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Posts Tagged ‘Training horses’

Big J’s been out in the Virginia woods for some real-world logging training with the rest of the working crew this month, along with Jason’s young gelding Chain; two beginners learning from the best, both men and experienced workhorses.

He’s posted photos on his FB page, the first of many, I hope.

J turned 10 on Sunday.  She’s in foal to Rudy, Ridgewind Farm’s standing stud; her third pregnancy that I know of.  I bought her and her daughter from a guy in Michigan two January’s ago and shipped them to Jason’s farm for training and, it was hoped, to be subsequently used by a couple of apprentices as a starter team.

They were two big, beautiful Suffolk mares completely herd-bound to each other, hardly even green-broke, and sorely in need of patient, constant handling to develop ground manners, as well as basic training as future workhorses.  They got lots of both, but the pair of young horseloggers needed a team to start their business long before my two girls were ready to pull their share of the load, so the original plan changed.

Then changed some more, last Fall, when we decided to split up the mother/daughter pair after realizing the 5-yr-old’s temperament – disruptive, flighty, nervous, and protective of her mother – would always  prevent the two from becoming a well-mannered, quiet, dependable team.   It’s a common problem with a pair of horses left to themselves as these two were, and the mother-daughter bond only makes it worse.

Another Biological Woodsman logging with Suffolks in southwestern Virginia took a liking to the bred young mare, an offer was made, and she has moved on to work for him and get him started as a Suffolk breeder.  And I’ll be looking for a big, broke Suffolk gelding next summer to match up with Big J, who is becoming a wonderful workhorse under Jason’s tutelage.

And so the months go by, and the work of training a horse to pull logs out of woods continues, as time and opportunity permits.   I am so very grateful for all the effort and care and experience that is going into this endeavor.   The hope is to have a well-trained team to begin with, when I move to the farm and start working in earnest on all that needs done.  I have a neglected forest to manage, trees to cut for barn timbers, and pastures to mow and maintain, just for starters.  My team of Suffolks will eventually do all the field and forest work, leaving the tractor to scoop manure and compost, lift heavy things, and provide power in the barnyard.  We’ll start slow and small, of course, and having a team trained by Jason to train me as I learn will be worth its weight in gold.

Lessons in the woods - resting is a reward

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adam-and-j

  The horses have been at Jason’s for a month and a half now; not all of that time in training, of course – work schedules and weather take precedence as they should – but they’ve been getting schooled in all the basics and have really come a long way.  Mel and Adam have handled them nearly every day and worked with Jason on all the lessons so this is a real team effort.  I am glad we were able to get the horses to them well before they were finished with their Biological Woodsmen apprenticeship, so they are part of the girls’ training right from the start.  It will make for a very strong bond between the young horses and handlers, I think.

The weather was cold and nasty as January finished out, so they spent time in the barn, introducing them to bits in their mouths and simply handling them a lot on the ground including mane and forelock thinning.  They discovered J didn’t like being touched on her poll or top of the head, and would fret and shake her head, so that had to be worked through.  Adam is very tall (he makes her look small in the photo above but she’s really a brute) and exceptionally patient, which helped a great deal. 

Next they sacked them out with an old bridle, and put the harness on them.  More bit familiarity, learning to be comfortable with it in their mouths, eat around it, and yield to pressure as a signal.   Jason wrote, “They are getting better manners every day, and we will keep up their handling toward the end of them being productive working animals.”  I’d remarked they were like kindergarten students, to which Jason replied they were more at an elementary school level – such good news to hear. 

Hooves were trimmed the next week, and the horses did very well – all the daily handling had paid off.  On February 5th Jason wrote, “I think they did very well with the foot work.  Having good control on their head and teaching them about standing still, respecting our space and being rewarded for submitting to our handling of their feet is important.  They are tractable.  We will make great horses out of them.”  

They are spending time in separate box stalls during the day, which is making them braver and less attached to each other as a herd, and better animals all around.  School is going well.

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