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Life on the draft horse roller coaster

Posted 11/21/2009 9:52am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

It has been an interesting and busy month since Andy and Eddy arrived.   There was the brief honeymoon where we'd walk out on pasture to them and they would play a little game of running away then slowly walking back and allowing us to put their halters on to lead them in the barn.   Then Roy began putting them in harness and hitching them to the fore cart; here is where the honeymoon ended and we began to get nervous.   Several near-disasters had Roy very concerned and he spent a couple long evenings talking on the phone with our friend and his horse-mentor, Link, figuring out what went wrong.   For about a week, we were living with a lot of uncertainty.  Was this really as good a team as we thought?  Are we ready to handle draft horses?  And the occasional, omg, what were we thinking!!  Roy had agreed to host a PASA field day at our farm on Sustainable Woodlot Management and the horses were intended to be part of that -- so he was feeling more than a little pressure.   He had already enlisted the help of our Amish neighbor for the field day and we were hoping that Link would be present as well.  When both Rudy and Link agreed to come a day early and evaluate the team, we were thrilled.  Roy and Rudy put the horses in harness and hitched them to a fore cart for Rudy to see how well or ill trained they really were.  By this time, Roy learned that he had made some mistakes with the harness and the corrections had really improved things, but he was still a little nervous.   Rudy, an experienced Amish horseman, took the reigns and started driving them around.  He took several turns around the barnyard asking Andy and Eddy to 'git up' and 'whoa' and 'back' and they performed beautifully.  After a short while Rudy stopped them and got off while Andy and Eddy stood still and waited.  He walked over to Roy with a twinkle in his eye and said, "There aint nothing wrong with that team, it's the teamster that is a little green."   
    Working with Eddy and Andy has been getting better ever since.   Spending a couple days with experienced horsemen was extremely helpful -- that followed by a successful field day, has helped Roy regain some confidence and when he hitches them and takes them out these days, that "green-ness"  is losing its youth.   This past weekend we used them to pull logs out for firewood and everything went very smoothly.   It is so nice to be in the woods with the quiet stepping of horses in their jangling harness as opposed to a loud, stinky stid steer that tears at the earth with the slightest turn.   Is it still considered work when the process is actually enjoyable?   Too bad we can't teach the team, or perhaps Mac, to scare the dust bunnies out from under our beds and dressers.