Thursday, December 31, 2009

Track Issues Day 19

The above photo shows a good view of the whole set-up of harness, shafts and sleigh. You can zoom in by clicking on it (if it's in a good mood). My passengers wished to remain anonymous so they dove for cover when the camera came out.

The snow is piling up here and I'm floundering around, trying to find the best way to keep the sleigh track easy for CJ. The snowblowing worked for part of the track but I didn't attempt the uphill portion of the track (the snowblower is mounted on the back of the tractor, so you have to drive backwards to snowblow). So a friend came over with her two skidoos and we roared around the rest of the track four times to pack down the snow in a wide track.

The next day, I led CJ along the skidoo track and found he punched through every second step, but with repeated use he'll beat down a path for his hooves. The day after that it snowed two inches, so I walked the whole track to make a trail right in the middle of the track. CJ follows any little track in fresh snow rather than picking his own route, so with my boot track I figured he'd follow and that would keep the sleigh in the middle of the track instead of riding up into the deep snow. It worked! When Dad and I drove him yesterday with the sleigh, he followed my tracks and I had very little correcting to do with the steering.

I have kept one section of track untouched except by CJ and the sleigh. I've decided that's the best track because it's quiet, he follows his own track and needs no steering and the sleigh runners stay in their tracks. So next year, I'll just keep the sleigh going from the first snowfall and that'll probably do it.

The only problem we had yesterday was getting started at the barn. Up till now, my Dad led CJ the first 100 yards or so as I drove from the sleigh but yesterday we tried having CJ stand alone while I was in the sleigh so he gets the idea he should just relax until he's asked by me to go. That worked fine. But then, with me and two passengers on board, CJ had a hard time overcoming the sleigh's inertia. Meeting the sleigh's resistance and thinking he couldn't move forward, he tried sideways, which almost slid us into the tractor (in slow motion). So we all piled out of the sleigh, moved him forward and tried again. The same thing happened. Dad then led him down the trail as we'd done before. Next time, I'll try starting him with only me in the sleigh, and then when we're on the trail (hopefully) I'll stop and invite the passengers in, and CJ should head off in a straight line when he's on the trail.

At this point, it seems I still need my passengers to be spritely and adventurous!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day! (Day 18 for CJ)

Christmas morning, after pancakes and presents, I headed out on the tractor and snowblowed the sleigh track. Then we loaded up two passengers in the back, with Dad as assistant (called the groom in driving parlance) and off we went, bells a-jingling!

It wasn't all as smooth as it looks. While hitching up, two deer ran by in the next field - we could see them through the trees - and CJ was fairly head-up about that. We got him past the deer and made one lap without passengers. The track was somewhat difficult because, even though it looks like a lovely smooth road, he wanted to walk in the tractor tire track, not the middle of the road! So as I aimed for the centre line, he kept swaying from one side to the other and the sleigh dug into the edges all along. On the way back from the first lap we almost tipped over coming around a corner. The sleigh dug in to the uphill side, that runner rode up on the snow and over we were going! He stopped after five whoas, while I was hopping with one leg on the ground and the other caught in the sleigh. Learned something there... Finally he stopped and we led him and the sleigh out of danger.

Then we were back at the barn and loaded up the two passengers. They were able to ride part way until the extra weight started pushing the runners too deep causing too much resistance for CJ. We threw out some ballast (one passenger) and carried on successfully.

We also discovered that CJ is completely desensitized to loud raucous singing!

CJ - Day 17 - A Field Day

We headed out to the field with CJ and the sleigh. Dad provided back-up with the lead rope while I drove from in the sleigh. Part way along, Dad rode some. CJ did really well except where the snow was deeper. At one point he balked and almost popped up in a rear so we whoaed quickly, hopped out and led him the rest of the way through the deeper snow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 16 - CJ Pulls The Sleigh!

After the video camera died, I hopped in the sleigh and drove from the front seat. We did a couple of figure eights in the parking lot and everything went well. My dad kept the lead rope on and walked with CJ, so next time we'll head into the field and take off the lead rope!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

CJ - Day 15

It warmed up! Here's a clip of us hitching up and heading out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Minus 35 Celsius (minus 31 F)

This is the kind of cold that makes your nose drop right off. I won't be harnessing CJ until it warms up!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CJ - Day 14

A thoughtful chickadee.

Ziggy hunting voles.

Katie listening for voles.

A passenger! (I wore my yellow pants just to keep CJ on his toes.)


Heading home.


A big thank you to Russ and Julia for today's photos.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CJ - Days 12 and 13

It's been so frosty out these days that the video camera won't work.

Day 12 was just a nice fuzzy bareback ride. I rode CJ out on the trail that I harrowed, figuring that I could keep him in a nice straight line through the fresh snow and then he'd follow his path the next time he pulled the stoneboat. Well, it was a good idea, but he wanted to follow the dog's track, who was sniffing along ahead of us. She makes only a thin trail through the snow, but still, he figured that would be easier going for him and I couldn't convince him otherwise. At least I managed to keep him on the harrowed track when the dog sped off after some scent or other.

Day 13 was a full lap of the fields with the stoneboat. It was a 40 minute work-out from hell as I floundered along beside him in the deep snow, holding the reins lightly like I had a tray of full wine glasses in my hands. CJ didn't even sweat. The only problem he had was a reticence to stand still. He kicked several times while being asked to stand still. I'm sure he'll stop kicking as he learns that kicking doesn't change anything.

Getting closer to hitching up the sleigh! We might make it before Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

CJ - Day 11

Here is a stoneboat, in case you were wondering. Back in the day, they used to pick stones up off the field and put them on the stoneboat and drag them away to the dumping spot. Our stoneboat is very small, only 5 feet by 4 feet. The shafts attached in the photo are the shafts that fit the sleigh.

Yesterday, I drove the tractor and harrow (the harrow is a metal chain sort of thing that you drag behind a tractor to spread out the manure on a pasture so it dries out and doesn't grow parasites) around the fields to break up the crust on the snow for a sleigh track.

Today, we hitched CJ up to the stoneboat and, after about 10 minutes of leading him, I clipped on the reins and ground drove him around the harrowed track. We went for about 25 minutes total. Dad rode on the stoneboat at times. CJ was a bit more energetic once we turned in the direction of home. He wasn't too happy about whoaing, and he kicked a few times, but he did settle down. He didn't even break a sweat (unlike me!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CJ - Day 10 - The Stoneboat

I didn't have the video camera set up, so picture this:

- Dad hammers together the stoneboat while I run back to the house twelve times for tools and hardware.

- I harness CJ and bring him to sniff the stoneboat. He's particularly intrigued by the smell of the preserved wood runners.

- We attach the shafts to the stoneboat and I convince Dad that he needs to drag the stoneboat around for CJ to see it in motion. We do two laps, with a rest for Dad in between.

- We hitch CJ to the stoneboat. Dad helps get it moving because it sticks to the snow when it's stopped. We take a few steps and halt. CJ gives a few small kicks with one foot. We continue. Dad lifts the stoneboat around when we have to turn (Dad's getting a good workout). CJ gives one more kick. We return to the barn (only one 400 yard lap today) and unhitch because it was a success and we've run right out of time.

- Dad goes home to rest.