I had a request to write more about what I am doing with Girl, so here is that post for this time. I do now have the Oxen a Teamster’s Guide by Drew Conroy and I quite like it, but to be honest, I am falling back on my working with and training horses from my youth more then anything.
So Girl is a mixed breed calf, being half holstein and half limousin which means that she has parents in both breeds that tend to have very good temperments, and she herself is smart, gentle and willing to be worked with and also willing to work by this I mean she appears to look forward to going to work and comes to be caught and have her halter put on, does not fight her harness and steps right in line with me.
So when I got her at 3 weeks old, I halter trained her and began lead work with her as well as foot/body work.. touching, teaching lifting of feet, using natural flight zones to teach her to swing, always using the same commands while working with her in her barn, or stall, tethering her up both in the barn or outside for short periods of time, so that she learns she has to hold. That was the basic’s for the first two months, then at the age of four months, we stepped it up.
I made her a baby harness out of a 100 feet of nylon strapping, steel rings and heavy duty clips, and began teaching her to wear it and walk with it.. we started working with a touch still (it is only used to help with direction or to stop, NOT used in any way as a whip etc) and begain working her on lead on walks, and teaching, Yup for start tckk, tckk for pick up the pace, easy for slow down, Wooo for stop, and gee and haw for left and right, Back for Back, Step up for just that.. over for swinging right and Swing for swinging left to get into postion for loads..
That right there another month of steady work, after about two weeks of that, I ran lines down and started working her from behind at times, leading at times and then put a hitch behind her and again worked teaching her how to keep her hitch behind her, how to step in and out, then I attached a log to the back off her lines and she spent a week learning to drag something that didn’t matter to me if she sent it flying or kicked at it while learning.. but in truth it only took a few days to get her to settle right back down..
In the meantime still brushing her down, picking up feet and creating future manners in the barn in regards to being a family milk cow as well as the farm’s draft animal to be, which includes waiting in your certain station to get your morning and evening feed etc.
Then I finally harnessed her, hitched her and had her pull her first baby load, by hauling the 3 person sled filled with a few tools and toolbox from the house to the barn.. That may sound simple but really it was a big deal because it was done right.. she stood while loading, started her load, moved at the pace I wanted, took direction and woo’d on command and stood while we unloaded..
And that is where we are still at.. I hope to continue working with her this winter to get her to the point of being able to haul a small stone boat in regards to moving things from the barn to the gardens, and for skidding out small tree’s. She is very much a baby and I am not asking for long work periods nor really heavy pulls while she is a wee one, but there is no reason she can’t do light work that has been checked to fit her weight requirements. What she weigh’s is how you figure out, how much she can pull, plus condition and what you are using to have her pull, clearly having her pull a loaded sled is alot less work then pulling a tree part that has drag etc.
Hope that helps.. Now if I could just convince her that my wool coat is not tasty I would be happy camper at the moment..