Monday, October 29, 2012

Horses, Hames, & Sleepy Hollow

Saturday night I was sitting around a campfire with a pulled pork sandwich in my hands, wood smoke in my hair, friends at all sides, and a day of working horses behind me. Elizabeth, to my left was playing some improve fiddle music and to my right Jessica was talking to Mark about the day's events. Everyone seemed tired and happy, some of them had sat on a horse for the first time since childhood. Others were churning over plans to buy their first harness for the horses they already owned. Others, a pair of farmer's from downstate, were driving home under the cloudy, darkening sky deciding where to find the perfect team of haflingers. I was just happy to be (and I mean this in the best way possible) done for the day. The pork from Flying Pig farm in Shushan never disappoints and the one boston butt roast I had bought was more than enough to feed ten people through to full. I ate two sandwiches, without apology. Everyone around me seemed to be doing the same. As I munched and the sky grew dark I leaned back in my chair, raised a homebrew to my lips and took in the happy scene. In a few moments I would start reading from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but before I started any orations I just wanted to breathe deep and reflect a bit.

Today twelve people got together to talk about working horses, ride working horses, and even drive a working horse. Some were here to for R&D to learn about what goes into keeping and containing a single horse. Others wanted to get an introduction to driving and learn the harness and hames with guided hands. Some just plain old like coming to workshops, and smelling horse and dead leaves on their hands. And out of all those reasons none is better than the other.

We started the workshop at my farm. Folks pulled in as I was grooming Merlin, getting him ready for the morning riding demonstration. The plan was to show everyone the basic grooming supplies, practices, and reasoning behind a clean horse before you start saddling up. As we brushed and curry combed people asked questions and got their answers. The workshop was very organic this way, that we might be in the middle of explaining how to inspect a saddle pad but then off on a tangent about shoes vs barefoot and bit harshness. But we always managed to stay (roughly) on track and before noon everyone watched me saddle and ride Merlin through a hissy fit (extra entertainment) and then take a turn in the saddle, learning to sit with their heels down and calm shoulders and arms as they were lead around the farmyard. Merlin was a gentleman and a great sport. At 14 hands he wasn't intimidating and his draft personality really shone through.

Psst. If you want to read an account of the day and see more pictures of Merlin and us riding along check out R'Eisen Shine Farm's blog post here!

We broke for lunch and then reconvened at Patty's Farm to go over the work of a horse in the field. Patty went through harness and collar fitting, vehicles, ground driving and moved heavy stones across her barnyard via a homemade stone boat! Everyone who wanted a pair of lines in their hands or a ride in a forecart got one. By the time evening started to fall we were all a bit weary from the long day outside and ready for warm food and cold beer around that cracklin' fire.

No one got hurt. Quite the contrary, really. There wasn't any fear or danger to the day as safety was my number one goal. And everyone who attended seemed in great spirits. It seemed that by the time we were basking in the campfire everyone was also holding great spirits. The homebrew was a little flat, needed more time for carbonation, but went down smooth and dark. I sipped it slowly as I listened to the fate of the school teacher and Gunpowder the plow horse. We were passing around the book and reading out loud and it was more engaging and entertaining than any big screen TV. My imagination went a little wild, thinking of poor old Icabod riding home in the dark as the massive headless horseman matched his pace in the forest road. I smiled as I shivered, looked over at the smiling jack-o-lantern across the fire and let out a deep sigh as I took a long sip. Darn, that was good stuff. I laughed to myself, thinking how tell people I like my horses and beer the same way: strong, dark, and stout. The fire cracked, the story read on, and the night was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.

2 Comments:

Blogger seagrrlz said...

Looks like the workshop was a great success!
As much as I would love to have a horse, I know that I am not in a place in my life to do so. I do love horses though and I'm lucky that I live somewhere that horses are never far away. Sometimes I go to visit the horses in the field near my community garden. I sneak them carrots and give them a quick scratch behind the ear. I can't resist them,lol.

October 29, 2012 at 9:41 AM  
OpenID kindsofhoney said...

I am so jealous! Jenna, you along with my own stubborn heart have inspired me to chase what I love . . . I officially spoke with my bosses and am looking to move on to work with horses, particularly draft animals. Right now I'm exploring my options, which just might include a move to North Carolina. Who knows - I may make it up to your place one of these days if you have another draft workshop in the future! Thanks for all those pictures that tugged at my spirit and reminded me of what I knew I needed to do. I'll keep you updated.

October 29, 2012 at 2:01 PM  

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