have 30 minutes from arrival to pass the vet check, so I took her back to wash her leg and walk her around for a few minutes. Upon representing, the vet still felt she was off, however, to disqualify a horse, it requires 2 vets to agree. When the second vet checked (without any prompting from the first about what to look for) she didn’t see any issues. Therefore, the lameness is, by definition, a grade 1 (2 vets don’t always agree it is even present for a grade 1), and Misti was signed off for completion.
I think maybe we rode a little too aggressively on the downhills and that is what bothered her. I did remove her hoof boots before the final check, so maybe a boot was bothering her. Either way, it quickly resolved and she wasn’t showing signs of soreness as we moved her around.
My gps tracked our distance at 29.7 miles, with 4,630 feet of elevation gain and loss and an average moving speed of 5.8 mph. It took us 6 hours, including the mid-ride 45 minute hold. By comparison, our 20 mile training ride at home included only 1,050 feet of elevation change and an average moving speed of 5.3 mph. So overall, we did great! Many of the experienced 50 mile riders told us the GMHA rides are some of the toughest on the east coast, and I believe it.
Once the ride was done and the horses back in their stalls, we got some warm food and packed up. There was no big pomp and circumstance of awards, just a few announcements over the loudspeaker. As we loaded up and headed out, 50 mile riders were still riding. We drove home (with only 1 flat trailer tire on the way from another broken valve stem) and got in about 9:30.
It was a fun ride, and on the way home, Anna and I both agreed we would like to do more. So it looks like we will plan our next ride to be in May, at the endurance event only 15 minutes from home. We did discuss a long list of things to change about our camp setup and training, but for today, we will just take it easy and enjoy the fall weather.
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.
Our first endurance ride is in 2 weeks. Tomorrow was planned for a good 15ish miles as our last prep ride. Was. This evening when the horses came in, it was discovered that Misti had a little cut on her shoulder. 6 staples and $260 later, I now have a horse that needs 10 days off. Luckily, we don’t leave for the ride until 13 days from now. So, I guess I’ll have A LOT of horse at the ride since she will be in a limited turnout and not riding for the next 10 days.
It looks like I’ll be riding King for a family trail ride tomorrow. While we don’t think this will cause Misti to withdraw from our first ride, I hope Mr. Murphy doesn’t take that as a challenge to cause something worse!
As the endurance training continues, the rides get longer. Today, Anna (on Dakota) and I (on Mistique) knocked out 20 miles in Pachaug. There were no amazing discoveries or insights. No real challenges (other than a couple of new trails we tried that went to nowhere). Because it was the longest ride any of us had ever done, we didn’t push the pace. We planned our route ahead of time and made sure the horses had chances to stop and drink. It was about 56F when we got up this morning, but warmed up to low 80s by the time we finished. We stopped to let the horses drink and munch some grass at 5, 10, and 15 miles.
Our total mileage was 20.75 miles and it took 4:10 for an average speed of 5.0 mph. Once the rests breaks are removed, our average moving speed was 5.3 mph. Anna and I each probably burned about 1400 calories, so overall, a good training day.
If you aren’t interested in the endurance training discussion, go ahead and jump to the end for the pony pictures.
First, through the support from her original breeder and others, we now have a registered Part-Shagya Arabian (and a slight correction to her name spelling). The North American Shagya Association has transferred Mistique Lady’s registration to me!
On Sunday, Anna and I each did our training rides alone. While we plan to ride our first endurance ride together in October, we need to be ready in case something happens and one horse can’t finish.
So, instead of using my Garmin 310XT to monitor Misti’s heart rate on our training ride, I decided to wear my HRM and see how many calories I burned. I keep a separate HRM/transmitter for my running and biking to make it easier to switch between events.
It was in the upper 70s here in CT and we rode 10.8 miles at a 5.8 mph average, which is a normal training pace for us.
I burned an average of 366 calories per hour.
My average heart rate was 112 bpm for 1:52. In comparison, my average running heart rate is usually around 150 for trail running 4-7 miles.
While 366 calories isn’t a big deal, riding for 5 or 6 hours changes things. Suddenly you have burned 1700-2000 hours during a 30 mile LD. While there are many people who can handle that without a problem, you need to know if YOU can. If you can’t handle that much of a calorie deficit, start eating a little snack every hour on your ride to reduce the deficit. It’s just like training for a human only endurance event. The goal isn’t to take in the same amount of calories you burned, but rather to reduce the deficit.
Figure out what works for you during your training rides, even if they are only an hour or so. That Slim Jim may taste good driving down the road, but the greasy chunks might give you an upset stomach trotting along the trail!
Sunday afternoon, Vicki and Devil joined others from Mystic Pony Club for some jumping lessons in preparation for an upcoming rally. Here are a few pictures of Vicki and Devil. She has a bad habit of looking down and right as she goes over the jumps.
When we got home, Anna grabbed a quick cup of coffee and at about 5:45, hit the trails with Dakota for her training ride of the day. She did about 10.2 miles on pace. She also had the added bonus of riding in the dark as she made it home about 30 minutes after sunset. All said, both horses did very well riding solo.
Recently, as I was listening to Vicki get told “Don’t look down when you go over the jumps!” it made me think about trail riding. Where do you look when trail riding. I frequently find myself looking at the ground right in front of the horse as we go along. So, during my ride, I did an experiment. I deliberately spent a long period of time focusing my eyes 15-20 yards down the trail. Then, I would shift my eyes to a point only about a horse length out in front. What I noticed (and expected) was Misti tended to stumble more when I was looking down. Just like a kid looking down causes a horse to be unbalanced over a jump, looking down on the trails interrupts your horse’s balance. So, whether you are jumping or just riding on the trails, keep your eyes up! By the way, it will also reduce the number of missed markers on when you are riding a hunter pace.
In other news, Amanda has been riding Huey a lot more recently. I think the increase in Vicki’s riding and jumping has peaked Amanda’s interest as well. As a result, she is working very hard at keeping Huey trotting on her own, working him over ground poles and small cross rails, and even asking to canter. By next summer, she will be ready to ride at the pony club activities too!
This evening, Amanda saddled up Huey and Vicki got to ride Misti. Vicki has a crush on my mare and is always asking to ride her. Of course, Amanda had to sponge down Huey when she was done. Enjoy the pictures!
This morning the weather was wonderful: mid 70s with a light breeze through the forest. Anna and I took Dakota and Mystique out for some training miles. One of the absolute best things about our farm is the direct access to Pachaug State Forest.
On Friday evening, we did 6.8 miles. It was hotter, humid, and the air quality was awful. Today was amazing in comparison. We rode 15.3 miles at a 5.8 mph average (2:40 total riding time). We have been slowly tweaking our tack for what we plan to use at the 30 miler in October. We recently purchased biothane halter/bridle/rein combos and breast collars for both Dakota and Mystique from The Distance Depot. I am very pleased with the quality and it is so nice to come back from a ride, hose off the tack, and hang it up to dry.
During today’s ride, both horses walked into some water for a drink on 2 occasions. Both horses were calm and level headed. Mystique even had a breakthrough when she was willing to continue trotting and pooping at the same time! It’s the little things that make me happy. The only problem we had was 1 flat tire (boot that came off Dakota) when Anna decided the horses needed to go faster so they could have fun. Dakota consistently over-reaches and strips a boot at about 16 mph (Dakota actually peaked at 18 mph and Mystique at 19.2 mph during that section). Luckily, there was no damage (thanks to a bell boot) and it was a quick fix to resume the ride.
Anna and I both ride with a Garmin 310XT and we have the V-Max heart rate kits that allow us to use the watch to monitor the horses’ heart rates during our training. Just like for people training for marathons or triathlons, the heart rate data is very valuable to evaluate the conditioning of the horses. It has been interesting to watch the changes in their average heart rate over the summer. For example, on June 7th we rode in the WGHA 1st hunter pace for 9.4 miles at a 5.7 mph average. The weather was similar and Mystique had an average heart rate of 119 bpm. Today, she did 15.3 miles at a 5.8 mph average with an average heart rate of 102 bpm. For the same 2 rides, Dakota had an average of 111 bpm in June and 101 bpm today. That’s a significant improvement in fitness. And even better, I have no doubt both could have handled another 15 mile loop. We still have 8 weeks until our first endurance ride, and everything is well on track!
Back in early July, I posted about my excursion into the world of glue-on shoes. Here is the original post in case you missed it:
http://thesawyerfarms.com/shoes-on-my-horses/. So, it’s time for a followup. Most of the blog posts I have seen are about how great and wonderful everything is and how rewarding the experience was. This isn’t one of those posts.
My first glue up was done on Mystique, and her shoes stayed on 4 weeks. At that point, I pulled them due to only having a little attachment on the side of each hoof. Dakota’s were pulled at the same time. King’s lasted a few more days, but only 4.5 weeks. Of note, I didn’t follow the entire protocol laid out by Easy Care. In particular, I didn’t use the Dremmel to rough the bottom of the hoof, I didn’t use the buffy (a sander) on the wall, and I didn’t use a torch to dry the hoof. I did go to town with a wire brush to prep the bottom and side walls of the hoof. Let’s just say, trying to use the buffy on Mysti or Dakota would result in them leaving the barn, with the cross ties still attached to their halter, and eyes bugging out of their heads. We will work on that. With a lunge line. In the arena.
For the next round, Mysti and Dakota got shoes on all 4 hooves. King was left bare (he only got them the first time to give me another horse to play with). Mysti’s was first and her shoes went on without any real problems. I did keep Anna in the barn this time to assist with picking up the opposing foot to make the process go easier. Anna also rode Dakota for about an hour before he go trimmed and shod; he gets very nervous around farriers and a little work helps take the edge off.
After I finished Dakota’s first shoe, I realized I was out of new glue. I had 3 tubes of Adhere that were 2 years old and had been stored in the garage through heat of summer and cold of winter. Since it was all I had available, I decided to give it a try and hope for the best. Dakota isn’t the most cooperative horse. When I did his back left hoof, he didn’t exactly load it evenly as he put it down. Instead, he decided to stomp his toe into the ground and knock the shoe off. I got it back on, but after the glue cured, it was clear the shoe had too much twist on the hoof and couldn’t stay. I was after 8:30, I was hot, tired, and frustrated, so I pulled both back shoes and called it a night. I wasn’t happy as I tossed $50+ in the trash (the shoes can’t be reused once they have glue on them).
Additionally, I had serious doubts about the glue. Everything Easy Care had warned me about the signs of bad glue were present – grey and grainy look, not mixing well, etc. So, I ordered some Equilox from Meader Supply, but just enough to do 2 shoes. With shipping, it was about $30 worth of glue. So, 4 days after the previous episode, it was time to try Dakota’s hinds again. The Equilox I chose was a small container that you mix for immediate use. You have 6-8 minutes before it cures. I had enough to do both shoes, but I was “on the clock” once I mixed it. I decided to do the left hind first. Guess who managed to stomp a toe down again before the other hoof could get lifted? That’s right – Dakota knocked the shoe off again, but this time, smeared the glue all over his sole, and managed to get dirt all over the shoe and his hoof. I just threw away the rest of the Equilox and the now ruined shoe. Dakota is turning out to be an expensive test subject.
So, we had a hunter pace on Sunday. Saturday, after trimming 11 other horses, I decided we were going to get some shoes glue on those hind hooves! Anna rode him to calm him. He was hot, I was hot, and we were both sweaty. Neither of us felt like arguing. We cooled the glue and the shoes before application to give a little more cure time. By the way, I still only had the 2 additional tubes of old glue available, but that was all I had. So, I got to work. Amazingly, 20ish minutes later, Dakota had shoes glued on both hind feet and it was the prettiest glue up I had accomplished, with very little excess squeezing out around the edges! But don’t celebrate too much…
The next morning, we went off to Arcadia and the WGHA Hunter Pace #2. About 1.5 miles in, I looked down at Dakota’s hooves in front of me and noticed both hinds were oddly lacking shoes. That’s right – the glue didn’t hold. Needless to say, all that glue is in the trash can to be removed tomorrow morning by Willimantic Waste. Dakota’s front shoes did fine on the ride and Mystique’s stayed on all the way around. Mysti was being a complete idiot for the first 5 miles, but that’s another story.
So, tonight it was time for a short training ride. What good news does Anna greet me with when I arrive at home? Mystique has lost a back shoe. It only made it 9 days. So, I pulled the other hind and we went for a short ride. The last shoe on Dakota that was put on with old glue isn’t going to make it much longer.
I’ve already sent an email to get more shoes, more glue, a buffy, and other supplies. Next week it’s time to do another round of gluing on shoes. We will also have to do some serious training so the horses tolerate the other portions of the gluing regime without killing me in the process.
Why am I so committed to this project? I could just go back to using the boots that have served us to this point. To a certain degree, it is the challenge of getting this right. Trust me, it’s turning out to be a lot harder than I expected. I have considered trying Equilox instead of Adhere, but I don’t really think that is the biggest problem right now. Also, I want this to be an “arrow in my quiver” so to speak, I am not comfortable doing it for a client until I know I can do it correctly. Luckily, we have plenty of horses here on our own farm that I can continue to use as test subjects.