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I'm bushed, and spent the day on a tractor, so I'm going to tell you the Abe story from the rest of the week.
Wednesday night (I think) I wrote a thread about working Abe on his cart. This story includes that day but is more of an overview.
2. Regular Abe fans know he's just now learning to work a two wheeled cart. All he's done before is either carry light burdens on his back...
3. or drag a dead weight load, either a sled or chained loads, neither of which ever pushes him forward nor is up near his eye level.
4. A wheeled cart can roll (duh) and therefore he has to provide force, through his harness, to keep it from running up on him when going downhill.
And it's moving, up in his field of vision.
Most horse harness has "blinders" or "blinkers" to keep the horse from seeing a cart.
5. but donkeys don't spook as easy as horses, once they get accustomed to a task, and I prefer Abe be able to see around him. Some of our work is in crowded spaces.
Few donkeys in Africa wear blinkers, although you'll see them from time to time.
6. If you happened to see the thread from a couple of weeks ago when I first put him on the cart, I allowed a controlled run, where I stood out on the end of his lead rope and let him run in a circle around me. Yes, I was, in fact, pivot man.
He ran about a circle and a half.
7. And then I got over on the other side of him and let him run again.
You have to teach both sides of an equine any new thing, the left hand knoweth not what the right hand just learned.
So, once he knew that it didn't gain on him but he couldn't run away from it, either,
8. We could work on actually accomplishing stuff.
Mostly I walk, and mostly I lead him. Once he's rock solid I'll advance to riding and driving him. Last fall I rushed that process, and it was a few weeks before I could dress myself without help. Not our best day.
9. So by - Wednesday I think - I was ready to have him do some real work on the cart. We've got quite a bit of spoiled hay in the barn, from years gone by, hay that was on the bare dirt floor and rotted. I need to get it out; I've got some pallets to put down to prevent spoilage.
10. We've got some washouts in the Winter Pasture, which is the pasture nearest the barnyard, and spoiled hay is a good fix for washouts. Slows runoff water and eventually turns into dirt.
And it's repetitive work, which is ideal for teaching.
11. I'll be 72 next month, and have been 50 pounds overweight for 40 years, so hauling spoiled hay out of the barn and walking with Abe is good for my tired old fat self too.
When I'm too winded to lift another rotten bale, lesson time is over.
12. Hauling the spoiled hay on Wednesday went quite well.
So... Thursday afternoon I wanted to work on another project.
We've got a couple areas we kind of lost track of when we were running the phone and computer business, that grew up in thorn trees. Honey locust.
13. Honey locust is brutal. It's an early succession tree, because cattle can't eat it. It's armed and dangerous.
14. However, it's also a wildlife food tree. It has big seed pods with sweet pulp inside, around the big hard seeds. Deer and turkey like it.
So, until we get more desirable species in there, I'm trying to reach a compromise with the locust thickets.
15. When it's young it doesn't "crown" like an oak or something.
16. Instead, it grows branches all the way down the trunk like a Christmas tree. It's nearly impossible to move among honey locusts in a thicket. Or to mow among them.
These two lots were basically honey locust with a poison ivy understory. Not that welcoming.
17. So the plan is to go down there with Abe and the cart, and a lopper, and lop off branches until I can drive between the trees with the Ventrac and mow the poison ivy into grass.
You can do that, you know. Turn weeds into grass just by mowing consistently.
18. I've been mowing in there for a few years now, got the poison ivy considerably set back. It's miserable work, but worth doing. The deck on the Ventrac is out in front, so I can ease it under the thorn branches, but... I'd rather be able to just mow around them.
19. Abe wasn't much in the mood to work on Thursday. When I went up to him with his halter and lead rope he turned his head away and took a step or two. He rarely does that. Usually he either stands still or, if he's in a really good mood, turns his head to the halter.
20. But, you know, some days chicken, some days feathers. So I brushed him, did his feet, harnessed him up, and took him out front where the cart was.
He was... tolerable. Not real cheery, but tolerable.
The locust paddocks are on the other side of the road, a goodly distance.
21. I've got walking lanes mowed through the tall grass in the East Pasture. If you go walking in unmowed tall grass this time of year you get covered up with ticks and chiggers. It's probably no news that I don't like ticks. Or chiggers.
22. It's a long downslope to get to the lane that goes over to the thorn trees, and Abe's still learning to tolerate having the cart push his britchen tight up against his haunches. And he was already not in a very good mood.
When he's grouchy he crowds my space when we walk.
23. When he crowds my space I get grouchy. So now we're both grouchy. Perfect.
The shafts to his cart are red oak 2x2s. It's not that pleasant to get poked in the kidney with an oak 2x2.
24. Since he had his lines on, and his bit in his mouth, even though I was leading him with the rope, I reached up and took the right line in my hand, and put a little pressure on the right side of his mouth, (rubber bit, remember, so not painful) and he eased away and walked OK.
25. When we work I need for him to stand, not tied (what is called "ground tied", lead rope dropped to the ground) which he does *mostly*.
When I'm on my toes I keep one of his lines where I can reach it, so if he walks I can turn him.
0 for 2 on Thursday.
26. I was lopping off branches and piling them on his cart, and got out of reach, and he said, "Screw this I'm outta here."
The cart is considerably wider than him, and we're in locust thickets.
Not a good plan.
He made it about thirty feet, and got the cart *good and stuck*
27. jammed up tight against about a 4 inch locust tree, with another one about 3/4 of an inch clear on the other side.
And him still not trained to back the cart.
Hmmm. 🤔
28. Given that I'm writing this, we got out.
It wasn't elegant, but he backed a little, and I dragged the cart a little, and we argued a little, and we got out.
The pile of thorny branches was strung out in the thicket.
29. However, I had gotten one locust tree limbed off well enough that I could tie him to it.
Which I did.
He pawed the ground.
I told him to cool his jets.
He decided to stage another walkoff.
It didn't work.
30. We did two loads of branches down to the creek, and I was winded, sweaty, and crabby, and he was crabby, and I figured we'd be smart to call it a day.
Among other stupid things I hadn't brought a bottle of water.
It takes a lot of water to keep me operational.
31. So Friday afternoon I wasn't even sure if it would be a good idea to try to work, but it's coming up haying season and I've got to get the barn ready for a new cutting. Not everything is optional. If I don't have hay I can't feed Abe. We're getting pretty low.
32. So I got the halter and went over to him, and he turned his nose toward me and made it easy to put the halter on, and I told him what a good, good, GOOD boy he was, and gave him a peanut... And the day was defined.
33. I couldn't even tell you how many loads of spoiled hay we hauled, but we quit because I'd drunk a whole bottle of water and was good and winded.
He backed the cart like a pro. Put it right where I asked him. Backed it eight or ten feet, one time.
34. We were working in real crowded circumstances. He'd have to go forward three feet, say, and then walk sideways two feet to clear the cart around some obstacle, then forward, another side step... Like a pro.
Tractors can't walk sideways. I couldn't have do this without him.
35. Each load, we'd go out of the barn area into this little lane that is about a foot wider than the full length of Abe and the cart, building on one side, fence on the other, and then I asked him to do something he'd never done before.
36. I asked him to turn around in exactly his own cart length. No room to walk forward at all. From this picture here, we'd walk forward, behind the barn, do a turn around, come back I to this area, and zig to dodge the pole at the left of the pic,
37. and then zag to dodge a pole that's barely off screen to the right.
And from where he's standing here there's only room for him to take two steps forward before he has to turn sharply to his right.
38. on one trip after turning around behind the barn I turned him too quick and got the cart fender hung up on the corner of the building.
"My fault, sorry, back," I said, d he backed, side-stepped, and brought the cart clear of the barn.
This is why I like him to see it.
39. This project took a whole pocketful of peanuts, and was worth every one.
What a star. What a great afternoon.
Tomorrow the band plays, and I can't get that tired and then play, so maybe Monday we can finish this part of the spoiled hay.
What a guy. What a prince. Abraham.
40. G'nite, all.
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