Icelandic Pony Adventures
by Steve, Fiammetta & Elena Householder of Cokato, MN
Dear Mr. Miller and Small Farmer’s Journal,
This letter, like our first, is over due. We have been meaning to write for over a year now! In our first letter we had mentioned that we hoped to get horses some day and especially liked Icelandics…
Well, we now have two Icelandic horses! Sokkull and Prinsessa, a gelding and a mare. Their owners had decided it was time to sell their farm and move into town, which meant that their two horses needed a new home. A friend of theirs and ours, who had helped them get the horses originally, and also knew that we liked Icelandics, asked us if we’d consider taking them.
Actually, if we would take Prinsessa. Sokkull was going to be put down as he was thought to have Cushing’s. Thankfully, we asked, “Are they sure? Does he really have to be put down?”
So they said we could have Sokkull too, if we would like. (As it turns out, he is actually in quite good health still!) This was at the end of July, 2019. So we said yes to taking both horses, then spent the next few weeks frantically building a couple of stalls in the barn and getting proper fencing up around the paddock at least. (The fencing was already begun since the sheep and goats were rapidly destroying our temporary fencing, the horses just speeded things up a bit more!)
The horses moved in at the end of August. They are both very sweet and good, a little mischievous or pushy at times, but never mean.
Sokkull is 25, a red boy, about 13 hands. He was actually used as a breeding stallion in Iceland, but was gelded when he was sold to a riding school in Canada. From there he came to a show in Minnesota in 2003, where his old owner bought him. Turns out, we actually went to that show and saw him there, although we hadn’t found our land and moved out yet, and had no idea that someday he’d be our horse!
Prinsessa is 24, chestnut with a white blaze, and a little smaller and lighter that Sokkull. She also is from Iceland and was used for pony-trekking there. So we have our first “team” and even if we never actually use them as workhorses, they are great ‘starter horses’ for us to learn the basics of handling and caring for them. They get along well with the sheep and goats too, which is good.
Also in 2019, we managed to get our ‘Northwest pasture’ fences, working on it over the summer, and finishing in October. The animals all enjoyed grazing it for the rest of the fall and this summer.
In 2020 we began working on the ‘poultry section’ of the barn, building a new pen for the birds. It isn’t finished yet, so we will probably start work on it again in the spring. We also began clearing for expanding the orchard and berry patch. Probably our biggest success this year was getting our 40×40 foot herb garden cleared, tilled, and planted. We got to enjoy fresh herbs, and dried some. In the vegetable garden, some things did great, some did poorly and some didn’t do anything except disappear as seeds. (GOPHERS!) We did quite a bit of canning and drying – tomatoes, pickles, applesauce, jams and preserves. It feels very good to have all those jars put away. So things are quite well here, despite all the chaos from the pandemic.
Again, thank you so much for continuing to publish Small Farmer’s Journal, we really enjoy and learn from each issue.
Mr. Miller, you mentioned that the pandemic (and other events) might cause a lot more people to become interested in farming and getting out of the city. We think we’re seeing signs of that here. A lot of places have put in a garden for the first time, or expanded one, or added poultry. Also some land selling and people building. And of course, seed companies, nurseries, and hatcheries being sold out. Hopefully more people will start reading Small Farmer’s Journal, too! We are including a cartoon we came up with, about people all moving to the city, and now, with the pandemic, maybe moving back out to the country!
An extra thank you to Kema Clark who helped us when we called to order 12 back issues, a large box arrived in the mail, and we are having a lot of fun looking through them! Well, this letter was to to end about here, but since there’s still a page and a half of blank paper, here’s another story or two about our horses.
Sokkull – “He ain’t dead yet!”
Because their farm was selling, the horses needed to be moved out, but we weren’t quite ready yet. Our friends who had told us about them generously offered to keep the horses at their farm, with their Icelandics, for a few weeks while we finished fencing and stalls. When we arrived to help move them we were warned “Now this might take a while, because we can’t push Sokkull too hard if he doesn’t want to load, he could go down from the stress.” We were all a bit worried. However, when loading time came, he walked happily into the trailer, almost eagerly. “Oh boy, a trailer ride! Wonder where we’re going?” Prinsessa also loaded without any problems. When we got to our friend’s farm, they put the horses in their round pen. As we turned them loose, we noticed a herd of horses in the large pasture across the road. Our friends explained that their neighbors are breeders of Gypsy Vanner horses. As we watched, several mares and foals walked towards the fence to check out the newcomers.
Sokkull noticed them, and suddenly remembered he had been a stallion. He pulled himself up, sucked in his belly (which is a little saggy), arched his neck and let loose with a whinny “Yoohoo, ladies! I’m over here!” We all burst out laughing with amusement and relief. “Yep, he ain’t dead yet!”
Just then a huge Gypsy Vanner stallion came marching out from behind the mares – “What’s going on out here?!”
Sokkull took a look at him and deflated a little. “Uh, nothing, nothing to get excited about big fellow, just saying hi!”
When we were deciding whether to take the horses, one of our concerns was if we’d really be a good home for them. After all, their old farm had actually been set up as a riding school, with a huge barn, run-in sheds, an indoor arena, beautiful, clear, smooth, neatly fenced pastures. They were older horses, could they really adjust to our place, with our steep, brushy pasture, much smaller barn, and a bunch of sheep and goats running around? The only livestock they’d been around for the last several years was other horses. We were discussing it out behind the barn. “I’m just worried that things here might be too crazy for the horses”. “What do you mean?” Four sheep and a goat went flying by, kicked-up rocks clattering on the barn wall, then turned and bolted into the paddock, sheep springing four feet in the air, goat rearing and butting. “That! You know they said Prinsessa can be a little more nervous.” Well, after seeing her standing like a rock in the middle of a gate, while four wild sheep were flying between her legs and the gate post, we decided that the horses are fine with, and even entertained by, the other animals. She didn’t even appear startled, just turned her head to watch the sheep, puzzled. “Why are they in such a hurry?” Sometimes when she has a mouthful of hay she will even let the sheep steal little bits right from between her lips!
We could write a lot more but had better stop, since this page is almost full and it will soon be time to go out and feed everyone! Once more, thank you for all your work, and we hope all is well for all of you there!
(Now also known as ‘Horseholders’!)