Farewell Mack

Today was hard as we were forced to say goodbye to Mack. Mack has always had some health issues, but in the past month or so he developed a cough and had fluid around his heart and lungs. The vet told us it was likely heart failure or lung cancer. Over the past 24 hours he declined extremely fast and we knew that it was time. We got Mack in 2012 as a 1 year old dog. He was the patient teacher for both Turbo and Rusty as puppies. Mack was a typical Golden Retriever: everyone was his friend, he was always happy to see you, and he left a trail of water across the kitchen after he drank out of the dog bowls.

The pictures don’t show how loyal Mack was to Alex, which is the hardest part of today. Alex was there with Mack (and Rob) when he passed. Mack slept in Alex’s room every night and Mack was Alex’s closest confidant. The two of them would take walks in the woods together because Mack had to give up running with me years ago. At just under 10 years old, we wished we had more years together, but I think that’s true of all good dogs. Heaven gained a very flappy angel dog today.

NY Adventure 30 mile Endurance Ride and Tie

Was it wet? Yes.

Was it muddy? Yes.

Was it cold? Yes

Did we have fun? Absolutely.

At the start of last week, temps in CT broke 90F. We were running AC units in the house and debating heat strategies for the upcoming New York Adventure ride. However, a cold front moved through that started the rain on Friday and kept going all weekend. Heat was the exact opposite of what we had to deal with.

I took Friday off work and we printed out all the packing lists. It takes a logistics plan to get 4 horses, 5 people, 2 trucks, and 2 trailers loaded and out the door on time. With the rain setting in Friday evening, we wanted to have everything loaded before dinner (~8pm at our house in the summer) so we could get to bed early.

Saturday morning, horses were fed, travel mugs filled with coffee, and sleepy kids loaded into the trucks. We were on the road at 6:30 for the 270 mile drive to upstate NY. We made it to ride camp about 12. It had been rainy a lot of Friday and continued with some on-off showers, which made the hay fields we were camping in slick. We got the trailers unloaded and camp set up before heading to vet in.

Now would be a good time to explain that we were not all entered in the same event. Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were riding in the 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride. As of when we headed to the event, I think there were 56 riders entered. We expected some would probably scratch due to the weather. On Sunday morning, there were 50 starters in the LD – definitely the largest field we had ever ridden in.

But that’s not what Alex and I were doing; we were entered in the 30 mile Ride and Tie. A ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). There were only 3 teams in the 30 mile ride and tie and 1 team in the 12 mile ride and tie.

I was already awake when the alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. We had some coffee and a light breakfast. Alex and I started at 6:15, while the rest started at 7. It was clear with temps around 40F as we got Mojo ready to go. We decided I would start on Mojo since he is usually ready to rock at the start of a ride. True to form, Mojo was ready to rock.

We were fortunate to start with a more experienced R&T team, so we decided to just match their plan for the first few miles. Janice was the other rider and Jennifer was running with Alex. We only went about 3/4 mile before doing the first tie. A tie is when you hop off the horse, tie them to a tree, and take off running. Janice and Jennifer planned their ties more based on time. Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated between time and distance as our metrics for ties.

I knew we would not be able to stay with Janice and Jennifer for too long without burning ourselves out, so by about 4 miles into the first 12 mile loop, we backed off the pace and let them go on about their way. It didn’t bother Mojo to be without the others. Mojo figured out the game with no problem. When one of us would untie him, he would run down the runner until we tied again. As we ran off, he would give a little whinny to say goodbye. A few times as I approached, he called out to me, encouraging me to keep up the pace. When riders in other distances passed me, they commented on how amazing it was that my horse was willing to wait, tied to a tree. They were right, it was amazing to witness. At one point, Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were coming off a trail onto the road right as we were passing by that trail. Mojo was a little confused on why we didn’t link up with them.

We finished our first loop at a faster pace than I expected. As were headed in to the vet check, the first place team was headed out. Ride and Tie doesn’t have a hold because the horse gets rest while tied. There is also a mandatory switch at the vet check. I ran in, so Alex topped off his water and ran out while I was handling Mojo, who had no problem making pulse criteria. We spent about 15 minutes at the vet check, which could have been shorter, but I didn’t want to rush things for our first R&T.

The second loop for us was advertised as 18 miles, but turned out to be a little over 19. The second loop sucked. It was muddy. It was raining. The trails were slick and torn up from the previous riders. At least it wasn’t hot. I didn’t take any pictures on the second loop due to the rain. The leaders of the 50 mile ride were overtaking us since they were on the same loop as us. Mojo loved it when they would come by and he could sprint with them, then wait on a tree for a little while. Mojo never lost his go. The longest run Alex had ever done was about 7 miles – 1 week before the event. On race day, Alex did more than a half marathon as we split the running about 60/40. We completed our 30.8 miles, with 4300′ of elevation, in 6:35 for a second place finish.

Anna, Quinn and Amanda started their first 18 mile loop at 7 am. They headed out at a walk for about half a mile to let all the front horses and hot crazy antics settle. Amira feeds off of other horses’ behaviors and does best with other settled horses or in her own group.

The first loop soon turned out to be a challenge. Most of the loop, that was actually 19.5 miles, not 18 miles, according to GPS, was muddy single track. There were stretches of road here and there, but mostly single track with deep boot sucking mud. It was cold and raining on and off.

The most amazing part of the first loop was that all of Huey’s boots stayed on. Huey wears 4 Mini 3 Scoot Boots and while the gaiter protectors got a little torn up they did not come off or cause rubs.

The group maintained roughly a 5.0 mph average, trying to trot wherever they could without sacrificing the horses legs. Not going to lie, it was rough going. Somewhere in the middle of the loop Anna and the kids encountered Mojo and Rob on a slim chance while the red and pink loops crossed. Talk about coincidence!

Anna and the kids came into the hold at 10:42. Anna could tell Amira was hot. A quick pulse check had her at 80bpm, and only dropping slowly. The pulse criteria was 64. Being a non-arab (mustang), she doesn’t pulse down as fast as is desired sometimes and we are still dialing in her electrolyte needs. It became obvious she needed electrolytes and had not had enough grazing time on trail.

Anna pulled her saddle, gave some electrolytes and started sponging. Quinn ended up having to hold Amira to keep her from eating, while Anna worked on cooling her. Amira’s pulse increases if we allow her to eat while cooling. In hind sight, Quinn and Amanda should have vetted through, as Eli’s hind quarters got cold and he was almost pulled with a cramp, and if Anna had been pulled the kids would have had a better chance finding a sponsor for the last loop. Anna finally got Amira cooler and she made 48 pulse at 11:06 (has to make it within 30 minutes of arrival). Amira’s gut sounds were only good in 2 quadrants and her CRI was elevated, so she was held for a recheck for gut sounds before she could head out on the second loop. Anna set her in front of her mash and she started chowing down right away. We had decided to use Lyte Now tubes of electrolytes this time around instead of mixing our own, and they were so stiff and hard in the cold weather they were hard get into the horses. Looking back, considering Amira spit out most of her morning electrolytes, and not stopping to electrolyte mid loop, was part of the problem for the vet check. Anna ran off to the trailer to mix up some more liquid electrolytes to give and take on trail. This caused Quinn to get overwhelmed trying to handle all three horses and Amanda at the hold resulting in an argument. Phew, this is fun, right?!

Amira passed her recheck, and Anna and the kids headed back out at 11:51. The second loop was advertised as 12 miles. In reality it was a bit less according to our GPS. Cut off time for the limited distance 30 miler is 7 hours and 15 minutes (2:15 pm). With the extra time spent at the hold cooling Amira, Anna and Quinn knew they had to keep a much higher average on the second loop, all while still allowing the horses to grab and go grass more than on the first loop and make a stop for extra electrolytes.

Anna set out at a steady trot, stopping every 3 miles or so to let the horses get some grass. Due to the intensity and stress of the hold, none of the people had eaten well at the hold, and a few disagreements and arguments happened along the second loop. They stopped to give some Enduramax electrolytes just past the midway point.

Anna started feeling a little tightness in Amira’s hind end toward the end of the ride, and pulled her rump rug over her and kept down hill trotting to a minimum. Quinn convinced Eli to lead the group for a while as Amira was starting to lose her go. The group walked in the last 3/4 mile. Anna hopped off Amira, and walked her in to help her out.

In the last 1/4 mile, Huey and Eli were chased by a great Dane coming out from a private property and they both took off cantering. Luckily, they stopped when they reached Amira just ahead.

Anna and the kids reached the in timer at 2 pm. Quinn untacked and Eli made pulse at 2:08, Huey at 2:10 and Amira at 2:13. They all completed. Amira had a beginning cramp in her right hind, and got a B on gait and impulsion, but her CRI was 48/50 this time and her gut sounds were back. Anna was the last rider to complete the 30, and therefore got the turtle award. The kids got the junior turtle awards. We have a collection of those at home. To finish is to win, right?!

Turtle awards

The rain was steady at this point and Anna and the kids put coolers and winter blankets on the horses, gave them food and water and went to get dry and eat some lunch.

After the ride, everyone cleaned up, ate, and rested in the trailer. We stayed over an extra night to let the horses recover and enjoy the trip without the pressure and stress of getting home late. We slept in until almost 7 Monday morning, then broke camp and drove home.

While there were times of stress and maybe some raised voices, in the end, we all got completions. Considering that there were about 84 horses that started the ride, and only 66 completed, I’m thrilled with our 100% completion rate for this ride.

Endurance riders are always tweaking their equipment. One thing our family has settled on is Orange Mud hydration packs. At this ride, all 5 of us were using Orange Mud packs. Alex and Rob had coyote brown Endurance Packs, Quinn had a black Endurance Pack, Amanda uses a green Gear Vest Pro, and Anna uses a black Gear Vest Pro. check out the selection at Orange Mud. The packs sit higher on the back so they don’t interfere with the saddle and you can choose the amount of water you want to carry. The pockets make it easy to store gels, chews, or other snacks and the bungee cords on the back hold layers when you need to shed a lightweight jacket mid-loop.

How do you know you have found the right sport for your family? After the ride, Quinn and Amanda were in the travel trailer eating lunch, still wearing their wet, dirty ride clothes. They looked at me and together asked, “When is our next ride?”. The rest of the day and ride home kept coming back to when we would be at the next ride camp and which horses would do a 50 miler instead of LD next time. Stay tuned for more adventures throughout the summer.

Verda Bare bones 2021

This past weekend four of us drove to Cornish, New Hampshire to attend the 30 mile limited distance ride at Verda Bare Bones. Amira came in on Friday with a nasty bite to her flank and could not go.

Amira’s injury

I asked Rob if I could ride Mojo instead, because it was, after all, a Mother’s Day ride. He agreed. So, we loaded the trailer, got the groceries, and put the three horses in to go. Eli, Mojo, and Huey. Alex was staying at home to work and take care of the farm. Alex has been mostly riding and conditioning Mojo this year, since Teddy is recovering after his bout with EPM last year. Alex didn’t mind getting some time to himself, and we needed someone to keep an eye on the brand new baby goats.

Quinn worked Saturday am and we left with the horse trailer and travel trailer for New Hampshire around noon time . The Verda ride is only a short three hour drive from home. We made it to camp a little after three PM. The field for camping was almost full as we arrived due to some construction at the fairgrounds, but we managed to squeeze in and get set up. We use hard panels for Eli and Amira, but with Amira not going we used them for Huey instead. Hard panels makes me feel a bit more confident in the horses’ accommodations and helps me sleep at night. We made an electric pen for Mojo, powered off the charger run by the horse trailer battery; he camps just fine in electric.

We vetted in the horses and spent some time making up electrolytes and feed for the next day. The temps were dropping fast, so we blanketed the horses. We saw friends we haven’t seen in a bit. We ate dinner and went to bed early to get up at 6 am for an 8 am ride start.

Sunday morning came and we tacked up. Rob helped us all get ready. Mojo was ready to go! I was a bit concerned he might be naughty, but he never was. He did however act like a freight train the whole first loop of 15 miles. Next time I will ride him in the pelham bit for the first loop to save my fingers. Letting Mojo run was not an option as we need to pace properly for Huey to complete. Rob’s saddle rubbed my knees a bit, but not too bad. We maintained between a 6 and 6,5 mph average for the first loop.

The mid ride vet check was fine. The horses passed with no issues. Mojo was in the 40s by the time we made it up to the check. This ride had only a 30 minute hold, so getting the horses some mash and going to the bathroom was really all we had time for.

The second loop went by a bit slower. Mojo lost his Mojo a bit as he lost sight of other horses in front of him and the excitement of the ride wore off. The horses have a little extra weight from eating rich second cut this winter and our conditioning has not quite been what it should. Our goal was to finish and so we rode accordingly. Mojo is the leader of the bunch and I had to motivate him to keep moving along. We settled on a 5ish mph pace, and finished the second loop 15 mile loop in a little under three hours.

The post ride vet check was uneventful. We had walked the horses in and the Arabs were at pulse immediately, and Huey shortly after pulling his saddle. The horses all passed. It was the first LD completion for Quinn and Eli and Amanda and Huey’s 8th LD ride.

I am blessed to be able to ride a ride like this with my kids on Mother’s Day. Thank you to my husband, who took a nap, went for a 6 mile run while we were out riding, and helped us crew for the horses. Thank you to VERDA for organizing the ride and discounting entries for juniors! Thank you also to the vets and all the volunteers.

Below are a few pictures from the day. The covered bridge marks close to the half way point on the 15 mile loop, and is very quaint. Some of the photos are courtesy of Ranelle Kohut.

How bad is it?

While at work today, I walked out of a conference room following an hour and a half of meetings and picked up my cell phone. A quick glance at the screen made my heart rate skyrocket. I had 4 missed calls from Anna and the kids and more than 10 text messages. There was no voicemail notice, so it was bad enough they didn’t have time to leave a voicemail. I knew Anna wasn’t home at the time and reading the first text message confirmed my immediate suspicion: one of the goats was kidding.

Alex had gone out to do his assigned cleaning of a goat shelter and discovered an extra goat kid in the pen being cleaned off Longvu Log Tabula Rasa. Alex went inside and notified Quinn who immediately took charge of the situation and moved Tabula and her 8.8lb doe kid into the kidding stall; the 9.7lb buck kid was born a short time later. Quinn and Amanda made sure both kids got toweled dry and by the time I was bringing my heart rate back under control, everything was pretty much over. Quinn and Amanda monitored Tabula until she passed the placentas, then helped the kids nurse to ensure they got some colostrum. Alex actually left to go for a 6 mile trail run since the other had it under control.

On Sunday, Dauntless Obsidian gave us 2 doe kids that weighed in at 7.8lbs and 7.4lbs. The birth for Obsidian was pretty rough and we weren’t sure she was going to survive. Her twin does were pulled and taken into the house. Obsidian is making a recovery, but her kids will be raised as bottle babies. This means we have 2 goat kids living in a tote in the living room for now. They get will get bottles about 4 times a day plus play time with the kids (human type).

Days like today make me very proud of the kids and their level of responsibility. This brings our new total to 5 buck kids and 4 doe kids. Our last doe will kid in mid-May.

Baby Goats!

For the first time since 2015, we have baby goats on the farm. Yesterday night, 2 of our does kidded, giving us 4 buck kids and 1 doe kid. Both does and all 5 kids are doing well. We have 2 more does due in the next few days and then 1 more due in May. All of the kids are sired by Idikka Yoshi. I’m very pleased with his contribution to these kids and I see improvements on each doe in the kids.

Rainbow (Longvu Log Over the Rainbow) surprised us by going into labor first and dropping both her buck kids in under 30 minutes. The first one was 10lb and the second was 9.3lb. Rainbow has a nice length of body and milked for 18 months on her first freshening.

Tulsi was known to be carrying at least triplets, so we were pleased that she was showing signs of imminent labor 4 days before her due date. She was a little slower building to delivery, but eventually provided buck kid #1 at 6.3lb, buck kid #2 at 7.2lb, and doe kid at 6.5lb. Tulsi is registered Native on Appearance, so her kids are considered Experimental in the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) registry.

Ride and Tie training, Day 1

Nothing gets me moving like registering for a race. I’ve been in a slump, so today, the whole family registered for the NY Adventure Endurance Ride. But there’s a twist.

Last June, Teddy was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM); you can learn about it here if you have never heard of it. . He was treated for a couple of months and has been recovering. The problem is, EPM never completely goes away. EPM is what eventually killed King after 2 years of treating it. Horses with EPM are at risk for relapses and stress is a trigger for such a relapse. Endurance rides are stressful (trailering, camping, racing/excitement on trail, trailering again, etc.). It is unlikely that Teddy will ever compete in an endurance ride again, but time will tell. Regardless, Alex has outgrown Teddy, so if Teddy does make it back to competition, it will probably be with Amanda.

With the weather in the upper 40s, it was a horse riding kind of day. This morning, Quinn took Eli out on the trails and Amanda got to tag along on Huey, they only did about 3.5 miles, but they they rode (together).

After lunch, Anna and Amanda took Amira and Teddy out for a 4.5 mile ride today. Teddy was sound and spunky. Amanda will ride anything.

But this is really about Ride and Tie. The NY Adventure Endurance ride is in late May and is likely the first opportunity for a ride we will have. With Teddy out of competition for now, we only have 4 horses for the 5 of us to ride at events. Enter, Ride and Tie. From www.rideandtie.org:
“The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The objective is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange (which is called a “flying tie”), or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all this, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical.”

Ride and Tie events have been slowly making their way into New England and the NY Adventure Endurance ride is also sanctioned as a Ride and Tie event. This morning, Alex and I watched the AERC webinar about R&T and then discussed options about NY Adventure (there was a scenario where we could have borrowed a horse for the ride) to make sure Alex understood what was involved (I have been interested in R&T for a couple of years). Alex agreed, that using Mojo for a R&T sounded like more fun than a standard endurance ride. So this afternoon, we did our first training session.

We started with changing some of the riding attire to make it more comfortable for both riding and running. I previously switched to using my Altra trail running shoes for riding (we use caged stirrups), but Alex has been riding in paddock boots. Alex switched to a pair of Topo trail running shoes that I had that in the closet but didn’t particularly like (since he is the same size shoe as me it was an easy trial). Alex elected to still use his breeches while I rode in my running tights (we both chose tri-shorts underneath). We saddled up Mojo in the Big Horn saddle. We chose the Big Horn because it has synthetic fenders that won’t rub our legs, it has a tree and will be more stable with lots of mounting and dismounting, and it has a lot of places to tie off packs or other items. Another benefit of your son growing up is we are the same height, so our stirrup length is the same.

We started our training ride together, I was on Mojo and Alex was on foot. We went about 1/4 mile and then decided to try the first tie. Since we had never done this with Mojo, we weren’t sure how he would react. Alex stopped just out of sight and I tied Mojo to a tree and then went down trail out of sight. Alex waited a minute and then went to Mojo, untied him, and mounted up. Mojo didn’t care about being tied. We went anther half mile and then repeated, this time Alex executing the tie and heading off down the trail. Again, Mojo didn’t care.

Next we decided to step it up a little. I rode away from Alex and cantered Mojo up a hill. At the top, I hopped off, tied Mojo, and took off running. Alex was within sight, about 100 yards away. We were on a more open section of trail roads and we were able to start moving at a faster pace. Alex rode about 3/4 mile, passing me along the way, tied Mojo and headed out to our turn around point.

At the turnaround, we did a flying tie (just a hand off between riders) and then headed back. On the way home, we did 2 more ties. Unfortunately, after the last tie there was a miscommunication about the planned route home. I went the way we came out. Alex took an alternate trail. Since he never caught up to me, I got worried and back tracked. Eventually, I called the house to send Quinn out to the barn where they found Alex arriving. Clearly, better route communication is going to have to improve.

The day was an overwhelming success; Mojo was a rock star. We covered 5 miles, completed 6 ties and 1 flying tie. We did have some technical issues with the lead rope coming loose from how we tied it to the saddle between ties, so we need to work on our plan for how we will handle that. As we did more of the exchanges, Mojo seemed to figure out that he was supposed to chase down the runner. We also need to make sure Alex has his cell phone when we are out practicing R&T. We have 3 months to increase the running mileage and get ready. I’m looking forward to it.

Mojo watching Alex run away

Happy New Year!

Well, after 14 years in New England, we’ve gone native. New Year’s Eve dinner included lobster (purchased live and cooked at home), steak (from a local cow), and pheasant from a hunt last weekend. We had some brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and bell pepper slices to go with all that protein.

After dinner, we had a game of Kids Against Maturity.

Dessert is homemade goat milk ice cream and brownies with a toast to the new year.

NibbleNets!

We have had NibbleNets in continuous use on our farm since 2012. After over 8 years of DAILY use by horses and goats, some of them are starting to wear out. Don’t be fooled by imitations! The original NibbleNet is not a cheap product, but it definitely is worth the investment!

We will be placing an order for NibbleNets in early January.  If you would like to purchase one for yourself, please email me by Jan 10 with what you want and we will add it to the order.  The full list of choices is here. Our favorite and most versatile net is the 12″ DoubleNibble with 1.5″ openings on both sides.  

In return for your patronage, you will receive a 10% discount on all MSRP prices for the items you advance order.  You will not have to pay shipping, but CT Sales Tax does apply.  If you have any questions, please email or give me a call.

In case you missed it:
NibbleNets are a hay slow feeder designed to make it take your horse longer to consume their hay.  This has a lot of benefits, including relieving boredom, improving digestion, and reducing waste.  They work well whether you stall your horse at night or leave them turned out all the time.  AND they are great as feeders for the side of your trailer.  Don’t be deterred by the price – they are worth every penny.

Feel free to share this offer with your friends.
We are also dealers for Uckele and can usually beat any online prices for supplements you may be feeding. Let me know if you want to compare prices.
Thanks,
Rob and Anna Sawyer
860-884-0110 

Snow Day!

Today was a snow day on the farm. We got a good 10 inches of snow overnight. It kept snowing until around noon time. The two older kids had a traditional snow day. Griswold had decided to forego the snow day for a virtual learning day, but most of Amanda’s teachers gave short easy assignments that left room for some snow play between classes.

This morning was spent snow clearing and doing the every-day chores that seem to take twice as long on a day like this. Trudging through thick snow to get food and water to all the critters is hardly a glorious task, albeit necessary.

Rob and Alex used the tractor and snow blower to clear the drive way and around the house. We all fed and watered the horses, goats, chickens and rabbits. The rabbits have moved to the basement until the weather gets better.

Amanda spent her lunch break skiing, and convinced her brother to build a snow fort with her after school. We decided to hitch Huey his Kingston easy entry cart with sleigh runners and drive him around for a bit. He was a good sport, although it was getting cold and the sun was fading.

Enjoy some pictures from our day and a three short videos here:
Rob and Amanda cutting fresh tracks
Rob and Amanda driving Huey
Anna and Amanda driving Huey

The Farm Provides

Dinner tonight was potato soup and fresh bread (2 loaves of gluten free and 2 loaves of regular) cooked by Quinn. The potatoes were from our garden.

Amanda has been learning to milk the goats. We use the milk every day.

Dessert was mint chocolate chip ice cream with milk from the goats and eggs from the chickens.

Of course, you only use egg yolks to make ice cream, so you have leftover egg whites. Why not make a few meringues?

Maybe tomorrow we will make another batch of goat cheese and pair it with some red wine after dinner. Speaking of dinner, I think steaks from our locally sourced beef, spaghetti squash from our garden, and homemade mashed potatoes from our garden sounds like a good idea. Of course, herbs from the garden are handy for flavoring the cheese.

The story of our lives with horses