Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Christmas Wagon Rides Were A Success!

Christmas came and went, and with it, the wagon rides.

I really had a great time.  I ended up using Marty only.  He is a great horse, and did perfect.  He behaved perfectly and pulled all night each night.  It was nice to have a horse stout enough to handle a full night of pulling.  Can't complain about that.

Even more remarkable ... he liked the work.  He would let me walk right up to him and halter him each day without a fuss.  I think he enjoyed the extra oats before and after the rides. 

I made the paper too!  Check it out ...Marty is famous now!  :)

Monday, December 4, 2017

An unmatched team

Spent some time over the weekend going down the road with Pete and Marty.  They didn't mind the bells, we got harnessed up fine, and off we went.  It all went smooth.

And then ... for the first time ... I think I got to see what an unmatched team looks like.

Let me preface this with a quick note that this team would be perfect for a leisurely hay ride for the family.  The both step out well.  They respond to pressure on the lines.  You could definitely do a lot worse.  However, this was the first wagon ride in a long time that I didn't have a good time.  I spent the whole time correcting the horses.  This was a new experience for me and made me miss my girls.

So what makes an unmatched team?

At the start of this ride, I noticed Pete (the bigger horse) was lagging back.  I had noticed this when I worked them on the sled, but Pam can do this too, so I didn't think it was a big deal.  Pete is a bigger horse and apparently has a slower pace.

My wagon has chains to each side of the evener so that if one horse is pulling out stronger than the other they will actually end up pulling the weight of the whole wagon.  This is a neat little trick to help make a go-getter type horse chill a bit.  It also helps keep the double tree from really swinging one way too much and causing problems in the hardware.

So right down the driveway I noticed that Pete was lagging back.  I corrected him and he would want to go into a trot.  That don't work because his trot is faster than Marty's walk.  I found myself in a weird spot.  Most horses I've worked have 2 walks:  lazy slow walk, and go-getter pulling walk.  Usually I can always just give correction and get a horse from Lazy into go-getter.  Pete wasn't having it.  It was either slow walk, or trot. 

Meanwhile, I couldn't get Marty to slow down.  He was pulling the full wagon load plus Pete too.  This made for a pretty bad wagon ride.  Instead of enjoying myself going down the road, I was constantly correcting.  Constantly trying to get Pete to match Marty.  It was a pretty frustrating experience.

Then half way through the ride, I did our stop and stand routine, where I give them a rest.  Pete wouldn't have it.  He kept taking two steps forward, then when I'd correct, two steps back.  He would not stand at all.  And while he was doing this, it started annoying Marty.  So now I had two horses that didn't want to stand.  I even went and got in front and held their lead ropes, and they were still not wanting to stand still.

Very frustrating ride.  I realized that I couldn't do wagon rides to the public if my wagon was moving back and forth as the horses act up while loading/unloading.

So I went back home,  put Pete away, and tried Marty alone on the wagon.  He did great.  I even swapped out the snaffle bit that was on his harness, with a nice Liverpool and he did exactly what I wanted.  Did a short test ride and it was great.  Maybe I'll have to use Marty alone for wagon rides.

First time ever to try and use a team that just did not work well together.  Don't know what it was.  the owner was kind of shocked and said that with him it was the exact opposite (Marty was lazy and Pete was the hard worker).  Not sure what to do to help them match better.  I'll have to ask my teamster friends!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Getting Ready for Wagon Rides - Seeing Grey(White)!!

Been a LONG TIME!  Figured I might as well kick the dust off this old blog and tell you about some of the fun I'm having.

I got asked to do Christmas Wagon Rides on Park Street again this year.  Rachael is an old lady now and enjoying retirement.  Due to work being busy, Pam is in no shape to be pulling a wagon all night.  I thought I was going to have to turn the offer down.

HOWEVER ... sometimes life puts people in your path that make things possible for you that you couldn't do otherwise.

I met a nice guy named John Stiles.  He's an avid horseman and a hell of a guy.  He happened to have a team of percheron geldings and told me that I could use them if I ever needed/wanted them.  With the request to help with wagon rides looming, I thought of John, and I asked the question.  A quick "yes" came back, and I currently have the horses here at my place.

Introducing Pete and Marty, a fantastic team of Percheron geldings!!!
Pete on the left, Marty on the right

They actually match my trailer!!!

Pete is a big ol' boy.  I haven't put a tape on him, but he's well over 18 hands.  I can't see over his back.  Marty is just a touch taller than my girls.  It's different to have some grey(white) horses around.  I'm used to my chessnut beauties, but I could get used to this.  Pete and Marty are staying with me now so that I can work them and make sure we're all ready for wagon rides.  John even sent them to me with their harnesses and collars.

Step 1 - clean them up a bit.  Draft horses are great because in many cases, you can just pull them out of the pasture and put them right to work.  The only drawback is that you gotta clean them up.  Took  me a bit to brush them out and remove all the cockleburrs, but I got them all groomed up and looking nice.
Free of mud and cockleburrs

Step 2 - harnesses.  We already pre-fit the harnesses when I picked them up, so getting the harnesses back on was cake.  These boys let me slide the collars over their heads without even flinching.  I'm very impressed with them.  
Harnessed and ready for action

Step 3 - get them on the sled.  Horses ground drove perfectly to the sled, backed into position like pros, and stood great while I hooked the tugs up.  Easy as can be.  It was so nice to be driving again.  Been too long since I did it.  The boys stepped out nice and worked well for me.  The only issue I had was that Pete (the big guy) was not stepping into the pull fully, and figiting a bit when I gave them a break.  No pawing or anything like that, but he stepped over his outside tug twice.  I was able to untangle him with ease though.
Marty on the left, Pete on the right

All in all it was a great weekend.  Looking forward to the wagon ride season.  I think these boys are gonna put smiles on a lot of folks places.  This weekend I'll be out on the road with bells on.  If you're around Campbell, that aint Santa you hear.  :)