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Traditional farming methods highlight Rama Draft Horse Field Days

Threshing display at Rama Draft Horse Field Days brings back fond memories for participants and spectators alike

RAMA - After enduring the disappointment of having the event postponed the previous weekend due to wet field conditions, participants and spectators alike were pleased to be greeted by dry and relatively pleasant weather for the PALS (Performing Arts and Leisure Society) Draft Horse Field Days in Rama on September 4 and 5. Organizers estimated there were just over 50 spectators on Saturday, and approximately double that on Sunday.

Walter Hughes, PALS president, said it felt good to once again be hosting the event after an absence of two years due to COVID. The gathering celebrates farmers who broke the land in this area and farmed it with horses, putting in countless hours of hard work to clear the bush off the land and then grow crops.

“We have about 10 to 15 volunteers who work hard to organize this event and enjoy doing it,” said Hughes. “But most of us are in our seventies, and we need younger volunteers to start taking over. My Dad Mel passed along a lot of knowledge to me, and I hope to do the same for the next generation. We try to help people that are interested to get started, and not get discouraged. We show them how to be safe.”

One younger volunteer who has answered the call is 24-year-old Jeff Pinder, who grew up around horses on a farm near Okla.
“I enjoy just about everything at this event,” said Pinder. “I love the horse life, the clean air and the hard work. It’s a way of life that’s going to be lost if we’re not careful. But at some point, I would like to save up money and acquire my own team of horses to bring here.”

Demonstrating his fondness for hard work, Pinder helped with pitching sheaves of oats during the threshing demonstration on Sunday. Vern Poworoznyk of Sturgis provided the McCormick-Deering threshing machine, which he estimates was built somewhere between 1920 and 1925.

“It’s borrowed from Pete and Bill German of Sturgis,” said Poworoznyk. “I like to take it to community events and run it for the people. It’s mostly original, except the belts have been replaced. You can tell it’s one of the older units because it still has steel wheels. Rubber tires were used on most of the newer models. Threshing brings back good memories for everyone on how things used to be on the farm. I’ve also had it in Preeceville, Sturgis and Stenen.”

One unavoidable aspect of any threshing demonstration is dealing with unexpected delays. Shortly after the start of the Rama demonstration, the threshing machine unexpectedly ground to a halt. Closer inspection by Poworoznyk revealed the problem.

“A wet bundle of oats had been fed into the machine by mistake and plugged it,” he explained. “But we got it unplugged and after that the threshing went really well.”

The tractor used to drive the threshing machine was a late 1940’s model Massey Harris from the PALS collection. Hughes said it’s one of the many pieces of classic farm equipment which has been donated to PALS and rebuilt over the years.

The oats crop in the threshing display was grown on a small nearby plot of land on the grounds in Rama. The crop was cut with a binder pulled by four black Percheron horses, driven by Niall Campbell of Bjorkdale. Two of the horses were provided by Lloyd Smith of Pelly, and the other two by his granddaughter Morgan Wallington.

In addition to cutting the crop, the binder also ties the bundles or sheaves, which are then arranged into stooks, resembling small tipis, to allow the grain to dry before being picked up and threshed. The John Deere binder used in Rama is another item from the PALS equipment lineup. Hughes said after it was donated, it was pretty much completely rebuilt including replacing the wood and the canvasses.

One of the regular teamsters at the Rama event is Rae Rosenkerr of Preeceville with his team of Brabant horses, Fred and Barney, name after the popular cartoon characters. Of course, Fred is the taller one.

“They’re used to pulling, and easy to harness,” said Rosenkerr. “Brabants aren’t quite as big as the other breeds, so they’re a little easier to handle for me. At home I skid wood with them for our outdoor stove, and also use them for discing and harrowing the garden. At this event I love answering any questions people have about farming with horses.”

Rosenkerr said he finds farming with horses a lot less stressful than modern farming.

“I’m pretty sure I was born about 50 years too late,” he shared. “It used to be that farmers worked during the week, and then went to church on Sundays. And they had neighbours just about on every quarter section. Now, you might have to drive 20 minutes to get to your neighbour’s house.”

Royden and Val Crone of Humboldt came to the Draft Horse Field Days once again with their team of black Clydesdales, Bob and Pete.

“I love the fun of being here with everyone, it’s just like a family reunion,” said Royden. “I think COVID has made this one even more special, since we can appreciate what we’ve been missing after not having one for two years. And it’s so peaceful and relaxing. Instead of listening to the noise of a tractor engine, we just hear the horses.”

Cameron Last of Lintlaw, with his team of Clydesdales named Jade and Rialey, was participating in Rama for a second time. Last and his horses took part in a variety of activities, including doing field work with a double disc, as well as providing horse-drawn wagon rides around the Rama grounds.

“It’s fun to try different implements here and see how the horses react to them,” said Last. “I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with other teamsters, see if I can get some tips from them for working with my horses.”

Last was one of the teamsters who took advantage of the opportunity to run his horses through the skills course while pulling a wagon. The course was set up to test horses and drivers alike in maneuvering through tight spaces, cornering, driving around posts and backing up.

“The drivers and horses all benefit from trying the course,” said Hughes. “They’re not timed, so they can just focus on what they’re doing. We don’t give them much room for error, so it forces them to be quite precise.”

Teamsters taking part on either one, or both days of the Draft Horse Field Days were: Rae Rosenkerr of Preeceville (Brabant team), Royden Crone of Humboldt (Clydesdale team), Cameron Last of Lintlaw (Clydesdale team), Morgan Wallington of Pelly (Percheron team), Lloyd Smith of Pelly (Percheron team), Jillian Just of Yorkton (Clydesdale team) and Kristina Just of Yorkton (Clydesdale team).