Puff clouds stream from pink nostrils. She tentatively steps forward until the full weight of her burden strains the lines taut. She leans into the harness, her muscles and sinews working until the sled eases forward.
Melody pulls the hay sled each morning and night. I’m proud of her. My girl could, by spring, pull a cart.
She’s not perfect, but she gets the job done.
Our tractor blew, and since we haven’t run the other tractor in a while, we don’t have a single working piece of lawn cutting/hay pulling machinery. That’s where my horse comes in. When I worked at Hell Creek Ranch, I went through Dressage phases, working with Melody on fancy riding maneuvers I’d learned in lessons. I went through a Trick-Training phase where I showed everyone her tricks (even though she’d known many of them for years.) I bought a Sidesaddle to ride in what I thought was the most challenging way to ride (it isn’t, not by a long shot) and then–THEN–I bought a harness.
Year after year, I watched in awe as people on Mackinac Island drove single carriages, a pair, or a team around the island. I couldn’t imagine having four horses in my command. “Start small,” I told myself. I bought a harness that would fit Melody, and planned and hoped and dreamed for the future.
I started by researching what driving entailed. Putting the harness on properly seemed to be the least of my worries. I bought book after book; searched online; and became lost in the world of surreys, sulkies, carts, wagons, and sleighs.
I learned about which vehicles tip over and other possible accidents. (I glossed over that part.)
The harness arrived. My inner crazy shouted in glee. I couldn’t figure out the parts while it stayed inside the box, so I pulled every piece out and assembled it in my living room.
I dragged it with me to Hell. (Hell, MI–where I worked at the time. C’mon! Keep up!) I pulled a less-than-delighted Melody out of her pasture and put everything on her. She rolled her eyes at the blinders. “Seriously, woman? We’ve been to how many shows, I’ve done how many camps and taught how many lessons, and you’re putting blinders on me? For real?”
We started out by driving on the ground. I walked behind her and she was kind enough not to move. When you drive, there’s no ‘slapping the horse’s back with the reins’ as in Little House on the Prairie. You kiss or click or say “Walk On.” Once she grasped the concept, we were off.
She drove just fine, walk and even a trot. Then she moved on to dragging something behind her. (Luckily it wasn’t me.) She pulled 2 PVC pipes on either side of her body, then we attached the PVC pipes to a barrel which would roll.
She and Savannah were both great at it. We did many happy lessons with kids driving a barrel around the arena in Hell. (MI. Did you forget already?)
All this driving preparation was set aside once I bought Firefly Farm. There was no time to practice more; no time for anything but preparing the farm to become a place of business.
Then the tractor broke.
I’m strong. I work hard. But that one task, taking the hay bale out back in a wheelbarrow, bothers me.
So I livened things up.
My dear friend, Suzie Q’s owner, Judi, is an excellent driver. She loves driving horses. She and I became partners-in-crime, preparing Firefly Farm to become a driving-friendly place. I planned each pasture to have a driving lane around it. I rubbed my hands in delight with the thought of a cart.
And I thought of my old driving harness.
It’s nothing special. A “Hooptie” model, as Judi calls it.
But it’s usable.
I harnessed Melody and drove her around the arena. I dragged a sled behind her. I made her drag a sled.
Then–I put a hay bale on the sled.
Voila! My own perfect movable feast.
The hay chore bores no more.
Twice a day, Melody waits in eager anticipation for me to approach her pasture or stall; prepared for her harness. She knows when I catch her I’ll bring treats. I’ll tell her how wonderful she is and show her she’s needed for important tasks around the farm.
She has excellent job security.