my bargain basement amish reject
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.