Category Archives: horse

Horsin’ Around

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!

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.

 

Renegade Hoof Boots

renegade boots

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.

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.

 

When horses get sick

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).

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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.

Ayer Mt Hunter Pace 2015

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.

 

ayer hunter pace
L-R: Rob on Misti, Vicki on Devil, Anna on Dakota, Alex on Nike

GMHA 30 Endurance Ride

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.

 

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.

Murphy visits the farm

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.

2.5" cut on Misti's shoulder
2.5″ cut on Misti’s shoulder
Misti's shoulder with 6 staples
Misti’s shoulder with 6 staples

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!

20 training miles

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.