Sunday, May 1, 2011

a horse story

I watched him in the rain. His black mane tussled, his brown eyes focused. Why is it that when any horse moves, and I mean really moves, he looks larger than life? To me, this 11.2 hand pony was as magnificent in a canter as a Fell Stallion. He was being demonstrated to me. On his back a ten-year-old who had little experience with horses slowed him down into a walk and then picked him up into a trot again. I was impressed. Not so much with how he moved (though he seemed easy and well-paced) but the fact that on this cold, rainy, and miserable Saturday morning this equine saint was letting a nervous child prance him around a yard. This was after he had spent the entire night in a small trailer, away from his herd. Green grass was everywhere around him, yet his head never lowered once that bit hit his mouth. And I had to keep in mind this was after he was walked around by a stranger (me) on a lead line, and then tacked up for a demonstration ride outside in a high wind. If I were him I would have bucked off the kid, and had a snack in the nice green grass, and then joined my herd in a dry shelter. But he just trotted. "My 16-year-old daughter rides him bare back with just a halter." said Rob (the trainer and seller).

I was there because of a series of emails we had shared that sprouted from a Craigslist post. I saw a chunky little white draft pony and emailed him (what is more harmless than an email?) to ask if the "draft" horse was actually was trained to drive. After finding out the pony was never in a harness and 20-years-old, I told him I wasn't interested. He asked me what I was looking for and said he had a small Welsh-like pony from an Amish Auction, which I dismissed outright. At first.

But after a while my ears were perked. Rob explained how patient and even tempered he was. That his children rode him bareback, that he was trained and raised by the everyday-driving Amish downstate. And the price we agreed on over the phone was less than half of what people spend on a decent guitar... So I went out to see him (what is more harmless than a trip to visit a pony?) I would drive out into Belcher to pet his brow and watch him work.

Which I did last weekend, in a downpour, and through all the stress and fuss he was Temperance embodied. Then I said something that even surprised me.

"I'll take him."

A handshake and deposit later, I owned a horse. Holy Shit.

We agreed he would be delivered that following Friday. I had a week to prepare. There was new fences to run electric top wires on, pasture to expand, supplies to buy, hay to stack, and more. So I did what I could during the work week and decided to take Friday off to set up the new gate and wiring. I could also turn my weekend into three days of pure-farming. A joy to this scrappy shepherd, and a change from the usual routine.

A hour before he was delivered, I ran the truck three miles down the road to Common Sense farm to pick up hay. Othniel and his family were all inside the barn, doing the chores of a working dairy. Two kids were born at 6:30 that morning, and Yasheva was bottle feeding the twins when I walked into the barn's main door. We chatted about the Poultry Swap on Sunday, and then I headed up into the loft of their ancient dairy barn to thrown down hay to the truck. When ten bales were secured in the back, and I was heading down the ladder to run home to meet Jasper (!!!). I was climbing on air, so thrilled to run back to my farm with a truck full of hay to temper the maw of a small horse. My cart horse. But I stopped walking halfway down the ladder. Othniel told me to be still and look up.

I looked up.

"That's for you." He said, smiling in his voice.

High above me in the rafters of the 19th-Century barn was the skeleton of a single pony cart.


Blogger Alison said...

Omigosh! You're kidding! You have made some wonderful farm friends. Can't wait to see more of Gentle Jasper. :)

May 1, 2011 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

What a wonderful story and you really do have amazing, amazing friends. I can't wait to read how your adventure with a cart pony unfolds.

Hurray Jasper and Jenna!

May 1, 2011 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

I don't want to be a downer, but did you have a vet check done before you plunked your money down? If not, I would highly recommend it as soon as possible.


May 1, 2011 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Beautiful Jenna, just beautiful!!! I knew the story would be worth the weekend wait. I hope you and Jasper are enjoying your first weekend together!!

May 1, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Good stuff! Can't wait to see the video of him in harness!

May 1, 2011 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Why did they keep him in a trailer overnight? That's really strange. It may mean they couldn't catch him. He's not the usual type of Amish cart horse, and he's young. Usually, the Amish work them until they're old or lame, or both, and then send them to the auction. I have lots of horse supplies (brushes, hoof picks, etc.) if you need anything. I think there's a Parelli training in the area sometime soon - you might like doing some of that work with him.

May 1, 2011 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

That ending just got me. You are really blessed with caring friends.

May 1, 2011 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Tealah said...

Diane - there could be many reasons that they would be keeping him in a trailer overnight. It could be that they keep their horses in a very large pasture, or a very muddy one (you want your horse to look presentable when you sell them) or anything. And around here, the Amish sell quite a few good, solid horses to the public. It's a good way of making extra income. They *usually* use Standardbreds or similar horses, but I've also seen them buying and selling other breeds, including mutt ponies.

Anyway, congratulations on your new farm horse, Jenna. Not the sort of pony I would have thought you'd get (thought you'd get a draft pony for sure!) but he's a cute guy. It's great that you have a cart for him so soon, too!

We just acquired two horses of our own - my parents', when they had to move into a smaller house. It's a lot of work, like anything that's worth anything.

May 1, 2011 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Robbie Grey said...

"A handshake and deposit later, I owned a horse. Holy Shit."

That was a great line, and, also, I've had those sort of holy shit! moments...

May 1, 2011 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

ok, i don't know if it is the baby hormones still runng through my veins, but that last sentence made me put my hand to my mouth and cry.... and i just don't EVER do that.....

May 1, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

by the way, he looks an awful lot like a pit pony, and boy can they work.

May 1, 2011 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

Wow!!! Your dreams really are all coming true..........yeah Jenna, and welcome Jasper!

May 1, 2011 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

God has truly blessed you!

May 1, 2011 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

No fair! I want a pony...

May 1, 2011 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger s.e. said...

I clapped when i got to the end of this story, out loud. So happy for you Jenna!

May 2, 2011 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger T said...

You are SO supposed to have that pony! Congratulations, your little farm is a'growin ma'am!

May 2, 2011 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger Christine Izzo said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!! So happy for you!

May 2, 2011 at 1:09 AM  
Blogger embracingitall said...

Oh my, a pony and a cart! I can't wait to see photos. I'm so excited for you. Jacinta

May 2, 2011 at 3:25 AM  
Blogger Teresa H. @ Oak Tree Farm said...

Isn't it wonderful how the Universe conspires to give what you need to achieve your dreams! Jasper is adorable!!! Can't wait to hear more stories about him.

May 2, 2011 at 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats (on everything, really) - I'm always looking forward to more tales and adventures.

May 2, 2011 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

This. is. SO. EXCITING.

May 2, 2011 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Good point, Tealah. Hadn't thought about mud in the pasture being the reason they kept him in a trailer. He has a nice eye, and sounds like a sturdy little guy.

May 2, 2011 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Yeah...what Lauren said!!!!!!

May 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Okay Jenna. You've just written the first chapter of your next book. That last sentence actually gave me chill bumps.

May 2, 2011 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger kippy said...

You truly do have a charmed life (and wonderful friends/neighbors). Congartulations on adopting Jasper!

May 2, 2011 at 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, what Paula said, you've got a chapter for your next book.

May 2, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Holly U said...

Oh wow. That sent chills through me -- the good kind! Thanks for sharing your story, Jenna. It's a great read and an inspiring one.

May 2, 2011 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger alewyfe said...

I hate you.

I mean... CONGRATULATIONS!! Man, I am sooo jealous.

If we can buy the lot next to our house from the city, we'll have room for a pair of pygmy goats, but no pony. No way. My mom has tried to bribe me to move to North Dakota where she lives with one... but not even a full-sized horse could get me through that winter... urgh.

Lucky girl! I don't need to tell you to enjoy your dreams all coming true- so fun to follow your journey. Thanks for sharing with us!

May 2, 2011 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger maddie said... all sorta sounds like a dream. It's like one of those stories my dad tells me, where everything just slips in place as if it was supposed to happen.

May 2, 2011 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jasper looks adorable and sounds almost perfect. Good for you.

May 2, 2011 at 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a great book on horsekeeping on small acreage, predictably titled "Horsekeeping on Small Acreage" by Cherry Hill. I know you have horse and livestock experience already, but its a nice supplement to a book collection and tells you how to troubleshoot any issues. In fact, most of the Cherry Hill books are great.

May 2, 2011 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Hot damn a cart too?! That's a heck of a weekend! I'd given my neighbor a bone-crushing hug for a cart, even if it is a "skelton" of one. Congrats friend :)

May 2, 2011 at 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet. Driving is a lot of fun. When you restore that pony cart, make sure the suspension is up to snuff, or you'll have the grandmother of all backaches.

You can start grounddriving him without the cart. And you can make a practice drag with two poles and a 2x4, and work on your driving skills. The first time you hitch him to a cart, make sure you have an experienced person to lead him around for you, as he gets used to your weight and the cart. I know he was broke to drive by the amish, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. Cart crashes are no fun. Oh, and wear a helmut. And have fun.

May 3, 2011 at 12:49 PM  

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