Saturday April 29, 2017 was the date for the annual Spring Plow Day sponsored by the Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association. Held at Saunderskill Farms, Accord, NY, under cloudy skies, the event went off without a hitch (or with, as the case may be)! The location was perfect, as Saunderskill Farms is easy to find, right off Route 209, and yet the event was far enough back across the fields to provide privacy and quiet from the road.
A wide array of vendors were present as visitors began to arrive. Despite overcast skies, the weather was comfortable and scores turned out for the big event, which included plowing demonstrations by draft animals — including horses, oxen and mules. The vendors, which were lined up through the fields provided hot lunches, drinks, baked and preserved foods, gifts, craft items and many farm-related offerings. Cornell Cooperative Extension and 4-H was on hand to provide information as well as answer any questions visitors might have, and live music lent a festive note to the occasion.
There were many attractions that kept the children busy — including a “corn box,” similar to a sand box but which contained whole corn which proved to be just as much fun — but less mess and dirty clothing. One of the most popular attractions for children and adults alike of the well-planned event were the petting zoos — which provided the opportunity to meet goats, sheep, ponies, chickens and ducks up close.
An especially popular pair at Spring Plow Day were 18-year-old Kaleigh Hamel and her miniature trick pony, Little Lady. The tiny 175-pound equine was very docile and friendly, and was a big hit with the children. Kaleigh hails from Montpelior, VT, and is the trainer of Braveheart Beasts oxen and horses. She specializes in oxen, and offers both group clinics and one-on-one lessons with drafts.
Kayleigh brought her six-year-old twin Holstein oxen, Simon & Oliver, who stood quietly and calmly on the grass. She impressed those who attended the Plow Day by riding bareback on the gentle giants — at times standing barefoot on their backs armed only with a long switch she used to keep the flies away.
Spectators at the event wandered from trailer to trailer, inspecting the draft horses, which ranged from Percherons to Haflingers. A pair of beautiful gray Percherons from Milton, NY, were of special interest, as the gentle giants were in fantastic shape despite their ages of 31 and 36 years. Marshall explained although they are mostly retired, they still work three-four hours a day from time to time, and he attributes their good health and condition to an excellent feeding and nutrition regime.
A pair of Haflingers owned by Dwayne Arnold started the plowing demonstration; Dwayne had a third Haflinger offered for sale.
Dave Garibaldi and his mules did well on their turn plowing the fields, and were ably assisted at times by Dave Denman, of Pine Bush.
Rick Gray was on hand with his portable sawmill and docile Percherons who skid logs and were not bothered at all by the sounds of the sawmill. Rick, who lives close by, and his horses provide hayrides from time to time at Saunderskill Farms.
But on this day it was a team of oxen that was kept busy all day providing wagon rides, to the delight of many who attended the annual event. In fact, this year there were more oxen than ever at the event, which pleased Robin Jurechko, 11-year member and current Secretary of the Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association. Robin explained the organization is comprised of those who own draft horses as well as those who do not, and when she became a member she was teased because she had brought along not a draft horse, but an ox. For years Robin was the only member with oxen to show or participate, but that number slowly increased through the years to the point where at this year’s annual Spring Plow Day, there were a total of 11 oxen present!
The HVDHA is always looking for new members, whether or not they own draft horses — and monthly meetings are held as well as a number of fun events. They especially would like to encourage more young people to become involved.
On the calendar, the June event is an Auction at Lawrence Farms in Newburgh at 7 p.m.; in July and August many of the teams in the association will be exhibited at local county fairs — the Ulster County Fair in New Paltz, and the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck. September and October calendar is taken by the Annual Harvest at Saunderskill Farm this year held on Oct. 3 when the draft animals will return to do a harvest demonstration. November and December will have meetings and potluck suppers.
For more information, contact Robin Jurechko via email at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 845-294-9016 or 845-657-2032.