For Father’s Day, Vicki and I rode in a dressage and 2 phase horse show. Alex and Amanda didn’t want to show and we decided that was fine. This was my first show (other than some fairs) since 2010 when I was still on King. This was also the first time I have ever actually entered a jumping class. While I was not necessarily totally ready and refined, I wanted to take Mojo to the show and see how he behaved.
King was always a great horse at home, and still is, but about 3 times as much horse once you got to the show grounds. “High energy” would be an accurate description. I was extremely pleased to find Mojo was the same horse on the show grounds as at home. I think he was actually more focused and ready to work than schooling at home. Mojo and I entered the 18″ cross-rail 2 phase division which includes dressage test Intro B. We separately rode dressage test Intro C. To get ready for the show, I did ride Mojo through the Intro B test twice in the weeks before the show. We never tried Intro C. As for jumping, I think I jumped Mojo 3 times in the month we have had him. We never actually jumped a full course. In fact, I don’t think we ever put more than 4 jumps together in a set. Anna’s opinion was I was crazy to go so under-trained and having no idea what would happen on the jump course. I figured why not give it a shot.
Let’s be honest. Dressage is boring. I’ll just summarize the 2 dressage tests with we have areas to improve on but I wasn’t last in my divisions. But Vicki did get higher dressage scores on Devil, riding the same tests with the same judges.
The jumping was much more fun. When we got out into the warm-up area, Mojo and I started working over the practice fences and it was awesome. He was ready to go, so we headed on the course and jumped a clear round. He didn’t give me any hesitation and we had a blast. Anna would not that my form requires improvement, I look down at the jumps, I sometimes catch him in the mouth, and Mojo doesn’t always get the correct lead coming off the jump. That’s why she is a better rider. I just know we had fun and he can definitely jump higher! Vicki and Devil also jumped a clear round and had a blast doing it. We want to find a jumping only show…
I would also like to note that Mojo has now been with us for 5 weeks and has been out of shoes for 5 weeks after many years in front shoes. He has been tender on his front feet (to be expected for the transition) so we normally ride him in boots. However, for the dressage show, I couldn’t ride him with boots. Last week I gave him a trim and applied Hoof Armor. The Hoof Armor worked like a champ and he didn’t take a tender step all day. I will be continuing to experiment with the Hoof Armor on my own horses before offering it to clients, but so far, I’m happy with it! The next step is to put it on the ponies and see how they do on the rocky trails without any boots.
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.
Last night about 9:15, I unloaded a new horse from the trailer into the barn. He had spent 6 hours getting hauled in from VT. Since we took this one sight unseen, Anna and I put him in the cross-ties and checked him over. At the end of the barn, there was a 10 year old girl sneaking around in the shadows trying to catch a glimpse of the new pony. When we spied her, she darted back into the house. I went inside and told Vicki it was ok for her to join us in the barn, so with a huge grin, she grabbed her jacket, slipped her boots back on, and happily followed me back out.
He was a little lonely today, turned out in a paddock alone, so Devil got to join him. They made fast friends and spent the afternoon mowing any new shoots of grass.
After work, I had a few trim appointments and then finally got home to get to know my new mount. His shoes were just pulled this weekend, so the first order of business was to get him fitted with boots. One benefit of being a dealer (and having 6 other horses on the farm using boots) is I can usually fit a horse with something we have on hand. Once that was taken care of, we tacked up and headed to the arena.
Introducing Mojo! He is a register Half Arabian (the other half is Dutch Harness Horse) and his registered name is Money Shot. Mojo is owned by a local farrier who has been following our story and thought we were the right match for her horse. Mojo is 10 years old, 15.3 hh, and 850 lbs. He has long legs, a long back, and a narrow barrel. He spent the early part of his life as an arena/show horse and has spent about the last 3 years as a trail, endurance, and CTR mount. He seems very well matched for our desire of a versatile horse for some dressage, eventing, and endurance. We are a little concerned that Vicki may try to claim him.
As the light was fading fast, I did manage to get about 30 minutes of saddle time on him tonight. This weekend we are doing a 25 mile Limited Distance endurance event with NEATO, so that will be a true test of our compatibility. We have him on an extended trial, so stay tuned for more Mojo!
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.
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!