Category Archives: horse

Shoes on my horses?

Yes, it’s true.  There are now front shoes on Mystique, Dakota, and King.  I know, I know.  You are thinking, “but Rob is a barefoot trimmer!”  So I guess now, I am a farrier, and not just a barefoot trimmer.  But before everyone gets all “I knew it wouldn’t work” let me explain.  Last year, I debated very heavily about getting into gluing on Easy Shoes.  I even got a whole delivery of inventory.  But I sent it back unused.

This year, Anna and I are planning to do a 30 mile endurance ride in October.  As a result, we have been spending more time trail riding than in year’s past.  Dakota in particular, is very hard on boots and tends to over-reach and tear up the gaiters.  So, after a lot of consideration, I decided to take the plunge and try out the Easy Shoes.


This afternoon was my first gluing session, and I learned a lot.  For example, when it’s 85F, the glue doesn’t set in 5 minutes; it sets in about 90 seconds. Also, don’t work on Dakota alone in cross ties, because he might freak out, break the cross ties, almost trample me while trying to finish the glue, and take off out of the barn.


Of course, after putting some new shoes on, I had to take them for a ride.  So Mysti and I went for a trail ride, alone, starting at 7:30 in the evening. I’ve only ridden her alone a couple of times, and it’s something we have to work on in case Anna and Dakota couldn’t finish a ride.  So, we went out for a nice 4.4 miles as the sun set.

Mysti still needs some confidence; she gets nervous about things like rocks on the side, trees, changes in the color of the ground, wind in the trees, and basically anything else you encounter on the trails.  But she did go out alone.  And she trotted the whole time (when she wasn’t slamming on the brakes due to a puddle in the road).  I took her riding fly mask off and that actually helped her calm some.  And as it got dark, we headed on the last mile back towards home and Mysti was very confident, which really surprised me.  But my biggest surprise of the evening was, Mysti really liked the shoes.  She moved awesome and her front end was very light.  She definitely liked the shoes better than the boots.

So now, it’s just a matter of determining how long the glue ups last.  Easy Care says farriers are getting anywhere from 4-8 weeks.  One benefit of having a whole herd is there are plenty of test subjects.

Endurance training has begun

As some of you may have seen Anna’s Facebook post on Friday, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  We didn’t go out to dinner or do anything special.  We are saving our celebration for later this year.  Anna and I have decided to ride in a Limited Distance (LD) Endurance race in October.  The one we have chosen is in Vermont and is ony 30 miles long.  Others will be doing 50 miles that day, but we want to start out smaller and try it out.  Right now, the plan is Anna will ride Dakota and I will ride Mistique.  I’m pretty sure Dakota is already in good enough condition to handle the distance.

To support our plan, we are working to have at least 1 longer ride each week (typically on Sundays since that is the only day Anna and I are both available).  Since we will be logging a lot more time in the saddle this year, we decided to try out some different trails in Pachaug today.  Anna on Dakota, Alex on Nike, Alexis on Ace, and me on Misti.  We were planning for about 10 miles, but we took a few new trails.  One of the problems is the trails in Pachaug are not really maintained, so we end up riding the gravel road a lot.  That’s rough on the horses and not as much fun.   Unfortunately, the trails we tried out today are not the ones we will be using for regular training.  We hit some trails that were wicked rocky and there was no going faster than a walk.  We also went through a lot of areas where we were hugging the necks of our mounts to avoid having our eyes poked out by the pines branches.  I actually had to get off and walk with Misti for a while it was so bad.

In the end, we covered 11.8 miles and it took 2:53!  It was a significantly slower pace than our hunter pace speed last weekend, but the trail was much more technical.

What we have learned so far in our endurance training:

1.  Dakota can destroy some boots!  We ride all the horses with Easy Care Gloves on their front hooves.  Dakota tends to over-reach with his hind left, step on the neoprene gaiter, and inflict a mortal wound on the boot.  So far, he has proven this ability 3 times this season.  All 3 times occurred on the same hill as his speed exceeded 15 mph.  Something about his canter and over-reaching.  We are going to try him in bell boots to see if that fixes the problem.

2.  It’s time for some endurance style stirrups.  Both Anna and I will be upgrading to wider, padded stirrups to ease the strain on our knees.

3.  Triathlon shorts under riding breeches are much more comfortable than cotton underwear during a 3 hour ride.

4.  We need to do a shorter loop of 5-6 miles and then drop the kids at the house with the sitter keeping Amanda before going back out.  Alex and Alexis did great today, but they were pretty tired by the end.  After Alexis got off, I asked how she felt and she said “My legs are shaking.”

5.  There are no shortcuts in Pachaug.

6.  Both Anna and I need to drop a few pounds and spend some time running/jogging to be in condition to handle the mileage.  Anna is headed off to ice her knees as we type. I’m just going to bed.

Here are a few pictures.  Amanda was waiting for us when we got back and insisted on helping me wash Mistique.


2015 WGHA Hunter Pace #1

Today was the first hunter pace of the year. It was 9.4 miles and we finished in 1:38.  This year we moved up 1 division to the Hilltoppers, which is supposed to be mostly trotting, with some canter and some walking.   We did that, but apparently our horses trot too fast or too much because we were more than 16 minutes too fast. In fact, we were only 3 minutes and change off the pace for the hunter division. I think we will move up again next ride.
Last month,  Ace joined our farm as a boarded horse. Alexis, who used to lease Huey, got to do her first hunter pace and Ace did great. In fact, all the horses did great. Alex and Alexis got 5th in the Jr division.










Non-stop fun

It’s been 2 weeks since I posted.  It’s not that there hasn’t been anything going on, but rather, we have been so busy I’ve been too tired to sit down and write.

On May 16th, we had the CT State 4-H Horse Show.  6 kids from our club, the Barnyard Buddies, attended and had a great time.  Vicki managed to win the walk-trot division and the 18″ hunter division.  On the 17th, our club participated in PetTopia in Jewitt City.


Monday, the 18th was Amanda’s fifth birthday.  We had a small family party Sunday evening before my parents (who had been in town for the previous 2 days), left with all 3 kids and our travel trailer Monday morning.  They took a trip to Steamtown, PA and had a great time.  I don’t have any pictures because I stayed home with Anna.


A friend who knits made Amanda a “big pink stocking” in accordance with her repeated requests.


Of course, while they were gone we got some good trail riding in on Dakota and Mysti.  We have found a nice 6 mile loop for conditioning the horses.  We also have a 4 mile loop and occasionally even ride in the arena.

This weekend, the weather was amazing.  Since I had both Friday and Monday off work, we did a family trail ride on Friday (6 mile loop) with everyone geared up for the first hunter pace which is 2 weeks away.  Never try something new on race day!  The plan this year is Vicki and Anna will ride in the slower division and Alex and I will ride in the middle division.  So, today, Alex and I went out and ratcheted up the speed.  Dakota and Mysti are an amazing team on the trails.  Dakota is a rock star in the lead!  Mysti has found her confidence and is very sure-footed.  She isn’t ready to be a leader, but we will work on that later in the summer.  We logged about 20 miles in the past 8 days, so her conditioning is progressing nicely!  When we got back today, Vicki hopped on to cool her off in the arena.

Sunday was Amanda’s “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” birthday party.

This afternoon, Anna and I worked on planting more in garden – this will be our biggest garden yet.  Anna also spent about 4 hours teaching lessons in the arena today.  After dinner tonight, Amanda insisted that we have a Memorial Day party, so Vicki and Amanda did an impromptu performance of dog tricks with Turbo and Mack.

Luckily, I go back to work in the morning so I can rest up for next weekend!


Horse focus has returned

Since the goats left the farm, we have had a number of people ask if we missed them.   The answer has been a unanimous “No”. While we still have rabbits and chickens and dogs, we have restored our horse focus.
Anna is teaching more lessons than ever (and I think actually enjoying it). We have taken 1 boarder, bringing our horse tally up to 7. The herd is doing great and we are enjoying our passion.


Even now, I am sitting in the yard with the waning light getting eaten by mosquitos, watching Anna ride Mystique. She was watching me ride while working with Amanda on Huey (her 4th hour in the arena today). As Amanda finished,  Anna took Mysti to do some training with her. Anna claims it is painful to watch me ride Mysti.
Anna is the trainer (at least under saddle) and the instructor. I’m just the farrier and labor.
But, together we are the heads of a horse focused family, and we love it.

Back in the saddle and hitting the trails

Now that the weather has improved, we are back in the saddle and riding regularly.  The kids are riding 5-6 times a week.  Considering last year my rides were measured more in “times per month”, the fact that I have ridden 4 times in the last week is a huge increase.

Last week, I took 2 days of leave.  On Thursday, all the kids were at activities, so Anna and I hit the trails with Dakota and Mysti.  I was our first longer ride of the season and we went a little over 6 miles in just under 2 hours.  We definitely were not pushing the pace too hard, because we were testing out a number of new items along the way.

Anna decided she wanted a Garmin GPS watch for tracking her mileage on the trails.  We also decided to buy 2 horse heart rate monitors that interface with our Garmin watches.  It isn’t a big concern, but more of a neat thing to have and see how the horses are doing from a conditioning perspective.  Since my goal with Mysti is to ride some limited distance endurance with her, it will be a nice accessory for training.

We did get plenty of water and Mysti is fine with it now.  The horses both did well, although, I’m not knocked out with the fit of my English saddle on Mysti. I have an Endurance saddle on loan that was used on a 4 mile ride this evening for the first time.  While that fit her much better, I’m not sure I like how it fit me.

Overall, we are off to a good start and will be ready for our first hunter pace in early June.

Mystique aka Sophie

Today we got a pleasant surprise of contact from Sophie’s breeder.  As I mentioned before, I wasn’t knocked out with the name Sophie and had wanted to change it.  So far, nothing struck my fancy.  However, we have now learned her original name was Mystique.  Anna and I agree we like it, so Mystique will be her new name, with a likely barn name of Mysti.

Over the past 2.5 weeks, Mystique has been settling in on the farm.  She and King do not get along (which is par for King’s record with mares).  Huey isolates her from the others when she is in heat (again, as expected) and the other boys follow her around.  She is definitely a dominant mare which is good in our herd.

We did a couple of lunging sessions and it was clear she understood and had experience on the lunge line.

Yesterday evening I rode Mystique for the first time.  I was very pleasantly surprised at what she knew.  I set my expectations low since we got her without a test ride.  She was much more finished than I expected.  She was very light with my leg and a good balance of forward, without being too rushed.  Her canter transition in particular was better than I expected.  Anna is a much better rider than I am, and will work on her balance.  I will be focused on building her confidence on the trails.  Now that we have contact with her original breeder and know a little more about her previous training, it makes sense.  She definitely has some confidence issues that we will work on.

Overall, I am pleased with how she has settled in on the farm and look forward to our summer.


It’s been a busy week on the farm

Let’s start with the biggest news from today.  Anna and I had talked for a while about what our criteria should be for the next horse we add to the farm.  Here is what we came up with:

1. Not a thoroughbred.

2. Gelding.

3. Already trained and able to be used in Anna’s lesson program.

4. Young enough to have some go and be fun for Rob on the trails.

So, today we brought home a 15hh, 9yo Arabian mare (Shagya bloodlines) that is still pretty green.  But in our defense, Anna has wanted an Arab (but prefers geldings) and I am interested in limited distance endurance riding.

Introducing Sophie (pending a name change!)  Sophie will be a training project for this year.  Anna will focus on her dressage foundation and Rob will focus on her trail and ground work.  We plan to divide up the work on Dakota in a similar fashion.  The bottom line is, horses will continue to be our main focus.

Backing up a few days, on Tuesday, Sawyer Farm’s Onyx kidded and gave us a cute little buckling named Sawyer Farm’s Smores.  Smores is being raised as a bottle baby and will hopefully find a home for use in breeding.

On Friday, we got another round of snow (about 3″ at our house) and triplets, 2 does and buck, from Longvu Bx Tangueray Texter (Tang).  Sawyer Farm’s Three Musketeers was the buck and the larger doe, Sawyer Farm’s Kit Kat is already reserved and will be leaving next week.  Sawyer Farm’s Twix was the runt at 4.6 lbs and will be raised by Vicki.

We only bred 1 other doe this year, but it appears she didn’t actually get pregnant, so we think that wraps up our kidding season.  Final tally – 4 does and 2 bucks.  Now as soon as the snow finishes melting, we can saddle up the horses!

Is my horse growing enough hoof?

“My horse doesn’t need to be trimmed as often because he doesn’t grow much hoof in the winter.”  I’ve heard this many times over in barns and general discussions with horse owners.  As my clients know, I trim horses every 6 weeks, even in winter.  I do make exceptions for horses that need a trim cycle of less than 6 weeks.  On our own farm, the horses are typically trimmed every 3-4 weeks.  However, due to my recent travel, they went a little longer and got overdue.  Today, I finally trimmed them at 6 weeks and 1 day.  I’ve noticed something before, and it was readily apparent again today.

I trimmed all 5 of our horses in succession.  This isn’t about how well-behaved they were in the cross ties, how the dogs hung out under their hooves eating the scraps, or the icicles on their hair when they came in the barn.  This is about the amount of hoof I had to trim on ALL 5 horses in FEBRUARY.  2 of the 5 horses are over 20 years old.  NONE gets any grain, only hay pellets with supplements per each individual.

I used my nippers to trim the hooves on all 5 horses.  In comparison, I probably only use my nippers to trim around 25% of client horses at a 6 week trim in the winter.  The rest are done with just my rasp because the growth is not significant enough to alternate between the tools.

So what’s the big deal?  I see the difference in hoof growth as a clear indicator of a mineral imbalance.  As my clients also know, I am not a fan of grains for most horses.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “I only give my horse XX amount of grain so he gets his daily vitamins and minerals.”  Do you eat Cookie Crisp cereal for your daily vitamins and minerals? After all, it is fortified just like grains for your horse.  Of course not.  You eat Cookie Crisp for the bits of chocolate in the cookie, just like horses love the molasses in the grain (read your bag tag before you tell me how “Safe” your “Choice” is).

So how do 5 horses on my farm grow more hoof all winter, without grain, compared to some horses I trim in the summer?  It’s simple. They have Free Choice minerals.  I’ve said it before: We only sell products we use and believe in.  Dynamite’s Free Choice mineral program is one of those products.  If you are interested, you can get more details and order here.  Just check out the Free Choice Starter Pack.  What’s great about the system is the horses regulate themselves.  If you still are a doubter, and don’t take vitamins and minerals yourself, buy a good quality vitamin and mineral, take it daily, and track how often you need to trim your own nails.  In fact, Dynamite has human products you can use too.

So, how do you know if your horse is growing enough hoof?  It’s simple: watch your farrier/trimmer and see how much they take off every 6 weeks.  And if Flash doesn’t need a trim but every 8-10 weeks, you have your answer.


Christmas 2014

Christmas this year was a small affair.  No familiy visiting from out of town, and no where we had to be.  On Christmas Eve, we joined the Smith’s, owners of Cedars of Lebanon Farm, or their annual Christmas Eve brunch.  It has become a holiday event we look forward to.  The fact that their daughter Natalie is in culinary school and uses the brunch to showcase recipes doesn’t hurt.

After we got home, Vicki set to work baking the cookies for Santa, sugar cookies with a pepermint glaze are the appropriate recipe.

That evening, we headed to North Stonington Congregational Church to see some old friends at the evening service, and then back home for a traditional Swedish dinner that Anna put together.  We had meatballs with cranberry sauce (she couldn’t find lingonberry jam locally), ham, potatoes, pickled herring, pickled salmon, and pickles.  Afterwards, the kids got to open 1 present, plus their new pj’s from Grandma and Grandpa.  A fire in the fireplace seemed like a good idea, but as the evening progressed, the temperature outside climbed to almost 60F.  Turbo joined us fo the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

We told the kids before they went to bed, no presents would be opened on Christmas morning until the animals at had to been checked on and horses fed hay.  The rest of the chores would be deferred to later in the morning.

At 7:30, the kids came into our room to wake us up.  The horses had been fed their hay and Alex had actually completed all his morning chores.  Vicki went to make a pot of coffee for us while we got ready to join them for presents.

After opening gifts, the kids got to play with their new toys.  Since it was in the low 60s, Anna and I decided to head outside and spend 6 hours on a fencing project.  We significantly collapsed the goat paddock and gave a most of the back property to the horses.   By the time we came in well after dark, we were ready for a simple dinner of farm fresh eggs and bacon.

We were also surprised with a very nice gift from some friends and found the perfect spot for our new addition in the kitchen.


Today was spent loading hay in the barn, loading shavings, riding horses, and time at the gun range.  Merry Christmas from our family to yours, and have a Happy New Year!