A horse knowledge weekend

This weekend was busy with horse knowledge competitions.  Saturday, Anna went to the CT 4-H Hippology competition with Vicki and Amanda. Vicki and Alexis were competing as Juniors in the 10-13 year old division on a team with another member of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H Club.  Amanda was in the Novice division, 7-10 year olds, that all compete as individuals.  Hippology consists of a written test, slide identifications, stations, horse judging videos and team group questions. Vicki’s team took 1st place in the Junior division and Amanda had the high score for the Novice division.

While the girls were away, Alex spent the day with riding with me to trim some horses, starting with a visit to see Nike.  Alex groomed Nike and was happy to reconnect with his buddy.

On Sunday, Vicki and Amanda went with me to the Regional Pony Club Quiz Rally to represent Mystic Pony Club (along with Alexis).   In this competition, Alexis was competing as a Senior, so it was the first time in a long time that Vicki and Alexis haven’t been on a team for quiz.  Since we only had 2 Juniors, Amanda and Vicki ended up on different teams -but they didn’t mind.

Pony Club quiz is a team competition with team made up of 3-4 individuals. A 3 man team is a disadvantage as a 4 man team can drop the lowest score for each competition phase. The kids also get individual scores which determine individual placings for high score and national intent.  The phases of the competition are written test, stations, barn phase, mega room and class room. The stations score is not included in the individual score because it is a team effort (everyone works together to answer questions).

All 3 girls did a great job.  Alexis got the highest overall individual score and was presented the trophy by Vicki, who won last year.
Vicki had the high score for the Jr D’s and 3rd overall individual.
Amanda is clearly learning from her “sisters” as she was 10 of 24 Jr D’s and actually outscored 3 Jr and Sr D’s with National Intent.

Alexis and Vicki both qualified for Nationals and will be the team captains for the Sr and Jr D teams respectively when they go to Tryon, NC in July.

Meanwhile at home, Anna and Alex went for a 2-hour trail ride on Teddy and Amira.  Amira had a tough time keeping up with Teddy today as he was feeling good and showing off his moves.

National Junior Honor Society

Thursday night Vicki and I joined 34 of her class mates at Griswold Middle School for her induction into the National Junior Honor Society. The requirements to join were an average grade point of 93 or higher and a record of leadership, service, citizenship, good behavior, scholarship, and character. Griswold Middle School nominates students based on their grades from 6 quarters starting in 6th grade. They are then required to fill out an application detailing their record of achievement in order to be inducted as members in NJHS. Our family is very proud of Vicki’s hard work and we hope she keeps it up for years to come. Below is a short clip from the cermony.

Vicki looks beautiful in her new dress.
Chapter members light candles and read passages about the pillars of NJHS.
Waiting to receive her certificate.

No Child Left Behind

It’s been a while since we posted, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on.  This year, we are participating in the Green Bean Endurance Challenge.  We are the only team that is a full family (I think) and our team name is “No Child Left Behind”.

Since we have 7 horses and plan to ride a lot of miles this year, we have been working on getting in slow conditioning miles rides.  The weather hasn’t been very cooperative, but today was decent, so we saddled up 5 mounts and headed out.  We rode for just under 2 hours and only covered about 7.5 miles.  The goal wasn’t speed, but rather restoring fitness that has been lost through the winter.

I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey.  Amira and Devil stayed home for this outing.  As I mentioned last fall, we are going to be riding in shoes this year.  So far, Mojo and Teddy are both shod all the way around and Devil has front shoes.  I’ll be honest, I’m really impressed with how much nicer Teddy moves in shoes over boots.  I am working on spreading out the herd’s shoeing schedule so all 7 are not due at the same time.  The move to shoes from boots (after 12 years riding without shoes) is a big shift for our family and has come due to a number of reasons.

First, is quality of the boots.  I have given my honest feedback to the boot companies.  I have seen a decline in the quality of a number of boot products and I’m frustrated with the constant wondering what will fail next.

Second is cost.  Yes, I am a dealer for multiple boot companies which means I get boots at a discount.  However, I also don’t pay labor for the shoeing.  Based on the decline in quality, we are wearing out boots faster than in years past.  That coupled with the increased cost of the hoof boots means it is now cheaper for our family to ride shod horses over booted horses.  This wouldn’t be the case if we were paying for my labor expense associated with shoeing.  For perspective, I recently found a receipt for a pair of Epics we purchased in 2006 for $102.  Those same boots today, purchased from the same retailer, would cost $199.82!  I’m not sure what all is driving the cost of boots up, but it is driving me away from using the product.

The last factor is convenience.  Let’s be honest.  Booting gets tedious.  It’s really nice to pick out a hoof and ride without having to pound boots on all the hooves.

Due to all the rain, we crossed plenty of water.  The creek running near the entrance of Pachaug turned into a water-crossing training site.  It was between 2.5-3′ deep and everyone went through it (some a few times).  Here’s a short video of the kids crossing the creek.  Enjoy the pictures from our ride!

Fun and games with horses

After weeks of frigid temperatures, this weekend was a welcome relief with highs in the upper 40s.  Saturday morning, Alex took Dakota out for a short solo trail ride.  Saturday afternoon Vicki rode Duchess and Amanda rode Huey at Pony Club games practice.  This was Duchess’ first group practice and she did awesome.

This morning started with 4 hours of tack and tack room cleaning to kick off the ride season.  After a break, we tacked up for a ride.  As usual, I took Mojo and Vicki rode Duchess.  Alex rode Teddy, which will be a regular occurrence this year as they will be competing together at endurance rides.  Amanda elected to ride Devil, which was interesting, as Devil is a lot hotter on the trail than Huey.  Finally, Anna rode Amira for their first time in the woods.

Here is a short video of our group trotting (and maybe a little cantering) up a hill.

We rode for 1:15 which was just about perfect for today.  The temperatures were dropping, but everyone had a good time.  Amira did great – she crossed water without hesitation, took turns leading, following, and bringing up the rear of the group.  Amira fits in well with the herd and had a great first outing.  The sun set before our ride ended and we got to ride in at dusk with another beautiful New England sunset.

Introducing Amira!

If 6 horses are good, 7 must be better!  Today we brought home a 6yo, 15hh chestnut BLM Mustang mare named Amira.  On 2/15/2012, Amira was captured as a yearling from the Stone Cabin Horse Management Area (HMA) located in Nevada.  Here is a link to the information about Stone Cabin HMA. She lived in the holding pens until October of 2015 when she was processed for an internet adoption and shipped to Rhode Island.  She was only started under saddle about 8 months ago by local trainer Jeremy Reid.  We watched Jeremy compete at the Mustang Makeover in 2015 and we were impressed with his talent.  From what we have seen of Amira so far, he did a good job.  Amira went to a new home where she continued to get training, although life commitments led the owner to offer her up for sale.  Amira lived at Outback where we boarded our own horses in the past, and she even had the stall that Precious once occupied.  Anna kept remarking about how similar Amira and Precious look, although Amira has a few inches on Precious (maybe 10″).

Although Amira is 15hh, she has a very narrow build.  Our primary objective with Amira is distance riding and she will fill that niche as a possible mount for multiple family members.  With that said, she is Anna’s horse and Anna will be doing the majority of the continued training with her, including lots of trail work, dressage, and jumping.  We have big goals this year of doing a lot of distance riding and everyone is looking forward to our ride schedule.

It was late when we got home, so I don’t have any pictures from our farm to share, however, I did steal some from her sale ad.

If you want to follow along with the adventures of Amira and the rest of our herd, you can always subscribe via email on our website.

Christmas Lights

Last night we drove up to Amarante’s Winter Wonderland in Dayville.  We are new to this local attraction and just learned about it this year.  In its 11th year, Amarante’s is a local house that has 160,000 lights, 43 inflatable holiday characters and 36 Christmas trees.  They were nominated for “The Great Christmas Light Fight” show on ABC and won the competition.  For our local friends, it’s a nice family outing (I recommend Sirius XM channel 70 as your tunes to/from the display).

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Ken and Liz (Rob’s parents) joined us in CT this year and brought the Powell family pineapple turkey decoration to put together with the kids.

In 2011, Rob and Chris Calhoun first served together at the Nautilus.  Since then, we have shared Thanksgiving (all of them?) together.

“Black Friday” was spent relaxing. We took all three dogs to Hopeville State Park for a short walk.  One good thing about cold weather is it tires a puppy out pretty quickly.

Afterwards, we all rode the horses.  The only pictures taken were of Amanda riding Devil.  While Amanda and Devil have worked together before, there is a growing likelihood that this will be a more regular pairing.

Amanda and Devil

After spending hours outside in the chilly weather, we all gathered around our first fire of the year to drink some cocoa and warm up.

The first fire of the season

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Rusty Red Waggin’

Our new Brittany puppy, Rusty Red Waggin’ came home yesterday night.  He has had a busy first day meeting Mack and Turbo.  It was a rainy day, but finally cleared up enough this afternoon that they could run around outside for a while.  Mack was happy to have another dog in the family.  Turbo was more skeptical, but finally decided it was ok.

Today is also Vicki’s 12th birthday.  As usual, she demanded to bale her own cake.  Anna bought her a new cake pan that is a 3-D cupcake.  It is baked as 2 cakes and then assembled and decorated.  She made a unicorn cupcake, complete with fondant ears and horn.

 

WGHA Turkey Trot


  • This morning I loaded up 4 horses and 3 kids and headed up to Goddard Park in RI. Rob is underway on a submarine and could not join us today. The West Greenwich Horseman’s Association had their annual turkey trot and we rode a 6 mile loop. Amanda fell off in the warm up ring when Huey decided to catch up to Dakota with a canter, but otherwise it was an uneventful ride. She got back on and immediately wanted to trot so no harm there. Goddard is located on the Narragansett Bay and offers a little beach riding out of season and beautiful views of the bay. All the horses eventually went in the water at the beach. I rode Mojo today since Teddy blew out an abcess last week, and he was good, albeit a bit of a brat when he doesn’t get to lead. We will have to work on that. Lunch, turkey and trimmings, was great and we came home with raffle prizes like cookie cutters, sweat scraper, grooming block and a safety led light. Good day.

Shoes for Dakota

Four years ago, Dakota joined our family and I pulled his shoes off the day he arrived.  Since 2005, none of our horses have been shod.  I am one of the few hoof boot dealers in the area and for this is my 6th year in business as a Barefoot Trimmer.  Today, my title official changed to Farrier.

Anna and I have had great success with hoof boots and my personal experience is what gives me the credibility as a boot dealer.  After everything I have learned and my years of experience, why would I nail shoes on my horses?  The answer is simple.  I want to learn more.  I have seen hooves that were in horrid condition from years in shoes, but I have also seen horses that had feet that looked great.  I’ll be honest, there have been occasions when I wished I didn’t have the hassle of dealing with boots, but there have been times when I was convinced boots were an advantage. The bottom line is, I don’t believe shoes are evil and I also don’t believe that shoes with proper farrier care is harmful to horses.

Which brings me back to Dakota.  I had considered learning to nail shoes for a long time.  In fact, that was original objective in 2005 when I started asking questions of our farrier at the time.  I am fortunate to have a friend who I believe is one of the best farriers around.  I bought Mojo from Vikki Fortier and our friendship has grown ever since.  Recently, I decided to start using my days of leave from the Navy to spend time working with Vikki to learn about shoeing horses.  So tonight, I nailed my  first set of shoes on a horse.  I know I have a lot to learn, but I am committed to learning.  There are flaws in the job I did on Dakota and I know that:

-The medial heel is too long.

-My nails do not all come out at the same height.

-My clinches are not all the same size.

I am fortunate to have 6 horses here at home that I can work with to improve my skills.  I will continue to sell hoof boots and I will continue my business as a trimmer, but if you see us at a ride, don’t be surprised if you notice the sun glinting off some shiny shoes as the horses trot by.

 

The story of our lives with horses