Month: February 2016

Hearts, and harnesses and new shoes, OH my!

It’s getting closer! The day we’ve been preparing for. Farrier is scheduled, mane roll is ordered (hopefully it gets here soon so I can practice!), harness is clean, bookings are filling up!

I’m not sure how much the horse community knows about draft shoeing, and I know the general public knows even less. Maximus wears a size 8 horse shoe. This is approximately the same size shoes as one would use playing a game of “horseshoes” His feet are that big. If you’ve never played horse shoes, take your hand an spread your fingers all the way out. your finger tips would touch the shoe. As you can imagine, this takes some extra considerations. Being that big, draft shoes don’t work well on a typical anvil. They also don’t shape as easily as a typical horse shoe. Then there’s the horse itself. Horses will sometimes lean a little on a farrier as they do their work. Usually this is no problem. However, a draft horse weighs over a ton, so a little leaning leads is a lot of extra work. Because of this, drafts are typically shod in stocks. We don’t have stocks (Sorry farrier!) so Max has to be, and is, extra good. Because of ALL this extra trouble, a fell set of draft shoes costs $250 +. They last 4-5 weeks depending on how much work the horse is doing. Asphalt will wear right through a shoe, so even if the foot growth is minimal, the shoe needs to be replaced.

Mane rolls are the term used for the fabric you braid into a draft horses mane. That takes some skill in itself. Here’s a great video from YouTube on how to do a Mane Role. I’ve ordered a red/white role, a Red tail bow with valentines themed ribbon and Red/Pink roses. 5 roses are typical for hitch horses and 7 for halter. Pulling mane and practice is definitely in order.

Finally the harness. What a job that is! It’s DISGUSTING. Because on a  typical night we get done close to midnight, and the final day of our season are in the dead of winter, we don’t hang around to clean tack. Granted, Max isn’t a sweaty mess when we’re done, but the grime still builds up. 98% of our harness is vinyl, which means Armor All and some elbow grease is the way to go. The only part that’s leather is the collar. I use the same stuff as i use on my riding tack. Generally,  Effax leather care products. I completely forgot to order Never Dull, but I remembered from my western pleasure days that we used to use toothpaste to shine the chrome on our saddles. It still works!

All this and I’m still doing hills and grooming almost daily. So much work for one special night! We’re pretty much all booked for Sunday, February 14. and have partnered with High Definition Media here in Columbus to capture everyone’s Valentines Day Experience. I’m excited!

On January 30, 2016, I realized I am fat

I say this not to fat shame. Girl (or Boy) if you feel good, than rock it sister (brother). This is also not to say “I’m beautiful in spite of/because I’m fat”, which I understand is a thing now. I say this because I look at this picture, and see pretty much the equivalent of a teen aged pony who likes too much grass and gets “opinionated” when she doesn’t get it. This horse is not an athlete. Suitable for lessons, some showing. maybe can pull out some piece of it’s old abilities on a good day, but not an athlete. My horses are athletes, I owe it to them to be closer to the part than I currently am.

So I had a little cry, and decided I ACTUALLY needed to get myself together. I ENJOY eating good food. The problem is I enjoy eating ALL food. Fruits and veggies? Sure. But also a greasy cheeseburger, loaded twice baked potatoes, taco’s, sushi, and much much more. My only saving grace is I’m not a soda or sweets person. Unless it’s a cookie. Or ice cream.

Another positive is that I cook REALLY well. This too is a double edged sword. I can roast carrots as easily as make home made alfredo sauce (1 wedge Parmesan cheese, one pint cream, one stick of butter. Done) Which feeds 6’4″ gym rat husband better, do you think? This is an excuse. I know it is. And one I’ve been using for almost 3 years now. I need a grazing muzzle.

Yesterday we started back on Whole30. Sort of. We’ve done it before and felt great at the end, but even then we made some of our own rules from the beginning. 1) a week before we will stop buying anything NOT approved. However, if it’s in the fridge when we start, we’re not about to waste food. I’m a horse trainer and he’s a full time college student. Quite frankly we can’t afford to be throwing away food. 2) If I bake bread, we can have it. I know. I know. That goes against everything. But when I say “bake bread” I mean I buy whole kernels of wheat and grind them. I guess what we’re actually saying is no commercial flour* or flour products. 3)Dairy on Whole30 is out. We decided to allow raw milk with ours.

Today I’m also walking. (My brain thinks, “Like you don’t walk enough at the farm Lady”) but obviously I do not. We’ll see how this goes.

*I highly recommend this to everyone. Look at a bag of flour, even “whole wheat” flour,  in the grocery store. There are at LEAST 12 ingredients. That’s because in the process of making light, fluffy flour commercial factories separate the bran from the germ. the germ has pretty much no nutritional value, but it’s light and fluffy. That’s the part we get at the store (livestock gets the bran). The factories re-add 7 vitamins and minerals that were initially stripped away (Wheat before the process has something close to 30). Even “whole wheat” has only limited amounts of bran added back in. No I can’t make light fluffy French bread with ONLY my grain, but I can use over 1/2 what the recipe calls for, and that’s a ton more nutrition than I’d otherwise get.

Do you know what goes into your escape on a vis a vis?

What little girl DOESN’T want to be Cinderella on her wedding day. Well, what little girl that does NOT work in the carriage industry that is. There’s a distinction there. The work that goes into your magical, Cinderella like dream starts weeks before you exit the white vis a vis on your perfect day.

The horse needs to be looking and feeling his best. Felling his best is an every-day priority. Day in, day out, 365 days a year. He needs to be fed, watered and looked  over. Every other month his feet are trimmed. Fecal samples are sent to a lab 1-2x a year to determine if he needs to be dewormed. He’s also vaccinated annually and a few months later gets a couple boosters. ALL this work is simply basic, pasture ornament horse care. Once we get into work, even just pleasure driving, we now might need shoes. Then for the looking good part. A healthy, happy horse will ALWAYS look better than a sickly, unhappy one. But even when starting from a good regiment, some extra care needs to be taken. In exercise, in grooming, and in work.
Valentines day is the start of our season here in Georgia. Our busy season starts around Halloween and is in full swing Thanksgiving through Christmas. The parties, corporate events, etc. during this time keep Max in work 2-4 days a week. He looks AMAZING at the end of this period. But by the end, he needs a little break and so do us drivers (who usually have other day jobs in addition to driving). The tack needs to be cleaned and repaired as do the carriages. A month or so of rest, and back to work getting ready
The first thing is the horse. He’s the most important part of this outfit, obviously. We use a Belgian gelding named Maximus. With the 30 day count down until our 2016 debute comes the extra daily grooming (it takes more than a day to get red Georgia mud out of a tail people!), and work outs. Max rides as well as drives and we try to do a bit of both to make sure he’s properly muscled for his job. For example, you wouldn’t condition an endurance horse by barrel racing or schooling grids. Conditioning for Max is lots of LONG SLOW hills. Usually riding one day, driving 2 during this exercise. Once a week we do a  bit of dressage schooling. Learning self carriage is important for pulling a carriage (see what i did there?).  Really though, it helps him use and develop himself correctly as well as maintain flexibility & helps create a prettier picture.

Max coming up for dinner. This is where he loves when he’s not in town for work.

So far pretty much like getting ready for a show after a few weeks off, right? Now comes the tack. The harness we prefer for drafts uses a collar with hangs and traces. These 3 pieces are the parts that actually does the pulling. and of those pieces, it’s the traces and hangs that do all the work. the collar is for weight distribution.  The collar is leather and the traces (sometimes called tugs) are sturdy nylon with chain ends. These attach to whats called a swingletree which is bolted to the shafts right by the carriage. The shafts are for keeping the horse in line, turning, and breaking. Yep. Shafts are for “push”. The breeching is attached to the shafts and that’s your breaks. Some carriages have hydrolic breaks, but others do not. Our Shafts, swingletree, and upholstery are in need of some TLC, so now is the time to get all that done. Luckily we have a shop in town that refurbishes wood and they think they can handle us. The next closest carriage repair is in Greer, SC and even they send many of their things out to the Amish in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Fingers crossed they’re as good as they say they are!

I bet you never knew so much went into your special day looking like this….