Category Archives: horse

Endurance Training and pony pictures

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!

A good day for training

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!

 

Easy Shoes or Not-so-Easy Shoes?

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.