Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › The Front Porch › Member Diaries › Finding the good in a bad week
- May 30, 2015 at 9:34 am #85595dominiquer60Moderator
Our week started of saying good bye to our old grey mare, she has some medical issues that were challenging and made it increasingly difficult to use her in the Summer. We can’t imagine a better person to take her than Jennifer Judkins, her talent of rehabilitating horses should give Annie a more comfortable life and she will be handy for Jen around the farm.
The next day brought our usual farm work that ended with Sam finding a couple hours in the evening to keep picking away at the 3 acres that he is plowing for ear corn. He used his trusty greys, the ones that make everything they do look effortless. I had his dog so that he could enjoy his evening without a neurotic whirlwind trying to nip at horse heels. Looking back the only sign of things to come is that the near horse (Dillon) was quietly willing to let the off horse (Sam) get a slight head start each time they stepped off with the load, not his par for course, but as always he did what was asked of him.
Sam came home after dark as I was closing the greenhouse, I met him at the barn after he had turned the horses out for a good roll. We talked to a friend on the phone for some time then started chores. Everyone came into the barnyard for a good feed, all except Dillon. In the dark I looked to the pond first, maybe we caught him mid drink. I found him down and rolling in the corner, clearly in pain, most likely from colic. We got him up and walking, but this didn’t seem like a “20 cc of banamine and we should be OK” type of colic. He was terribly gassy. I called at 11:05 and the vet turned onto our road at 11:30. The vet tried for 2 hours to help relieve his pain, but in the end, we had to say our good byes to another horse. Sam always suspected that if a horse ever dropped dead in harness, Dillon would be the one, and he was close. As the “go to horse” that would go all day or to his knees without any quit, he will be sorely missed.
We let the other horses into the pasture while we took Dillons shoes off and dug a hole. They needed to know what happened and to deal with it in their own way, which was mostly reworking the pecking order with the 2 dominant horses suddenly gone. They figured it out and greeted us at the gate the next morning, inter mixed, younger black mares and older grey geldings, something that never happened when the 2 dominants were around. Sam Horse went from often aggressively lounging at the mares to quietly accepting them and moving them with a twitch of an ear, a new leader learning the art of being effective with subtly. Though there is a hole in our hearts that needs time to heal, there is certain peace to the herd now that was not there before. Everything happens for a reason and there are upsides to all unfortunate events.
It felt normal and good to get back to work and have the lines in our hands once again. The gelding Dan was to be our spare this Summer and was to be retired this fall, but the rye straw needed mowing, so out of semi-retirement he came. I had never used a horse drawn mower before, so Wednesday evening Sam turned me loose with Sam Horse and Dan. I mowed my rye no-till strips in my gardens as a warm up to the next days 3 acres. The next day started overcast and breezy, a lone Raven greeted us to the first field of rye. Sam watched us for the first couple laps then dropped us a barrel of water in a cool place before he left us to our work. The mower hummed along, dropping sheets of rye just starting to drop pollen, it will soon be mulch for the garden. The birds sang and eventually the sun came out. We did the hilly field first, followed by the weird triangle field. We took frequent breaks in the cool of the trees or barways and sipped water bit by bit. We took a couple of big breaks to let Dan’s breathing come back to normal. As if they were watching, a couple good friends called during these long rests, they could not have timed it more perfect. A check of the radar showed that storms were on their way, we had best get back to it. The breeze off the adjacent swamp picked up and helped us get through the last half of the big nearly level field. We came down to that last little triangle in the middle and the geldings were eager to gee a good tight turn. As tired as the were, especially “softie” Dan, with the bar in transport position and the water barrel loaded they jigged up the hill the whole way back to the trailer.
Off with the harness and on to the well deserved shower, out to the pasture for a much needed nearly synchronized roll. Both up and grazing when I left, content to nibble until supper time.
We finished our Spring plowing yesterday with the mares. Time to get some seed and transplants in place before the predicted rain, we need to get some green covering these open fields, because life must go on.May 30, 2015 at 8:48 pm #85597Tim HarriganParticipant
Yes, the wheel turns. Sorry to hear about your loss of the two leaders. Sounds like things are working well for you and Sam, wish we were closer.May 31, 2015 at 9:15 am #85598dominiquer60Moderator
Thanks Tim, it was rough, but we learned a lot about ourselves and are enjoying our life work now more than ever. Sam’s says “It is all part of it, don’t own them if you can’t handle saying goodbye.”May 31, 2015 at 6:59 pm #85599Donn HewesKeymaster
Sorry to hear about the loss of a good horse. While we think of them as farm animals and work animals; it is impossible to learn from them, and come through some close calls with them, and enjoy some great successes with them and not have some feeling for them. The best ones don’t stay as long as we would like. talk to you soon, DonnJune 2, 2015 at 7:05 am #85604Ed ThayerParticipant
Sorry to hear about the horses, it is often hard to replace leaders like that. Glad to hear you ended the week on a better note.
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