Sun 1 Feb 2009
On the ranch, we own two Suffolk Punch draft horses, by the names of Red and Snap. Basically, they are our volunteer fence-knocking down crew. This, because of immense size and weight (they could cut back a little), is easy for them, and more than one of our vehicles have marks from one of those horses itching. If you could see our Chevrolet Suburban from the front, you would know what I mean.
The real reason that we bought them is so they could pull our hay wagon with a few tons of alfalfa on it. The problem with this seemingly perfect and rustic idea is that those trouble-makers have nothing to keep them occupied… okay, constructively occupied during the summer. We are somewhat lacking in the need of plowed fields.
So getting them up and working in the winter is not only a chore, but a real rodeo. The first few minutes under harness each year are fast minutes. And I don’t mean because it was so fun, time flew. The earth shakes when they run like that. And whoever is crazy (or brave?) enough to be driving them better have a way of holding onto the reins and the hay wagon itself.
Actually, the worst part of that first run around the pasture is not the speed. The initial hitching up has got to be the most dangerous part of the whole extravaganza. When you go to hitch up a horse, you have to stand between the horses and the wagon. If you have the horses partially hitched, and something spooks them, the wagon is going to be coming right after them pretty fast. If you don’t get out of there in a hurry, you don’t get out. A guy who was working for us almost got run over doing that.
We haven’t used them this year because we have no way of getting the hay on our wagon. Our backhoe needs some welding. Anyway, the hay wagon is mounted on a few barrels instead of wheels. Don’t ask what happened to the wheels; I have no idea. Their harness is still hanging in the tack room, though, complete with enormous collars that we went to great lengths to get for them. Their necks are not large; they are gigantic.
Right now, we are just using our boring old truck and trailer, but most of us on the ranch are eager to get the team going. I just don’t want to be the one to hitch them up. I have no inclination whatsoever to get in between a ton of horse multiplied by two and a hay wagon.