4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

4Shoes BackStory

4Shoes Farm has been my fondest wish since I could remember. Long before the dream actually came to be, my desire to be surrounded by magnificent horses was satisfied in racetrack backstretches. Living 24/7/365 in a small room above the stables & sharing a communal bathroom, working as a professional groom was one of the highlights of my life. There is nothing that can quite compare to being completely immersed in horses as a way of life; I deeply treasure those learning experiences. Later, I  was an owner. Later still, I worked for an A Track, & then for the Racing Commission. I led the professional life of my dreams &, to this day, I can think of nothing more satisfying than the excitement & exhilaration of actually having lived my sport for so many years.
A reality of owning &/or care-taking of racehorses is that, regardless of their athletic prowess or lack thereof, eventually they all must retire from the sport on January 1st of the year they turn 14. More than one special horse that I might have liked to hang onto was claimed away on a race night, or retired from the sport (for whatever reason) & was placed into a new home as riding &/or driving horse. While it was never too hard to find a good horse a new life, it was always hard to see them go.
The time came for a particularly special mare to retire, but I really just didn't want to part with her. Right about that same time I was extremely fortunate to meet elderly Uncle Wally who had bred & raised Quarter horses &
Belgian drafts until into his early 70's. In exchange for light maintenance work & house-sitting over the winters, I had full use of his barn & pastures. Uncle's place was barely a mile from our driveway -- but that gorgeous acreage could never really be ours.
Fast forward some...
My first impression of the entire Interlake region was rather... dismal, to say the least.  We were shown around to unsuitable place after horrible place. Was the realtor even listening to us?  A last minute addition to the viewing list suddenly spoke to Mr. Shoes; I could barely hear a hint of whisper.  
It was a rough & raw looking quarter section left fallow for over 20 years.  Dense thickets of willow & poplars almost completely choked out more of the land than not &, where there was not bush, a healthy strip of peat bog sported countless cat-tails.
I struggled to find positives -- the house itself was nice enough (if a little small), it had a triple size workshop, there was a single new Ritchie waterer in a good spot, & the entire quarter had been newly fenced with 4 strands of smooth, horse friendly fencing. 
Looking over the wild of snarls of bush & bullrushes, the property's best potential was certainly well hidden. I wondered to myself if it was even possible to reclaim this land from Mother Nature anytime before I would die of old age. 
To me the place looked like an enormous, money-sucking risk & very clearly a given that it would take our small family literally years of hard work to get it to the point where there could be more good things than bad to say about it.
"Cut 'em a cheque.", said Mr. Shoes as I quietly raised my eyebrows in his direction & looked around dubiously at the spoils of the past 100 or so years littering the grounds. 
Born into a farming family but with no farm to inherit, if we really wanted the life, my only choice was to trust in Mr. Shoes' vision.
Fast forward a few more years...
This once neglected chunk of land has been slowly transforming into a showcase of manicured lawns, tidy little pastures, shaded woodland riding trails created by Mr Shoes, & crop fields restored to productivity after decades of reverting to wilderness. 
From a state of decline, the 4Shoes has come back to glory again sporting good hay crops, housing & feeding miniature Hereford cattle, a couple of pigs in the pen each year, meat rabbits, & laying hens. 

I no longer keep racehorses, but because my life would not be complete without horses, I do keep a few beautiful Morgan horses.

Maintenance & further improvement projects never seem to end (like any small holding I suppose), but we are proud of the 4Shoes. I guess we'll be staying.

For those who may wonder...
The origin of our farm name was inspired by a keepsake from a special bygone horse; his very first set of shoes is prominently displayed on the tack room wall.
I would love to hear how YOUR farm or property got its' name!

44 comments:

  1. It was nice to visit.... I am your newest follower.... on email and google +. I found you after you commented on my post on Gentle Joy Homemaker. How fun to hear of your work search for and finding your farm/ranch. We are in the city... hoping to get to the country... we still have 5 kids at home and would love to move before any more kids leave home, so we can build memories there also. :) Not planning to do horses (well, the girls would LOVE to! :) ), but would like to do fruit trees, lots of blueberries and other bushes. Our 1/4 acre in the city feels a bit tight after 20 years of adding things and people!

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    1. Thanks for coming by Joy; it's so nice to be friendly neighbours. Your blogs are beautiful & well written - I know I'll be back to visit often.

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  2. Great post & story!! It must be so rewarding to reshape rough land into a thriving homestead! My hubby reads my blog & recently asked "Who is Mrs. Shoes? " now I can share where your farm name came from! We are still trying to figure our land name out...sigh.

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    1. I had saved that set of shoes for a long while, so we knew what the name would be before we ever saw the farm.

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  3. Interesting story. I went ahead and got some Ariat Fat Baby boots at your suggestion, and am working on a post about them.

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    1. Oh Nuz, I hope you love them like I do; they are 'all-occasion' footwear for me.

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  4. Such a lovely story- I love hearing how people get where they are. I totally get looking at property after property to find 'the one'. Mr Shoes is very wise.

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    1. He is, but I doubted him at the time. Right again Mr Shoes.

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  5. Quite an interesting story. And I never knew racehorses had to be retired at 14.
    I like hearing backstory everyone's is so different.

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    1. I've retired a few who absolutely still had the desire, the talent, & the sound body to race much, much longer, but there are many more who retire (for various reasons) before 14.

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  6. What happened with the mare? Did you adopt her? That is really cool about the name--I never put that together--4 shoes--of COURSE! You'll have to share more pictures of the transformation when spring/summer kicks into gear so we can see some of the beauty. It sounds lovely--but not without a lot of work you've had to put in--which probably makes it extra sweet! I always boarded my horses until 2002. My parents always told me they'd buy land, but they didn't. So, I got a job in high school and bought two horses. I boarded at a western barn--team penning, team roping, cow sorting--every night of the week something was going on there. I was heavily influenced by western. Eventually, I wanted to save money and I started to rent a pasture with a barn near my home. Through the years, I went back and forth between the western barn (with NFR size indoor arena) and pasture. As more of my family got involved with horses, we eventually had 5--and that was when we took the leap to a horse property in 2002. We bought a beautiful, spanish style home, dilapidated--falling apart--but good bones. The whole family pitched in and fixed it up to where it was gorgeous and then we switched jobs and had to move. We only owned it for a year and half, but made $100,000 for our effort. We came up here, where we are now, and overpaid for our current home because we were desperate to find one in 30 days before closing. We moved goats, horses, cats, dogs, and all of our junk up here to a house with an unfinished basement, no fences, no grass, no driveway, no barn. Then, we had the 2nd snowiest winter on record. We had to go to the dairy next door, fill up 55 gallon drums with water, and haul them home to our horses. (We did get a pole barn up before the snow flew--but we've never fully finished it.) We had electric wire everywhere. The horses broke on their 2nd day and headed to the main highway. A neighbor caught them. We had 4 electric cords hooked together and heading to the water tank. That winter, they got buried, and one had a light. When the snow started to melt and then turned to ice, we could see the light about 2 feet under, but somehow the whole contraption continued to work and we survived. We still have a long way to go--especially since the basement we finished flooded this winter, but my new tack room is coming tomorrow, and that will be a good start. Someday, I hope to have a fully functioning, beautiful place. It's not shabby right not. Well, it is, but only because of the darn basement.

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    1. Yes, I took that mare from the track to Uncle Wally's, and she made the trip here also. She is 23 now (though you'd never know it) & is a much loved safe packer to a family with 4 horse crazy children. She is brushed & treated more than she's ever ridden, but she's happy with her retirement.
      You took a pretty big hit during that flooding & it's devastating (I know) but I know things are slowly getting back to normal there, despite the anxiety & upset.

      I'm excited about your tack room coming because I know there'll be stories but now, I confess, I'm also really curious what stage you left off in the barn & if you still have plans to finish it?

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    2. We never finished the stall fronts or the stalls themselves. They still have dirt floors. This summer, we're going to level them off, put down gravel & mats. I'm not sure we'll get to the stall fronts this summer, but it is on the list. I'm more concerned about getting a 12x36' run in for them to largely keep them out of the barn.

      We didn't finish the tack room either. I've been using my trailer tack room for all the saddles. Now that I'm getting an enclosed, separate one, we'll probably just leave that "as is" and store the supplements, stall cleaning tools, halters/leadropes.

      We did, eventually, put in electric/heated waterers to all the stalls. That has been really nice.

      Let's see. Our breezeway is dirt--I had hoped of one day putting in the brick pavers. That is unlikely to happen.

      One of our stalls was the "goat stall", but we're going to finish that one off this summer and open it up to a horse stall so that it will be an extra big convalescing stall with large yard.

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  7. I'd love to see more pictures of your property. It sounds awesome. A lot of work but it sounds like you found a diamond in the rough.

    We searched for years and one property after another didn't cut it. Finally we had an appointment with a realtor and directions to a farm. As we were driving past the white fence of this farm I said to my husband,"wow, look at this farm,wonder if it's the one we're going to see?" He said to me "yeah, in your dreams, don't count on it!" After all the bad stuff we saw we were expecting another dud. Color us surprised when it did turn out to be the farm we were going to see. We bought it and the rest is history as they say. There's still work to do but it's perfect for us.

    Love the story how your ranch got its name. There's always that one special horse.

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    1. I love your white fences & you have such lovely views around your place.
      If I had know what would be possible once Pinterest came around, I'd have saved a lot more special sets of horseshoes! ;-)

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  8. Looks very lovely. It takes awhile to call a place a home and I think your finally home.

    Have a great day!

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    1. Truthfully, I didn't stop wishing that this place was in my home province until just a couple of years ago. We'd been here years at that point; Boot finally said to me that as long as I kept finding fault, I'd never be really happy here. Wise words from the peanut gallery. But he was right - the 4Shoes is just where it should be 7so, I guess, are we.

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  9. I want to know more about the mare & your property too!! Fun reading everyones story! The short undramatic version of our land story is: my husbands family farm that surrounds our house got sold outside of the family (after we asked about purchasing). There are many layers leading up to the sad ending. After three years of searching for our own farm, I found a one line sale ad on craigslist. Never bought a thing off that site, except our land. Fits the saying "go big or go home"!! Altho I had my hesitations, I knew we would end up buying it. We will never forget that day (it was extremely cold) or the spot they stopped the truck to look across the property, when I saw my husbands eyes light up. As you know, we are building from scratch and eventually moving there with our four horses.

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    1. I've been following your barn building pretty religiously, maybe I should tell the story of our barn build & the restraining order that went with it.

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  10. Mrs Shoes, what a fabulous story! Sounds glorious. (And I love your description on Google page: "Janis Joplin aspiring to Olivia Walton"! And I thought *I* was a strange combination!)

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    1. More Janis than Olivia, I'm afraid; but I can belt out a tune.

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  11. Mrs. Shoes, I was happy to stop by and pay you a visit today, and wow, I love your story! There is nothing in this world quite like being able to carve out your dream. I'm curious about the barn raising & the restraining order and hope you will post the story! Have a lovely rest of the week!
    ~Laurie
    MyHusbandHasTooManyHobbies

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    1. Hmmm, not quite sure where I had mentioned that incident, but it's true and maybe I will talk about it here sometime.
      Definitely when I look around the 4Shoes I can see the improvements we've made, but lingering behind I always see the ghosts of what this land was, & what it will be unless people who love it stay on. We have maybe another 40 years to be guardian of the 4Shoes, after we're gone, who knows?

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  12. Thanks from Grammy Dee, #WednesdayAIMLinkParty, social media shared.

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  13. Hi Mrs Shoes, what a story! I'm thinking about it for days: It seems that I'm quite at the opposite end by just abandoning my 'little property' for the Ponys. I never got this far with the dreams like you and I admire the bravery and diligence you and your family have. I'm looking forward for your stories and wish you all the best!

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    1. Sabine, you're one of my very favourite online friends; you flatter me, especially when I know that you are a HIGHLY successful business woman. You cannot know how much I admire what YOU do with your ponies; they have a blessed life, all 3 of them.
      For anyone who has never read about Sabine & her running ponies (also, of her tech project, SLAP - See Like A Pony), do go visit her blog, Friendly Hairy Creatures, which you can find in the sidebar to the right, Happy Trails to Ride.

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  14. Stopping by to take a gander at your blog. Your story is very interesting and I'm looking forward to learning more about you and your life.

    Rena
    www.finewhateverblog.com

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    1. Hello Rena, & Welcome to the 4Shoes.
      Though I am almost always in work or riding clothes, I do love your sense of style!

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  15. What a great story! You have certainly had an interesting life from past to present. So glad you've been able to create a place that is truly your own.

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    1. It's true, my life has gone from fast paced & exciting to........ well, to a more relaxed state in a very different place. But it's come to feel like our place in the world.

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  16. Very nice story and I hope you can continue your passion. Glad, that you found peace in your world.

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    1. In the middle of nowhere, peaceful is the norm. :-)

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  17. What a wonderful story!! Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to comment, letting me know that you visited!!
    Hugs,
    Deb

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  18. I laugh about farm names because ours is...unique. The Lowe Farm--but we're the Olivers. It's the name of the original family that owned it, that our family bought the farm from in the 30s...and one reason we kept it is because everyone knows "that" piece of property from the name. "you go past the old Lowe Farm and turn right at Woodland church..." or "we planted the Lowe Farm with beans this year." The other reason is because Old Man Lowe is literally buried in the middle of our pasture. That was one of his agreements to sell. We have a little picket fence burial ground in the middle of our field. The name confuses people sometimes, but we enjoyed keeping the history.

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    1. I'm totally looking for some pickets & a good spot now!

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  19. Everything looks so nice and peaceful! Wonderful!

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    1. There's that 'peaceful' word again; can't disagree.

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  20. Enjoyed reading about your farm! We are horse owners as well. Our farm was a commercial cut flower farm when we purchased it. It was July when we looked at the farm for the first time and the fields were in full bloom. It was the most beautiful farm I had ever seen and so La Bella Farm which translates to the The Beautiful Farm was born.

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    1. Wow, I can just imagine that sight, fields on fields of flowers in bloom!

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  21. Your land looks beautiful. I'd imagine all the hard work is worth the relaxing atmosphere you have :)

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    1. It's a never ending cycle, to be straight forward. When we bought the place it had only been fallow some 20 years & that had been enough that we had to really fight to reclaim the place from reverting completely back to a wild state.
      There is a place down the road some where the owner died 10 years ago & the property has been unused since - the outbuildings are collapsing & the house.... actually needs demolishing by this point; it's awe-inspiring & kind of fearful to see how quickly a working farm can be swallowed by the wilderness.

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