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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Softcover
Hardcover

Art of Working Horses – Another Review

by William Reynolds

Historian and writer, William Reynolds has worked to celebrate the culture of the American West for over forty-years. He has written for and published western journals such as Cowboys & Indians, Western Horseman, The Cowboy Way and Ranch & Reata. He has written five books including “The Art of the Western Saddle” and “The Faraway Horses” with his friend Buck Brannaman. Reynolds is currently finishing a book on the artist Joe DeYong.
www.wcreynolds.com

I have been around horses for over fifty years and I am certainly no expert. Call me a passionate amateur, but one thing I have found over all that time is that horses thrive when they have a job to do. It is easy to see the change in them when they get focused on doing work; they simply come alive. It was fascinating reading through Lynn Miller’s, “Art of Working Horses,” in all of its 365 pages of glory. It’s important to note from the start that the book is made up of stories, musings and ponderings Miller has experienced over a lifetime of working around and with horses. He is a lifelong student of the teamster’s craft and has compiled his stories, with those he has met and worked with along the way who were also consumed with horses in harness. Miller is a celebrated artist, painter, writer, as well as a farmer. How he finds time to do all that and publish the legacy tabloid Small Farmer’s Journal is a continuing wonder.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

One could loosely say this is a “how-to” book but it is more of an “existential” how-to: how to get yourself into a way of thinking about the world of working horses. Maybe we need to explain what a working horse is. A working horse is one, in harness, given to a specific task. So, in that context, the book illustrates the many ways Miller has worked with his equine partners over the years – helping them understand what he wants them to do, as both work together to create relationships that help achieve desired goals — it’s very much about creating win-win relationships between the human and the horse(s) directed at a task. And like any grand relationship, each is filled with nuance and subtlety. Patience, here, is truly a virtue, as most trust-sensitive tasks are, and Miller explains through his own passion and patience for the subject by saying in effect, right from the beginning, “Folks, if you like what you’re seeing, it’s going to take some time.” As like any artful skill, investment of time and practice is key, and success is not achieved overnight.

So one should not look at this book as an A-Z primer, rather it enables the reader to ride alongside Miller and the folks he has met along the way. It is filled with a lifetime of learning and working with horses — and people — that will help you, dear reader, feel what he felt, see what he saw, and help all of us understand the gentle yet purposeful approach he takes to be successful with horses. It is a journey, and one filled with challenges as well as rewards. It is a journey of commitment: to one’s self and to the glorious living things doing the work.

The book itself is arranged so that one is swept up from Chapter One as Miller introduces us to an earnest young man filled with exuberance, a bit of arrogance, and a vitality that made him feel as if nothing was out of his reach. We watch him grow and learn from those around him, and the chapters begin to fly by with stories of success and frustration, but always directed at building a basis of understanding. Growth through experience. We meet and work with horses long gone — and people too — that have “headed on up the trail ahead of us,” but not before leaving lasting impressions.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

We learn about harnesses and harnessing, about bits and biting, and of course about the nature of horses. Did you know that horses eyes have many fixed lenses around the retina? And that horses look out of the top of their eye to see close, and the bottom to see far, and these lenses rotate to focus from close to mid-range? In speaking of man’s potential relationship with horses, Mr. Miller writes, “One way I choose to understand man’s relationship with horses is in terms of electrical current. Horses absorb electricity from everywhere and they give it up only when circumstance or teams connect. When I work my horses I feel an unexplainable difference in myself that I understand as hum without sound. I see the energy of the natural world coming to me through my working partners. When I truly believe in this connection, as I work, my relationship with the horses and our performance together is balanced and effective.”

Ask yourself, do I look for this kind of connection with the people I work with everyday? Do I work to achieve that level of harmony and connection with my spouse or with those important in my life? About half way through the book it begins to transcend its specific subject and move into a greater realm. It reminds one of the wonderful writer Thomas McGuane — no stranger himself to writing great horse stories — who wrote in his short story, titled simply Horses, “Those who love horses are impelled by an ever-receding vision, some enchanted transformation through which the horse and the rider become a third, much greater thing.” I am sure Mr. McGuane would agree that the same transformation, as Mr. Miller describes, is the game changer whether one is riding in the saddle or working horses in harness.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

The book is filled with photos and artwork by Miller, his wife Kristi, and others, as well as historic drawings and diagrams — all lovingly accessible in chapters that could all be titled with the first word being “Adventure:” Adventure – 1, Adventure – 2 and so on through the book’s twenty-one chapters. Horses and people are discussed with equal weight, as of course they would be by one who loves them both. Forward-thinking topics are also presented — such as the future of working with horses and the practicality of animal powered-agriculture in the twenty-first century. I won’t be giving anything away if I tell you that Mr. Miller is very positive on that subject and its ability to not only continue but thrive — which is shown by many — actually most — of the images in the book because they were taken recently. I will let you read through his perspective on the subject but suffice it to say that more than ever, the use of animals on small family farms fits perfectly with the kind of quality, diverse and mixed crop efforts being undertaken and truly appreciated by the consuming public as seen by the huge growth of local, farmers’ markets all over the country.

When we get towards the end of the book, we know it must happen. Things we love will die, no matter what we do and Mr. Miller handles those moments with grace and respect, that has us look to the horizon and know that there will be more horses, and more fields to work — together. That said, those that came before and gave their all, will never be forgotten.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

This is a book for anyone who loves horses, and stories about horses, and stories about horse people. This is a book written by a man consumed with horses, who simply can’t get enough of them. Frankly I can’t get enough of Lynn Miller’s writing. 365 pages simply aren’t enough.

Spotlight On: People

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

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One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

Great Oregon Steam Up

Great Oregon Steam-Up Bonus Gallery

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The best thing about the SFJ website is “unlimited real estate.” With each issue of the Small Farmer’s Journal comes the required agonizing over what to keep and what to sacrifice due to page space. What follows is a photo gallery of every picture we took at the 2016 Great Oregon Steam-Up. Why? Because we can! And, because there were a lot of interesting machines there that we are sure some of you will enjoy seeing.

Meeting Place Organic Film

Meeting Place Organic Film

Local, organic, and sustainable are words we associate with food production today, but 40 years ago, when Fran and Tony McQuail started farming in Southwestern Ontario, they were barely spoken. Since 1973, the McQuails have been helping to build the organic farming community and support the next generation of organic farmers.

To Market, To Market, To Buy A Fat Pig

Within so-called alternative agriculture circles there are turf wars abrew

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

Ham & Eggs

Ham & Eggs

Max Godfrey leads Ham & Eggs, at Plant & Sing 2012 at Sylvester Manor.

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

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We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

Farmrun John Erskine

John Erskine

John Erskine farms with horses in Sequim, WA.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Bud & Mary Rickett

Buck & Mary Rickett: Successful Small Farmers

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Ten years ago I answered a classified ad and went to a small western Oregon farm to look at some young laying hens that were for sale. That visit to Buck and Mary Rickett’s place made a quiet impression on me that has lasted to this day. On that first visit in ’71 my eager new farmer’s eye and ear absorbed as much as possible of what seemed like an unusual successful, small operation. I asked what must have seemed like an endless stream of questions on that early visit.

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

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One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.

Rainshadow Organics

Rainshadow Organics

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Saralee Lawrence and Ashanti Samuels are Rainshadow Organics, a burgeoning, certified organic operation which fully embraces the tenets of mixed crop and livestock farming. At its core is a full-force market garden. The entire farm comprises one hundred and eighty acres situated in the magnificent, high desert region of central Oregon and subject to a painfully short growing season (some years just slightly over 2 months).

Central Oregon Food and Farms

Central Oregon Food and Farms

Who is growing food in the high desert? How can you find it? And how can you contribute to creating a vibrant local food community in Central Oregon? Find out here! By consuming more Central Oregon grown food we keep money in our region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh food to eat.

Back to the Land

Back to the Land

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Tired of living in a crowded urban environment with its deafening noise and bumper-to-bumper traffic and eager to escape what they saw as an economy bent on destroying the planet, Matt and Tasha left their home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in March 2014. In doing so, they became modern-day pioneers, part of a wave of Americans who have chosen to go back to the land over the past decade, seeking to reclaim and rebuild their lives and to forge a deeper connection to the earth, the animals that inhabit it, and to each other.

NYFC Bootstrap Videos Clover Mead Farm

NYFC Bootstrap Videos: Clover Mead Farm

I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with The National Young Farmers Coaltion again when they called up about being involved in their Bootstrap Blog Series. In 2013, all of their bloggers were young and beginning lady dairy farmers, and they invited us on board to consult and collaborate in the production of videos of each farmer contributor to the blog series.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT