From Steve Wood, Elk River, MN:
Good Morning to all.
Doc, Thanks for starting this blog for us to peer into each others daily challenges as well as our triumphs! This will be fun!
Our farm is in east central Minnesota.The temperature this morning was 24 below zero during morning chores. The music on these cold still mornings is amazing. Ringo, the dog, talks urging me to be faster as we dress in our warmest footwear and coats, rawr rawr rawrlll. The excited murmur of the horses as they hear my footsteps squeaking on the, oh-so-cold snow outside the barn. They know the morning ration of food is near. The chickadees and cardinals and juncos flit, chirping and scolding, to and from the sunflower feeder collecting energy to fight the cold. The hawk floats over the barnyard hoping to see a squirrel away from his tree. The lever on the water hydrant squawks to life as we fill the water tanks. The bass drum sound of the frozen horse apples as the hit the wooden floor of the spreader. Then again the refrain of the squeaking snow as the team pulls the spreader out the end of the barn and out to the hayground to spread.
Now for the most magical of all the sounds we engage the spreader and ask the team to step out. This snow is not packed so the wheels float along silently. The beaters play a tune like you’ve never heard as they ping and tang against the frozen horse apples, flinging them into the air. The chains and levers working to power the stiff steel to do their work. The rythm is set by the pace of the horses, and as they slow to a stop for a much deserved break, all falls silent. The air is so clean! I know the deer are watching, They silently glance to each other, as they watch the human go through his morning routine. What more can a guy ask for?
Six student horses to work today. I think each lesson will be short as I will retreat to the warmth of the barn office to regain the feeling in the fingers. It’s a balmy 45 degrees above in there! Currently all of the horses seem to be progressing well. Each at their own level of ability.
Paige, a pony mare, has shown me she is much more comfortable working without blinds. She works on left and right side of the teams while pulling the stoneboat and is learning to relax while standing.
Missy, another pony mare, scoots along comfortably while driving single on her little cart. Her time with us is drawing to an end as she will be graduating and going home this coming weekend. She lives near Rochester, Minnesota.
C-C is a morgan mare who is just getting a good start on this job of driving. She currently ground drives single as well as pulls the small stoneboat with Val, our helper horse. Soon she will be on the big stoneboat with the tongue helping take wood ashes out to the fields adn bringing in new firewood.
Annie, Another Morgan mare is currently happy pulling the big stonebaot with Val. Her owner had her first chance to drive the big stoneboat this past weekend. We are getting close to pulling the sleigh. She just needs to show me she is ready and comfortable pushing on the tongue to turn the vehicle. Then we’ll be sleighriding.
Knight, a Paint cross with Arabian gelding, is showing huge improvements in courage. Last week his job was to pull the empty wood hauling wagon out to a new spot in the woods. This week he is working on a lighter cart and we are working on transitions from walk to trot and back to walk. We are working on weekends, with his owner, to get them familiar with each other. What a treat!
My Turn, A young halflinger stallion, has a bit of a challenge in developing his working attitude while harnessed. He would rather talk to all the horses he can see! He works fairly well with Big Jim, our Belgian gelding. He really thinks that he should not have to work on our current chore, no matter what it is, because at the moment he wants to chat with the rest of the farm’s occupants. He is improving so we just keep on slowly getting closer to our goal of being a single cart horse!
Good bye for now. I can feel my fingers again, so it’s time to go harness up. I’ll try to get photos up of each of the students real soon.