Well, guys – sorry for the extra-long gap in posting but it has been a whirlwind summer — hosting guests every month– my Parents in June, Melissa & Mara in July, Jed’s mom in August, and my sister (yay … in 1 week!!!), as well as getting our horses home in June and adjusting to the very different lifestyle of having them here, and working on some remaining house projects … well…. we’ve been a bit pre-occupied.
To get back in the groove, I thought I’d post a bit about one of our most recent fun experiences — a classic New Hampshire tradition we’ve been able to partake in — showing at the Fair!
It started with Finn. We knew he had a background in driving — teams, “four in hand” (which means a team of 4 horses), and single. Worried to start diving into driving him without experience, we joined the Granite State Draft Club last year to start connecting with folks in our area who had experience not only driving, but using draft horses & ponies in everyday farm work (read: pulling logs, implements, haying, and sleighing.)
While Winter brings sleigh rallies and Spring ploughing competitions, Summer is all about the fairs. Teams compete nearly every weekend at regional fairs, picking up ribbons and much sought-after prize money.
I’m getting off track … rewind back to July, when our farrier found a condition in Finn’s hooves called White Line Disease, which can be devastating if left untreated. Our farrier caught it early, yet still had to pull his shoes and debride (or shave off) some of his hoof wall, which looks very dramatic and scary.
With his shoes off, he certainly wasn’t sound for riding and was incredibly tender on any ground but grass. He was also prone to sole abscesses since he had no protection from the shoes, which held his sole off the ground a bit. Because of this, we spent an extra 30-45 minutes daily, rigorously cleaning, powdering and duct-taping pads to his front feet to help relieve pain and avoid stone bruises or abscesses. If it rained, he stayed in. After a daytime of pasture, he was cleaned, re-powdered, and put in a bed of extra-deep shavings.
Finn camped out on pasture for a month with no exercise or riding, as he was too sore to be backed. Wondering what we could do to get him moving again, waiting for his hooves to literally ‘grow out’, we decided to start ground driving him.
We posted a video of this online, and Pam, a member of our Draft Club commented back that it looked like a good start and offered some pointers. Within a few days, she was over to our house, helping us in person (below, fitting him to a forecart we found and bought on Craiglist.)
After mastering walking around in circles with Finn, Jed wondered what else there was to do…
The next day, Pam sent me a message on Facebook. The Hopkinton Fair was in 2 weeks, and there was a class where Finn could pull a log. Jed could enter, and she would trailer us there and teach us everything we needed to know. We thought about it for a night. We messaged back the next morning…
We were in.
Jed spent two weeks practicing almost daily with an old 300-lb oak floor joist we found under the barn. He worked around cones, through cone ‘tunnels’ and around cone ‘weave poles’ — all obstacles he’d encounter in the show.
A few days before the show, we got the memo that Finn wouldn’t actually be pulling a log. Instead, it’d be a stone boat (which he had never even SEEN, let alone pulled) and compete alongside full-sized draft horses, like Belgians and Percherons (capable of much more pulling power.) GULP.
In our minds, we resolved that just loading Finn in the trailer, getting there and having the fair experience, as well as getting home safely, would be a win for us. Trailering horses to new places (and away from their buddies) can be very stressful, so we certainly had a bit a sleepless night beforehand, wondering if things would go smoothly.
We packed our hay, water, grooming supplies and harness, as well as a sack lunch and chairs Friday night. We went to bed, readying ourselves for the 4:15am alarm Saturday morning…
<the story continues tomorrow … stay tuned!>