So you remember those blog posts where I talked about using the sleigh to get all of the horses in spring shape? I was full of brash confidence, sailing along without consideration for one critical factor: Global Warming.
The winter of 2016-2017 has been just plain old weird. Started out warm in December, showed promise after Christmas, and then it rained. At the beginning of February, we finally had enough snow, but I left the country for a week (thanks again to my dear friends who hosted me in their lovely home in a hot climate!). The second week of February, in a rush of enthusiasm, we took Duke and Suzy out for the weekend, and had a fabulous time. They were very tired, but loved being back in the traces, and Suzy was her amazing old self. She gives that chic in the movie "True Grit" a run for her money. (Suzy is at left, Duke on the right)
After the honeymoon of that weekend, we were so happy with one another and couldn't wait to go out again, looked for the next possible opportunity. And the temperature rose to 12C. Of course, everything then turned to water, which froze solid all over our farm. The most dangerous footing for a horse is ice - if they fall while in the traces, they can be badly, even fatally injured, and worse, they can hurt their team mate as well.
So here we are, horses still not fit, ice all over the farm, horses frustrated, and me wanting to know who to fight, who to phone, who to yell at to get this fixed.
Fortunately, the upper part of the driveway is fairly clear, so as soon as the temperature rises above -20C again, I will start lunging the horses. Not the best way to get them fit, but better than nothing.
But wait, I should explain what lunging is.A picture paints a thousand words. This from Google free images. Lunging is a practice used to teach your horse new skills and to exercise him. Usually you are exercising him before you ride him to work off excess energy stored during a period of inactivity. The handler stands ten to fifteen feet from the horse, with the line attached to the side of his halter. A soft whip, that makes lots of noise, but is too soft to hurt the horse, is flicked in the air behind the horse. Dukie knows its coming and starts without this step. Suzy gets going and forgets to stop, Actually she doesn't forget. She just doesn't want to. I haven't tried it with Shannon yet. There is a school of thought that draft horses should not be exercised this way for any length of time. I prefer not to lunge most of the time anyway, as I would prefer to harness the horses and work them that way, but the weather this year has tied my hands. Hopefully we will be out on the roads soon.
As soon as things dry up a bit, we will take Duke and Shannon our with the cart, and work Duke and Suzy here on the farm.
She's just such a wonderful, impressive horse. A few more courtesy Brett Stewart, our resident photographer. Aren't they beautiful?