Category Archives: endurance

A step in the right direction

Two years ago in February we bought SA Fiona in KY. She’s been a bit of a challenge. She is 11 this year, but had never been broke to ride. She is sensitive and was very herd bound when she first came, making it a challenge to even work with her safely without another horse present.

We started riding her in October of 22, but the weather shut us down, and last spring we started again and she did most of her 100 miles walking trails and learned to walk and trot in the arena. We had some saddle fitting woes, and worked extensively on reducing her reactiveness to anything touching her, bugs, saddle bags, legs, plastic bags, ropes, scary things and did a lot of long lining.

Quinn has been riding her more since getting out of school in mid May, and taking Fiona on longer and longer trail rides. Last weekend Alex and Quinn did 8 miles in Pachaug. Exposure to dirt bikes, cars, screaming camping children, mountain bikes, is all a part of riding in Pachaug State Forest. Our property backs up to the forest and offers hours of trails straight out the back.

This morning Quinn and I loaded up Amira and Fiona, and headed over to Arcadia management area in Rhode Island. It was the first time putting Fiona on our trailer since she came. She loaded right up behind Amira with only the slightest bit of hesitation. Unloading at the Horsemen’s area, we discovered she really didn’t want to back out, so Quinn let her turn around in the tight space ( she was in the third stall of our four horse slant load). It spooked Fiona a bit, and she quickly exited leaving Quinn behind, but luckily I caught her on her way out. In hind sight, I should have collapsed the rear tack to make things easier and more open.

Fiona settled pretty quick with some grazing ( Amira is a good role model) and we tacked up tied to the trailer. Then we went into the large grass arena and walked on foot before mounting and riding around another few minutes. Fiona seemed to take it all in stride, so we headed out on an 8 mile ride down to midway and back. We walked and trotted and it was uneventful. Even with mountain bikes that didn’t stop and loose dogs, no one died.

Back at the trailer, we realized we had never sponged Fiona before…just rinsed her with the hose at home. Lots of things to work on. On the way home we flipped the position of the horses and loaded Fiona first, so she would have more room getting out. Amira prefers to back out anyway. We will work on some trailer loading and teach Fiona to back out should she ever have to ride in a straight load.

Quinn was very happy with Fiona today and it was certainly a big step towards Fiona becoming the horse we want her to be. We will continue to expose her to new things and plan to do a camping outing with the horses soon.

Riding Gamble

SA Jack of Hearts, aka Gamble came to us 7 weeks ago with a reputation for being strong and not a horse that just anyone could ride. We discovered that while he is a sweetheart on the ground, he has some serious trust issues. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the past, but he consistently avoids allowing someone to mount. He isn’t vindicative and doesn’t want to hurt you, but rather it feels like he is scared. Maybe scared of what will happen or of being disciplined. Regardless, it was quickly clear that Gamble needs a lot of ground work and trust. This afternoon I finally sat on his back.

Amanda rode JJ around the arena while I worked with Gamble. Once I got on, it didn’t feel like I was sitting on a stick of dynamite; it felt like I was sitting on a whole bundle of dynamite. We just worked on walking and listening without overloading him. About 10 minutes was enough to call it successful for the day. I’ll definitely be wearing my Point Two air vest as we continue to work together.

I know my seat looks awful and I’ll be making some tack adjustments but that wasn’t the priority for today. Despite his tension, I really don’t get the feeling he wants to hurt anyone, just that he is scared and not sure what to expect. This is definitely a horse where I need to be in the right frame of mind every time I sit in the saddle.

Winter riding

This afternoon Alex and Amanda went out into Pachaug for a trail ride. Alex rode Mojo and Amanda rode JJ. Alex is in the middle of finals still, but we all know he doesn’t ever study, so… They did some trotting and the report I got from Alex is “he feels sound”. Mojo spent two months or so slightly off after the Pine tree endurance ride. We did a lameness exam, x-rays and appropriate blocks along with ultrasound and concluded that Mojo’s pastern angles were unfavorable and he had some caudal heel pain going on. Whether it was an injury to the insertion point of the DDFT, pain from the navicular bursa, or slight arthritis starting between P2 and P3, we are not sure, but we decided not to do a standing MRI to find out more, as the treatment was the same for all three. Mojo was trimmed more aggressively at the toe and put into shoes with a wedge to give him relief from the pain he was having and change the angle of his pastern bones. After a few weeks his soundness was definitely improved; it’s been almost 10 weeks now and he looks pretty good.

Amanda has ridden JJ now both in the arena and on trail. When I’ve been working in the arena with Gamble, she has ridden JJ walk/trot and over poles (and a little canter, but JJ is still out of shape and weak behind). JJ is pretty chill riding wise, but gets nervous when tied up for tacking, especially if out of view of her herd. I believe consistency and patience will cure this, just like it has with Fiona.

Amanda and Alex rode 4 miles up to the farmhouse on Lee Rd and back and had no major issues.

Meanwhile, at the house, Quinn tacked up Fiona and worked with her in the arena. Quinn designed and sewed a winter riding skirt and plans to use it while riding Fiona this winter. Fiona can be a bit reactive to flappy things so it is a work in progress, but the skirt is working out so far. Dad helped her get on safely today. The skirt is made out of a waterproof fleece lined material, with a real wool filling and fancy lining fabric. There is a zipper on the back and a little flap preventing your bum from getting wet when open. There is a two way zipper in the front and there are snaps in the front snapping the sides up for mounting. Quinn also has straps that snap around the leg to keep the skirt from sliding off your leg when moving faster. Quinn chose this design over a full circle skirt due to weight and bulk. It is also easier for chores than a full circle skirt.

For those that do not know, I had a total right hip replacement surgery on Wednesday this week. It has been a long time coming. I was told it was inevitable in 2017 and probably wouldn’t make it through the winter in 2021. My sockets are deep and over time hitting the femur repeatedly on the edge, running, riding, biking, any lateral movement really, creating bone spurs, wearing out the cartilage and tearing my labrum repeatedly has created “severe osteoarthritis”. My hip balls were no longer round and my range of motion was very limited. So, it was time.

I am doing ok. The surgery was at 7:30 Wednesday morning and I was discharged at 4:15 that afternoon. I am walking around with a walker or cane for safety and have been outside walking for 2 days now. I am starting PT next week and will likely do the other hip next year. No riding for 12 weeks. The hardest part so far is lifting my leg up due to weakness in my quads and pain from the incision site.

Amira is having a Prostride injection into her tendon sheath injury from August to hopefully reduce it’s appearance (though she is not lame) so we can rehab together.

Getting to know JJ and Gamble

In the last two weeks we have worked with JJ and Gamble each day. It seems we rocked their world a little bit, moving them over 1100 miles and changing their situation. They were turned out in a herd 24/7 and not handled a whole lot. We have spent time with them every day and done some lunging every few days. JJ is showing some definite education, but is definitely herd bound and relies on living in a herd. Gamble is sensitive and his MO is blow backwards when unsure. He will certainly need a connection with his rider.

This afternoon Rob and I brought JJ and Gamble up to the barn and tacked them up. I spent about 30 minutes on ground work with JJ and then mounted, spending about 30 minutes mounted walk/trot. I’m still figuring out her buttons, but with time I believe she will become the horse we want.

I had told Rob Gamble needed a relationship, but being the guy he is he didn’t really believe me. He spent an hour this afternoon lungeing and working on mounting block training. Gamble is very sensitive and needs a rider who will take the time to gain his trust. I think they will get there, but we all stayed safe tonight and Rob never got in the saddle.

In the coming weeks we will work towards developing relationships and figuring things out. I have a hip replacement coming up in December and I will do what I can before then. Amanda thinks she will be the rider for JJ and maybe that is true. Stay tuned.

Road trip part 5 – home again

4 days of driving totalling 38 hrs in the truck and 2245 miles. We are home safe and sound. Gamble and JJ both traveled great. They drank when they got off the trailer and are eating hay. We have been giving them a soupy mash throughout the trip. They don’t seem to know what Lamanchas are, but that will probably only be a temporary scary thing. We will let them settle in and start riding them soon.

We did check their heights and Gamble is 16.0hh while JJ is 15.1hh. Welcome home ponies.

Road trip part 4

We didn’t take many pictures today because we were all about the miles. Over 700 miles covered in 12.5 hours. We generally went 2.5-3 hours at a stretch and then stopped for 30 minutes to let the horses take break. At each stop, they got offered some wet mash and water. JJ liked the sweet water (2 gal of water with a handful of rice bran added). JJ and Gamble both did great all day.

The horses are enjoying a layover at TMR Ranch in Woodland, PA. When we arrived, they had stalls ready to go with hay, water, and bedding. The farm is less than 1.5 miles off I-80 with plenty of parking for your trailer and hotels less than 10 minutes away. If you are crossing PA and need a layover, check them out on horsemotels.com.

Road trip part 3 – went shopping

This morning started before sunrise as we left Ohio and headed into Indiana. As the sun came up, we saw deer everywhere. By the way, it’s REALLY flat in Indiana so you can see a long way. Illinois wins the worst road maintenance award of the 7 states we travelled through. We crossed the Mississippi and arrived at our destination of Dubuque, Iowa mid-afternoon. We checked in to the hotel and took a break before going shopping.

We found some things we liked and decided to buy.

Joining our herd are SA Jack of Hearts (barn name Gamble) and SA Jeeka’s Jessica (barn name JJ). Gamble and JJ are both originally from Sun Arab Stables in Kentucky where we bought SA Fiona from Daunna Sellers; all three share the same Shagya sire, Bayram. Gamble and JJ are out of the same dam, a Thoroughbred named Oak Island Jeeka, so they are both Anglo-Shagyas. Here are the stats: Gamble is 10yo gelding, 16.1hh (maybe 16.2 – Anna is standing uphill) and JJ is a 14yo mare, 15.1-2hh. JJ has foaled previously and both have 2 Limited Distance endurance rides under the belt, although it’s been a few years.

We went out to get some sushi to celebrate. Early tomorrow morning we will start the drive home.

Sawyer Summer Update

It’s been a summer. You know how some years it doesn’t seem like things align and happen like you planned? Sh*t happens everywhere you turn? Well, this summer has been a bit like that. We tried to make the best of it. We haven’t blogged in a while, because really who wants to write about life when life gives you lemons? Anyways, here it goes, a summer update as we move into fall.

Let’s start back with the last weekend of July when Quinn and Amanda participated in the Windham County 4-H fair. It was a very small fair compared to New London County, which is our home county. The New London County 4-H fair was moved to the second weekend in August, due to a popular local fair changing their dates. This is an ongoing conflict for us with our annual trip to Fryeburg ME and the Pinetree Endurance Ride. The kids are deciding on changing counties, moving clubs and/or going independent. Attending another county’s fair makes them miss out on club challenges and other participation at the fair, such as being a superintendent of an event or species show. They are also not eligible to compete in Premier Showmanship, even if they win top showman for their project animal. It turns out Quinn and Amanda had the only goats at the Windham 4-H Fair. The judge still gave them decent ring time and practice for their showmanship, even though they were only competing with each other. Phaylene won best senior doe (duh) and Pepper was best junior doe. Quinn and Amanda enjoyed entering the obstacle course challenge with two of the goats. A massive storm swept in Saturday night and the goat barn flooded, so Rob brought the goats home to stay dry.

In the week between the 4-H fair and leaving for Pine tree, we lost two animals on the farm. Amanda’s 8 year old Rhinelander rabbit Pretty Paw and our barn cat Barbie. Barbie had developed a massive tumor, and was getting really skinny so we decided it was time.

The following weekend we packed up and headed out to the Pinetree endurance ride. Our friend Sonja came up on Saturday and stayed over at our place for the night. The next morning we loaded Amira and Mojo and headed for Fryeburg. About an hour out from the fairgrounds Sonja started having some engine trouble with her truck. We sent the kids and horses on to camp (Quinn was driving the horse trailer). It turns out Sonja’s aux fuel tank was low on fuel and was sucking air each time she went up a hill. Rob stayed with Sonja and we drove on to camp on her main fuel tank. Excitement before the ride even started! We got camp set up and all was well.

Monday we went tubing, it was cold, like low 60s, the river was high due to all the recent rains and then it started raining while we were still on the water. A lot. We were frozen by the time the tubing shuttle got us back to the car. We were quite thankful for nice hot showers in camp.

Liz and Ken made it to camp that evening, just in time for the torrential rains to continue. We stalled the horses and Amira was not happy (understatement), we had to literally close her in with the dutch doors shut and she kept spinning in circles. We had vetted in to ride Tuesday, but decided not to in the morning, because the rain was cold, Amira had not been drinking well, and we didn’t want to feel like the previous day and have wet saddles for the rest of the week. I know, we are fair weather riders…

On Wednesday we got up and sent Alex on Mojo and Quinn on Amira out on trail in the 25. The trail was wet and slick. They made it to the vet check and vetted through. Unfortunately at the finish check back at camp, Amira was lame. She had a cramp on her hind left leg in her inside groin area. We worked on her for an hour, but she was still off. So, Quinn did not get a completion. It became clear, in the next 24 hours that she had a tendon sheath injury to her left hind based on the swelling that built up.

We planned to send Amanda out on Mojo Thursday morning, however, Mojo was lame when he was checked before the start. It appeared to be in his shoulder. It’s been 5 weeks of rest and he is still not quite right so we are investing in more diagnostics to see what we can figure out. Since we didn’t have any horses to ride, the family spent time volunteering at the away hold and with vet checks or anywhere we were needed.

On Friday, Amanda got a catch ride offer from our friend Jenn Jacobson. Jenn’s young Arab, Haley, had already done 2 days of LDs and Jenn wanted her to go out for a 3rd. Amanda rode with Mary Palumbo as a sponsor. Unfortunately, at the end of the ride, Haley was lame with the same symptoms as Amira 2 days prior and they also didn’t get a completion. Haley did recover after a couple of days, so we are glad that wasn’t a bigger problem for her.

Ken and Liz have a tradition of blowing bubbles with the grandkids and any bystanders get sucked in to participate as well.

In late August, goats went to the Brooklyn Fair. Quinn didn’t attend this show due to orientation at Eastern Connecticut State University. Rob and Amanda showed 10 of the goats in the 1 day event and came home with a decent amount of premium money.

Labor Day weekend meant camping with goats at the Haddam Neck Fair. There were over 80 goats at the fair and I believe 39 of them were Lamanchas. Quinn spent a fair amount of time studying for college classes, while Amanda enjoyed hanging out in the pens, teaching the public about the goats.

Rob’s company, Sonalysts, had their 50th anniversary party in September. We got all dressed up for an evening out.

This past weekend, the Connecticut Valley Driving Club put on a driving demonstration at the Berlin Fair. The agenda included introductions of the various horses and ponies, some background on their breeds, discussions about different carts and carriages, how to harness, and of course, driving demonstrations. The space being used was between the tractor pulls and an amphitheater, so it was quite loud. The event was being held on the go cart track which has a clay track and grass inner circle. Rob and Amanda were driving Huey when the nearby concert stage reved up and spooked Huey. He bolted across the field and as he hit the clay, Huey crashed and Rob was thrown from the cart onto the track.

Amanda was able to jump while still on the grass; she is bruised but otherwise ok. Huey bolted out of the area but was caught with some assistance from the rest of the club. He was stiff afterwards but not injured.

Rob was taken by ambulance to a trauma center with 4 broken ribs and a collapsed left lung. They put in a chest tube for the collapsed lung and to drain fluid build up from the broken ribs. He also has a severely bruised hip. He spent 3 nights in the hospital. He is back at home, but it will be 6-8 weeks for full recovery.

Our immediate plans include an end of the 4-H year trip with the goats to the Big E next weekend. Amira looks sound, but still has a bump on her tendon where the fluid accumulated so she will get another ultrasound to check things out. Mojo will get some diagnostics to figure out why is still lame and a path forward, hopefully to soundness. Fiona is doing well, walk-trot in the arena and about 50 miles of walking on the trails. Not having friends for her to go out with lately has put a damper on trail riding. Huey will rest for a week, get some trail walks by hand in the forest next week, and we will evaluate whether we put him back to work or not. We definitely want to rule out any pain reasons for the wreck last weekend.

The goats will all get bred next month, fingers crossed, for late Feb-March babies. We have a few changes happening to the goat herd, but that will be another post. Maybe after the big E. Stay tuned.

Firecracker Endurance Ride 2023

For the first weekend in July, Rob and the kids went to Maine for an endurance ride weekend. Since we only have 2 horses competing this summer, Anna stayed home to care for the baby goats born in late June and everything else on the farm. Quinn and Alex both assisted with driving to Waterford, Maine for the Horses Across Maine Firecracker Endurance ride.

We headed up on Friday morning and set up camp. This was our third trip to this ride, so we knew what to expect. On Saturday morning, we got up at 0400 and everyone was ready for the 0600 start. Amanda rode Mojo (with our friend Mary sponsoring her) and Quinn rode Amira for a 30 mile LD. Rob and Alex were the crew. It was warm (about 70F) and very humid. Both horses were doing fine at the hold after the first 13 miles and headed out for the second loop. Quinn opted to ride separate from Mary and Amanda on the second loop and it was reported that Mojo had lots of go.

At the finish, Amira took an exceptionally long time to make her pulse of 60 required for completion. Her pulse was hanging around 72 no matter what we did, even though her body wasn’t particularly warm. Art King, one of the ride vets we see quite often suggested using some no-salt, which is Potassium Chloride. We gave Amira a hefty tablespoon of KCl in a syringe and her heart rate was under 60 in less than 1 minute! We had the same issue at New York Adventure and have finally figured out how to beat it. Mojo and Amira passed the final vet check without any other issues.

After Saturday’s ride, we took a nap and hung out around ride camp. 4 people for only 2 horses makes easy work of the chores. The horses got poultice on their legs and wraps overnight because they both had another 30 miles to do on Sunday.

Sunday morning was another 0400 wakeup and this time it was Alex on Mojo and Quinn again on Amira for 30 miles. It started raining before they even came in to the hold and basically didn’t stop until after the ride was over. Based on the lesson about KCl, as soon as we saw Amira’s pulse in the 70s, we dosed her. This resulted in much faster pulse times. This is a tool to keep in mind for any of the high-humidity rides. In the end, both Mojo and Amira did fine at the ride and looked great after back-to-back 30s. I didn’t get many pictures due to the rain.

Back at Father’s Day, we went to a local ropes course for a couple of hours of climbing fun. This was a Christmas gift from Rob’s parents. Anna isn’t a fan of heights and opted to be the event photographer. Rob and the kids had fun climbing through the courses and riding the ziplines.

Goats and Grads

Last weekend, Quinn, Amanda, and Rob went to Deerfield, NH for a 6-ring dairy goat show. Anna drove up to drop off a trailer on Friday and returned on Sunday for pickup. The weather was raw with highs around 50F each day and on-off rain throughout the weekend. We didn’t expect to have any major wins, but it was a great chance to see how our young herd was stacking up against others in the region. Our juniors are showing some promise, so that means the breeding is headed in the right direction. Quinn and Amanda helped some friends out with showing Nubians too.

Quinn got to drive the 2500HD and travel trailer home (2.5hrs). This was the first time driving the setup and everything went fine.

As the end of the school year approached, Marine Science Magnet High School held an awards night. Quinn received the Senior Mathematics Excellence Award and a $1000 PTO scholarship.

Thursday was graduation and Rob’s parents flew in from Alabama. Quinn graduated Suma Cum Lauda and will be attending Eastern Connecticut State University in the Fall to major in Computer Science. That’s two in college now (I think we are getting old).

Today, Rob and Quinn took 2 horses to Vermont to ride with our friend Geneva. Geneva recently moved to VT and we saw her a couple of weeks ago at NY Adventure. Rob rode Mojo, Geneva rode Amira, and Quinn rode Geneva’s mare Hopper. It was a 3 hour drive to get there and Quinn drove the whole way pulling the horse trailer. Quinn is now certified to drive either truck pulling any of the trailers.