Yesterday, we introduced Angel. Upon reading the blog about her, one of my Facebook friends recognized her as a foal that she bred and sold as a weanling. It turns out Angel is a registered Shetland born in 2008 named Isherwood Magical Enchantress. She was sold with 2 other ponies, one of who she continued to live with until she came to us yesterday. After being sold, it isn’t clear if she changed hands again, but she ended up in a neglect situation and was rescued as at about the age of 18 months. She went as a foster (with her friend Buttercup) to the family who ended up adopting her and kept her until now.
So far, she is absolutely glued to Devil and gets nervous whenever he isn’t with her. We will introduce another friend from the herd in the next few days. This morning she spent a little time lunging. She has some amazing front leg action.
Angel (formerly known as Jelly Bean) is the newest addition to the farm. She is an 8yo, 12.3hh pinto pony. While we were not really in the market for another mount in that size range, this was a little too perfect to pass up. You see, all of Angel’s measurements are within 2cm of Devil’s, which will make them a fabulous matched pair for driving. The pair will be shown as “Devil in Disguise” and “Angel in Hiding”.
Angel has been a family pet for the past 5 years and is very green (read not saddle broken). While saddle training will likely occur, we really got her to be a driving pony. Here are some pictures of her in turn out with Devil minutes after arriving. Even though she had not trailered but 1 time in the past 5 years, we had her loaded in only a few minutes. She will be a fun training project for this year.
We got a little snow on Thursday night and then a good dump yesterday. After a late breakfast this morning, we had a solid 9+” of fresh powdery snow on the farm. After the driveway was cleared and the horses were fed, we hitched up Huey to his Kingston Saddlery sleigh to cut some paths in the front pasture. Everyone took a turn with the reins except Amanda, but she did get to ride until she was frozen.
The new addition for today’s session were sets of bells hanging off either side of the saddle and we got our side check in. Huey didn’t care about the bells. While we don’t usually need a side check, it keeps him from dropping his head too low (probably a bigger problem during grass season). Not bad for his 3rd time hitched.
Last night we got 3″ of snow. The kids were excited to switch the wheels on our Kingston Saddlery cart to the sleigh runners. Unfortunately, the snow switched to rain and it is warming up tonight, so the snow won’t be around for long. However, we did get the chance to do a little “dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh”. We did some loops around the house and through the front yard of our neighbors. We look forward to more snow through the winter.
A few months ago, Dakota left to become an occasional trail pony. While not every horse that comes to our farm is a lifetime horse (or pony), it was clear in the weeks and months after Dakota left, that both Anna and Alex really missed him and I had rushed the decision to move him on. This week, we got the news that the girl who had Dakota had a fall and was scared to ride. Time hadn’t helped the issue and the family was considering passing Dakota along to some other friends, but wanted to check with us first. Their was no hesitation. Anna and Alex picked up Dakota on Friday. We are currently thinking we will keep Dakota as a trail pony and not stress this arthritic issues by doing arena work. Maybe he will ride in a LD endurance event, but I don’t see 50 mile rides in his future.
This afternoon, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Teddy, and Anna rode Dakota for a very short route. Alex and Amanda decided it was too cold to ride since it was in the upper 20s. I was testing a saddle (that didn’t work out), so about 30 minutes was plenty of ride time. Anna enjoyed the reunion (and I think prefers his calm demeanor over the Arabs that Vicki and I prefer). Welcome home Dakota!
For those who don’t know, Huey is our 16yo Dartmoor who’s registered name is Hedgehog Hollow’s American Eagle. While he has been a good riding pony for Amanda, and still goes on trail rides, Amanda is preferring to ride Devil in the arena. Huey needs a job and so we have been slowly working on teaching Huey to drive for the past few months. Even though we were told he was driven before we owned him, we wanted to take everything slowly and actually step through the entire training process. It was also beneficial for the kids to see the intermediate steps of training a driving horse. We have been ground driving Huey, including teaching Alex and Vicki how to ground drive and Huey has pulled a tire on the ground.
I recently built a set of false shafts which are poles designed to give the pony pressure like a cart, but without the expensive cart. Here is the document I used to make our false shafts: false shafts instructions. This afternoon, Anna did a little lunging with Huey in his harness and then we hooked him up with the false shafts.
Anna and I took turns ground driving Huey with the false shafts and made him walk and trot around the arena. He didn’t show any concern at all about the shafts, so we decided to move to the next step.
We decided to purchase our easy entry cart new from Kingston Saddlery. It wasn’t much more expensive than most used ones and we knew we could get replacement parts as needed. We were also able to purchase sleigh runners, so we are looking forward to the snow arriving.
Alex and Vicki were on hand to assist with the initial hitching of Huey to the cart. We started by approaching him with the cart and removing it to make sure he wouldn’t react (I think he slept through it). Then we actually hooked him to the cart and I ground drove while he pulled the cart. Anna started with a lunge line attached to his bridle in case things went wrong, but we removed the extra tending line pretty quickly.
Since everything was going well, the next step was to get in the cart and drive around. Alex and Vicki didn’t want to be left out and both took turns driving Huey around the arena.
We need to get a side check for the harness (that’s what the blue baling twine is doing right now) and some sleigh bells. The kids were singing Dashing Through The Snow as they rode around together, and Huey was a rock star. Now they are discussing plans for driving him at the 4-H fair in the summer.
Alex has not yet gotten to do an endurance ride and Vicki wants to try a 50 this year. We have told them both, it requires lots of time on the trails for the horse and rider. Yesterday, it was in the 60s and gorgeous. Unfortunately, I spent the day trimming hooves (for others) and didn’t get home until after dark. This morning, it was in the 30s and windy, but we saddled up anyways. I rode Mojo, Alex rode Teddy (their first trail ride together) and Vicki rode Devil. It was very windy so we expected the horses to be spooky and flighty. We were pleasantly surprised to find they were not much different from a regular ride. We did a nice loop into some field that we hadn’t ridden on for a couple of years and then headed up into the main part of the forest. It was wicked cold on top of the hills and we decided to cut the ride a little short. We ended up only riding 7 miles in 1.5 hours, but Teddy did great with Alex.
After we got back, Teddy and Devil had both worked up a good sweat, so they got coolers and some stall time with hay and water to warm up and dry off. An hour later, Devil was lame from what we believe was Tying Up. For those not familiar, it’s basically muscle cramps. Hand walking helped some. We dosed him with electrolytes and did call the vet a little to discuss things with her. If it hasn’t resolved by morning, we will have her out to see if we are missing something. In the summer, it’s easy to think about adding salt and keeping horses hydrated, but in the winter, we don’t think about it as much. I suspect Devil was just a little low on fluids before we started the ride and with his thick winter coat, he sweated enough out to cause a minor problem.
Anna also got to take King out for a short 4 mile ride later in the afternoon, but Amanda elected to spend most of the day inside because she doesn’t have enough (read any) body fat to maintain temperatures when it’s blustery out.
On Sunday morning, there was a distinct chill in the air, everything was wet from the 3.5+” of rain we received Friday-Saturday, and the wind was blowing steady. Like many other weekends, everyone was up early and we headed out to the barn to load up horses. We were headed to the WGHA Ghost Ride at Goddard State Park in RI. However, this particular Sunday outing was different for 2 important reasons: Amanda got to take Huey on the ride and King was going as well. Amanda and Huey have been doing a lot of rides from the house and also lessons with Pony Club. However, until now, Amanda didn’t get to join the family at trail riding events away from home. They were finally ready to join us on the trails with other riders around. Last weekend, Alex rode King 4 miles on the trails from home. King hasn’t left our farm for a ride since the summer of 2014. He has been combating injury from a tendon strain, Lyme, general arthritis, and more recently, EPM. In all honesty, after this summer, we thought it was unlikely he would ever go to an organized ride again.
The ride was at Goddard State Park which has 6 miles of bridle paths. While the trails are open, wide, and scenic, the park is usually crowded. This weekend we got to share the area with a 5k race being held on the roads of the park. Alex and King led our group for most of the ride. Alex describes riding King as “smooth” and “light as a feather” with his floating trot and high energy (but without the spookiness characteristic of the arabs). I’m sure it also feels different considering King is 8″ taller than Dakota. Amanda did great controlling Huey. The temperature definitely sucked the energy out of Amanda faster than normal, so I did put a lead line on Huey for the second half of the 6 mile loop.
While we had the option of doing multiple loops, we elected to stop after 1 successful loop. Amanda really wants to ride the hunter paces next summer, so she plans to try to ride for longer periods of time. It is nice for our whole family to be able to ride as a group at the events.
It has been almost 3 weeks since we made a blog post. It’s not that nothing has been blog-worthy, but rather, we have been so busy we haven’t had time to sit down and catch up.
Last weekend was our annual trip to the Hartford County 4-H Camp for Pony Club Columbus Camp. We took 4 of our horses – Mojo (for Alex and Rob), Teddy (for Vicki), Devil (for Vicki), and Huey (for Amanda). It started to rain on us Saturday afternoon and rained all day Sunday. All the kids did 1 lesson in the pouring rain on Sunday and then decided to skip the afternoon lesson. Devil was getting seriously underutilized and came home on Sunday afternoon. He was literally climbing the walls in the stall and losing his mind. He was much happier to be turned out with King when he got home.
Alex ended up riding 3.5 lessons on Mojo, including jumping. I picked up 2.5 lessons on Mojo and we were able to loan him out for 2 more lessons when another kid had her horse go lame. In the end, Mojo did 8 lessons in 2.5 days. And he was awesome for every lesson.
Vicki rode Teddy for 3 lessons and 1 on Devil. Teddy was calm and cool with Vicki and they were able to work on some jumping. Amanda did 4 lessons on Huey; we were much more focused on the experience for them rather than a specific lesson goal. I’m sure we didn’t take nearly enough photos, but here are a few.
The horses were happy to be home after camp.
Since Vicki is outgrowing Devil, and Amanda is moving up to ride Devil occasionally, Huey is getting used a little less. We have decided that he will stick around and become our driving pony. We were lucky enough to find a harness locally that fit him, so he has been getting worked for some ground driving. This week, Vicki and Alex both got to start learning how to ground drive Huey.
On Friday evening, Alex and I were able to spend a couple of hours in the stand hunting deer. We got to see 3 young bucks and 1 doe, but came home empty-handed. Saturday morning, Alex and I took Mack out for the opening of pheasant season.
Today, we did a family trail ride. King’s health over the past year has been up and down as he combats EPM. For the last few days, he has been doing surprisingly well. Today, Alex was able to ride him for an hour covering 4 miles on our trail ride. All 5 members of our family rode with all 5 of our horses. Vicki rode Huey since he has been giving Amanda attitude on the trails and Vicki can work the spunk out of him if needed.
Once the ride was over, we did a little work outside and came in for dinner. Fried pheasant from yesterday’s hunt, rice and gravy, and cole slaw with a cabbage picked from our garden this afternoon.
There is no question that October and November are my favorite months in New England.
2 weeks ago, we rode as a family at the Lyme Trails Association Hunter Pace (aka Lord Creek Hunter Pace). I rode Mojo with Alex as my teammate on a trial pony, Zippy. Anna rode Teddy and Vicki rode Devil. While Zippy was a good trail mount, we decided he wasn’t quite what we were after to replace Dakota, so we have since returned him. However, we were thankful for the chance to ride as a family at a great venue. For the past 2 years, horse or people injuries have resulted in only 3 of the 4 of us getting to ride. Anna and Alex went around the jumps this year, as neither was ready for that on their mounts. Vicki and I went over jumps… a lot of jumps. It was AWESOME. Mojo and I went over jumps that were bigger than anything I have ever attempted previously and only gave me 1 refusal all day. Here are links to the Judy Bosco’s site, who was the ride photographer. I bought a copy of Mojo and I jumping.
This weekend was Ayer Mt Farm’s Autumn Daze, which is also known as Jump, Jump, Jump. It is a 3 phase jumping show which includes stadium jumping, derby jumping, and cross-country. Derby jumping is a combination of stadium and cross-country jumps. For any of our local riding friends, this is an amazing little show (I think there were 16 entries) and tons of fun. I highly recommend you do it next year if they don’t cancel due to low numbers.
Since the previous weekend went so well, I decided to bump Mojo up to the Elementary Division (max 2’3″ jumps) while Vicki and Devil rode in the Grasshopper Division (max 18″ jumps). To be clear, I had never actually ridden a stadium jump course on Mojo at anything other than 18″, so Anna considered my choice of divisions completely impulsive and irresponsible. Anyone who knows my approach to riding will understand, it’s just my style to go for it and not worry about failure. It turns out, Vicki has the same go-for-it attitude.
Anna had this to say about the following picture: “This picture is one of the proud mama moments I had as Devil was a total brat pony all day and Vicki totally rocked her confidence as she made her pony do what he didn’t have any intention of doing. He refused this jump twice before she made him jump it and then stayed on for the mega leap.”
Vicki did get eliminated during her derby round because Devil did a spin refusal approaching a log jump and she came unseated (meaning hit the ground). Despite that, she never lost her reins, bounced back up, and was back on Devil before the nearby fence judge could get there. The event is “schooling friendly” and still allowed her to complete the rest of the derby round and ride her cross-country course. Vicki was all smiles despite the elimination.
Things went a little better for Mojo and I. In stadium, he knocked down 1 rail over a roll top (which was almost a refusal). In the cross-country round, we had 2 refusals at a coop which were my fault. I realized on the second refusal I was reading all the words on the side of the coop and Mojo was spooking at it because I was looking down. As soon as my eyes came up, so did his front feet. Despite these minor issues, we were able to take 2nd place for the day. I think it was the best showing experience I have ever had and continues to show how much heart Mojo has. I definitely benefited from recent lessons with Ann Bowie and Julia Cronin who both gave me insight that aided our performance. We have plenty to work on to get better at our jumping, but it’s so nice to have a willing partner that forgives my errors.
One last thing. For all the riders who feel pressured to put shoes on your horse, I rode Mojo barefoot for the stadium phase (because the grass was a little slick) and in Easy Care Gloves for the other 2 phases.