Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Not the Tradition I Had in Mind...

Every family has holiday traditions, whether it is the food we eat, the people we share the day with, or other special things that become part of our annual celebrations.   One thing I have wanted to make a tradition here at the farm is taking a Christmas Eve sleigh ride with my husband, Dan.  We got the sleigh ready, I brushed Sara, my little Morgan mare, put on her fancy harness, and I even added a few pieces of Christmas garland for a festive touch.  We started out into the snow-covered hay field, and it was magical.  She trotted away with a pace which felt like we could keep all day.  The sun gleamed off of the holly-like tinsel, and the single bell I adorned her hames with jingled merrily. It was a picture worthy of a Christmas card. At least for the first round.  

She began to pick up a bit too much speed, and as I slowed her down, the strap around her backside tightened.  She hates this feeling, and before I could blink an eye, she began a kicking fit.  Pieces of harness and sleigh shafts began to break apart, and soon there was nothing connecting pony to sleigh besides my grip on the reins.  This caused me to fly from the sleigh, with none of the grace of Santa's reindeer, breaking the front board before I hit the snow-covered ground, face down.  Still Sara kept going.  I was now being drug on my belly behind her flying hooves, which suddenly seemed much closer than when I was safely aboard the sleigh.  My shoulders were now functioning as snow plows, and I couldn't see much beside those hooves. There was nothing to do at this point besides let go.  She continued racing across the field as I picked myself up and assured Dan that I wasn't hurt.  Sara turned around at the far fence and came galloping back toward us, but was in no mood to slow down and be caught, so I didn't try anything foolish like jumping in front of her.  She broke a gate and was into the barnyard.  By the time I made it down there, a switch had flipped, and she calmly trotted over to me so I could take her inside.  We stood there for a minute, catching our breath, and Dan arrived to help me unharness her.  She was ok; missing a bit of hair on her leg, but no blood.  Nothing would swell, and when we let all the horses out for an evening drink at chore time, she was prancing away from Dixie, just like any other night.  I have a fair number of bruises on my legs and knees and my hands have a bit of rope burn, but the skin will grow back, so no major harm to me either besides some major stiffness that will fade in a day or two.  The harness and sleigh are both broken, but both can be fixed.  We live near an Amish community, so we'll take the harness over to the Amish harness shop, where they will fix it like new.  I want to get a new set of lines and replace the nylon ones that burned my hands as well.  Dan is confidant that with a trip to Home Depot and a new coat of paint, the front of the sleigh will be fine too.  We had been meaning to replace that board anyway. Even the digital camera in my front hoodie pocket escaped intact! I remarked that at 24 years old, Sara should be too old for such episodes, but I'm very fortunate that she is still healthy enough to be bad.  I'm also happy that I did not get the sleigh bells I had been wanting for Christmas this year!

There was one major casualty in the whole fiasco.  My pockets had been filled with animal cookies to give to the critters as treats.  Snow + cookies = soggy mess.  However, my goats love cookies, soggy or not, so they cleaned them all up. Jerry was happy to take all the broken bits of legs and elephant trunks from the palm of my hand, and the whole herd was very pleased with their Christmas treats.

Now Dan and I are anxiously waiting for the Christmas ham, glazed with my mulled blackberry vinegar, to come out of the oven.  We'll have a feast of sides, like homegrown squash and frozen corn from the summer.  We hope your holiday is a merry one as well, completely free of sleigh wrecks and other fiascos, and full of love, good food, and happiness.

 Merry Christmas! 

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