1994, I was visiting an Amish friend of mine, whom I will call Sam for our
purposes here. Sam had just gotten a new horse, and so our conversation
turned to things equestrian. Sam had owned various horses, sometimes
purchasing them from a dealer who got them from the racetrack.
We talked a little about Samís last horse, Susie, which he had
purchased in 1982 for $800 from its former owner. She was 11 years old,
and so was broken in as a carriage horse. Susie was often the subject of
some good-natured joking....
You see, Samís wife had passed away several years ago, and he now
lived alone in a small house. Susie was kept in a stable area connected to
the house, not unlike the garage you and I have for our cars. Sam has many
non-Amish friends, who often bring visitors with them to meet him. Before
going for a visit, these friends sometimes told their guests that while at
Samís house, they might run into Susie, who lived with Sam even though
he was not married. Susie was good-looking, and much younger than Sam.
They went on to tell their friends that most people never saw Susie
because she was forced to stay in a separate part of the house. If they
wanted to meet her, however, they could ask. Of course, no one informed
the visitors prior to their arrival that Susie was a horse!
So, if one of the visitors asked to meet Susie, Sam would get a twinkle
in his eye, and ask them to follow him. One visitor even combed his hair
prior to meeting Susie! Naturally, there was much laughter when the
visitors discovered who Susie really was.
As our conversation continued, Sam told me that he had owned three main
horses and at least two in between which he didnít like. When Susie was
starting to show her age, he needed to look for another horse. He often
watched a neighbor boy drive by with a horse, and Sam liked the way it
looked. So, although not getting his hopes up that the boy would part with
it, he finally decided to inquire.
The boyís father agreed to sell to Sam because the horse had some
balking problems. The owner suggested Sam take the horse for a trial
period to see what he thought. Sam liked the horse, felt he could overcome
the balking, and the sale was made.
And this brought our conversation to the balking horse story. Sam said
there was an Amishman who had a horse that would balk and stop dead in the
middle of the road. The man went away one day and told his sons not to
take the horse and carriage anywhere.
But "boys will be boys," and they decided to go out for a
short ride after father had gone. Sure enough, the horse stopped, and
refused to move. One boy had the less than brilliant idea of building a
little fire under the horse to get it to move. The horse moved all right,
but just a few feet, placing the wooden carriage over the fire!
Luckily, the boys got the horse to move before much damage was done,
but the boys had some explaining to do when their dad came home later that
Sometimes a father will buy a horse for his son, which may not be fully
broken in. Samís first horse was bought young (4 years old) and trained
to the boyís liking. Sam had him for 17 years.
Not all horses purchased are accustomed to being around cars and
traffic. One family tied their horse in the pasture right by the road
until he got used to the cars and trucks going by.
Horses can be bought from other Amish who deal with them, from someone
who wishes to sell, or at a sales barn auction. The most well-known
locally is in New Holland every Monday. Some horses may sell for several
There are two gaits, pacers and trotters. They may be either standard
or saddle bred. Trotters hold their head up high as they trot, one foot in
front of the other in a sort of prancing style. Pacers sway from side to
side as they go down the road. Occasionally a pacer can be made to trot,
and some trotters are more for show (style) than for speed.
Sam told me about one horse he had owned that would constantly eat its
bedding. Sam threw some peanut shells down to discourage the horse from
this habit. Besides, this way, when he cleaned out the stall, he could
just throw everything on the garden as natural fertilizer. But the horse
seemed to like the peanut shells, too.
Samís veterinarian told him that he was concerned the peanut shells
might give the horse the colic. So, the vet suggested trying some red
pepper with the peanut shells so the horse wouldnít eat them. Sam bought
some red pepper and sprinkled it on the peanut shells. The horse tried it
and seemed to like the peanut shells even better that way!