Wednesday, June 1, 2011

an equestrian giveaway

I never intended to get so involved with horses, but I can't say I'm unhappy with the turn out. Last night I caught a sunset glimpse of my shadow on the pasture hillside. It was me all right, in a straw cowboy hat and standing next to this gray ghost was the shadow of my work horse, Jasper. Our silhouettes on the ground looked like rubber stamps of the wild west. Outlines of a time and place neither of us knew. We were both born and raised in the Northeast. Both of us started in Pennsylvania and ended up on a farm in New York. But in that waning light we looked like something as tough as rawhide, and I had to laugh out loud at the puppet show. I was a Hobbit, and Jasper was a pony. A barefoot farm girl and her pint-sized steed. We had been just working on the hill, weaving through the hillside and trees on a lead line, stopping and starting. Soon as I have the cash set aside I'll order him a proper harness and then I'll get him dressed in that and do the exact same thing. Eventually we'll start pulling light drags, and then I'll start ground driving from behind. It's a process, and while he might not need this slow training, I do. A first time driver and her first working cart pony...I'm taking it slow.

But last night, hoo. Last night I was at my weekly English riding lesson and I felt like I was trotting on air. After months of tense shoulders, fear of falling, and general stiffness I am starting to ride proper. Last night was my first lesson totally off the lunge line in a long time. Hollie had faith in my abilities, and for the first time, so did I. I felt so comfortable asking for that trot from my mount, taking her around the who arena. Working on my corners, my 20-meter circles, my seat, my hands and elbows. For a woman who spends so much of her time being coarse this is pure grace. The day before I was sweating bullets in the garden and a night later I was gliding like a seraphim. There's a reason little girls beg their parents for ponies. They want to fly.

Hollie's first riding book just came out. I'm so happy for her, and lucky to be learning to ride as an adult with such a patient and easy-going instructor. The book comes with a DVD too (It's the first English riding book to come with a video section for each chapter, explaining exactly how the words look from the saddle). The whole thing was filmed and written in the stables I am learning in, Riding Right Farm in South Cambridge, NY. I have a copy to give away here on the blog, which I will in this post. I just want to hear your thoughts on this:

How do you think horses will fit into our future? Do you think they will become more prominent as oil prices soar and peak and return again as our main source of travel and farm labor? Or do you think they will remain a hobby and sport? Do you live in an area where horses are in nearly every backyard as I do (1/2 acre trailer home lots have pony sheds around here) or do they seem to be the play things of the super rich in your neighborhood? Comment with your thoughts on horses in our homegrown future and you'll be entered to win a copy of Hollie McNeils's 40 Fundamentals of English Riding! Winner will be picked Thursday afternoon, check back to see if it's you!

38 Comments:

Blogger Odie Langley said...

In my corner of NC you see horses literally everywhere in pastures but I rarely see folks actually riding them.

June 1, 2011 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Lee Ann said...

I would love to incorporate draft horses in my own future farm (planning to start with some Highland cattle first to assist with actually clearing the land first). I just started volunteering at a local organic farm that uses draft horses and I am so excited for the learning opportunity!!

June 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I think that some folks will start using horses more, especially as oil becomes more expensive.

But don't enter me in the drawing. My back won't do horses!

June 1, 2011 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Calico said...

I dont think the majority of people see horses as work animals anymore. I don't see that changing until oil becomes much more ridiculous. Maybe the next generation will see it as more practical but until then they will still be seen as an extravagance. I love them and hope to have one someday but have to consider food production first. The amount of pasture he uses vs putting sheep or goats or even a cow on, is something I and probably others will continue to think about.

June 1, 2011 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger NancyDe said...

Horses are a part of me, period. I have two in the backyard right now - but with the sheep, the full time job, the vegetables, they are more lawn ornaments and fertilizer source these days. They're pretty happy, though.

June 1, 2011 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger butterflycow said...

I currently have 1 horse and a pony. I live in an area that has horses EVERYWHERE. I live in Northern MN and am Very Rural. BUT aside from a few hardy souls horses are a form of recreation here. Personally I do not see a return to farming with horses as it is back breaking and labor intensive to just grow enough to feed stock. Not to mention I am sure my own personal spotted equine would literally laugh till she fell over if I suggested she plow a darn thing or pull a cart! HER job is to look spotted and pretty, once in a while tote me around, eat grass, hay, grain, get groomed, love on the little girls, like the teenage boy (give my husband the EVIL EYE!!) and poop. And my job is to provide it all and remove the poop. Seriously tho.. If it truly came to the End Of The World.. Sure.. I would utilize the horse in the manner I needed to and she would adjust.. but under any other circumstances. probably not. A trip to The nearest City by horse would take at LEAST 3 days.. I was going to ask to not be entered in the drawing as I do not ride English and have MS.. but remembered I have 2 daughters who might want to make use of the skills and the English saddle I have.. so Sigh Me up..

June 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Horses are all over around here, from Amish families to just the average bunch. I'd -LOVE- to have a draft horse, but with me being allergic to them (and hating shots! and not knowing if they would even do the trick) I don't see it happening. I do think, however, that horses will become more commonplace as society goes on, as long as people can afford or grow the hay to feed them. :)

June 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

"Working on my corners, my 20-meter circles, my seat, my hands and elbows." I have to add "...my seat, my hands, elbows, and HEELS!" couldn't resist!

i live in a very posh high income area of the rich and famous in loudoun county va. i view robert duvall's old farm from my parents back porch, drisandy lerner's ayrshire farm is just around the corner, and frequently pass fox hunters in crisp red coats on early mornings as i drive to work (not to mention pick up the stray hound or two). the upperville horse show, the oldest horse show in the nation, is held a few miles from my home.

local children half my age ride ponies worth more than i'll make in several years in saddles worth more than my car rather than mucking stalls for the opportunity to ride or babysitting to purchase their first pair of chaps. instead of girls meeting at the local farm after school for group lessons and a cool down trail ride trainers are ferried in from great distances to teach in the farms own indoor and spend the night in one of the many guest homes.

its safe to say in my area the use of horses in agricultural endeavours is a lost art. plow fields have been replaced by polo fields.

i love horses as much as the next girl but in terms of future homesteading and small scale farming efforts i don't believe equines will become more prominent. while less romantic tractors are a much more savy investment for the small scale farmer. tractors are more predictable, less expensive to keep running, and will last longer than a horse when well maintained. they also take up minimal space and do not require daily attention. there are endless reasons tractors quickly replaced horses and the farmer is the first to explain why.

the square footage of grazing space a horse requires would have exponentially higher returns used for crops or small livestock such as pigs or chickens. horses simply aren't a savvy investment in the quest for self sufficency, but more of a novelty item for individuals with the time energy and money to explore historical farming methods.

June 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Oh, don't enter me either. Heh... What would I learn from a book on a subject that I'm literally allergic to? Sorry about that. :P

June 1, 2011 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Cris said...

Here's my plan: I am going to have a pastured poultry farm, with dedicated pastures for turkey and rotating pastures for sheep & chickens to work through. I have my farm picked out--it's lovely, 160 acres of forest, pastures, and tilled field--and to get to the far away pastures, I think I will need some transportation. Do I really want a noisy four-wheeler? Nope. I am planning on a horse to be my work-buddy, to haul myself and the occasional bunch of gear around. That's the plan. Ain't it a beaut? :-)

June 1, 2011 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

I'm still a fan of Hubbert's curve and believe that animal power will play an increasing role in rural life.

I think most people who currently use animal power do so by choice. As fossil fuel demand increases and supplies can't, people like myself won't have the luxury of choosing - it will be a necessity.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who only know of restaurants and grocery stores and are tied to city life by the only job they know how to do.

I once read "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad". I can only hope that if/when the time comes, I have acquired enough wisdom to survive.

June 1, 2011 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

I definitely see horses becoming more apart of transportation and labor. I used to live in a small town where my best friend, Josh, came over to visit riding his horse. It looked really weird seeing him on a horse in a suburban neighborhood.
I'd love to have a horse some day, but to be honest they scare me because they're so big! I'd have to start with something smaller like a pony and learn the ropes slowly from there, like you! :-)

June 1, 2011 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger jim said...

since i live in tx and this is big horse country-western not english-i am surounded by horse people-all recreational- do not know one family who works them in any form; They are an expensive entity to keep here, not buy- sometimes they are given away but buying feed, vet
bills, farriers.riding gear,lessons,etc-take some of the luster off of the ownership part. i
cannot fathem replacing my John Deere with a working horse-it only needs to eat while it's working-love to make pets of them though-beautiful animals;

June 1, 2011 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I just ran into a woman from my horse barn days. She lives in my city and has a therapeutic pony in her backyard along with a mini farm. She drives her pony and cart to the grocery store and back.

Unfortunately, the city and mayor are annoyed by her rather than embracing her. This city was a farm city and has a large fair ground to prove it (although not the way it once was in it's glory days). It is a shame that they aren't pleased by us suburban farmers.

I would definitely love a cart and pony verses my car. The stores, library, bank, and even FEED store are just around the corner from me. After gas, insurance and parts I bet I would break even and the pony would give back to my yard. Shame.

Perhaps things will change in the future...

June 1, 2011 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Jenna.
Here in Maine, there are now more horses than cows! Unfortunately, with the economy being what it is, most every equine rescue in the state is bursting at the seams! I live in the countryside but only myself and one other gal on my road have horses.
I'd love to win the book to help me with my riding skills!
Lisa

June 1, 2011 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger vcassie88 said...

I live in hawaii, and it really depends what island you live on. I live on Oahu which contains approximately 90% of the entire states population, things are a wee bit cramped. The big island (the island of Hawaii) has vast cattle ranches and paniolos which are the Hawaiian version of cowboys. Oahu has polos fields and equestrian endeavors for the affluent, but it also has a more country side away from Honolulu where occasionally I have seen horses grazing along the edges of beaches and moseying around in backyards.
I think that if people had to use horses for basic transporation and farming they would, but it would be driven by absolute necessity. I have so many fond memories of riding my horse to the nearest town to get snacks from the gas station, ironic yes, but way more fun than driving.

June 1, 2011 at 5:23 PM  
OpenID ruralaspirations said...

Where I used to live, in the big city, horses were most definitely only for the very wealthy. A few urban boarding barns, with next to nothing in the way of turnout, cost more than most apartments to rent each month. Here in my new rural neighbourhood there are several horses and we often see people ride past our house into the woods. I'm very happy here!

I most definitely believe that when oil prices cross that certain threshold that people start to look for alternative to car driving as a daily event (rather than something for a vacation, like airplanes are currently viewed), that in rural areas horses will make a comeback. In cities I think it will have to be bikes, as they just aren't set up for horses. I'd love to see the day when horse-and-buggies are considered appropriate for running to the grocery store, library, etc.

June 1, 2011 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Tealah said...

Although it's true even now that horses are enjoying far more popularity as working animals than they have in the past, I don't think that they'll continue to go up as oil prices do.

For one thing, they're fairly single-use animals. You can ride them or put them in harness, but chances are you aren't going to milk them or eat them, like you could do with cattle.

In that vein, it's hard to justify feeding them when grain or pellets need to be shipped in using precious fuel, which drives up the cost of feeding them. Hay too, needs fuel to bale and ship in, unless you grow your own and cut it with the horses. People will still do it just because they enjoy working with horses more than they do the impersonal tractor, but I don't see them becoming incredibly popular.

That said I would absolutely love to keep draft animals. Someday I would like to keep Fjord horses for draft work as well as for riding - and I'd be able to justify that pretty easily since my husband's a survival instructor and we could use the horses to pack people in to remote locations instead of trucking them.

And I, too, drive down the road and see every trailer with any sort of land with a horse or two or even three. :) We'll be joining them soon, once we buy up the acre and a half next to us so we have someplace to move my horses. I have two that I'm boarding right now. Hopefully this fall they'll be here at home.

June 1, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Northmoon said...

Horses are mostly playthings for the rich around here. Land is so expensive that only very wealthy can afford the space, feed and accessories for a horse.

June 1, 2011 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Lucky for me, I had a borderline perverse neighbor with 20 unused horses. After working with his herd for a year, I have a new mower, a new best friend, and a young mare that just took me down the busiest road in my town.

My neighbor now has 19 horses and I'm considering giving my car to my brother. Like you, Jenna, when I get the cash, she is getting a used harness and driving me straight to the grocery store!

June 1, 2011 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger Bri said...

I do think that there is a great possibility that some folks will return to the horse as their main mode of transportation. I live on Mackinac Island, MI during the summer, where no cars are allowed, so there are horses everywhere! Most of them are busy pulling carriages full of people or cargo, as far as riding horses go, it's mostly reserved for the rich, with the exception of a few saddle horses for rent.
I for one, will someday have a few horses to help me out around my future homestead.

June 1, 2011 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I see all your points, but if oil was gone (or too expensive to afford, more likely) I could see a team being a shared asset on many homesteads. Maybe everyone would put in some hay to keep them going.

I think it would have to be a fast, hard, fall to need to rely on horses again. But I keep thinking of that saying:

Your great grandfather went to war on a horse, your grandfather in a tank, your father in a plane, you in a jet, and your children will go to war on a horse.

June 1, 2011 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Tru Vani said...

Yes, I'm one of those women who loved horses as a girl, and I still do, but they are not here in the urban sections of Jacksonville, Florida, except as the partners of mounted police officers. Not too far away there are more rural areas where horses abound, but in more dense areas like this, I don't see urban homesteaders having a backyard horse option. Given environmental sustainability concerns, I hope we will continue to see a a (re)increase of horse use in agriculture; even so, I know their usefulness won't diminish the pure pleasure of them as companions--as you well know, given your dogs and your very own pony :-)

June 1, 2011 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I think that your generation will use horses more in their farming endeavors. I read about so many young people learning and using the old methods of farming. If you think about it, every part of modern farming requires oil, from running the equipment, fertilizer, transportation to & from market. Something has to change. The oil is too expensive & we are eventually going to run out.

Here in Chester County PA it is known as horse country, where there are large ranches full of horses, including the famous horses who run in the Kentucky Derby and such races. Along side of us in Lancaster County the Amish use their horses as work animals & for transportation. The difference is amazing.

I don't have a horse and don't see one in my future even though I have the acreage to support a few. However, my daughter is dreaming of a country property or farm where she can grow her own food & possibly farm. I think I see a horse in her future, but not for many years.

June 1, 2011 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I don't think people are going to return to horses. For farming? Maybe for some, for novelty but not large scale. The farms have gotten too large. When horses were king the farms were 40 acres.

As for the book, would love this. I want to take lesssons again, just because I am now 50 and after a long time off from riding I am not confident in myself as I had been. Here closest lessons are a good hour away :(.

Funny story. When I was a kid during the oil crisis of the 70s I used to ride my horse to the gas station, tie her to a post to get a drink. I'd also yell at people "Save gas ride a horse!" I also rode her through a McDonalds drive thru, LOL.

BTW, hope you share more about Jasper. How old is he? He looks gray in color but a young gray.

June 1, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

last usband rides and drivrdweek , someone at work called my husband a "redneck" He came home and said "Ive gone full circle, people use to say you can take the boy out of the city but not the city out of the boy" now we live with and for our two draft horses, and our farm.My h

June 1, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger bkdip said...

At 70, I never want another horse. It broke my heart when I was unable to care for the one I got when I was ll and kept til I was 30. I had Sally when I lived in a 27 ft trailer with my parents and little sis, and usually rented a pasture or kept her staked on the long grass around where ever we lived. My husband and I had other horses, but never again one just for me. But, guess what? My 12 year old granddaughter loves horses just I did, and longs for one of her own, even living in trailers and apartments with her disabled mom. She get to ride an aunt's and an uncle's horses and won ribbons in 4H. Horses will always hold a place in a little girl's heart regardless of how we use them

June 1, 2011 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger thelynns said...

I believe peak oil is here and will get worse as other countries jump start their economies. We will need alternative means of transportation and see horses playing a part in some of our transportation needs, along with mass transit, commuter trains in the cities.

June 1, 2011 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Right now, I look at the hay-burners lounging in the paddock and wonder why I have been longing for a tractor. I need to learn more about working teams.

June 1, 2011 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Anybody who believes a tractor is cheaper than a work horse needs to read some Walter Prescott Webb.

June 1, 2011 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Hey DarcC, been meaning to email you to explain Jasper. I hope I didn't offend you or your kindess...

June 2, 2011 at 6:21 AM  
Blogger Joy Bear said...

I hope they will be a big part of our future! I don't like to imagine a world without their beauty and gentleness. In my part of Texas, they are pretty much everywhere, but unfortunately, they are so expensive that most of us can only dream of riding/owning them. I would love to have a riding stable someday exclusively for underprivileged and disabled children to enjoy these beautiful creatures. :)

June 2, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Just 2 hours or so away from you in NH, I see horses in many different functions. My daugthers and I both ride for fun, but a family at our school runs their farm entirely on draft horses. I'm soon moving into a house where across the fence I can pet four horses in their paddock. I don't think the world as a whole will go back to horses all that much as more alternatives to fossil fuels become available, but I do think here and there people will begin to use them again for work.

June 2, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

My husband is adamant, our farm will have two shires. I really love the idea but go back and forth about the practicality of it. The farm is still several years off so by then the oil situation will probably have me totally on board. I would much rather horses then a gas guzzling smelly noisy machine.

June 2, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger 2houndnight said...

In Western Ma most horses are for pleasure/pet, and an expensive pet at that. Many pasture puffs around here...I have always thought it would be wonderful to actually use my horse for transportation, not just pleasure riding....how great would it be to start my day riding my horse to work and ending my day riding home....But I digress....
I do believe that there is a movement in the organic community to incorporate horse power into their farms work. There is a farm in Western Ma that re-purposes older retired or unwanted draft horses and carriage horses to work on farms...they are wonderful. That being said though, a horse, especially a large one, can be an expensive proposition for the average human. Only on a farm that can produce it's own feed, with an owner willing to trade the efficiency of automation for the earth friendly but much slower power of the horse will the farm equine make a comeback....
It is only in this small albeit growing community that the horse will be viewed as anything more than recreation or decoration....

June 2, 2011 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger lmel said...

I'd love to see horses become more common as transportation and for farming. Unfortunately, my Thoroughbred doesn't have the skills for pulling a plow, but he sure does provide lots of fun on the trail. Maybe if horses become more commonplace (such as in Amish and Mennonite areas)drivers would also treat horses with more respect and share the road. Horses are used primarily for sport and recreation around my neck of Maine, although I do see some people farming with them. Of course, you tack on the expense of trucking feed, and I'm not sure how much you save in the end if you're working your horse hard. Hmmm, food for thought. I would love to use my horse for "commuting", but where would I put him? Do you think I could get the city to provide a run-in shelter on the library lawn? :)

June 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I have a TB, an Arab, and a Belgian Draft currently. While I grew up showing primarily in the hunter and jumper world, I've always wanted to drive and have horses join me in my homesteading adventures here in NC. Like you, I've just been waiting for a harness to drop out of the sky (as much as I want it, it is hard to justify as a "need") for my Belgian though I have done all the groundwork I can with the equipment I have. The use of horses for homesteading or transportation (beyond recreational) comes down to living in a culture that values time and efficiency over all. I think those who live with horses in whatever capacity enjoy the process of working with them and are more likely than the average person to create a life that supports their use. I hate to say it but I doubt that most people have the patience to work with horses successfully unless it is something they would do even if they did not have to do so.
I love my horses and all my animals for this very reason, however. They make me slow down because they do not live by a clock the way humans do. You have to listen to them on their own terms to have a happy relationship. This is a simpler way of life to me although many people I know think my life is very challenging because I don't go on vacations all the time or buy expensive things (non-farm things, that is!)
I was interested to read Eric Brendt's conclusion in his book "Better Off" that Amish and Mennonite communities who use horses for work and transportation could actually have simpler lives if they did NOT have horses. His argument was horses require pasture so one must live on more acreage (more money to buy, more work to maintain, more hay to grow), which makes farms further apart (less connection with your neighbors) and is a less healthy choice than walking for transportation or to complete farm chores. Interesting thoughts. It just shows that there are a lot of ways to approach this homesteading dream.

June 2, 2011 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Ruralaspirations, you win this comment giveaway! Do you want it?

June 2, 2011 at 8:01 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home