Saturday was a rare day for us. We started the day early, CSA prep made the before dawn hours soar by and we rushed into Albany to hand off the goods to members who were assisting us for the day (thanks guys!).
Then we headed out to Cold Antler Farm, two hours down the other end of route 22 from us in Columbia County for a day long farmers horse workshop. I've followed cold antler's blog (coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com) for years now, but this was our first visit. Jenna, the farmer there, tells her story like a fellow traveler and is as welcoming in person as she is personable in her writing.
It's exceptionally hard for us to justify the expenditure in time and cash for anything but the necessities on farm. But this day was a necessity. We both got the opportunity to ride, ground drive and work with drafts. We were able to see two different farms with strong leaders who share their lives with horses. We heard from a farrier whose communication and skill with Steele, a magnificent Percheron was envious and brilliant. And we fell hopelessly in love.
From the second I saw Kim nearly race towards her chance each time she could directly handle drafts ten times her size, I knew she was sold on our path. I swung my leg over Merlin's strong Fell pony back, I could feel my farm world shift. There are moments this clear in my farming journey, where something intangible and idealized suddenly become hard outlines of the future. I felt this way when we first stepped foot on our farm.
Each piece of equipment was demystified by our guides for the day and it felt good to see the names I've poured over in books come to life. The enthusiasm and attentiveness by Jenna and Patty to us and to their horses was... well just great.
It's so hard not to mythologize horse farming, to idealize it. But for me, the reality of those reigns and lines in my hands was actually greater then the stories I had created in my mind. Yes, all of this was under the careful supervision of those with much more knowledge, but both were where we are not that long ago. They got where they are now through hard work and dedication. We have that, and so it feels possible.
Drafts are not just a practical solution to our need for field work, they are a living symbol of the life we are committed to. I can see us heading out for trail rides, caring for the soil and learning the subtle dance of a draft relationship. We are ready to begin, stop dreaming, and make it a reality.
Well, after we get through this hurricane, that is.