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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Jimmy was a quiet, reliable horse and a good mate to work with.

Submitted: October 27, 2016

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Submitted: October 27, 2016



The boss called me into his office.

‘I have a large order for larch cattle yard rails,’ he said, ‘I want you to extract them with old Jimmy.’

‘Hang on,’ I protested, ‘I’ve never pulled logs, rails or posts with a horse before!’

‘Yeah, I know.’ Smiled Jack, arms held up to stop my protest, ‘I’ve seen you in the paddock with Jimmy and Queen. You seem comfortable with them. Remember old Bill Hayward? He’ll come out of retirement to give you a couple of day’s training.’

I wasn’t too sure about all this but I knew I couldn’t get out of it, and old Bill was a good hand with horses.

‘Theo will be with you, he doesn’t like horses so he will do the felling and trimming work. They’re just thinnings, but you know with larch there can be a lot of hang-ups so you might need to pull some down with the horses.’ Jack explained.

‘Horses?’ I picked up on the plural, ‘I thought it was just Jimmy!’

‘No,’ replied Jack, ‘Queen too, work them half a day each.’

I rode Jimmy leading Queen out to the larch stand – uncomfortably I can tell you, with my legs sticking out because the horse was so wide. Jimmy seemed to have a placid temperament but must have had an sense of humour because he tried to wipe me off by walking close to every low, overhanging branch along the way. Queen had her halter on and plodded along tethered to the rope I was holding, but I didn’t even need to hold her, she put no weight on the rope. She would have followed and I think she enjoyed working. Earlier I had asked and was told that Jimmy was blind in his right eye because some idiot had thrown a bad-tempered pinecone at him!

Theo and Bill travelled in the truck with the gear and some bags of chaff, so when I arrived there, Bill had the collar, hames and other gear – leather and chains – all laid out ready. He had strung out some barbed wire to make an enclosure where there was good grass for the horses to overnight or to wait while the other one was working. He said that it would be easier to set up Jimmy first and told me the names of the all the paraphernalia and advised me not to use the bit on either horse. I found the process of preparing Jimmy to be easy enough and Bill was a good teacher because of his rapport with horses.

‘Jimmy will pull when you tell him to so just follow him along the skid track and he will stop at the skid-site, he’ll even pull the butts up so they’re nice and even.’ Bill explained. ‘If the logs snag, he will stop for you to clear them. But not Queen, big strong bitch she is! She will pull until whatever it is frees up or something breaks. You have to keep out of her way too! She broke my leg once running over me! When you hook on, she hears the click of the chain in the hook and she’s off! You have to watch her all the bloody time.’

‘Great.’ I muttered.

Meanwhile Theo had been felling the trees and roughly trimmed them ready for extraction. Jimmy could haul four or five pieces at a time and it was down to my judgement as to how to group them together, sometimes with Jimmy, sometimes with my own muscle and grunt. I managed just fine and soon Bill left me to it. I found it was best to work Queen in the morning while I was fresh and more alert to her idiosyncrasies but actually both horses worked very well for me and progress was good.

A couple of months passed by.

‘There’s a surprise for you in the paddock.’ Jack grinned and he followed me out to watch my reaction.

There was a huge, brown gelding standing there eyeing my approach!

‘They sent him from Beaumont, they reckon he’s too stroppy,’ explained the boss, ‘but I told them you’ll handle him. His name’s Jock.’

‘What!’ I exclaimed, ‘How am I going to train the big bugger?’

Jack just grinned.

The next morning I rode Jock out to the job and considered him fairly placid. The big horse stood quietly while I fitted all the gear and then I led him into the bush. Jock didn’t take too kindly to a load of rails behind him! As soon as he felt some weight, he bucked and kicked until all the gear was either loose or hanging off him. Patiently I retried, offering soothing words and must have replaced the gear twenty times until I came up with the idea roping Jimmy beside the big horse. I had to widen the snig track a bit so they could fit side by side. At first Jimmy pulled a load while Jock walked along beside him, apparently unconcerned about the gear on his back. After a few dummy runs, I hooked one log onto Jock and Jimmy had a full load, no worries. For the rest of the day Jimmy just walked beside a loaded-up Jock. Jimmy enjoyed no load and Jock behaved himself as if he had been pulling logs all his life, so I was pretty chuffed!

There was no need to use reins, I just allowed Jimmy to teach the bigger horse. The horses worked together pulling the logs out to the skid-site, more or less on their own and that’s how it was done! Jimmy just knew what was required, presumably somebody must have taught him years ago.

I took no credit, Jimmy trained Jock and within a couple of days I could totally trust the big fella to work on his own!

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