Time flies when you are are having fun. Or when you are crazy busy (which is always the case here) and realize it’s been almost a month since we gave a big update.
Anna and I attended the Eastern Competitive Trail Riding (ECTRA) Winter getaway in New Jersey. The weekend included a full day of AERC vet Susan Garlinghouse talking about distance riding nutrition, metabolic issues, supplements, hydration, and more. Saturday evening was a banquet with the other attendees. The only down side of the weekend was we had to drive to New Jersey. It took 2.5 hours to get home on Sunday but over 4 hours to get there on Friday afternoon.
While we were gone, the kids picked up Anna’s parent’s from the train station as they flew in for the first time in 3.5 years. They stayed for a week and a half. While they were here, we did manage to hitch Huey for some driving. We didn’t get a photo with all the kids, but we did catch Alex with Roland and Sylvia before they left.
On March 16th, Phaylene kidded with triplets – 2 does and a buck. The have our two classic colors of either black with white splashes and brown trim or just the black and red. At 8 years old, we aren’t sure if we will breed Phaylene again, so we are thrilled to get 2 does kids out of this breeding to E.B. Farms LL Regal. That brings Regals count to 5 does and 4 bucks out of 4 kiddings. Not bad for his first season.
Anna and I get fancied up for Sonalysts’ annual gala at the Mystic Marriot. This is an event that had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021, so it was a ton of fun to enjoy dinner, drinks, and dancing with others from work.
The February doelings are growing great and enjoying their time outside on a daily basis.
We now have 4 does in milk. 3 of them are first fresheners and 1 is an 8 year old. We have some really impressive udders in the barn right now, which is great to see, and we are getting almost 5 gallons of milk a day off the four goats.
Quinn is taking a Horticulture and Design class at school that’s actually a UCONN. This results in fresh floral arrangements regularly. Here is the one that came home most recently.
Anna has been working with Fiona almost every day. Her teddy bear dummy is the token rider for now, but that will be changing through April.
Temperatures hit 60F this afternoon, so we took the three big horses over to Arcadia for 11 miles of trail work. Anna rode Amira, Amanda rode Missy, and I rode Mojo.
We have 6 weeks until our first competition of the season and 1 goat left to kid. Hopefully it won’t be the end of April before we post next.
Last week was the second week of August, which means it was time for our annual pilgrimage to Fryeburg, Maine and the Pine Tree Endurance Ride.
But before we get to the ride, we should do a little catching up. The last weekend of July is always the New London County 4-H Fair. Unfortunately after over 2 years of avoiding the ‘Rona, Amanda came home from 4-H camp with the big C. That meant she was still in isolation and unable to attend the 4-H Fair. Quinn and Kaylin (Amanda’s friend that leases our goats) were still able to attend and enjoy a weekend showing the goats. I also took some amateur radio equipment and got some kids interested in radio activities.
While Amanda was definitely disappointed to not attend the fair, she was focused on getting better for the trip to Maine. Since the rides didn’t start until Wednesday this year, Amanda and I were able to run in the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race on Sunday before going to Maine. Yes, 1 week post-Covid, Amanda ran a road race (with the assistance of her inhaler). With over 500 participants, it was the largest race she has done to date.
Monday morning, we got up at 3:30 to get horses and goats fed before hitting the road. With temperatures rising into the 90s, we wanted to get the traveling done before the heat got too bad. We made it to Fryeburg before lunch and got to work setting up camp. We decided to take a nap through the heat of the afternoon and then hand grazed the horses. Not too many people were in camp so it was a nice easy start to the week.
Tuesday morning included a tack ride to take the horses across the river and check out the first few miles of the trail. This was our 5th trip to Pine Tree and the river was the lowest we have ever seen; Rusty could walk all the way across. Here is a short video of the horses crossing the river. It was another hot day so they were all enjoying splashing water up on their bellies. Huey and Mojo decided to drop and roll in the sand on the other side of the river. Luckily, no one got rolled on, and horses were caught and remounted. After the ride, we went swimming before vetting in the horses and attending the ride meeting.
Wednesday morning brought a wake up at 0400! Alex and Quinn had a start time of 0600 for their 50 mile ride and Anna and Amanda followed at 0630 for the 25 mile start. There were 12 riders in the 50 miler and 13 in the 25 miler.
Quinn and Alex had a 16 mile loop to the first hold, the same loop Amanda and Anna would also follow. The first hold was an away hold at the Hemlock covered bridge which gave the horses a 45 minute break. The kids rode at a reasonable pace, keeping in mind that the goal was to finish and not to race; they had no trouble clearing the first vet check.
Anna and Amanda riding the 25 mile distance had the same 16 mile loop starting out. There was a bit of a pile up of LD (limited distance) riders at first, but the field of riders managed to space out as the ride went along. Anna and Amanda made it to the hold, and vetted through with no issues.
The second loop for Alex and Quinn was 22 miles. The first 7 miles of the second loop was the same for both groups of riders, however after crossing the river for the third time, the 50 milers went back into the fields and forest roads. Both groups crossed the river a fourth time for their second vet check and 45 minute hold at the fairgrounds.
Anna and Amanda had only 9 miles back to camp with three river crossings and the trails were nice, mostly back woods snowmobile trails that allowed a little faster pace. There was a little bit of gravel road and some winding through a local campground. Anna and Amanda made it back to camp with a ride time a little over 5 hours and vetted through for a completion.
So, what happens at an endurance vet check? First, your horse has to pulse down to whatever the pulse parameter is within 30 minutes of arriving. For the hold it is usually 64 beats per minutes (bpm), sometimes 60 bpm. For the finish it is almost always 60 bpm for limited distance. Your hold time doesn’t start until the pulse is reached. At the finish, your time doesn’t stop until the pulse parameter is reached (for limited distance riders). After checking pulse, the vet checks your horse for soundness, by watching the rider trot the horse in-hand out and back, as well as the CRI (cardiac recovery index), by retaking pulse a minute later after the trot out. Ideally, the pulse should stay the same or be lower. A 4 beat increase is usually acceptable, 8 is questionable, but more than that indicates your horse is really tired and you may have over ridden your horse. Amira was 60/48 at the finish, which means she needed to move around to get the cooled blood circulating and once she did, her heart rate dropped more. The vet also checks hydration parameters such as gum capillary refill, jugular refill, skin tenting, gut sounds in all four quadrants, and anal tone. The also checks for wounds, back soreness, tack galls, and other swelling. If your horse fails something other than pulse, you have 60 minutes to try and rectify it and do a recheck.
Alex and Quinn made it back from their second loop and the horses passed the vet check. They went to have some lunch in the trailer while we tended to the horses, fed them mash, cleaned off their sweat and let them graze. Alex and Quinn then headed out on their third loop of 14 miles, with 4 more Saco river crossings (bringing the total for the day to 8).
The kids made it back to the fairgrounds a little after 5 pm. The allowed time to complete a 50 mile ride is 12 hours including holds, so they made it. The horses were already at pulse having walked in so both Mojo and Missy vetted through with no issues. Eleven out of twelve riders finished the 50. While Alex and Quinn came in together, Alex stopped short of the finish line by 10 yards to allow the official clock to tick over by one minute to take the coveted last place “turtle” award which was a pair of turtle socks.
The goal for Anna and Amanda was to complete the Trifecta, three days of LD rides, so the next morning we got up and tacked up Huey and Amira for a 6 am start. Ride management had decided to start the 50s and the 25s at the same time to help manage time well at the away hold. The horses were a little less enthusiastic about heading out, but it was a nice morning and not too hot. The loops were the same as the previous day and Anna and Amanda got to the hold within 10 minutes of the previous elapsed time.
The second loop was uneventful and Amanda and Anna had their 2nd day of the Trifecta in the books.
Friday morning brought another 4am wakeup and 6am start. Anna, Amanda, Amira, and Huey were all feeling the effects of 2 previous days of 25 mile rides, but they hit the trail with a dwindling group. While 6 or 7 riders initially started the Trifecta, only 4 were still in it on day 3. The entire field of 50 and 25 mile riders was only 18 horses. As before, Amira and Huey had no problems with the course and still showed up at the away hold within 10 minutes of the first day elapsed time. While we didn’t capture any photos of it actually occurring, Quinn spent the day scribing for the vets.
Amira and Huey both enjoyed their mash and grazing with Ken and Liz. Rob’s parents made the drive from Alabama to Maine for the 4th time to spend the week at Pine Tree with the grandkids and crewing for the ride.
At the finish, Amira and Huey both made pulse easily. The wear of 3 days of 25 miles each was showing as both horses got a few B’s on the ride card in areas such as back soreness, hydration, and impulsion. BUT, both horses completed the Trifecta of 3×25 miles in 3 days! As if that wasn’t enough, this completion put Huey over the 500 LD mile mark, which was Amanda’s major goal for the season!
Missy and Mojo had been resting on Thursday and Friday after their successful 50 milers on Wednesday. On Saturday, it was back to work for them. Temperatures were in the 50s on Saturday morning, so we actually used rump rugs to keep the horses hind end muscles warm at the start. This time, Quinn headed out for a 25 mile ride on Missy while Mojo was in for 25 miles of Ride and Tie with Rob and Alex. If you haven’t read our previous explanations of Ride and Tie (R&T), it’s 2 people and 1 horse. Someone is running and someone is riding. Basically, the first rider sprints ahead, jumps off the horse, ties the horse to a tree, and takes of running. The second teammate starts on foot, runs until they find the horse, unties the horse, and rides the horse to pass the first teammate. They keep alternating like this for 25 miles.
The ride attendance on Saturday was very disappointing. There were only 2 riders in the 50 miler, 3 in the 25, and 1 R&T team. Quinn rode with our friend Caitlyn and they both had a plan to just complete the ride. With such a small field, there was really no reason to push the horses to race. Rob and Alex wanted to push themselves to get the R&T done in the best time they could. Since R&T doesn’t have a time limit, there is usually flexibility in the start time. We elected to start only 5 minutes after the rest of the field, but that turned out to be a mistake. You see, Mojo could see Missy and kept wanting to catch up. Quinn and Caitlyn were having a very leisurely first 2 miles of walking which meant we had to walk with Mojo to prevent overtaking them. Mojo doesn’t like to be held back at the start.
Once we finally had some separation, Alex and I were able to settle into a rhythm. Rob would ride Mojo around 3/4 of a mile and then tie him. Alex would come along and untie and start riding. By the time Alex would catch Rob, it had been far enough that they would do a “running tie” or basically just swap without tying Mojo. In the end, Rob and Alex did 23 exchanges (the minimum is 6 exchanges). At the hold, Mojo got excited because he saw the other horses again and he was super enthusiastic on the second loop.
Missy vetted through the finish with no issues. Mojo arrived just a few minutes later and also vetted through. Mojo clearly could have done 50 miles on Saturday based on how he was at the finish. Rob and Alex completed the 25 mile R&T in 5:20 for their 3rd R&T completion.
I made a video along the trail about R&T and how we leave Mojo in the woods. Check it out here!
Overall, we had an extremely successful week. 10 starts and 10 completions. 2 horses completed the 25 mile Trifecta and the other 2 did a 50 followed by a 25 3 days later. 75 miles for all 4 horses in 4 days. Huey got his first ride at Pine Tree and 19 completions later, he crossed the 500 miles in competition mark at Pine Tree. We have to thank Susan Niedoroda, the ride manager, and vets Art King and Joan Hiltz for making the event happen!
As is the tradition in our family (started by Liz and Ken), the last night in camp was spent blowing bubbles around sunset. We were able to convince a number of the others who were still in camp to join in.
This weekend we took 4 horses to the Horses Across Maine Firecracker endurance ride to participate in the 30 mile Limited Distance. But first, let’s catch up on what else happened last week.
Quinn went to Washington DC with the Connecticut 4-H contingency to Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF). Alex participated in the same program in 2019. At CWF, the 4-H’ers get to learn about the government in hands-on legislation workshops, tour Washington DC sights, meet CT Congressional representatives, and develop new friendships through the 4-H program. The trip started at 6am on Sunday with a bus ride to DC and Quinn got home on Friday evening. Here are some photos from the trip.
While Quinn was headed South, Amanda went North to the Vermont Conservation Camp in Castleton, VT. Anna drove her 4+ hours away last Sunday and dropped her off for a week. We heard about the camp through a hunting companion at my gun club. The camp was a great deal at only $250 and they only take 56 campers per week. It included archery shooting, .22 shooting, shotgun shooting, fishing, swimming, canoeing, overnight in the woods, and the full bowhunter and gun hunting safety courses. She has a great time and is asking to attend the advanced courses next year. Camp ended on Friday evening with a little graduation ceremony and dinner for family members.
Since we had to pick up Amanda in VT, but Quinn wasn’t getting home from Washington DC until late Friday, it was a divide and conquer approach. I took Friday off work and headed out just before lunch with the travel trailer. It turned out that the woman who got Teddy from us lived along the route between where I needed to pick up Amanda and the endurance ride in Maine. It only added about 15 minutes to stop by Sierra’s farm on the way to get Amanda and drop off the travel trailer. I even said hi to Teddy, who looked great and is best friends with Sierra’s young gelding.
After I retrieved Amanda from Camp, we stopped for some ice cream on the way out of town. While waiting in line, I noticed the young woman handing out ice cream cones and through, “gosh that looks a lot like Autumn Kelly.” (Autumn is our friend Vikki Fortier’s granddaughter) She kinda looked at me then got more ice cream. After 2 or 3 times, she said “Rob?” I said “Autumn?” It turns out the camp is in the town where Autumn lives!
Amanda and I made it back to the travel trailer and got some sleep. We had about a 3.5 hour drive through the gorgeous Green Mountains and White Mountains crossing Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine on our way to the ride. Meanwhile, Anna, Alex, and Quinn loaded up 4 horses and headed out from CT to meet us at ride camp.
There was a minor mishap while I was hooking up the travel trailer on Saturday morning. I didn’t have the truck exactly straight to the trailer. For those not familiar with weight distributing hitches that involve chains from the load bar to the bracket, not being straight results even more tension than normal on one side. It also makes it harder to get the retaining pin into the bracket. And that’s how I found myself wiggling the pipe on the bracket with one hand while trying to get the pin in the retention hole with the other. In case you didn’t know, when the the 18″ pipe flips back over under heavy tension, you will wonder if your femur is broken, or your quad is just shredded. No bones were broken, but it was a good thing I didn’t have to ride 30 miles the next day. My hand can almost cover the current bruise. I walk with a limp.
The Horses Across Maine endurance ride is held at the Waterford, ME fairgrounds. This was our second year going to this ride and they limited entries to allow a single vet to handle all vetting. While there were 2 days for competition, we could only pull off riding on Sunday. With a small field of riders, there was no shortage of space to set up. Additionally, the fairgrounds allows riders to use the cattle barns for stalls if desired. We desired. Once the horses arrived in camp, we had them settled and camp set up in about 30 minutes (definitely a Sawyer family record).
Vetting in went fine and we grilled some hamburgers for dinner. The ride meeting was at 6:30 and the kids wanted to be in bed at 8 so they could get 8 hours of sleep. The start time on Sunday morning was 0600!
Since the teenagers don’t need sponsors, and since Missy and Mojo like to move out faster than Huey and Amira, the group split into pairs for the ride. The first loop was 17 miles. While they were gone, I was a good crew member by cleaning stalls, prepping feed for the hold, taking a nap, and walking the dogs.
Alex and Quinn came in at about a 6.8 mph average and vetted through easily. Anna and Amanda were only about 12 minutes behind and also had no problems vetting. All the horses were happy to have some mash and the stalls made it easy for the family to get some snacks of their own in out travel trailer. They all headed back out for the second loop and about another 2 hours of riding. When they returned, all horses pulsed down just fine and cleared the final vet check. There were 12 starters and 10 completed. Alex and Quinn tied for 6th, Amanda was 8th, and Anna was 9th.
Wanda Clowater of Clowater Art and Photography was there to capture ride photos. Here are the ones we bought to save the memories!
Even though they were done with the 30 miles by noon, we had decided to stay over and enjoy camping with the horses. The family all climbed into the air conditioned travel trailer and took a nap. Then we hung out around the fairgrounds as all the other riders packed up and headed home. By dinner, we were the only ones left and it was just fine. Monday morning, we got up early and packed up; we were home by 1.
This ride puts Huey at 440 Limited Distance miles; he needs 60 more miles for Amanda to achieve her 500 mile target with him. The next event will be Pine Tree in August!
May rivals December in our house for busiest month of the year. There haven’t been any blog posts for about a month because we have been so busy, not because nothing was happening. So, here’s what we have been up to since our last update.
Amanda had her 6th grade band concert. She has been playing trumpet for 2 years now, but this is the first concert due to all the COVID issues.
We attended the Connecticut Dairy Goat Association show with our herd. Quinn and Amanda both had a good time, but it was a LONG day. We left home at 5:30am and didn’t get back until 7:30pm. They both agreed that fairs are better (but I think it’s because of the fair food). Amanda was 2 of 10 and Quinn was 9 of 12 in showmanship. I even got in the ring with Cinnamon. The kids did a great job getting the animals ready and managing them for the day.
Amanda turned 12 and wanted to go on a bike ride on her birthday. Specifically, she wanted to ride on the Kingston bike path where there is a convenient ice cream shop about 5.5 miles into the ride. We ended up doing 12 miles on her 12th birthday.
Quinn had junior prom. They chose to make a variant of a jacket/skirt combo. This was an original design, completely sewn by Quinn (including the buttons and button holes). This will go into their portfolio for fashion design school, which is the leading choice post-high school pursuits.
Anna and Amanda have been spending a lot of time in the garden. Amanda has her own sections of the garden for planting what she wants. They work together to map out which veggies go where.
For Memorial Day weekend, we decided not to attend the New York Adventure endurance ride. We had a few tack issues at VERDA and with the cost of fuel, we just decided it was too much. Instead, we stayed local and camped with West Greenwich Horsemen’s Association in Exeter, RI (about 9 miles from home). The weather was stormy on Friday night, so Amanda and I set up camp and Anna, Alex, and Quinn brought the horses over on Saturday morning. Only 1 mile in to the first ride on Saturday, Quinn determined Missy was lame and came back to camp. We loaded her up on the trailer and went home to get Eli instead. Eli got some hock injections earlier this season and has been slowly making a return to heavier work. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, Amira, Mojo, and Huey got around 27 miles each and Eli got 15. Quinn and Alex elected to stay at home Saturday night and take care of the rest of the animals.
Quinn was inducted into the National Honor Society and also won an Excellence in Mathematics award at school to wrap up their junior year. Oh yeah, and they have a driver’s license now.
Today was our 23rd Anniversary! We celebrated with a ride on the horses. Amanda (on Huey) joined Anna (on Amira) and I (on Missy) for 11 miles this morning. After lunch, Alex (on Mojo) and Quinn (on Eli) went out for a ride as well. They got a little turned around and ended up doing 14 miles.
Now we are ending the week with some Princess Cake that Amanda and Anna made. Apparently we also ate it 23 years ago today.
Amanda and Quinn have spring break this week. What else would you do but ride the horses? Quinn had driving lessons (in a car) this afternoon, so Amanda and I (Anna) headed out on a trail ride. Huey got some severe rubs from his new Scoots Boots on Saturday, so Amanda rode Missy for the first time. Huey gets a pass until Rob has the time to put shoes on him. We did almost 11 miles in a little over two hours. Amanda and Missy did fine together, walk, trot, and canter. Amira and Missy pace well together, and get along, with only the occasional mare face at each other. Of course, Rusty was happy to join us and should sleep well tonight.
Look what followed me home! Midkhnight Mischief (barn name Missy) is a 14yo, 15.2hh, 3/4 Arabian/Pinto mare. We purchased her today from Patty Christman in NY. Patty has competed with Missy for over 1000 ECTRA miles over the past 8 years, but made the very hard decision to shift to a less animated horse and offered her to us.
She was a little sweaty after getting off the trailer, but in true distance horse fashion, drank about 5 gal of water and started eating hay. She settled right in like she’s at ride camp. We look forward to hitting the trails with Missy and getting her out to some rides this season.
Here are some more pictures from Patty and Missy in the past.