Sunday, April 15, 2012

my bargain basement amish reject

Jasper hasn't gotten a lot of play on the blog lately, but he is a part of my farm life here, has been since he arrived last spring. His story is interesting. For those new to the blog, Jasper was bought off Craigslist from a pony dealer in Belcher, near Hebron here in Washington County. The man who sold him to me (for $500) bought him at the annual Cobelskill Amish Horse Auction down state. He came out into the ring driving a cart, and was being sold as a cart pony. The previous owner said he was "too wound up" for children, and he is. You need a pony calm as cold coal to have children driving it in road traffic. Jasper was a little too spirited for the Amish and their needs, so at 9 years old he was sent to auction, bought by a local pony dealer and sold to me.

When he arrived at Cold Antler he was underweight and dirty. I didn't even know he was in bad shape, since at that time I was so new to horses and (to me) he looked like a beautiful roan stallion of childhood story books. In truth, he was a malnourished, fly-bitten mess. But a summer on pasture with regular grooming, good grass, farrier visits, and harness work and he turned out to be a wonderful (if ornery and sometimes bossy) working pony. Yesterday he pulled a half-cord of firewood out of a back pasture, up a hill, and to the splitting pile on a wooden sledge. It was in a place no truck could go, and would have taken me alone several hours of back-breaking work carrying those dense locust rounds alone on a wheelbarrow with a flat tire. Even my fancy new garden cart would have been serious lifting and pushing work.

If I had an ATV or tractor, I could have used that with a wagon, but I don't think I'll ever farm with a tractor or four-wheeler, not on this land. It is only 6.5 acres and none of it flat. I live on the side of a mountain and I am certain I would flip a tractor over in no time, I don't even have a riding mower. But I am confident walking along uneven ground with hooves and chains. It feels solid. And Jasper did the same work without the sounds of engines, or using fuel I can't make, and made the day's work pleasant and easy.

Jasper did work, and hard. We used some felt from the Scottish Blackface to pad the breastplate, and it helped. We lead him from the bridle (he is not great at taking commands from behind with long lines) but so what? So it wasn't perfect, but he sure was handy. I don't think of Jasper as a performance animal, more like my own hoofed garden tractor. He doesn't have to be perfect, just willing. He was both to me.

Jasper, you are my Amish Reject Bargain Basement Cart Pony. The horse in such bad shape people emailed me concerned when you first arrived. But now you are winter plump and sweating through solid work. You carried in wood that will farm this house next winter. You did it willingly, kindly, and didn't bolt or cry when we broke the 100-year-old single tree. You stepped over logs, rocks, and climbed up steep slopes. You tore your cheap harness from it all, and I will get you a proper collar and harness to replace it soon. You may be too small to ride and too wild to drive on these mountain roads, but you earn your keep. And you let strangers work alongside you. And you never, ever, complain. I love you, kid.

12 Comments:

Blogger DarcC said...

Beautiful testament to a beautiful pony. So glad he found you.

April 15, 2012 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he loves to have a job! as all farm critters do i think. way to go jasper and jenna, this is one of my favorite success stories of your blog! super happy for you, and the "failed" shearing was a blessing in disguise. green blessings, katie

April 15, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

Lucky Jasper! And lucky you. :-D

April 15, 2012 at 10:06 AM  
Anonymous valerie rushing said...

Awww, Sweet. I love reading about your life.

April 15, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Katou said...

What a nice tribute to Jasper! He is lucky to have found you and you are lucky to have found him...

April 15, 2012 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks! He's a good ol boy

April 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

That was $500 well spent. He looks fantastic, by the way. You went bounding right on up the learning curve with him all right!

April 15, 2012 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I ♥ Jasper. Reminds me of my rescue dogs and how much the animals appreciate their new homes. He knows you love him and does what is asked.

April 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

I bet he loved the work, too. He always seems happiest (from your previous posts) when he's got a job and purpose.

April 15, 2012 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Yarrow said...

are you familiar with Wendell Berry's poem, Horses? I think it applies to your relationship with your pony. :) it's also a gorgeous paean to farming by hand.

Here's the full text.

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.

April 15, 2012 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger JulieG said...

In photos Jasper is always afar off except for the one photo on the photo site. Hard to tell what he looks like. His face is usual, which I like. Not you're average pretty horse, beyond average.

April 15, 2012 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger kimberlesk said...

Atta boy Jasper!!! Hope he got some extra oats or apples for all his hard work. Wish I had him to help cart around mulch this past weekend.

April 16, 2012 at 3:30 PM  

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