Sunday, June 19, 2011

working with jasper

When people find out I have a pony, I am always asked why I have him. As if owning a pony is as ridiculous and random as telling people I just made my first down payment on an underwater trampoline. I happily reply, "He's a cart horse!" and while I'm standing there, beaming like a new mother, the person who asked me what the hell I was doing with the haysucker in the first place just has more questions... What do you mean by "cart"? Does he drive you around town? Is he like one of the Amish buggy horses? Are you one of those Peak Oil Survivalist types? Do you still have a car? You do know you don't have to feed a garden tractor, right?

I stopped telling most people I have a pony.

So what am I doing with a small horse? Jasper is here to be my equine ATV on the farm. He'll haul firewood and help with some mild logging work. He'll cart sheep manure and other unsavories on the back pasture to be turned into new soil. He'll be a way to drive down the mountain into town on a Sunday, maybe. But above all that he's my introduction to working with real horsepower. Someday I will be plowing and harvesting behind large Shires, but I'm not there yet. One day I'll drive my own horsey version of an F-350, but right now I need to learn now to drive stick on a used Geo. So it goes.

Jasper was great. He let me fumble through the harnessing without complaint. He stood still while I buckled and snapped, noticing what needs to be tightened, re-tooled, or replaced. He's an odd shape. Taller than most ponies but slighter in frame. So I did my best to mimic the book open on the grass next to us. Farming with Horses, which tried to explain how a basic driving harness should fit a pony. You know you're new to driving when your how-to books have hoof marks on them...

After a few trips walking on lead in his halter under the weight of the harness, I attached a light weight to it. (A small log held to his traces with baling twine.) He drug it like it was nothing at all. Feeling brave, I ran the reins through the loops in the surcingle (new vocab word for me too) and walked behind him. I clicked my tongue and asked him to walk.

Wow.

To stand behind any horse in harness, feel the leather reins in both hands, and be pulling any sort of load was nothing short of magical. A comfortable, oddly-familiar, magical that felt normal to me. Like something I was always supposed to do. We walked straight across the pasture a few times until Jasper realized he didn't have a bit in his mouth, and then walked pretty much wherever he wanted. So I stopped the lesson shortly after this video was filmed. No need working on bad habits. But hot dang, what a rush all that was. There will be more to come, and when I can save up the coin for a work wagon, you'll really see something!

35 Comments:

Blogger Lissa B. said...

You both will figure it out soon enough! Just keep at it!

June 19, 2011 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Exciting! Not related, but I just saddled my little mare for the first time the other day, and she handled it like a pro as well. Is related; it's a kind of funny when people fret bigger than their equines. Such solid steeds are worthy of a proud owner.
Eager to see your progressions together!

June 19, 2011 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Natalie, was it her first time being saddled? Or our first horse? what's the story there?

CONGRATS, btw!

June 19, 2011 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger NancyDe said...

Best to stop any lesson with a horse when he's done something correct - so sometimes short, frequent lessons work best - takes practice to know when to quit, though. Good luck!

June 19, 2011 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

She is my first horse and yes, it was her first time being saddled. Though that statement makes me sound kind of like a dumb rookie, I swear I've worked with horses for many years prior. This was my first purchase. I was just at the right place at the right time.
I'd been working with her for a couple months for my neighbor when he decided to sell her at auction without giving me much notice. I showed up right as they were pulling her into the sale ring and won her fair and square. Bought on April 9, she is Folly, my little April Fool. :)
And thank you. Congrats to you, too!

June 19, 2011 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I bet once you put a bit in his mouth it will go smoother for you. Start him out on a lunge line to give him a refresher on the bit and movement. Don't let him get pushy with you. That can lead to no good! And by the way, you do have to feed tractors, and they are not cheap to feed anymore!

June 19, 2011 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

Owning a pony is awesome. And even better, it's YOUR decision. You don't have to justify anything to anyone.

June 19, 2011 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger dk said...

Jenna - you are an inspiration. Sounds like Jasper will be working for you in no time at all. I love that he is your "horse powered" ATV.

June 19, 2011 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

"I stopped telling most people I have a pony." Great line. You do have a way. And all us "alternates" have been there, in one way or another. I stopped telling most people I nursed my kids till they were three. Better for us all they don't know.

June 19, 2011 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Rach Huddleston said...

Looks like another excellent choice for a parnter! Way to go, you two!

June 19, 2011 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Oh come on Jenna. Jasper is at least a Ford Ranger but this version will be in perpetual 4WD and never slide into a ditch. Me thinks you'll need a bigger place to require Shires. Jasper will do you quite well for a long time.

June 19, 2011 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Don't stop telling US about your pony. We love him, and will be looking forward to more stories and video. Can't wait till you take a buggy ride down the road.

June 19, 2011 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

That looked like fun but be careful trying to film and manage a pony at the same time. Can't wait to see more. I like your choice of "horsepower". . . at least you don't have to fill it up at the pump!!

June 19, 2011 at 11:39 PM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

"You know you're new to driving when your how-to books have hoof marks on them…"

Too funny! LOL

June 19, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

I love it!

June 19, 2011 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Save the money on the wagon and make a stone boat instead. They are much more practical, you can use them year round, and they are easy to DIY.

You'll need a an evener/spreader/singletree - whatever you want to call it - but it's much easier to hitch to and work with by yourself. And the height you have to lift a heavy item to get it loaded is a back saver.

June 19, 2011 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Well some may laugh that you have a pony...I am just green with envy! I have always wanted my own horse (is that cliche 'cause I am a girl), but its true. Every year my husband asks me what I want for my birthday and every year without even flinching I tell him I want a pony (technically a full on horse but saying pony sounds more fun). He always laughs at me but I tell him I am not joking. I have big plans to have my own horse in the next few years. When I get bored some days, I look at australian stock saddle web sites. Such a nerd at heart! Don't stop with the great stories about Jasper!

June 20, 2011 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Oh my gosh, do you think you could find a little sleigh for him? Because I'd be willing to bet that if you think mushing is fun, Jasper pulling a sleigh would be even more fun! Well, maybe you should wait the sleigh until you have a bigger horse. But what a kick!

I see absolutely nothing strange about farming with a horse or pony; in fact, I think it's a good idea. Instead of puffing diesel into the air you'll be plowing fertilizer into the soil. Just makes more sense.

June 20, 2011 at 1:14 AM  
Blogger Tealah said...

"Because I enjoy it," is always a good rejoiner for when people give you a hard time about keeping a "hayburner".

My two aren't really cart ponies by breed, but the one may never be able to carry weight on her back again so I do consider training her to the harness instead. May do it anyway - I envy you with your cart pony. :)

June 20, 2011 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Oh doglady, I know Shires only come with a bigger place. Someday.

Ann, I learned that! next pony video someone else will have to take!

June 20, 2011 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger karental said...

Someday I'll have mules and a sled for them to haul firewood. They'll have a cushy life. Someday is too far away.

June 20, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

What a sweet boy. Enjoy learning together!

June 20, 2011 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

When working with horses/ponies, or any other animal really, it's always good to end on a positive note. And why does there need to be a reason to have a pony? It's a pony. That's all the reason there needs to be.

June 20, 2011 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

Jenna, you are working on my husbands dream. By the time we get our place hopefully you will have another book out. :)

June 20, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Don't have to feed a tractor, eh? What planet do they live on, anyway? I'm glad you're driving with Jasper. I love the image of the F350 and the Geo - nicely done! I look forward to reading more stories of great success :)

June 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger jim said...

i think both tractors and ponies or horses have their fair place on todays farms. I know the front loader on my tractor makes life a lot easier as does the pto. Ponies are much more sure footed and a lot more fun to love. Just my passing thoughts.

June 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger yarrow said...

this is fabulous. and you totally have to feed tractors; they eat gas.

on which note, i most highly reccomend this poem by Wendell Bery:

http://greatpoets.livejournal.com/3114001.html

Horses, Wendell Berry
When I was a boy here,
traveling the fields for pleasure,
the farms were worked with teams.
As late as then a teamster
was thought an accomplished man,
his art an essential discipline.
A boy learned it by delight
as he learned to use
his body, following the example
of men. The reins of a team
were put into my hands
when I thought the work was play.
And in the corrective gaze
of men now dead I learned
to flesh my will in power
great enough to kill me
should I let it turn.

I learned the other tongue
by which men spoke to beasts
—all its terms and tones.
And by the time I learned,
new ways had changed the time.
The tractors came. The horses
stood in the fields, keepsakes,
grew old, and died. Or were sold
as dogmeat. Our minds received
the revolution of engines, our will
stretched toward the numb endurance
of metal. And that old speech
by which we magnified
our flesh in other flesh
fell dead in our mouths.
The songs of the world died
in our ears as we went within
the uproar of the long syllable
of the motors. Our intent entered
the world as combustion.
Like our travels, our workdays
burned upon the world,
lifting its inwards up
in fire. Veiled in that power
our minds gave up the endless
cycle of growth and decay
and took the unreturning way,
the breathless distance of iron.

But that work, empowered by burning
the world’s body, showed us
finally the world’s limits
and our own. We had then
the life of a candle, no longer
the ever-returning song
among the grassblades and the leaves.

Did I never forget?
Or did I, after years,
remember? To hear that song
again, though brokenly
in the distances of memory,
is coming home. I came to
a farm, some of it unreachable
by machines, as some of the world
will always be. And so
I came to a team, a pair
of mares—sorrels, with white
tails and manes, beautiful!—
to keep my sloping fields.
Going behind them, the reins
i fight over their backs as they stepped
their long strides, revived
again on my tongue the cries
of dead men in the living
fields. Now every move
answers what is still.
This work of love rhymes
living and dead. A dance
is what this plodding is.
A song, whatever is said.

June 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Let's see the tractor people figure out how to use tractor exhaust to grow tomatoes. At least what you put in one end of a pony comes out as a useful product on the other end!

June 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger MB said...

I suggest the book Draft Horse Primer for some good "how to" reading. Also when you start Jasper give him a direction, or if you wish to go straight keep a light even pressure on the lines and correct his course if needed. Best advice is see how light you can signal to get him to go the direction you want - that will give you light hands and be easy on his mouth. Always make sure you make the decisions or where to go and how fast.
Very excited for you!! Good luck.

June 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Harpy 101 said...

I've always wanted a mule. You take your professional reputation into your hands mentioning THAT one in the workplace. I LOVE Jasper and your exhilarating description. I agree-please don't stop telling US about the pony. He rocks.

June 20, 2011 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

That was a riot! As a horse person I know that pony took YOU for a walk. Ponies are much more confident and really will do what they want unless you convince them otherwise. You can put a big old log behind him, and he'll be fine, that little stick was an insult. Horses and ponies like to work and youve got a great first partner to learn on. He can pull you on a flat sled in the winter and plow your driveway too. Anything machines do horeses did first. Congrats!

June 20, 2011 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Jenna, Jasper and Simon. . . .two cuties after my own heart. Both former owners thought they were done for but look at the two of them!!!

June 20, 2011 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger Jennifer K said...

I second the stoneboat comment, much more versatile than a wagon. What a cute pony, even if he did completely take you for the walk. Bigger log, he can pull it! I care for 180+ horses, many of the drafties. Drove some awesome draft teams in college. Have to tell you harnessing a pony is SO much easier, flinging 200+ pounds of harness up onto an 18 hander takes more practice than I could ever convey in words. Consider a pair of Fjords, short but mighty!

June 20, 2011 at 11:56 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Jenna just started following your blog...I have 5 ponies and I'm not ashamed to say it! I also drive ponies and teach others how to train their ponies to drive. I have a suggestion...until Jasper catches on...to give you a bit more control - move your driving lines from bit down through the tugs on the side of the harness...this will keep your pony from taking you where he wants to go - not as easy for him to turn away from you like he did first part of the video...gives you more control during the training process. Also, while leading him establish verbal cues (that you can enforce) so important to a driving pony...when you step off say "walk or walk on" and teach "whoa" means stop and "stand"! I know people probably laugh at me when they drive past my farm as I stand in the field with one of my ponies - but when I say stand - they understand what it means. Practice makes perfect. Enjoy the journey of it...driving is great fun!

June 22, 2011 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger kylieps said...

Ponies rock! It's great to hear about your work with Jasper as this is a dream of mine too.

July 3, 2011 at 7:24 PM  

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