Apryl Veld – Omineca Express
If you like hanging out with horses but don’t have one, you are in luck.
The local draft horse club is inviting people without horses or with them to join up. They meet regularly on horsey outings which include horse-drawn wagon and sleigh rides or even cultivating a field with horse-drawn implements.
“You don’t have to have a horse,” says Jon Olson, chair of the Yellowhead Draft and Driving Horse Association, “We need people even to help others on and off the wagons … we have all kinds of postions that need filling.”
Plus you’ll learn how to harness horses and drive them eventually. Olson believes lots can be gained through becoming a member.
“You meet people and learn interesting things,” he said.
They’re going to have their annual general meeting at Braeside Hall, this Saturday March 17 at 4 p.m. which will include a potluck supper, information session, and a welcoming of any who are considering membership.
Many in their group know how to rig horses with everything from a sleigh, wagon or plow, and they enjoy sharing skills with new members as much as they do working with the experienced driver.
But consider yourself warned. You may not be able to stop once you start.
“When people join, someday somebody will hand you the reins, and once you experience that you’re hooked,” he says with a laugh.
Olson knows first hand. “I took a job in Barkerville … first just as a footman, then one (driver) had to leave and I got to drive.”
For Olson there was no looking back. You may have seen him or others giving rides around Vanderhoof. Olson said they love to pull festive floats in Parade of Lights. Perhaps you’ve taken a wagon ride on heritage day, or at the fall fair. In December they come to town and give people sleigh rides, he says as their way of giving back to Nechako Valley businesses who support the clubs around town.
“People love to see the Percherons and the Belgians come out … to hear their bells ringing,” the horse driver expressed.
They hope the rides help attract people to shop in Vanderhoof, which is already blessed with lots of small-town charm.
But most of all, they would like to make it easier for people who have physical challenges to come on rides. The draft horse folks hope to make a wheelchair accessible wagon. This became more apparent when they were picking up some seniors and a lady could not come because they couldn’t get her chair into the wagon.
“It felt terrible to have to leave someone behind,” Olson said, “these are our pioneers and they tell the best stories when they come … there’s a lot of history there.”
Local elders remember riding in horse wagons and sleighs from childhood, Olson explains. So if the club purchased a hydraulic lift, then no one would miss out on re-living memories or making new ones. The group also wishes to expand the variety of horse drawn equipment. Olson suggests the club can add some neat gigs to their collection, so if you have a cutter or a surrey in the barn, you might want to bring it along. Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry.
“You don’t need lots of fancy equipment,” he noted, “we cater to people who don’t have everything but do have the time to get involved.”
Heavy horses are not needed for most of what they do. A light horse is suitable for harness work, he suggests.
“Even for ploughing, (in the past) most people just had the same horse they road to church,” he says, “One of our members has a miniature mule.”
Another goal of the club is to have cutter rallies and races.
Club members find ways of fitting in and there’s different ages in the group.
“We sit around the campfire after and tell stories, and at the end of the day it’s just about having fun and making memories.”
So it doesn’t matter if you can’t tell a hames from a crupper or where to place a martingale (harness parts.)
They’re hoping the horse fever will catch from Bulkley Valley to Quesnel. This year the association wants to have an equine fair for Vanderhoof on the June 8-10 weekend. It would be something similar to the Main Event horse fairs in Chilliwack and Red Deer. This one would hope to include a harness clinic, silent auction and dance. All they need are more horse lovers … would that be you? Yay or neeeeiigh?