Thursday, March 1, 2012

a winter sleigh ride

The first time you hold a draft horses harness, it feels like such an impossible thing. It is an awkward weight, a rubik's of buckles and straps—pieces and snaps. For a draft like Steele, it easily weighs fifty pounds and there is no one way to hold it. But as you practice, as a mentor explains and guides your clumsy mistakes, it starts to make more sense to you. After a half dozen harnessings you start to realize how simple and to-the-point the design is. How there is nothing extravagant or complicated at all. A month into my driving lessons the harness has become an understandable new world, with a new vocabulary to go with it. It's like a puzzle that makes more sense as you hold the pieces longer, run them around your hands. Today as Patty and I harnessed Steele and got him outfitted to his 1880's sleigh with plush velvet seats I felt for the first time that everything was making sense to me. I knew where to clip the breaking pull-backs attached to the shafts. I remembered to unhook the girth before running my lines through the loops. And the whole time I felt like a friend, not just a student. Makes you feel lucky.

Riding in a light snowfall on the back of a horse drawn sleigh was magical beyond words. In the back Pasture of Livingston Brook Farm we drove through gates and over the snow-covered hay field and worked on turns and I listened as Patty explained the dangers and differences to a sleigh as opposed to a forecart or Meadowbrook. I listen, but I am also still in a bit of a daze. I have only seen horse-drawn sleighs in movies and Grandma Moses paintings. Now I was handed the reins and asked to drive one myself?! I thought about how I could have been at work instead, had I not taken the personal day. There was no reason for it, really. All taking today off did was make a 3-day weekend a 4-day weekend. But after a month of workshops and what very-well could be the last and only true snowfall of winter...I wasn't passing up the chance for a sleigh ride and the extra rest. As I watched Steele's big bum clump in front of me, calm as steady as a river steamboat, I thought about my task list in the office. Of the bad lighting, meetings, and working to make another person's dreams come true and felt emboldened at my choice to stay home and grab the reins. There is nothing wrong with working an office job, it is how I still pay some of my bills. But there is something to be said for knowing when to step away, jump in a sleigh, and head for the hills.

When we were done, the horse turned out, and the sleigh put away...we headed inside for lunch and coffee. Patty served some good pea soup and sandwiches and we talked for a long while. What a blessing, these new friends I have found in her and Mark. What a day. What a cup of coffee....

As we chatted we could look out and see Steele and his companion Ellis, a big black 18-hand dressage horse running through the oncoming snow flakes. They seemed thrilled to be out in the fresh air, blowing and jumping, digging in the snow like children building a fort. I have to laugh when I look at Patty's choice in equine companion and my own. Just like Steele, Patty is tall, fair haired, steady and strong. She's in no weigh hefty, but solid. You look at her and Steele and it makes sense. A lot of sense. And then I think of Merlin and I. Both of us shorter and stouter, dark haired and prone to be overly dramatic. I remember Merlin kicking up into the air just to show off and posture as we walked by his pasture mates on the walk back to his stall. He's a little anxious too. Also, both of us (Merlin and I, that is) need to drop a few pounds. You see the two of us and it makes sense, too. Perhaps the world pairs up women and horses? Or perhaps women just pick horses that suit our natures? Whatever the case, when it comes time to throw the hames over Merlin's back, we will both be better for it. I will tell him, as I move his long black bangs out from his deep brown eyes, of how the harness used to be nothing but an awkward weight—but thanks to two fine mentor's—it has become a labor of love.


Blogger seagoddess said...

Oh you and it all looks awesome!

March 1, 2012 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Sassafras and Winterberry said...

I'm so happy that Merlin has become yours! The snow was magical, wasn't it? Nice to have a goodly amount right before spring!
Enjoy your new horse!

March 1, 2012 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Well, the option to own him is mine. I won't own him until his bill of sale is paid off, but I have two years to do it with monthly payments if that is what I choose. These first three months at Riding Right Farm is a trial run.

March 1, 2012 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

(but my gut says he is mine...)

March 1, 2012 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Sweet! What an awesome way to spend the day! And a work day, at that! ;)

March 1, 2012 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

Wonderful post Jenna and enjoyed the video so much especially since someone else had the camera and you were in the video. The snow sure made it lovely. Have a great evening and sweet dreams.

March 1, 2012 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Farmlady Wannabe said...

Your description of horse/person pairs brings to mind my petite, blond girl child and her palomino pony - there was a pair born and sustained by a beautiful love.

March 1, 2012 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

What is the purpose of the sleigh bells? I'm sure there is a reason they are always on a horse pulling a sleigh...

March 1, 2012 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

You and Patty sound exactly the same on video!

March 1, 2012 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger PattyW said...

The bells are a distraction of sorts. If the bells are jingling he won't notice some of the other unintended noises- the runners hitting a rock, the creaking of the wood sleigh or cart. It's kind of a pacifier if he's used to hearing it all the time.
Thanks for being such an adventurous woman Jenna!
10 hrs and counting down!

March 1, 2012 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I feel so lucky that I got to visit Patty and Mark's place with you the first time. It's a great place with great creatures living there. The best part is that now when I read your posts I can visualize it so well!

Enjoy your long weekend, Jenna!

March 1, 2012 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

@Christine.......I thought the same thing. Wondering if Patty were from the same area as Jenna. @Oddie....You leave the sweetest comments for Jenna. You truly have a sweet spirit.
@Jenna.....I am so happy for you and you look so content in the video.

March 1, 2012 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Such a wonderful day for you. :)

March 1, 2012 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

I am so jealous.

And....he's yours:)

March 1, 2012 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

You look like quite the pro sleighing away! What a perfect day for you to take off with the snow and all—so glad you came across Patty.

*Steele has quite a handsome rear!

March 1, 2012 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

How MAGICAL! No comparison really between a sleigh ride in the snow with YOU driving, and a day in WORK. . .

Today is Merlin Day. I wonder if you slept through excitement last night?

March 2, 2012 at 2:39 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Love the sound of the sleigh bells. They make it more magical. Happy for you!

March 2, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger julronimo said...

Love the idea of the pairing of woman and for thought.

March 2, 2012 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger julronimo said...

Love the idea of the pairing of woman and for thought.

March 2, 2012 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

Congrats, Jenna! What a fabulous way to spend a day off -- complete with sleigh bells! :)

March 2, 2012 at 5:55 PM  

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