Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Well, for both of you who read my blog, I thought you might like to know that we lived to tell the tale! We "practiced" in the corral for a minute with a "pretend" tongue to be sure that the feeling of the wood against Bowers' legs wouldn't bother him. Then we hitched them to the fore-cart and the Rancher drove them around the corral! This picture is blurry, but I really like it!

Then we were off to the cows. It's about a half to 3/4 of a mile to the stack yard. Sure was nice to not have to walk it today! Then we hitched to the bale roller, and fed those cows!

The boys did GREAT! We did have a little snaffoo on the second bale. It was a very hard pull either because of the snow in front of it, or it was frozen down. The team didn't pull together like a team should, and they couldn't get it to move. Bowers was thinking, this is WAY heavy, and so after a few tries, he would back up when we asked him to walk instead of trying to go forward at all. It was apparent that if we continued with the same approach we were going to teach him to be very balky about pulling a load. So we unhitched from the bale (not from the cart) and the Rancher drove them around for a few minutes with plenty of stops and starts, so that they could regain their confidence. While he did this, I removed the snow from in front of the bale. Then we hooked a chain between the cart and the bale roller so that the team could walk forward a few steps before hitting the load. This worked well, and they were able to break the bale loose. We then removed the chain and hitched the cart back to the roller, and away we went.
I finally got to drive, and the Rancher took some pictures.
For a friend that asked for more detail about the bail un-roller, here it is. The frame makes 3 sides of a square, with a short tongue on the middle side. The steel is 3" channel iron and the corners are reinforced. The open end has a whole bored in each end that allows a very large "pin" to be placed in it, and locked on one end with a carter pin.

The pin is removed and the frame is placed around the bale appropriately. The pin is then placed in the whole on one side of the frame and lined up with the center of the bale. Then, the fun part. Grab the closest sledge hammer and pound that pin through the center of the bale.
This isn't as hard as it seems. I can do it, but the Rancher really makes it look easy!
Once you are through the whole bale, you line the other side of the frame up with the pin, attach it, and secure it with the carter pin. Hitch on to your pick-up, or your team of draft horses, and pull the bale to the desired location for feeding. Cut the strings, and move on up. Your bale should unroll nicely.... unless you have it on backwards! In which case you unhitch, and just flip the bale un-roller to the other side of the bale (you don't have to remove the roller to do this). Move your team to the other side, hitch 'em back up, and away you go again. We had lots of experience at this today, because both bales were "backwards"! It was great training for the team to line up, back up, stand still, and then pull.
This is a good picture of how it all looks. (Photo credit on this one goes to the Rancher!)

Oh, and just because the sun was shining doesn't mean it was WARM! Yesterday was a big goose egg when we left the house, and today was a whopping 10 degrees F with wind chills below zero! But we had so much fun, we didn't think of the cold (okay, 6 layers of clothing and Carhart Extremes help, too).

The end.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dreams Come True...

I remember the day, about 13 years ago, on our first ranch job when I rode Woody up to a wire gate and opened it from his back. It hit me at that moment that a dream had come true. I was riding the first colt I had ever trained (he was no longer a colt by then) and doing real ranch work with him. All those years of training where we just dreamed and pretended that we were doing something that had a purpose, and now it was for real.
Today, another dream came true. About 17 years ago I worked a summer internship for Bowers Bros. Horse Training. At the time, twin brothers Mike and Steve Bowers were training saddle horses and draft horses. They had enough hay ground to put the teams to work mowing, raking, and hauling hay in from the field. I fell in love that summer... with driving teams for a purpose. (I also fell in love that summer with the Rancher, but that's another blogpost.) Today we fed our cows with a team of horses!

That's "Bowers and Barney". Bowers is the one on the right (in the photo) with a blaze face. He came to us early last fall. Sadly, Steve Bowers passed away about a year and a half ago. This 3 year old Belgian colt was one that he had bought, but hadn't yet started. Peggy, Steve's wife, sent him to us to "give him a purpose". I don't know who has gotten more of an education, Bowers, or the Rancher and I! Like I said, it's been 17 years since my internship and I have only used a team a handful of times since. Thankfully, Steve Bowers, lives on in the books he has written. We have poured over and over the one we have, to learn and re-learn how to do this so as to teach Bowers the right way.

Barney, we bought at a draft horse auction in October. He's a tried and true sleigh ride horse, and who knows what he did prior to that! He's about 15 and has been-there-done-that. He's a good horse, but truth be told, Bowers is well on his way to being better. But they are the team we have. We've been ground driving them while the Rancher has been building all of the equipment neccesary to get the job done. He's built single trees, double trees, and a neck yoke. We don't have a sled to hitch them too, but we have pulled a small pasture harrow with Bowers, and hitched Barney to a borrowed cart.

We decided last night, as we looked out on the foot of snow, that today would be a good day to hitch them to a hay bale, and feed the cows. We hooked the double trees to the home made bale roller that the Rancher uses behind the pick-up. Then we hitched up the team. Bowers seemed to notice the new weight behind him, but didn't let it bother him. We fed two bales this way and then headed 'em home. It was quite a workout for the Rancher and I since we walked the whole way to the cows, walked for the feeding, and walked home. The Rancher replaced the shaves on the borrowed cart with a tongue later this afternoon... so tomorrow we won't have to walk as far! If all goes well! It will be the first time Bowers will be hitched with a tongue and to a wheeled vehicle, but we're counting on the deep snow, the breaks on the cart, and of course, his good training to bring us through!

If we live to tell the tale, I'll post about it!