Bigeloil® Poultice Wraps Make It Easy

Checking a horse's leg to check for swelling

Hey equestrians and horse lovers, Margo here from Absorbine®. As a horseback rider of many years, like many of you I have used poultice for various reasons and without a doubt it always does the job. A poultice is a wet clay mixture that is used on horses’ legs and hooves to treat general heat or stiffness. This clay mixture works by helping to draw out heat, tighten, and prevent filling. I find poultice great after a strenuous workout, long show day, or a day spent on harsh terrain. Poultice is used for both hot and cold application. When I am targeting general soreness or filled legs, I apply cold poultice to help draw out heat and reduce filling. When I have concerns with general- stiffness, hoof soreness, or bruising, I apply a hot or warm poultice for relief. Read on to learn how Bigeloil® poultice wraps make it easy!

Although I love poultice and what it offers, its thick clay mixture always entailed a messy application and removal with many flaws that were a hassle to deal with. When applying a traditional poultice, I would evenly mold and shape the mixture on to the horse’s leg or hoof, a sloppy job that always left my hands a mess! When I wanted to use the poultice for cold application, I needed access to a refrigerator or freezer, and when I wanted to apply it hot, I needed access to a microwave; both things that not all barns have. Another thing I always struggled with is how to wrap my poultice because all my options seemed to have downsides:

  • Not wrapping the poultice at all is one way to go, but doing so allowed it to dry out quickly and created a mess all over my horse!
  • A method many people use is wet paper followed by a quilted pad and standing bandage. This holds moisture better, but the paper can fall apart easily and be difficult to handle.
  • Poultice can be wrapped in plastic followed by a quilted pad and standing bandage, this held moisture the best, but trapped in heat.

Once left on for the desired amount of time, the next hassle to deal with is removal. To remove poultice from your horses leg requires currying and picking off the dried pieces of clay; a tedious step that could cause further discomfort for the horse and will likely require bathing.

Messy Traditional Poultice

Although poultice worked wonders with treating my horse’s general heat or stiffness, it had its many downsides that made it a difficult product to handle. Bigeloil® Quilted Poultice Leg Wraps and Hoof Pads were my solution to the unwanted mess that I previously had to deal with every time I wanted to poultice my horse. Bigeloil poultice wraps make it easy. The innovative, convenient quilted pocket design contains a mix of dried Kaolin clay and Epsom salt- poultice’s traditional ingredients- as well as guar gum that creates a thin gel layer when wet to help keep the wraps and pads in place during application. The quilted pockets keep the poultice contained, eliminating any messy residue I previously dealt with on my hands and my horse!

Now applying poultice to my horse can be done in just three easy steps:

  1. Soak the poultice wrap or pad for twenty seconds.
  2. Apply to the horse’s leg or hoof.
  3. Cover with a wrap.

Bigeloil Leg Wraps Steps

LEG WRAPS   Watch Video    //     Learn More and Purchase

Bigeloil Hoof Pads Steps

HOOF PADS   Watch Video    //     Learn More and Purchase 

When soaking the quilted wrap or pad, I do so at the temperature appropriate for the issue at hand. Now, I don’t need to worry about accessing a microwave or refrigerator, just simply hot or cold water. Bigeloil® Quilted Poultice stays wet for 12-18 hours and should be checked within 24 hours; which I find convenient for overnight wear and removal before turnout. Removal is easy, simply unwrap the leg or hoof and discard the wrap or pad, with no residue left over. Truly, Bigeloil® Poultice Wraps make it easy to poultice!

-Margo C., Absorbine® Marketing Intern

 

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Absorbine Team Member Spotlight – Elizabeth Adams

Meet Elizabeth “Betty” Adams and JMF Irish Beam –aka “Beamer”, “Mr. BMAN”, “B” or “Beasley”, a 16 year-old Morgan horse. Betty is Absorbine’s Corporate Sales Coordinator. She is responsible for the lion’s-share of the planning and coordination of our sales teams and assists with logistics out on the road. Anyone who has done this type of job knows that it requires a mind like a steel trap and the temperament of a dignitary, all while thinking on your feet. Can you say organized? We are ever so grateful to have Betty on our team – she’s funny, so positive, and has the best energy! It’s great to have her equestrian perspective for the sales team- she can really relate to our customers. Betty is also an avid runner and often runs marathons in her spare time. But really, don’t we all?

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A: What do you do with your horse? Show? Pleasure? Companion Horse? Well-loved Pasture Ornament?

E: When we were both younger we used to show at very competitive Morgan horse shows in hunter pleasure, classic pleasure and classic pleasure driving classes, but now we are kicking back and enjoying the pleasure life of trail riding and learning some Dressage.

A: What Absorbine products do you like, and why did you start using them?

E: I love ShowSheen! – I started using ShowSheen years ago when I was a kid in 4-H and did local 4-H shows where we would have fitting and showmanship classes and be judged on how well our horse was groomed, I would always take pride in how my horse looked and ShowSheen was always my go-to. Then when I got older, I started showing and working for a Morgan show barn where the turn out of the horses was very important. Morgan horses are known for their long manes and tails, and ShowSheen was a great detangler for keeping them tangle-free.  I still use it to this day, and the best part is that whether you show or not it is a great grooming tool to have in your grooming box. It can help to remove burrs in the fall, remove mud in the spring, and you can even spray it on before turnout to help repel mud, dirt, and dust!

A: Any fun horse care tips you’d like to share? Can include tricks or “barn hacks”

E: Morgans are known as the beavers of the horse world, and my boy is no exception. If he spends too much time inside during inclement weather, he can start chewing the stalls, so I use a special anti-chewing mixture that includes tobasco sauce and paint it on the wood to deter him and others from eating. Also, use generic mouthwash and a brush to scrub and disinfect water buckets – it kills germs while leaving behind a minty smell horses love!

A: What’s the funniest thing non-horse people ask you about horses?

E: My non-horsey husband still cannot wrap his mind around how much a bale of hay, or “dried grass” according to him, can cost! I’m not sure how funny that is, but I get a kick out of when he calls hay dried grass.

A: What do you love most about your current horse?

E: I have raised my boy from a 2 year-old, so we have a tremendous bond. We trust each other and would do anything for each other. I have tried him in many disciplines through our time together and he always wants to please me, and even when it might not be the best fit for him, he always just wants to make me happy. So I guess to answer the question, the thing I love the most about him is our bond we share together.

A: Name some people who’ve had a big impact on your horsemanship.

E: I would say my grandfather and my mother were both big influences in my horse obsession. It all started when I was kid and my grandfather would take our family some weekends to the family cow farm up in Cummington, MA where they also had some draft horses. I lived in the city until I was 10, so I cherished those weekends when I was able to experience farm life. My grandfather was also was a volunteer at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA, so we would frequent the horse shows and I loved watching the Morgans in particular, and admired the trainers.  My mother always had a dream to someday have a horse of her own, and although she never did get one, she would always support me in any horse related thing I wanted to do whether it was taking riding lessons or wanting the next Breyer horse.

A: Open field for comments:

E: My horse has always had weak stifles and to warm him up before a ride I would rub Absorbine Veterinary Liniment Gel on his stifles, and also use it after a tough ride to relieve any aches he might have.

 

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Ranger The Senior Mustang

We received this wonderful success story about Ranger the mustang from his rescuer Susan Kauffmann. We’re so happy that Bute-Less helped make this special horse’s life a little more comfortable. We’re also happy people like Susan and others have infinite love for horses and grant the needy with new leases on life!

Dear Absorbine,

My name is Susan Kauffmann, and I am an equestrian journalist and educator specializing in health-related topics. I also recently became the adoptive “parent” of a wild mustang stallion named Ranger, estimated to be 25-30 years old, who was found starving to death on the range because his teeth were too worn down for him to chew forage.

Mustang and owner

Once he was put on a diet he could actually ingest and digest, he bounced back quite quickly and soon became a happy, perky boy.

Mustang Ranger Before & After

However, Ranger was clearly dealing with some issues and displayed discomfort in his hind end — his most noticeable symptoms were that he moved slowly and tended to drag his hind toes so much that they were extremely dubbed. Not wanting to put him on anything that could cause negative side effects, I started searching for a naturally sourced alternative to help him be more comfortable.

Patricia and Ranger

Someone recommended that I look into Bute-Less, which they had found to be helpful for their aged, arthritic horse. After doing some research on the product, I decided to give it a try. While it took some weeks to start noticing a difference, I kept with it, and I’m so glad I did. Ranger is now moving much better, with very little toe dragging and much more spring and speed in his step. And, if something scares him, he can do a spin and dash that puts most cutting horses to shame — truly amazing! I just wanted to say thank you, Absorbine, for making this product, which has given our little old trooper a new lease on life.

Snowy Ranger portrait, SM Happy Ranger

If anyone would like to read more about Ranger and see photos of his progress, please check out his Facebook page: Facebook.com/RescuingRanger

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Absorbine Team Member Spotlight – Amy Cairy

In this Spotlight, we’re speaking with Amy Cairy. Amy is Absorbine’s Marketing Manager, Equine Division, and is responsible for the equine brands and coordinating the efforts of the marketing team. She’s just an impressive person overall. Amy is a lifelong equestrian with a story that starts out like so many us – a little girl with horse fever learning everything she can about horses at 4-H. Since then Amy has dedicated her life to furthering her knowledge of horse nutrition and care. Along this path she’s molded herself into a venerable businesswoman while everyday being the epitome of professionalism. Amy is also day in, day out a fun person to work with! (Amy, can we talk about that raise now?) Here is our interview with Amy Cairy and her partner in crime Degas GGF – 9 y.o. Hanoverian, aka “Bagel.”

Amy Cairy and her Hanovarian for the Absorbine Spotlight

A: What do you do with your horse? Show? Pleasure? Companion Horse? Well-loved Pasture Ornament?

AC: Degas and I practice (lots of practice!) dressage together. Our partnership is still relatively new so we did not show in 2015, but we look forward to competing in 2016 and working towards our USDF Silver Medal.

A: Any fun horse care tips you’d like to share? Can include product tricks or “out of the box” uses.

AC: Up here in New England, the weather is constantly changing. With hard dry ground in the summer, deep mud in the spring and fall, and rough frozen ground in the winter, keeping the right moisture balance in my horse’s hooves is essential. That’s why Hooflex® Therapeutic Conditioner (I prefer the liquid) is always in my grooming box. Believe it or not, I find the winter months especially tough on hooves because the treatments we use to combat dust from arena footing can be very drying on the horse’s hooves. After a ride, I pick out Degas’ feet, brush off his hoof walls, and apply the liquid Hooflex to his hoof wall, frog, and sole to help keep his hooves healthy.

A: What Absorbine products do you like, and why did you start using them?

AC: I am huge fan of UltraShield® EX. Whether they’re working in the ring or relaxing in the pasture, there’s nothing more irritating to the horses than being tormented by flies. I’ve used UltraShield EX for years and count on the “black bottle” to not only protect my horse from disease-carrying insects, but to also let him enjoy his time outside during our very short summers. Flex+Max® is another one of my favorite products. I love that I can give Degas all of the high-quality ingredients he needs to support his joint health in one supplement that he eats right up.

A: What’s the funniest thing non-horse people ask you about horses?

AC: I think the funniest question I get from non-horse people is: “If you’ve been riding for so long why do you still need to take lessons?” Trying to explain the humbling sport that is horseback riding is often very difficult and the more I know, the more I realize I have a lot more to learn!

A: ^^ Yeah, that sounds like something Amy would say!

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Danny – Chapter 10 – The Last Goodbye

DANNY

THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE

draft horse in collar

DEDICATION

To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.


CONTENTS

One                        Finding Danny

Two                        Building The Cabin

Three                     The Bear

Four                       Logging

Five                        Hunters

Six                          Sugaring

Seven                     Fire

Eight                      A Baby Boy

Nine                       Separation & Reunion

Ten                         The Last Goodbye


Chapter Ten

The Last Goodbye

 

1.Big Pine

Dan under the big pine.

A year later Jenny had to move to a new house so I moved Dan to a new farm about twenty minutes away in Westfield. Bobby Baker, a friend of mine, owned the farm. Bobby had about thirty acres in pasture and an old orchard where he raised a dozen or so Hereford steers. Danny had a good stall in Bobby’s old barn and the company of cattle.

One early spring day the kids and I went to visit Danny and trim his feet. I had the kids sit on the fence and ordered them not to move off that fence while I worked on Danny’s hooves. I cleaned his feet and started filing down a chipped area, then went to get a stump I used as a hoof stand, a few feet away. Dylan slipped down to the ground and ran to hug Danny’s leg. I turned and yelled “Whoa!”  I think I startled Dan rather than made him stand still and he started to take a step.  I grabbed Dylan by his overalls and pulled him off of Danny’s leg just in time. Dylan got a bruise on the side of his leg but that was all. Dylan was crying, he couldn’t understand how the horse he loved could hurt him. I picked him up and hugged him for a while then walked Dylan over to pat Danny’s nose. They both needed to know everything was all right after such a scary and confusing incident.

The kids and I rode Dan on weekends around the small apple orchard.

There was an old stone wellhead that we could stand on to mount Dan. We had a wide Cavalry saddle with an extra large girth to fit Dan. Sean was old enough to ride by himself and sometimes he took Teresa riding behind him and sometimes all three kids rode at once. I often took Dylan riding and sat him in front of me. Like Sean, Dylan always liked to “steer.” The best part was all the brushing and petting the kids gave Danny. The kids always had a good time and Dan loved the attention.

2. Three kids on Dan

Kids on Dan.

Once in a while if I needed someone to talk to I would go see Danny by myself and we’d ride through the wooded hills, the way we used to. It was the way I worked things out, talking to Danny.

On my birthday I went to ride Danny alone, a present to myself. I groomed him and rubbed his legs with liniment, the only thing that got those old stiff legs working. When I got him, Danny was at least sixteen years old – we never really knew how old he was – and our relationship lasted fourteen years. By now Danny was very arthritic. His old knees just didn’t work the way they used to. As he walked he loosened up. We went up through the wooded hills behind the farm. It was such beautiful winter’s day. I had to stop and rest Danny more often now that he was aging, his breathing was harder and his legs were stiff. But he had the heart to do anything I asked of him and wanted to keep moving. When we got to the top of the mountain he stood very calmly for a long time as we gazed out over the valley, it was one of those special moments I will never forget. When we got back to the farm I brushed him down, put liniment on his knees and put him back in the pasture. When I started to leave, Danny ran to the fence and nickered to me several times. This was unusual. He seemed to be saying goodbye. I went back and petted him, then I had to go back to town to take care of the kids.

3.Birthday ride

Birthday ride.

Three days later, late at night, I got a call from Bobby. He said Danny was injured and I needed to get down there right away. I called my girlfriend to come stay with the kids and then the vet so he could meet me there. I jumped in the car and had to control myself not to drive too fast. I cried all the way. When I got to the farm Danny was lying in the snow with a crowd of people around him and truck headlights shining on the area.  As I walked up to him and said, “Danny!” he tried to get up so I dove to his head and held him down petting him. The veterinarian John Connolly was there. He said Danny hadn’t moved until I got there but tried to get up when he heard my voice. I was crying and the John took my arm and led me a distance away.

We thought that Danny had been sleeping, leaning against the side of the barn in the sun as he usually did. The ice melted under his feet and he slipped and injured himself badly as he struggled to get up. John said to me, “Danny will never walk right again. It’s time to put him down.”

“I know. That’s why I’m crying,” I said through sobs.

I went back to Danny and held his big head, stroking that long beautiful face. I thanked him for all the love and devotion he had given me. I told him I would love him forever. At last, I told the vet to go ahead. Using a large needle, he gave Danny a huge dose of sodium pentothal. As I held his head that proud heart in Danny kept ticking for a long time. The vet was amazed but I wasn’t. There never was a horse with so much heart.

The next day I went back to the farm to figure out how to bury Danny.

Bobby said there was a construction site a few houses away and maybe the backhoe operator would come help us. Bobby went to talk to him and a half hour later the backhoe was in the farmyard. The operator was a horse owner himself so he understood and wanted to help out.

We chose a place at the back of the farm, under Danny’s favorite big pine tree. The backhoe dug a deep hole and I said goodbye to him for the last time. As the dirt covered the last visible piece of him, I felt a nudge in my back, so strong it almost made me fall forward. It felt just like when Danny and I would play our old boo game. I turned around to see Danny prancing next to the big pine tree. His body was a sheer light and his legs drifted into spirals of sparkly mist. I only saw him for a second but in that moment he told me he was O.K., he was young again, no longer in any pain.

The kids were very sad their old friend was no longer with us. I took them down to the farm and they placed flowers in the snow on top of the grave.

For years afterward every time I went walking, I would hear his heavy thudding footsteps beside me and feel the ground shake with each step. It took me a long time to grieve his loss. We had lived and worked so closely, our bond was stronger than any I have had since with any horse.

I felt untethered not having a horse, so two years later I bought another Percheron that was going down for meat. I called Bobby and asked, “Is my harness still hanging on your barn wall? I just got another horse yesterday and will be needing it.”

Bobby replied in a startled voice, “When did you buy that horse?”

I said, “Yesterday, about one o’clock.”

He said, “Wow, I was in the barn at that time and Danny’s harness fell off the wall. It spooked me!”

I replied, “I guess Danny likes this horse I got.”

My girlfriend named him Goth because he was all black like the young people in town who dressed in black called “gothics”. I had him for twenty years, but that’s another story.

4.Goth

Goth and me.

Now my kids are grown and I live on a hay farm in the hills of Western Massachusetts. I have a studio above the tractor barn and sell my landscape paintings around the country. Danny’s harness hames hang next to our kitchen door and Alice’s cream and green cookstove warms our kitchen on cold mornings. My husband Paul and I have five horses, mostly rescues. There is one young horse we’re training that is a half Percheron with bay coloring named Jake. When I ride, I look down to see those black tip ears and black mane against the brown neck and all I can think of is Danny. He was an gentle being who graced my life and I thank him for it. It was an honor to have known him.

The End


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Book details:

Estimated price: $25

Estimated date of availability: March 2016

Form: 9×8 paperback, color


 

 About the Author

Jamie Young is an artist whose paintings have evolved from impressionism to expressionism and have appeared in galleries around the country. She has been involved with horses since a young age, almost as long as she has been painting. She grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and studied art at the University of Massachusetts. She was 21 when she found Danny and their life together spanned fifteen years. She now lives on their horse and hay farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, with her husband, Paul Milani. Jamie’s great-grandparents, Mary Ida and Wilbur Young, developed the original formula for Absorbine liniment, which became the W.F. Young Company, a leading producer of equine products and one that is still owned and run by the Young family. Jamie went on to work in product development for the company. For more information about her art work, go to www.jamieyoung.net.

 

Edie Clark, the editor of this book, has been an editor and writer for the past forty years. She is well-known for her articles and essays in Yankee magazine as well as other publications. She is the author of six books. If it had not been for Danny, Jamie and Edie might never have met. For more information about her work, go to www.edieclark.com.

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Danny – Chapter Nine – Separation & Reunion

DANNY

THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE

draft horse in collar

DEDICATION

To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.


CONTENTS

One                        Finding Danny

Two                        Building The Cabin

Three                     The Bear

Four                       Logging

Five                        Hunters

Six                          Sugaring

Seven                     Fire

Eight                      A Baby Boy

Nine                       Separation & Reunion

Ten                         The Last Goodbye


Chapter Nine

Separation and Reunion

Watercolor of man riding a horse away

Doug riding Dan away.

 

Only a traumatic situation would make me leave my horse, but things happen in life and you just have to deal with them as best you can. Bob and I were not getting along for a period of time so we decided it would be best if we split up. I had no money or job so I went to live with my brother in Connecticut. I couldn’t bring Danny. Doug was a friend of ours that fed Danny whenever we went away. He lived nearby to the cabin and had worked with us logging. He had always admired Dan. Someday, he had told us, wanted his own workhorse. I proposed to Doug that he could borrow Danny for a year or so and when I got my own place I would come back for him. Doug was overjoyed and readily agreed.

Doug came over and we got him ready to go. I hugged Danny around the neck and said goodbye. Doug jumped on Danny’s back, took the reins, and rode away. As soon as they had rounded the bend in the road and were out of sight, I turned to walk to the barn with wet eyes. All of a sudden I heard hoof beats I turned around and there came Danny cantering up the road without Doug. He ran right up to me and lowered his head. I hugged him and scratched his forelock.

Emotions ran high and were very mixed, happy for his show of loyalty but sad that he absolutely had to go with Doug. Doug tried to ride him away three more times and the same thing happened. Finally I said “I’ll ride him over to your place.” But Doug replied, “No, he has to learn who is boss now.” Doug got a stick to use as a crop and tapped Dan on the hindquarter as they trotted away. This time Danny did not return.

While I was living with my brother and Sean, trying to sort out my life, Danny was not behaving for Doug. Seven times he jumped the corral fence and ran the two miles back through the woods to the old cabin. Doug said he always knew where to find him; he’d be looking in the windows of the cabin or hanging his head over the porch rail. Danny wouldn’t work for Doug either. Doug harnessed him and hitched him to a log, but Danny would just stand there, not budging, ears laid back flat, meaning he was mad. Danny could be stubborn like that.  Doug continued to try to work with Danny and take care of him as best he could.

Horse looking into a window

Dan looking in the windows of the cabin.

Over the next two years, my life took me several places, including Alaska and California, while Dan stayed with Doug. I had another marriage, which was brief but it yielded two more children, Dylan and Teresa. We moved back to Massachusetts and went to visit Danny in New Hampshire. When we got here Danny ran up to the corral gate and I hugged him, the kids gave him the carrots and apples they had brought. It was so good to see him, but so sad to have to only visit and leave again. I longed to have him back with me.

Doug called me a couple of months later and said Dan had a bad cut on his leg. I drove up to New Hampshire and treated the wound. Danny had lost a lot of weight and his ribs showed, like they had when I first got him. Doug put food out for him but he wouldn’t eat. So I called my friend Jenny who had just moved back to Massachusetts and rented a farm in New Salem. I told her the story and she agreed to rent me a stall. I borrowed a horse trailer and went back to get him. When we pulled up, Danny picked up his head and pranced around the corral. Doug was amazed. “He’s been hanging his head for days. I’ve never seen him act so lively.” Doug had tried his best to keep Danny in good shape with good hay and grain but Danny was just depressed. Doug said, “He always was your horse. There was nothing I could do about it.”

I was so happy to have Danny back, I could hardly speak. Jenny drove with me in the pickup, pulling a borrowed horse trailer to help me get Danny. When we pulled up to the corral, I called out his name. Danny started running around in circles and came straight to the gate when I walked up to it. I gave him a big hug and snapped a lead line onto his halter. I told him we were going home and he seemed excited. Danny snorted at the opening to the horse trailer then walked right in, amazing for a horse that had not been in a trailer for many years. I thanked Doug for helping us and for taking care of Danny.

It was an hour and a half back to Jenny’s place with a few stops to check on Danny.

Every time I peeked in the trailer, I couldn’t believe I had my Danny back. When we got back to her farm and opened the trailer door, Danny backed out and I unclipped his lead line. He took off at a gallop around his new pasture, happy to be free and with his family again.

A few days later we set to improving the fence around Dan’s pasture. The fence had a small low gate so Jenny and I spent all day sinking in two stout posts and hanging a sturdy metal gate. As the sun set we stood and admired our handy work. All of a sudden Dan came cantering towards us as we stood next to the gate. We stepped aside and Danny flew over the gate and trotted off to the barn. It was feeding time. “Well guess that’ll hold him,” Jenny said, laughing. Danny was obviously feeling better. After a few days at Jenny’s, he knew when grain feeding time was in the barn and didn’t want to be late for dinner.

Jenny’s farm had so much good energy – kids running around; a small house surrounded by fields that let in a lot of sunlight; rabbits, dogs, cats in the barn; and a big garden out back. We built a stall for Danny in the barn so he’d be warm at night. Dan was getting old – by now we figured he must be at least thirty. Jenny helped me put weight on those skinny old bones with good grass and extra grain. I also had the veterinarian float his teeth or file off the sharp edges. Dan was back with his family and he healed up and gained weight. His coat got glossy again and his hooves grew out solid and hard.

Jenny had two girls, Lily and Juniper. Danny loved kids and now he had attention from a whole gang of little ones. They played with him in the hot summer with a garden hose, spraying each other and Danny, Dan always loved water.  One day when the kids were playing in their wading pool next to their swing set, Danny was grazing peacefully a hundred feet away. Dylan, my youngest, went toddling off toward Danny to give him a hug. Dylan threw his arms around Danny’s knee and wouldn’t let go. I ran up and pulled Dylan back. Dan had never moved an inch. I was so scared because a horse that big could crush a baby in one step. But Danny knew what was going on and his caring gentleness shone through.

3.Kids, Dan & the Wading pool

Dan and the kids in the wading pool.

 

If you’d like to sign up to the advance list to purchase a printed book, visit Jamie’s blog and enter your email.  jamieyoung.net/blog

 

 

 

 

 

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Danny – Chapter Eight – A Baby Boy

DANNY

THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE

draft horse in collar

DEDICATION

To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.


CONTENTS

One                        Finding Danny

Two                        Building The Cabin

Three                     The Bear

Four                       Logging

Five                        Hunters

Six                          Sugaring

Seven                     Fire

Eight                      A Baby Boy

Nine                       Separation & Reunion

Ten                        The Last Goodbye


 

CHAPTER 8

A BABY BOY

 

1.Sean on Danny wcOne year old Sean on Danny.

The cordwood and logging didn’t pay enough to cover our mortgage and truck repairs. Bob had many carpentry jobs with his partner, Mike. We also delivered hay to local farms with our big truck for John Bell, a hay hauler and horse trader in Winchester. I also retrained race track horses for Mr. Bell. There were usually about thirty horses to work with. The barn crew would go to Hinsdale Race Track and pick up the too slow or broken-down race horses so I could retrain them to be used for trail rides. Back at John’s ranch we ran them on a quarter-mile track and trained them to slow down. We also took them on trail rides which was what most of the horses were sold for. In the summer we ran trail rides and I even brought Danny there for a few months. The trail ride customers were afraid of Danny’s size, but he was the best horse for beginners.

The winter of 1975-1976 I was working in the cafeteria kitchen at a local boarding school. I was a prep and salad cook, which meant I made huge salads for five hundred students and teachers and put the salad in individual bowls. The cooks gave us piles of vegetables to be chopped for later cooking by them. Also we dished out the deserts and served food on the cafeteria line. Many times I rode Danny to the school in town, which was about a four-mile ride. In a backpack I carried hay and grain that I gave to Danny when I tied him to a tree on the edge of the school grounds. He was tethered where I could see him from the kitchen window and I checked on him often. One day the kitchen manager came to me and asked me not to keep riding Danny to work as he was damaging the lawn where he was tied. So that ended my nice ride to work but I traded an extension cord (which I didn’t need since we had no electricity) for an old bicycle. That made for a wild ride down our logging road in my white kitchen uniform. Trying to stay clean was a challenge.

One time I came upon a huge snapping turtle trying to cross the state road to get to the river. Tractor-trailer trucks used this route and I was afraid he would be squished. So I got off my bike and nudged him with my bike tire to get him to move to the edge of the road. That big turtle stretched out his long neck and bit my tire faster than a blink of an eye. He latched on and wouldn’t let go so I dragged the bike and turtle to the bushes and left it all there. I walked the last half mile to work and when the day was done came back to find my tire flat and the rim bent where he had bitten it. That was a lesson on how powerful and fast those snapping turtles are. I had a lot of respect for them after that.

2.Snapping Turtle

Snapping turtle on the road.

I got my tire repaired and kept biking to work. The bike had a basket on the front and I would bring home all the carrot peelings and old lettuce for Danny. After one Thanksgiving I brought home four leftover pumpkin pies. As a joke I held one up to Danny and he dove his nose right into the whipped cream on top! He loved it and ate the whole thing leaving a ring of whipped cream on his nose.

In April, I went to the doctor in Keene and found out I was going to have a baby! Bob and I were so excited, and a little fearful about how we would manage to have the baby living a mile and a half into the woods and how we would take care of him with no running water or electricity. My due date was in December which made it even more troublesome. We decided that although we were going to natural childbirth classes, I would not have the baby in the cabin. That would be too risky. If the delivery ran into problems the baby’s and my health could be jeopardized. So I made arrangements to have the baby in the Brattleboro hospital. We had a few months to think about how to set up the cabin for our baby.
As I grew bigger, I had to stop any logging with Danny. The harness had become too heavy for me to lift onto his back so I rode him bareback. Soon my belly was so big that jumping from the ground became impossible. To get on Danny, I had to climb up on a rock or the fence near his shed so I could hop on from above. Danny became more of a companion then because during the day Bob was off the land working on carpentry jobs, so that left me and Danny alone in the woods. I let him out of the corral and he wandered around the cabin and garden. Sometimes I would be working on something and Dan would nudge me into playing our boo game. It was a beautiful time, waiting for the baby.

3.The Boo Game

Boo game.

I worked on things around the cabin that were less strenuous. The garden had a bumper crop so I was busy harvesting and canning so we could eat well through the long winter. Since July I had put up a few jars a week until I had ten cases of canned tomatoes, beans, pickles and blackberry jam. Plus bushels of carrots, onions and potatoes as well as apples that we had bought from a local farm. Usually, when we were home in the winter, there was a fire going all the time in our woodstove, but I knew that when I left for the hospital everything would freeze and the harvest would be spoiled. We needed a root cellar below the ground that would hold a steady temperature above freezing. So I set out to dig a cellar into the side of the hill our cabin was on. Using a mattock, shovel, and a pickaxe, I worked about two hours a day on the cellar and finished it within a month. It was small, four feet wide, six feet long and six feet deep, just big enough to store our canned goods and the bushels of vegetables. Bob made a door of plywood and rigid insulation with a vent pipe.

4.Digging the root cellar

Root cellar.

Now that I had more spare time I rode Danny to visit Edie and have tea with her. We talked of gardens and recipes for canning and methods of drying the produce from our gardens.
Bob and I went to classes to learn how to have a baby using natural childbirth and how to nurse. Bob drove me to Brattleboro once a week for classes and then we had our special treat: dinner out in town. The rest of the week I stayed at home and sewed clothes by hand for the new baby. I made him a quilt and several warm sleeper gowns.  My mother gave us a crib and a baby seat that rocked. Friends gave us a swinging baby seat and many baby outfits. We seemed to be all ready. Now came the waiting for labor to begin.

In the last three weeks, the doctor didn’t want me to ride anymore, so I just sat and talked to Dan. I had always talked to Danny. He knew more about me than anyone and I think he liked it when I talked to him. He’d lower his head and put his big nose next to my shoulder and stay there as I told him my fears and anticipations. I know I always felt better after our talks. Horses make the best listeners, like dogs, they don’t talk back they just listen. As the big day approached, I had more to say to him than ever.

I was worried about labor starting during a snowstorm or the baby coming too quickly and not being able to get out of the woods. My family and friends were worried too and they talked me into staying at my grandmother’s house in Vermont the last week. My parents stayed with us and Bob drove me to the hospital in my dad’s nice car.
On December 27th, during a huge blizzard, Sean was born. We were so happy and lucky to have made it to the Brattleboro hospital. I had an eight-pound, healthy baby boy. All our fears vanished looking at that beautiful baby. Two days later our friend Bill picked us up at the hospital and drove baby Sean and I home because his truck had a better heater than ours. I walked the last short bit up the hill to the cabin with Sean inside my coat in a baby “snuggly” carrier. The snow was deep and that little walk wore me out. As I came in sight of our clearing, Danny whinnied to me and came running down the hill to the corral gate. It was so good to see him and be home at last.
In the late afternoon, after a rest, we brought Sean over to Danny’s stall. Dan sniffed and snorted and gave a little nuzzle.

5.Danny meeting Sean

Dan meeting Sean for the first time.

Many days we sat in the sun on our cabin porch with our new baby boy all bundled up. Dan was allowed to roam loose around our clearing, but mostly he stayed at the porch entrance with his big head hanging over the edge to be petted. Dan would be right there to sniff and gently nuzzle the Sean and Sean would try to touch Danny’s nose. That always made Sean do a big belly laugh, it was so funny it would get everyone laughing.
Not many months later, when the weather was fine, I took Sean riding on Danny in a pack on my back. When Sean was a little bigger, he sat in front of me and held the reins. He always wanted to “drive.” Sean called Danny “Big Dog” – to him a horse looked like a bigger version of our dog, Louie. Both were dark-colored and had four legs. Bob took pictures of Sean when he was still in diapers sitting on Danny’s back (I held onto Sean from the other side of Dan so it looked like our baby was riding by himself). Both Dan and Louie were very gentle with Sean, never hurting him in any way, and always staying close to him.
A year later when sugaring season began, a friend of mine babysat Sean while I worked. She would bring Sean over to the sugarhouse and at the age of one and a half, he knew right where the bottling tank was. The four spigots were just at his level and he would take a small sampler paper cup and fill himself a tasty treat. I had to be careful he didn’t drink too much and get a stomach ache.

6.Sean portrait 1977

Sean sleeping, 1977.

Each spring our friends got together for a huge family poker game and potluck supper in the next town. It was a penny poker game and everyone brought their kids and food. Sean was fourteen months old and he loved listening to and watching all the kids play. It was in late April, the leaves were out but it was still cool weather. I knew there was going to be a cold rainstorm that night. I put Dan in his shed for the night and gave him a bale of hay and two buckets of water. Danny never liked staying inside his shed or having a blanket tied on him, he would always tear them off. He needed to stay dry so as not to get sick. So I tied two poles across the entrance because I wanted Dan to stay inside.
We went to the party with baby Sean and had some difficulty getting there in our logging truck. With no weight on the back, the truck slipped around on the icy roads. It took us an hour to make what was usually a fifteen minute trip. We could feel the temperature dropping.

We had a great time at the party and when it came time to leave, we opened the door to a snowstorm. Bob knew the truck would never make it back with snow on top of the ice. Our friends offered everyone there a place to sleep for the night. I thought Dan would be all right with enough food and shelter, so we stayed.

The next day we drove back home and had to park halfway in because ten inches of snow had fallen and we couldn’t drive any further. We took turns carrying Sean in the rest of the way. As we walked the forest dripped from melting heavy snow that clung to all the new leaves and drooping branches.

7.Crushed Shed

Crushed shed after the storm.

When we got to the stream I looked up the hill to see Danny’s shed crushed by a huge tree that had come down from the weight of the snow. I screamed, “Danny!” and ran to the shed. He was not there but the poles were still tied closing the entrance. My heart pounded and I was about to cry when all of a sudden Dan whinnied to me. I looked farther up the hill and there he was, standing at the knoll. I ran up to him and hugged him around the neck. Then I checked him all over for wounds or broken bones. All he had was a bruise on his back, but he walked fine. It was a miracle! We never did figure out how he got out of the shed with only a bruise. I put liniment on his back everyday for two weeks and didn’t use him during that time. He healed up fine.

I should have trusted his instincts not to be in that shed and I never tied him in again. The many adventures Danny and I had together built a trust between us. I knew if I was with him I could get any job done or out of any trouble. We listened and watched one another and by respecting the other’s instincts, we solved problems. Danny took care of me and he knew I would take care of him too. The more time you spend with an animal the more you know each other. Working with him every day gave us the opportunity to have a special bond. I don’t think I will ever be that close to a horse again.

If you’d like to sign up to the advance list to purchase a printed book, visit Jamie’s blog and enter your email.  jamieyoung.net/blog

 

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Danny – Chapter Seven – Fire

DANNY

THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE

draft horse in collar

DEDICATION

To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.


CONTENTS

One                        Finding Danny

Two                        Building The Cabin

Three                     The Bear

Four                       Logging

Five                        Hunters

Six                          Sugaring

Seven                     Fire

Eight                      A Baby Boy

Nine                       Separation & Reunion

Ten                         The Last Goodbye


 

CHAPTER SEVEN

FIRE

riding a horse through a fire

One of us usually had an outside job to make ends meet. For a year I worked in a boarding school kitchen in the next town, cooking for the kids.  I walked the mile and a half logging road out to the van truck and then drove five miles to work every day.

There had been a drought for three weeks. The ground was very dry and crackled when we walked in the woods. The towns were not allowing burning permits and the radio stations warned against burning and reported on several forest fires raging in New England. With the heat also came the clouds of biting blackflies, especially in the woods. A friend who was cutting wood with us had a small fire of green wood going to keep the black flies away from where he was working. He had to go pick up his brother so he put the fire out and left in his truck. Only the fire wasn’t completely out. When the ground is that dry, fire can travel underground in the dry root systems and that’s what it did. The fire got going in a pile of wood and spread very quickly.

It was Easter Sunday and the school staff was putting on a big Easter dinner, so I was busy doing prep work in the school kitchen. The manager came to tell me I had a phone call. Bob’s voice on the phone was breathless and loud. “Jamie!” he said, “our land is on fire!” In shock I asked “Is Danny out and safe?” He said, “Yes I rode him out to get to a phone at Otto’s house. I’ve never seen him gallop so fast!” I jumped in the truck and drove home as fast as I could. As I crossed the bridge over the Connecticut River, I could see the smoke on top of the hill. It looked like our whole hundred acres was on fire. Of course I got behind a long line of slow-moving traffic through the center of Northfield. It was so frustrating, but I had to keep a cool head and just keep moving toward home.

 

smoke on a hill

Smoke on our hill seen from the Connecticut River bridge.

Bob met me at the end of our road and we tied Danny up at our neighbor Otto’s farm. Firemen and water tank trucks were everywhere, moving up our logging road.  We ran to the cabin to find the fire was only two hundred feet from it. Bob got our ladder and put it up to the roof. I took our gravity feed water hose and climbed up to the roof ridge to spray water on it. On the ground the hose had a good strong flow, but up on the roof it just dripped. The height of the roof was just enough to equalize the gravity of our system from up the stream. I was frustrated and scared that the cabin would be burnt down. Just then I heard a diesel engine coming through the woods and looked up to see a 1950 Power Wagon four-wheel-drive tanker truck coming from our plateau down to the cabin. I was so relieved the cavalry had arrived! The tanker truck parked right next to our cabin and the firemen started spraying down the trees. The smoke was so dense it was hard to breathe. Flames were leaping from the treetops. The firemen told us to evacuate the cabin because the fire was too close. We had taken all our valuables: the chainsaws, Bob’s silver flute and my dulcimer and my grandfather’s paint-box and put them in a big steel washbasin and put the basin in the stream with a wet canvas over it. We were trying to save more of our stuff but the fire kept coming closer and the firemen told us to leave. Overhead we heard the roar of a big plane and then saw the silver wing of a tanker plane flying low over the fire and spraying water. We didn’t have time to grab clothes, just jumped in our logging truck to get it to safety and hoped for the best.

Into the smoking forest.

Into the smoking forest.

We spent the night at a friend’s house in town and thought for sure we had lost the cabin and all our belongings. The next day I cautiously rode Danny up our road through the burn area. Horses have a natural fear of fire and Danny was very nervous. The ground was charred and smoking. A few flames broke out here and there. Many firemen still patrolled with water tanks on their backs (called Indian water packs) spraying the hot spots. Danny was so brave; he kept walking through the smoking forest. We were on the logging road, which was not hot as there was not much to burn on it. But the forest path to the cabin was charred and his feet were hot from the burnt ground. When we came up the hill to the cabin, it was such a relief to see that it was still there! The firemen had stopped the fire just one hundred feet from our home! I rode Dan to the stream and let him stand in it to cool his feet before riding out. We had to stay off the land for two days while firemen kept roaming through it with their Indian Water Packs to put out hot spots.

Into the smoking forest.

The day after the fire. 

When we finally did go home for good the charred smell of the woods was over powering but we got used to it. We found the hoses of our gravity water system had all melted. My Indian brush fence had also burned up, but the garden was still there and so were Dan’s shed and half the corral. About eighteen acres had burned and we were lucky that it was contained to that.

We were very thankful for the hardworking volunteer firemen and women from five towns who had saved our home.

If you’d like to sign up to the advance list to purchase a printed book, visit Jamie’s blog and enter your email.  jamieyoung.net/blog

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Absorbine Team Member Spotlight – Chris Jacobi

We’d like you to meet Absorbine’s President Chris Jacobi and his 9 y.o. bay Dutch WB gelding “Bigtime”. Chris is cool because in addition to being our fearless leader, upholding our company values, knowing the horse world inside and out and ensuring we all have jobs, sometimes he us buys pizza. Plus it doesn’t hurt that he’s a lifelong horseman!

image3

A: What do you do with your horse?

C: We compete on the Connecticut and New England circuit in the 1.10 m jumper divisions.

photo 4

A: What Absorbine products do you like, and why did you start using them?

C: UltraShield EX, ShowSheen, Absorbine Maximize (Complete Conditioning Supplement), Bigeloil Poultice Wraps, Hooflex Concentrated Hoof Builder Supplement – because THEY WORK and are easy to use.

A: Any fun horse care tips you’d like to share?

C: During the shows or after an intense schooling session I like to pack his feet with Magic Cushion and leave it in overnight to allow his feet to cool off so he is fresh and comfortable again the next day.

Bigeloil Poultice Wraps allow his ligaments and tendons to tighten up and help prevent fluid built up or swelling. The best part: no clean up required the next morning as they leave no residue on his legs which is a great benefit, especially when you show in the first class of the day!

A: What’s the funniest thing non-horse people ask you about horses?

C: They can’t believe they go on airplanes when they come from Holland to the US. All our babies grow up in Holland and come over when they are 4 years old.

A: What do you love most about your horse?

C: He is level-headed, easy to train and wants to please – most of all: fun to ride.

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Danny – Chapter Six – Sugaring

DANNY

THE TRUE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE


Head shot of Danny Horse

DEDICATION

To my great grandmother Mary Ida who gave me horse fever.


CONTENTS

One                        Finding Danny

Two                        Building The Cabin

Three                     The Bear

Four                       Logging

Five                        Hunters

Six                          Sugaring

Seven                     Fire

Eight                      A Baby Boy

Nine                       Separation & Reunion

Ten                         The Last Goodbye


Chapter Six

Sugaring

Horse collecting maple sap sugaring

 

On a cold January evening we saw lights coming through the dark woods and up our road. Two men holding flashlights came to the door. It was Stan and our friend Ronny. Stan said he was going to start up the old Shawmut Farm Sugar House, for making maple sugar, which hadn’t been run for many years. “The place needs a lot of work,” he said, “and the trails need to have the brush and small trees cut.” I was thinking of the deep snows that year and how much trouble they were going to have getting into the back sugar bush. Stan turned to Bob and asked if he could rent Danny to collect maple sap next month. Bob said, “You’ll have to ask her. It’s her horse.” Stan turned to me and I told him, “You’ll have to hire me too, Danny and I are a team and I wouldn’t trust anyone else to work him.” Stan said “Even better, I need more hands to carry buckets.”

So when the days warmed up a little and the sap started to run in the middle of February, we put Danny’s harness and all his gear and feed in the truck so Bob could drive it the twelve miles to the sugar house at Shawmut Farm.  I rode Danny bareback to the farm. On the way Danny heard the sound of chainsaws in the woods near the road and headed right into the woods toward the saws. He thought that’s where we must be working. I turned him back on course and kept on going to the farm. We got there just at sunset and got Danny settled in the barn at Shawmut Farm. I put his blanket on him, fed him hay and grain, and filled his water bucket. I drove home in the truck with Bob, missing Danny already.  The cabin seemed so lonely with his stall empty.

The next morning, I drove back to the farm, pulling into the farmyard at 6:30.  Danny nickered to me as I entered the barn. I think he was wondering if I was coming back. I fed and groomed him and cleaned his feet. Dan didn’t have shoes on for many years, but his bare hooves were great in the snow. I just put hoof ointment on them every morning and his feet never cracked. Next I rubbed liniment on his legs, especially his arthritic hocks (like elbows on the hind legs). He moved stiffly if I didn’t liniment him.

Before we could collect any sap from the trees, we had to clear the old trails and set up our taps. We loaded the sled without the tank on it, just a flat bed to haul our equipment: hand drills, taps, buckets and lids, hammer, bow saw and brush cutter. Stan, Tom, Ronny and I went down the trails through the deep snow, clearing the trails. A tree has to be at least fourteen inches in diameter to tap and larger trees can take more taps. The best sap runs under the largest limbs and the south side of a tree is especially good.

Sugar tapping tools

Tapping tools

When we got to a good sugar maple we would take the hand drill and drill a hole ¾ inch by 3 inches. Then we took a tap, a five-inch-long pipe with a hook on the end to hold the bucket, and pounded it in the hole with a hammer. We then hung a bucket on the tap and put on the lid to prevent rain and bugs from contaminating the tree sap.

After two weeks of tapping, stacking wood and cleaning the old sugar house we were all set up we could begin the task of sugaring.

The first morning up at the barn I gave Danny extra grain and groomed him, he had a hard day of work ahead. I put on his collar and swung his harness up on his back. I buckled the hames on the collar and pulled the britching back over his rump. Lastly came the bridle and reins. Now we were ready to go.

Bob and our friend Ronny had built a sled using an old single “bob” or short set of runners from a bigger sled and setting a one-hundred-and-fifty-gallon collecting tank on top of the runners. It took some adjusting of the shafts and whipple tree but finally it worked.  The snow was up to Danny’s chest but he went through it easily, pulling the sled from tree to tree. The first month of sugaring is when the best grade A syrup is made, but it is harder to get to the trees because the snow is usually very deep then. That’s why Danny was so important to the operation.

Stan, Tom, and Ronny had cut many cords of wood and stacked it outside at the far end of the sugar house where the fire box doors of the boiling pan opened out. At least five big bundles of slab wood from the sawmill were stacked there too.

Collecting maple sap with a horse

Collecting sap

Every day Danny and I set out with the sled and holding tank. At each tree I would get off and empty the bucket into the holding tank. When there are cold nights and warm days the sap runs fast and the buckets fill to the rim with the sap that had dripped into the bucket overnight. Many friends and visitors came on weekends to help out and get some sweet snacks at the sugarhouse.

Danny got better and better at sugaring. He didn’t need me to guide him, as soon as he heard the collecting bucket clang on the side of the big tank he would walk to the next tree and stop, with no reining from me.

The reins were just looped on the side of the sled when Danny surprised me one day. He walked up to the next tree and flipped the lid off the bucket and drank a gallon of sap. When we got back to the sugarhouse I told Stan the story and asked if Danny could have the sugar maple tree just outside the door of the sugar house for his reward. Stan laughed and agreed to it. There were four buckets on that big tree and every time we came in with a load I hitched him to that tree and he got to drink a sweet bucket while we unloaded.

Horse drinking sap

I hitched him to that tree and he got to drink a sweet bucket.

One sunny early March day we had a really good run of the best sap. All the buckets were full. We had collected a very big load at the bottom of a hillside field, which were some of our best trees. The weather was getting colder as the sun was setting. On our way back to the sugarhouse, the sap we had collected sloshed over the side of the tank and froze on the tank and sled. We started up the hill in knee-deep snow, climbing to get to the top of the field and the road. Dan was about halfway up the hill when all of a sudden he hit a patch of hard ice! The snow that had melted in the sun had now frozen into a sheet of ice right in the middle of the field. He went down on all fours and kept scrambling on his knees to get up!

I jumped off the back of the sled and started pushing with all I had. Slowly we made it to the deeper snow where Dan could get a footing. As soon as he hit the deep snow he started to take off and I had to grab onto the icy lip of the tank. The ice on the sled made for a slippery landing. As I scrambled to get back on, my foot slipped off the edge of the sled and my knee hit the sled hard, but I hung on with one foot and the reins in one hand. I pulled myself up with my arms, grasping the lip of the tank while Dan kept pulling up the hill. I couldn’t move my injured knee to get it on the sled so my leg just dangled as Dan took us the two miles back to the sugarhouse. My leg hurt so bad I wasn’t even driving him: he went by himself.

Horse pulling sap

I jump off the back of the sled and started pushing with all I had.

Dan got us home to the sugarhouse. The guys came out and helped me off the sled and into the warm sugarhouse. They drained the full tank of Grade A sap into to holding tanks and put Dan in the barn for me. They also helped me take his harness off and feed him.

It was ten degrees that night so I figured I didn’t need to ice down Dan’s knees. I went home and Bob helped me put a splint on my leg. I was pretty lame but had to get back to Danny. In the morning the heat in his knees was gone so I rubbed liniment on his knees and hocks for longer than usual. Ronny helped me harness Dan and hitch him to the sled. Dan seemed to move off fine, amazingly no lameness. I was lame though. I couldn’t collect sap carrying a bucket for a while but I could drive my horse, so Stan had Ronny go with me to collect the buckets from the trees and pour them into the sled tank.

Usually Ronny and Tom collected sap from the big trees along the roads in two old trucks: a 1960 Chevy and a 1948 Willy’s Jeep pickup. We had gravity feed tubing along the roads that the extension service had told us about. Everyday they stopped at the tanks and used a pump to draw the sap up into the tanks on the trucks.

On a very sunny day after a big storm the snow banks along the road were four feet high. One of our best stands of big sugar maples was along the road. I drove Danny on top of the snow bank along the row of trees. We had about ten feet between the trees and the edge of the snow bank to work on. I collected the buckets of sap and emptied them into the big tank on the sled, one at a time. I looked up the road and there was an old pick-up truck with three old-timers watching us. Later I would learn that they had run the farm and sugared there a long time ago. In town they heard that some young folks were opening up the Shawmut Farm sugarhouse again and were using horses to collect sap. They had come for a show and Danny gave them one.

 

Horse and a truck

There was an old pick-up truck with three old-timers watching us.

 

Danny and I got to the end of the line of maples and I realized we didn’t have enough room to turn around. I didn’t know what to do. If we went over the four foot snow bank the sled would tip over and Dan would get hurt. Nervously, I asked Danny to back up just a little. He took the lead and backed between two huge trees with only a few inches on either side of the sled to spare. Then he swung himself to the other side (called fanning over) and took off in the other direction. Using knowledge he must have learned long ago, he had done a three-point turn without me guiding him. He happily trotted back to the sugarhouse with a full load of sap while I just hung on, amazed. I unloaded the sap into the holding tanks at the sugarhouse, and let Danny have his sweet treat of sap. He had more than earned it.

The three old farmers drove up to the sugarhouse. I thought they would load me up with advice but instead they congratulated me on some fine driving. I told them I couldn’t take any credit. We were in a jam and Danny got us out of there all by himself. One farmer said, “At least you were smart enough to let the horse have his head.” O.C. O’Connel was right: Danny was teaching me what I needed to know about working draft horses.

When the trees start to have a reddish color in their branches and flowers bud at the tips of the branches, it’s time to stop sugaring. Sugar season runs about five or six weeks depending on the weather. You start in the end of February making the sweetest, light (Grade A) syrup. As the season goes on the grade of syrup goes down because the trees are using the sap’s sugar to grow. It takes more and more sap to make a gallon of syrup. By the end of the season, some time around the end of March, the syrup is a dark amber or grade B.

Stan was our boss and the master boiler. If the sap is left in the tanks for more than a day it sours (turns cloudy or starts to rot) and the sap is no good. So when the weather was good with warm days and cool nights, the sap runs hard and the boiler ran almost around the clock seven days a week. Many nights Stan and Ron or Tom would be at the sugar house boiling down until three in the morning.

Tom became the fire man at the sugar house, feeding the fire under the boiling pan most of the time. He spent all day stoking the fires of the big boiling pan. The fire doors were cast iron with big dollar signs on them. The fire roared and steam filled the room. Stan could hardly be seen in all that sweet fog on the other side of the evaporator pan, only the glint of his wire rim glasses would let you know he was there. Often Stan would emerge from the sticky mist with a thermometer held high up, squinting through his steamed-up eye glasses to see how the sap was progressing.  He used a hydrometer to measure how thick the syrup was at the pour-off spigot. The fourteen-foot boiling pan had baffles in it that looked like a maze and Stan used a wooden paddle to push the sap along. The sap came in one end looking like water and came out the other end a thick amber syrup.

When it was just right he opened the spigot and drained off the syrup into a large bucket with a filter on the top. Then he poured the bucket, with another clean filter, into the bottling tank. The bottler kept the syrup at 120 degrees until we poured it into gallon jugs with heat seals and caps.

There were always a few people to help drain the syrup into the cooling and bottling tanks and package the syrup from there into our gray plastic jugs. Someone usually picked up donuts to have with our maple sap tea and there were often guests available to help with that. We also had dill pickles on hand to cut the maple flavor. When you couldn’t taste the maple anymore a bite of pickle refreshed your taste buds. As the collecting crew (usually three of us), we had our own coffee mugs that we would dip into the sap pan, plunk in a tea bag and we’d have instant hot sweet tea. On big run days

we helped Stan boil down at night by feeding the fire for him and bottling, afterward

we would go to the local pub for dinner. When we sat at the counter our clothes would stick to the counter top and stools because of the maple steam we had been in for hours.

Around the end of March, we saw red in the tips of the maple branches and they started to bud. The season was over and it was time to finish up for the year. Danny and I went back out to all the trees and took down the buckets and pulled out the taps. The trees scar over the tap hole very quickly and stop running.

When all the equipment was back at the sugarhouse, it had to be cleaned with soap and hot water. The sap boiling pan was heated up with just water and soap in it. We used buckets of warm soapy water from the big boiling pan and scrub brushes to clean all the bottling equipment, holding tanks, and buckets.

With this was all done, it was time to take Danny home. Again Bob took the harness, grooming supplies and feed home in the truck. I rode Danny back down the road through Richmond and Winchester, a beautiful ride as the spring opened up. The Ashuelot River was running hard through the center of Winchester and we had to cross an iron bridge to get to the south side of town and home. When we got to the bridge it was being repaired and a policeman was directing traffic down to one lane. Danny didn’t like the sounds of the power equipment or the flashing lights. Like many horses, he had a natural fear of water running underneath him and a fear of the iron grid he would have to walk on to cross. Add to that the flashing lights and jackhammers pounding away, it was not a good situation. Danny also had special shoes on with metal cleats (called cog shoes) to make pulling easier for him on ice and snow, I had the farrier put the cog shoes on after our accident on the icy field. I feared his cogged shoes would catch in the grid and rip off. Danny must have sensed this too. At the edge of the bridge he reared up and spun around. He trotted a few paces back and snorted. He did this three times but wouldn’t step on the bridge. Now he had traffic stopped in both directions. The work crew had stopped the jackhammers and the policeman was waving us on.

horse rearing on a bridge

I turned Dan to the bridge again and gave him the heels.

I’m sure Danny thought I was crazy to ask him to do such a thing. We couldn’t go around the bridge because the river was in spring flood stage and it was five miles to the next bridge. The policeman shouted, “Either cross or don’t, but you can’t hold up traffic!”

I turned Dan to the bridge again and gave him the heels. He leaped as he left solid ground as if he was going to jump the whole bridge, landing halfway across, he then nervously pranced the rest of the way. When we got to the other side, people cheered and honked their horns. He reared a little again and I let him out with the reins to trot the seven miles home with a slightly loose shoe.

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