another PLOW DAY

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paintponylvr

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Very LONG story - grab your favorite drink and sit a spell...

************

So... things weren't going completely right that morning. I hadn't found paperwork that hubby swore he tossed into the rear seating of the cab. I was going crazy looking for it - realized I was running late and headed in. I debated not going - Vicki and I weren't going to be meeting up and it's been more than 6 months since I've driven to this farm. Would I remember where it was??? I couldn't even remember how far away it actually was - thinking 2.5 hours...

I showered and dressed in jeans/boots (did chores in shorts, crocs, tank top and a jacket) but sat contemplating while putting on boots. Finally decided - YES - I'm going, by golly, I'd remember how to get there once I was on the road and silly me - my phone works and usually Spot answers his phone when it rings... So out to load ponies - the one who had never loaded thru the emergency door hopped right in but the two experienced travelers wanted nothing to do with loading so that took a bit of time. Re-checked lights and hit the road. I pulled out of my drive, by myself after saying good by to hubby, at 0830 - 1.5 hours after had planned on leaving. I had had one mug of coffee and a yogurt at 0530, I was hungry and planned on stopping if I was making good time about 25 miles out at the McD's in Dunn, NC. All the lites I hit between my place and the 1st McD's were green and smooth sailing - so I pulled in. Good things kept happnin' - my order of coffee and McMuffin were handed to me before I'd paid!! Headed right back out to the truck, quick check - all 4 ponies quiet. Fixed my coffee & on the road again. Worries dropped away as I opened the windows, turned up the heat for the 1st time of the fall and cranked the radio up. All lites green to the underpass and then turned off of one Hwy to another...

Sailed w/ no traffic all the way up to Mt. Olive. I remembered his place was some place AFTER that, but could not remember exactly how far. So I started paying attention. A trk/horse trlr turned into the road one vehicle in front of me and I wondered if they were going to the same place I was. Nope - a couple of paved roads later, he turns right off the hwy and I have further to go and must turn left. The big sign for a horse place pops up (I nod, remembering that). Have further. Then I recognize a fence. And a bunch of trees and start slowing down as I'm thinking it's right around the next curve when my phone rings. I nearly jump thru the windshield, but am turning into the farm drive when I answer and Vicki hollers "WHERE ARE YOU??? THOUGHT YOU WERE AHEAD of US"... "I just pulled in - how's parking?" "Well, where we've parked before is pretty full, but there's some space up near the buildings right now...". I turn towards the "Western Town" entrance gate, but there's plenty of space behind Vicki's rig, so I pull in behind her rather than up to the other area... WOW. The no-traffic and smooth sailing - I'd made it there in 1 hour and 10 minutes, even with my stop for bFast... well, maybe when it's "smooth" I go a little faster than the speed limit, BIG GRIN. I stretched and looked around and another WOW - it's packed around here with both rigs, some wagons/carts, horses and all kinds of cars and golf carts! I'd only been to Spot and Sheila's place 4 times in the past 3 years - this is the biggest crowd I've ever seen at any of the NC Working Horse and Mule Events. And it appears that us horse people just know how to park (or they'd had some crowd control earlier doing the parking) - as the vehicles were all in equal and neat lines in each area... I took a deep breath of the "country air" (was thankful the breeze was blowing towards the turkey houses, LOL) - of the fresh cut "hay". All the rain had drained off well at his place, and the turf was very springy! Later I would realize his place was actually very dry...

The ponies did ok unloading and I tied them out where I wanted them. I "parked" KoKo and Cupid on the shadey side of the trailer w/ their haynet and a bucket of water. Then put GG and Bell on the other side. Unloaded the wagon, hooked up the tongue and the double tree. Ran a quick brush over GG and Bell, then harnessed them up. Hadn't gotten very far when the requests for info started w/ people that weren't used to seeing ponies/minis in "work harness" - "R U gonna hook 'em to a wagon?" "Do they plow" "Do you know where they are having the plowing at?" "Can they really pull ... you and the wagon?" (hmmm...) Had seen a couple of other folk also running late & we all called "Hello's" to each other. Then Angela called to me - "Hey, Paula, can you give me a hand?" - her daughter had already headed out somewhere and her pair of young riding type horses were giving her fits. Honestly, I think I got wider eyed as I got closer to them. I'd never hitch my ponies acting like that and she was going to hitch them??? As I approached, the off side mare went straight up and while I wasn't that close to her, it sure seemed like all I was seeing was her belly!! She drug the left side mare several feet forward and I wondered how Angela was able to hold them (Angela is 1/2 my size - literally!), but they were responding to the lines. I don't remember what I asked her, but her answer was yes, the neck yoke was a little different on her carriage. They kept swinging their butts apart and I asked about tieing them back to the trailer to hitch them. "NO, no, they'll be fine... Here, hold them and I'll get a breeching chain that I didn't put on them yet." They hopped around, foam flew back and splashed, but we were pretty much in the same spot when she quickly returned. She snapped it on, took the lines and drove them over the tongue and someone else came running to help. We got the neck yoke done and they both quieted down a bit, then traces in place and Angela was up (in a "split skirt" no less!) in her carriage w/ her proper driving gloves and a pretty little hat that stayed in place all day.

I suddenly was "very tired" - still had to finish harnessing my girls and hitch them as well and GG, young filly that she is, was starting to dance around too. I had unloaded the wagon straight off the trailer and hadn't thought about pulling it around to hitch the girls while they were tied... Since this was a plow day, not a trail driving day, there wasn't a set time to go out in a group. People arrived and did what they needed to and headed out. Never having been here on a plow day, I had no idea where the plowing was taking place - how far we were from the fields or which way we needed to go to get there (S & S Ranch is HUGE). Vicki and James, along w/ their grand daughter, Jasmine, had already harnessed, hitched, saddled up and were warming up - but Kreature (Bell's son and GG's 1/2 brother) kept calling every time he was out of sight and GG was responding to him - looking around, shaking & pawing, calling back. That was new to me - in all of her 3 years, I'd rarely ever heard GG's voice! As I unhooked her lead from the trailer and wrapped it around the hames, she arched her neck and snorted and pranced. O, boy. Didn't see Vicki's crew anywhere, so just stepped back to where I needed to be after pulled the lines loose and untied Bell, took another deep breath and said a quiet "haw" and turned them away from the trailer and the wagon. Drove up to the truck and grabbed my knife out of the door while they stood, GG is now quiet and looking around. Shut the door, pressed the lock 2x making it honk and the girls' stood fast. GOOOD PONIES. Aksed them to go straight up, then another quiet "ponies, Gee" and swung around in front of the nose of the truck (letting it "force" them to make a tighter, proper "gee" turn), then back to the wagon. Crossed the tongue one way, then turned around and started back over it. Bell halted properly and I asked her to "Step" and she moved up but not quite enough. That was OK. I'd stepped up to hook the tongue when Vicki's pair popped out from between the two vehicles next to us and then proceeded to move out in front of the girls. That upset them - A LOT. Even Bell thought she was being "left behind" - though she's usually pretty good about that. I left the yoke, quieted them for a sec and drove them forward and back around to the tongue again. I had the yoke hooked up, and Bell's traces hooked and was going to move around the front of my pair when James was suddenly there - he asked where GG's chains needed to be hooked... "THANX!" and I too, was in the wagon seat as the girls stood alert, but quiet. A deep breath, bounce on the seat a couple of times to double check that they are ok, gathered the lines for a nice "feel", then I ask them to step out. They did - together. I turned away from Vicki for a minute - to give my pair a chance to walk away from everyone for a moment and also to clear my brain. Walked back up towards the front of the truck, towards a couple of other rigs then turned back around - also allowing me one last check of the "pair" staying at the trailer. As I pulled back up next to Vicki, I asked if she'd checked to see where we were going. No, she hadn't and no, she didn't know where it was. Why don't we just follow the road in the direction we'd seen the others go? No problem. Then I recognize a truck that is pulling out ahead of us with several people in it and ask Bell and GG to trot out to follow it. Nice trot, but it's really moving! I don't follow any faster and after a lengthy trot between the turkey houses, I stop the pair for their first little break and realize that Vicki hadn't followed me at a trot and we waited for them to catch up. We see some folks taking the road to the right and some continung around the bend to the left and she pointed out that the trails were ahead to the left so that is the way we go... I lead for a little while, then Vicki leads, and I drop back. We now see ahead where there's a HUGE dust cloud, so figure that's where the plowing is going on.

Get a little closer and we see the REST of the vehicles (yep, here's the ones for all the "big boys" and their equipment), more horses, wagons, plows, teams hitched, teams plowing, a CROWD of folks - on foot, in golf carts, carts, wagons and carriages, and sitting on vehicles, trailer edges and chairs lined up in front of the fields. I see where there are other drivers on the far side of the fields (there are actually 3 separate large fields being plowed) - but not how they got over there? Vicki and James are visiting with another person or two and I am starting to answer the questions of several people, too. But GG hasn't really worked much and this is an overwhelming amount of stuff for her to accept and she's not being terrible bad, but she's not quite standing still and when she backs tight into her breeching and keeps it too snug every time I ask her to "step up", I decide we need to go drive somewhere - anywhere but right there. I can't take pictures in this crowd w/ this "fresh pair" anyway, nor really divide my attention, so I call to Vicki that I want to go drive a bit... I start around the one fence but realize the area is blocked off ahead ... Didn't realize there was another trail cutting to the left - some one hollers to me that it's there so I turn back around the fence and hunt it... Find it and we are on the trails! I started out leading, but then in a wide spot, pull up and let Vicki lead for a while. The girls did awesome - and better when we came to two different muddy water crossings - one a little more water and the other a lot more mud. Sink back a bit and relax into the wagon seat - bird song (don't know what) and bees drone along w/ the little bit of breeze that filters thru the trees. It's nice, quiet, shaded just enough to really enjoy. We meet up w/ some other carriages and riders - they continue the way they are going and we go a different track.

Here's a picture of me and "my girls" that James turned around and snapped of us. Well can tell GG (darker silver pinto) has been throwing her head some - all of her forelock is now outside of her browband.



and here is one that I took from the wagon seat when we came back out of the trails and drove along the same road back to the plowing area. This time, GG stands a little better!



and here is one that James takes as we are now driving back along the road towards the trailers. We drove for an hour - could have driven a little longer, but it was enough. WE did give a ride to a mom and her daughter - back to the Western Town...



So, we return to the back of the trailer and I unhitch and unharness the pair. I get them water - which both drink, hang up theri hay net and they are happy. I take my camera with me as I wander up to the "western town" and get some pics. Talk to a few folks, find my way to an outhouse, visit some more and go back to my truck for a bottle of water. Back up to the "town" as others are starting to gather for the 1 pm expected dinner... There are many drivers, many plow men and lots of spectators. Someone said there turned out to be more than 400 people there. GREAT dinner, nice fellowship. After that, there is a demo given by Rex McArthur w/ his "listening horse". Then some folks pack up to head home (a handful have actually come in travel trailers & spent the night and will be staying again), some re-harness/re-hitch and are out to either plow or do more driving.

I had not brought two things - a set of extension chains to attach to the chain traces of the mini harness for the next "pair", nor the mini sized tongue for my wagon. That was OK, I'd planned on ground driving since this pair hasn't been hitched before and this may not have been the place. Maybe it would have worked great (a lot of people cleared out!), maybe not so much... Well, I decided for this - his 3rd time ground driving as a pair, I'd put the 3 yr old gelding (in an open bridle) on the right side instead of on the left. This is KoKo's 2nd time being ground driven as a pair - she's going to be an awesome driving pony (actually she'd been hitched single to an ez entry cart last winter 5 different times). Cupid is immediately better on the right than he has ever been on the left. I tuck a water bottle into my hip pocket, put my gloves on and borrow a set of pair lines from Vicki that she doesn't like and hasn't used. Run them, along with the breeching strap and then start out ground driving. Vicki is driving her pair again - they need work. For some reason she wants me (on foot) to lead them out. Gak! When a truck pulls in behind Vicki's wagon, I ask my pair for a trot thru an area that is just the sandy road and fencing w/ no way to move out of the way. We trot on.. and on...and on...and on. Found out i've lost enuff weight that I can still "double time" behind a team. Don't think we've even gone a 1/4 mile, but doesn't matter as soon as the fence turns off, I cut the pair towards it out of the way and STOP! I need to breathe. The pair had actually done well and I'm happy with them, but I have to lean on their butts while my lungs catch up and my legs become stronger than jello.



Man, it seems like the plowing area is a long way from the main farm area. All I can think of now is - I must rest some when we get to the plowing area as I'm going to need to make it back, LOL. KoKo doesn't appear to feel well either. She's a little bit too quiet. She becomes "draggy" and isn't responding to the lines or voice for anything resembling faster than a walk now... When we do get to the plowing area (I don't think I want to know how far it really is), she stretches like a dog when I asked them to "whoa" (down on her front legs, her head down towards her hooves and her butt pointed up to the sky) - 2 different times. She switches her tail a few times. I was thinking about their water bucket - I'm wondering if she'd drunk anything. I'm thinking maybe not? I don't normally like my ponies to drink from any kind of communal tank, but a drink is better than a colic at this point. I get them moving and get them up to the HUGE stock tanks at the opening to this field. Cupid puts his head in to drink and KoKo just dips her chin and plays. Then she plays again - this time swishing water back and forth and lipping. Then again & again. I figure she's at least getting some moisture - whether she's drinking or not. Cupid is acting like he's going to climb in and go for a swim (this is a big 1/2 round tank - probably had once been a grain silo. Don't think it would have supported him if he'd climbed in - that could have been bad.) I hold the lines snug enuff to keep him from climbing in. And like KoKo, 2x he paws like he's going to try to climb up into the tank. KoKo proceeds to take a couple of drinks and immediately "perks up"... so now I know that she needs to have water specifically (other than a couple of short trips, she's never been out and about since coming home in 2009 as a weanling). Plus, I'd gotten a new round bale in their pasture the day previous - even though she didn't have access to it all night (she and Cupid had gone into the round pen Friday nite), she'd been able to be at it all day. They hadn't run out, they do have some grass, but I do believe she'd "gorged" a bit on that bale of "new hay"...

Vicki and James want to take join a group of riders to do the trails again and I wave them goodbye. I'll rest in the shade a bit more before heading back to the trailer... Before they leave, James gets this shot of a rider checking out KoKo and Cupid as we rest in the shade. I'm leaning on that tree to the left of KoKo there.



So, after getting his drink, Cupid wants to be a romping idiot. At one point as he's trying to pull ahead and I'm asking for a turn that KoKo is coming around into, he rears. I now know what he does and manage to keep him from turning towards his partner and straddling her. As he comes down, though, he puts his left fore leg thru her lead line that is draped between her halter and her hames. One of the guys sitting on a trailer sees and points it out just as I realize he's caught. For once, his brain engages and when I say "whoa" - he freezes. I'm able to get around them to his head. Try as I might, I can't get the snap loose, but I'm able to pull and since I hadn't actually tied off the line, I get it pulled from her hames. I free them both, they relax more, and then I step around KoKo's side and reattach the lead line to her hames. they we ground drive back up to the water, they both again drink and then I head them back along the road back to the trailers. That is a LOOOONNNGGG walk. KoKo does ok. Cupid behaves. They do great. I am alive.

Unharnessed, I offer our water hauled from home to both. Neither is interested. So I lead them up past Vicki's trailer to a point where there is another communal tank. This one is a black rubbermaid 100 gallon one like theirs at home. They both plunge their muzzles in and drink. and drink some more. I'd brought the small bucket up and dipped up water - which I then poured over Cupid's back. He takes another draught and then backs away from the tank. I step in front of him and also pour water on KoKo. She stands still for the first bucket, but after that she acts like she's never seen water or gotten any kind of a bath. I quit pouring water on them enough to see if they want to drink more and they don't. KoKo's gums have good capillary refill and are nicely pink and not gummy. They get tied to the trailer while I load the wagon, unhook the tongue and double tree. I'd put their harness(s) in the wagon, their collars go into the wagon too. Then I load them and take Bell and GG to water. They had drunk water from their bucket - emptying it 2x. They both take a sip from the tank and then stand. Back to the trailer and I load them up.

Vicki says they plan on stopping on the way home to get ice and I nod and wave. I'm about done - my body says "HOME"... I call out a lot of good byes to folks that are still around as I head out. I got "caught" behind some slow drivers and can't get around them on the way home. Seems to take forever. Then hit the area around Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC and there is a football game. The police have 4 lanes turned into 1 to go all the way thru... Think that's the longest 15 minutes I've ever sat in traffic! Move slowly, inch by inch and then open lanes. Whew - now it's once again smooth sailing home. Arriving, I stumble into the house for a much needed pit stop and remove my boots from my screaming feet. Change from jeans back to shorts and crocs. Then back out to unload. I put the ponies into the 3 correct pastures, then set up feed for ponies. I filled water tanks at home. The ponies I'd brought home got about 30 minutes to roll and rest before I started feeding in the brood mare barn (Bell and GG eat in this pasture). Work my way around - in the round pen pasture KoKo comes up to be caught again to eat. She's once again her perky, pony self. I assume she just got too hot, had had too much "new hay" the previous day and hadn't drunk quite enough. I had already cut her feed some - I added extra water to her ration, too. I poured her cool soup into her bucket and went on to feed the rest. Later, when I went to turn her loose - she'd finished hers and actually licked her bucket DRY. She didn't attempt to lie down while tied, so I turned her loose and decided not to be worried about her for the night.

Everyone else is fine. I handled little Dan D before he and his dam go back out to the brood mare pasture. It's now getting dark and I smile up into the sky. Night sounds have moved in. It didn't start out the best, it had a couple of times things could have been bad, but the day had been NICE. 4 ponies had gotten worked and LOTs of exposure to people, other horses, equipment and loading/unloading in new situations. I believe I dropped some weight (imagine that!). The food was good, I've always enjoyed the driving at these functions. I met some new folks, gave out some pony cards, gave some rides to folks who couldn't believe that the ponies could pull a wagon. Not sure if I will ground drive ponies like that again! But what I did went well and added to this pair's education. I went into the house and washed up, then grabbed the bottle of Ibuprofen. I sit before my hubby comes out of the bedroom (he's gotta get ready to go to work) and groan when he pulls me back to my feet for a hug. "Got sore, did ya?" "hmmm..." Larry leaves for work at 10 pm and I'm in the shower soon after and fall into bed until about 6 am Sunday morning.

My picture links - NCWHMA

Vicki's picture links - NCWHMA 2013

Monday - KoKo is still good. Cupid, Bell and GG are all doing fine. I'm dragging a bit, LOL. Time for bed again.
 

studiowvw

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Fun story - great reading about your day. Great stuff and lots of challenges!

Wish I could have been there! I've started leading Diesel (2yo) and Lacey (5, trained single) together - she's on the right and he's on the left. He is learning to step out more and stay even instead of dragging wayyyy back.

Not sure I will drive them as a team (I need to improve as a driver) but I will certainly get to ground driving together.
 

paintponylvr

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The one thing I do recommend is to change sides now and then. Just like working with your individual horses from each side, they should/could learn to drive from either side. Of course, they may decide that they prefer to work on one side or the other, but the training never hurts and could be a "life saver" some time...

I expect to hitch KoKo & Cupid or Cupid & Iggy sometime this week - however that may change somewhat. I am going in for an interview and tour to see if I will fit at a local vet clinic as a new employee - both in the back as an unlicensed tech w/ the dogs and cats and in the front as a receptionist. If we all "fit", I have a new job at least 3 days a week - not even sure the hours yet... Wish me luck - I'd looking forward to this position and I think I'm ready after a year off from working (a large portion of which I was very ill).

I really do enjoy doing these different events. I need to go look at a stalk cutter - have to arrange to take someone whom knows more than me about them with me to the place and it's also a long drive. If it will work, it's a little smaller than some I've seen - that's why I want to check it out with the ponies. Might even take a pair or 3 abreast team with me to try it...
 
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paintponylvr

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U can see LOTS of pics of the various events we've been to with this club since 2010 if you go to the link at the bottom of the post. Not sure anyone does that...

How fun to go along with you on your adventure! Thanks for the write up and the pics.
 

studiowvw

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Good luck with the job interview!

"The one thing I do recommend is to change sides now and then. Just like working with your individual horses from each side, they should/could learn to drive from either side. Of course, they may decide that they prefer to work on one side or the other, but the training never hurts and could be a "life saver" some time..."

You are right and I'll be sure to switch them up. My reasoning for having Lacey on the right is that she is phobic about vehicles and DD isn't.
 

paintponylvr

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Thanx for the encouragement! I got the job and WOW, glad I've been spending so much time on my feet lately. I still am not totally prepared to be on my feet that many hours (while working), so I'm tired when I come home and my "dogs" are barking (feet hurt) ...

I have two long days (approx. 10 hrs/day) and two short days (approx. 7 hrs/day) and VERY thankful for Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays off. W/ the amount of time it takes me to do chores right now, that makes for LOOOONNNNGGGG days,
.

I enjoy all aspects of this very necessary job (it is a low cost spay/neuter clinic that also gets funds for several surrounding counties to do n/s for no charge to qualifying people). It is/can also be a very "thankless" job. My 2nd day, I was quite surprised by the anger and rudeness of folks who were getting for free what I have paid a lot of money for! Glad I've had several years of "defusing situations" experience - it came in handy.

I've seen a lot of influx of folks (especially in Mini horses) who have no experience what so ever and get into horses, often by "accident" or impulse. I never "applied" those numbers to the dog/cat "industry"... The sheer numbers of animals that this clinic spays/neuters is staggering and the comments and questions from newbies are amazing. Having grown up around animals and livestock (even though we were military and moved around the country and the world), I guess I just never thought there were people out there who truly have NO knowledge of cats/dogs, their handling and their production capabilities.

Hmm, to make this more driving related - I haven't been able to do any driving this week & did lots of non-pony property maintenance last weekend but may get some driving done tomorrow (going to check out that stalk cutter - taking 4 ponies up there with me)... Did get to work with ponies today - the 3 foals got their hooves trimmed. Echo stood pretty nicely on an almost loose line (I had actually trimmed his hooves once myself). Rio wasn't happy about our invasion to his body - he didn't mind the nipping so much but rasping - woof! He's small enough to hold on to easily, though. And then there was "Bunny".... think we may have to rename her "Stripe" (remember the movie "Gremlins"?)??? Since birth she really has not liked being touched. While I've done a bit of handling - she lets you know that she finds it unpleasant. I almost forgot that you really have to watch her teeth...

When I get a little more used to the hours and the work, I'll work into the schedule regular working time with our ponies. Since we are looking at going to a night parade, the change in daylight hours will give me some working time soon!
 
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