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Let’s Go Ridin’ – for Jan. 15, 2009

Well, friends, we are in the depths of winter, and the weather is making it difficult to spend much quality time with our equine partners. But I find I can still get my fix by reminiscing about good times spent with horses, many from my childhood.

A favourite memory of mine as a kid growing up on the farm with horses was going to the bush with my dad on many a frosty day. Morning chores would be done, the team of horses fed and watered, then harnessed and hitched to the bobsleigh, ready for a day’s work. In those days, that involved cutting a load of rails to sell, or wood for the stove. A good saw, axe and “billy tin” seemed to be all that was required – and, of course, the family dog, Tex, who was always eager to go.

The journey to the bush would include making a trail across the wooded country and crossing the lake, which with frequent trips kept a good track open for the team. I will always remember the jingle-jangle of the chains on the tugs of the harness, and the crisp creaking sounds the bobsleigh made as it glided through the snow.

Upon arriving at the chosen spot, Dad would have us kids gathering bits of branches and bark to start a fire to warm up, and the billy tin was filled with snow several times to melt enough water for a pot of hot tea.

My dad was a good horseman and skilled bushman, and had a real knack for breaking horses to harness. There seemed to be a feeling of trust on both sides. He would draw the lines over the horses’ backs to the side he was working on, and may a time with a cluck he’d holler “A little bit, boys” and they would step ahead. One whoa meant stop. Gee and haw were verbal commands to turn right or left. They learned patience and didn’t seem to mind waiting. It really was a team effort.

As the load was cut down, it was loaded onto the sleigh and we made sure the stakes on the bunks were solid to take home a good-size load securely. Climbing up on top of the load, we all found our spots for the ride back. Upon returning home, horses were unhitched, unharnessed and cooled down, fed and watered and put in their bedded stalls for the night. All seemed content with a good day’s work done. Good times make great memories.

Till next time, stay in the saddle and never say whoa in a bad spot!

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