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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Misty in training for the International Plowing Match 2015

We sold our Belgian horse Misty last spring but we have been keeping up to date on all her activities. Her new owner, Roy Sherrer of Shermount Farms near Spencerville has trained her to pull. This is a true testament to the man’s ability as a horse trainer – and our lack of it.
When we got Misty and her sister Ashley back in February of 2009, they were pretty much ‘green’ – and so were their new owners. They were accustomed to being led out of their barn every morning and back into the barn every evening by a rope attached to their halters. We tried this. It only worked if the horse actually felt like moving.
I don’t know how many times I was late for work, and pulling with all my strength on the end of Misty’s lead, trying to make the big horse bend to my will. I would just hang there like a soap on a rope, until she finally decided to stroll out of the stable and into the barnyard, where she spent her day.
Part of the problem is that Ashley was the leader, Misty the follower. When we lost Ashley to some mysterious fever or allergy in 2010, her sister was left to figure things out on her own. Mostly she decided Donkey was her new leader. Chaos reigned.
Donkey would help break the horse and sheep out of the barnyard so they could go eat apples on the front lawn and wander down the road to freak out the neighbours.
I got him to follow me back to the barnyard with apples or sweetfeed in my hand, and the rest of the herd followed. Including Misty.
And so this is how things were on the farm, for the next five years. When Roy bought our big horse from us, we had high hopes that he would be able to train her to do actual horsey things. Follow instructions. Pull a wagon, even. We expected it would take a while, but we had faith that wonderful things were in her future.
Sure enough, within the first few weeks we received photos and a video of Misty pulling a wagon. I could not believe that was my stubborn, skittish horse, pulling with all her might, next to another beautiful blonde Belgian. I got choked up with motherly pride.
Roy said he put the harness and yoke on Misty, and she started a bit. She has never even had a saddle on her before. Well, maybe once. Her previous owner hitched her up to a wagon for a photo opportunity once. But never again.
Hitched for the first time, Misty likely was confused and a bit scared. But as soon as she realized she was not alone in her situation – another (more confident and experienced) horse was right beside her - I imagine she was comforted, and then probably a little excited. The conversation probably went a little like this.
“Hi. I’m Goldie. Who are you?”
“I’m Misty. What’s goin’ on?”
“We’re hitched. Have you never been hitched before? Oh great…”
“Oh…hitched. Ok. I think I’ve seen this before. We pull, right?”
“Yes, we pull. Just follow my lead and when you feel me pull, you pull as hard as you can. You look strong. You’ll be fine.”
Roy was surprised to hear Misty had never pulled before, because she was a natural. She stumbled a bit at first, unaccustomed to timing her steps to another horse. But, a born follower, she quickly caught on and began to pull her own weight, and then some.
He taught her to pull the stone boat – a heavy float laden with cement blocks. When she was fully trained, he sold her to someone in Quebec.
I’m trying not to think too much about that part, because it stresses me a bit to think she is no longer going to be close enough for me to visit. Not that I visited her in the past – I thought it would upset me too much.
We will see her again, however, if only one more time. I am very proud to announce that Misty and her teammate will be pulling at The 2015 International Plowing Match in Finch this September 22-26. I’ll be the one in the floppy hat in the front row, cheering her on. Likely with a few proud tears in my eyes.

Watch for “The Accidental Farmwife – Volume 1” coming to a bookstore near you in 2016. 

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