Saturday, May 13, 2017

Amish Horses 101


If this is the first time you've visited the Amish Horses Blog, you may not know much about Thomas Nye and his Amish horses. Let me give you a quick background about how a guy like myself ended up learning the art of driving horses from Amish farmers.

I was born with a love for horses. Although I grew up in town, I always managed to find a friend with a pony. So much so, my step-dad teased, "Are you only willing to make friends with someone if they have a horse?" This step-dad of mine grew up in Idaho, and he took our family out west to visit his cowboy brothers every summer. These experiences continued to drive my horse obsession.

Photo on left: Thomas Nye ( age 3 and wearing my favorite hat)

The photo below was taken on my step-uncle's ranch in Idaho.
(little Tommy age 7)

The first time I saw an Amish person was in my nineteenth year of life. I moved to Iowa near an Amish community and was instantly infatuated by that lifestyle. Maybe it had something to do with my love of history and interest in other cultures. More likely, it had to do with the fact that horses are the foundation of Amish life.

This habit of choosing friends who have horses is still an issue with me. LOL

My first friends in Iowa happen to be an Amish family. They took me along to Amish church, Singings, volleyball games and other social events. When they made hay, I offered to help.

Thirty-six years have gone by, and I'm still fascinated by the Amish lifestyle.Within months of my transplant into Iowa, I had my first horse. The photo on left: yours truly ( age 19 and seated on Gulfawn.)

The fist 10 or 15 horses I owned were riding horses. However, I kept watching my Amish friends doing fieldwork with draft horses and a growing urge to get my own team finally got the best of me.

One day, I randomly stopped at my Amish neighbor's place and asked, "Do you know anyone with a team of horses they might be willing to sell?" He sent me down the road a few miles to another Amish farm. I'll never forget the first day I walked into that huge barn, filled with draft horses. For a complete description of what I experienced there, check out my novel, Under the Heavens.

Here I am with my first team. (Lucy and Sally) My Amish friend predicted these older mares would teach me a lot about working with horses in harness, and he was right.

This kind Amish man seemed amused that I wanted to learn his trade. He patiently taught me how to harness and hitch a team of horses, filling me in on many safety issues. We hitched to a wagon, and he handed the lines over. That did it, I was hooked! My heart never returned to the modern world, entirely.

 The team I bought were mares and had colts the next spring. When I took the mamas back to my Amish friend's farm to visit his stallion, he kept my mares for several weeks and used them in six-horse hitches with his horses. Every time I stop in to visit with my Amish friends it is as if I slip back in time a hundred years. My Amish friends continue sharing valuable advice and I pass on their wisdom in my novels. Amish daily life is glorious.

Over the past 25 years, I've owned a number of draft horses which I bought from several Amish families in our community. Each family taught me a little more about horses and these experiences warmed my heart more than I can say. There is nothing quite like being on an Amish farm.

I took this picture of Karma and Karla last evening. I'm still driving horses and writing novels about my wonderful experiences with Amish friends.Whispering to Horses

If you love to read Amish novels, you will get a slightly different view through my books. They are rugged enough to hold a man's interest and sweet enough to make a woman smile. I promise I'll take you on a tour of an Amish barn with rough-hewn timbers, wooden stalls. and rich aromas of alfalfa hay. Then, we'll head out through the gate into lush green pastures. Climb on the buggy seat, and we'll head down a country road listening to a steady clip-clopping of horse hooves under a twinkling, star-filled sky, or through an early morning mist. Experience the peace and tranquility of Amish life. A simple life Under the Heavens.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Still Making Fence


This isn't my most exciting blog, but for those who follow Amish Horses, here is an update.

Yes, I'm still making fence. After spending a solid week pouring over edits in my newest novella, Cowboys and Amish Girls, I went straight to work making this fence.

Last week I shared pictures of my draft horses pulling these corner posts to the far edges of my property. The posts are all set and painted now.


You can see the edge of my pasture where it meets up with my brother-in-law's farm fields. When my wife saw this picture she asked, "Did you get some of the white paint in your beard?"

"Nope, that white is a sign of my aging wisdom."

The fencing material I'm using is called Hot Coat. I first noticed this type of fence while on a book tour in a heavily populated Amish area of Indiana. It's high tensile wire, coated with a white plastic that will conduct a shock. Amish farmers use solar powered fence chargers to keep their fences hot.

We have a local Amish business that sells Hot Coat. Evan's Sales and Service is just down the road from my favorite Amish bakery, Golden Delight. (of course every time I go to get parts for my fence I have to stop and get a donut.)
 I put the fence where I wanted it and then have been questioning how wise I really am, to put a new fence next to an ancient ash tree. Hopefully when the tree does fall it lands in the opposite direction.

My horses still aren't grazing next to my new fence, yet. There will be plenty of horse pics with my new "Amish fence" in the future.

I do have a novella that is all about a fence between an Amish family and a modern suburb.
Whispering to Horses

Thursday, April 20, 2017

To Build a Fence


It's time for a new fence at the Nye home-place.

Karm and Karla were called on to help get the job done. I hitched the team and put them on my little hitch-cart. I bought this two-wheeled vehicle at an Amish farm sale when I got my first team of work horses. That was in 1993. It was old then, and it looks just the same as it did the day I brought it home 25 years ago.
I hooked onto a wooden sled (also known as a stone boat) rolled my logs on, and the horses pulled them.

 Karm and Karla hauled the logs and braces out to the corners of their pasture. I rented a post-hole-digger from a local rental place and made some deep holes for my large corner posts.

In the photo below, you can see my old electric fence, Karla grazing, my pickup truck, and the post-hole-digger.

Once we got our equipment in place, the horses were sent out to pasture, and I put a gas engine to work.

I now have my corner post set. If it ever quits raining, I'll get back on this project and share some finished product photos.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seasons of Life

 Well, it's time to give the final rose, as they say on the Bachelor show. If you have been following my blog over the past few weeks, you know about my conundrum.

I was given a choice between two amazing horses; one I've owned for the past nine years, the other a full sister to my favorite horse.

Karla (Karm's sister) gets the rose. I have to say, there was a lot that went into this decision.
 Karma and Karla relaxing in the sun.
The first time I hitched these sisters together, it was amazing! They had been a team until Karm was seven and it seemed clear to me that they are perfect for each other.

Coke is such a social creature and seems way happier at the Amish farm with a crowd of buggy horses around her. I asked my Amish friend if Coke raised a fit when she realized that Karm was gone. He said, "Not at all. But when I hitch the team and take them to the field, Coke and one of the buggy horses call back and forth to each other." She has a new best friend.

Ancient Greek philosophers concluded: Change is the only constant.
Seasons of life come and go. Many of us remember taking a new job which altered a connection with our fellow workers. Maybe that new job took us away from family or dear friends, but we knew it was best for our future. Have you ever needed to wean a baby or a colt? It seems so difficult at the time, but in the end, it is best for everyone involved. Our life is made up of seasons that are passing. Coke, Karm, and I had a season together. We learned from each other and grew to love and respect each other. Our time together was never permanent. That season is over, for now. Karla had a season with her Amish friend and other horses. His season of farming is over, and so is his time with his horse. It is time for my friends and me to embrace a new season, which also will someday pass. Wonderful memories of our times and seasons live on forever in our hearts.

When I brought Karma and Karla home a few days back, it was a difficult moment. Karm trotted through the paddock looking for Coke, much like a mare when her colt is weaned from her side. She stood at the gate, looking off in the direction of my Amish friend's farm and whinnied. I went into the house and shed a few tears myself. At that moment, I thought that I would go and get Coke as soon as possible.

A few days passed and Karma and Karla began to form their new routine together. When they seemed comfortable, I hitched them together in harness and the moment was golden. I took a video on that day, and I will share it with you. The moment seemed to declare that this was meant to be. It was time to usher in a new season. A season with Karma and Karla, sisters and friends.

(All of the photos on this post are Karma and Karla)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Horseman Bachelor/Bachelorette

In reality, it is both wonderful and terrible to choose between a group of beautiful girls.

I get to keep all four of these dolls in my life, they're my daughters. However, over the next few days, I need to make a decision that is about as tough as anyone on the Bachelor show has had to face.

It turns our that I have to choose between four amazing Percheron mares. It may seem like a wonderful opportunity, and it is. But, it's also a terrible dilemma.

Let me give you a quick history in how I fell into such a burning ring-of-fire.



Between my home place and Kalona lay ten miles of rolling Iowa farmlands. Most of the farms are Amish owned. Yes, it is a virtual paradise for a man who loves draft horses as much as I do. So much so, that I wrote three full-length novels about my experiences in this heavenly place. If you have read my first book, you will know what a kind, gentle horseman Grandpa was. My Amish friend that I bought Karm and Coke from is about as close to Grandpa as he could be. Every time I step onto his farm I learn something new about horses.

My Amish friend is at a transition point in his life, he is going to be moving into the "grandpa house" and his son-in-law will be the main farmer. He wanted to borrow my horses back one last time before that happened. While they were at his farm, all four mares got a chance to be reunited. My friend told me that I could take home whichever two horses I want. They are all four amazing. I didn't hesitate to say, "I'll take my own two back home." There was one huge problem, though, one of the horses is a full sister to Karma, the best horse I've ever owned. My Amish friend and I had many conversations about it, and we both agree that Karm and her full sister make a better match in multiple ways than Karm and Coke. You see, Coke is a beautiful horse but she is a handful. Much like a sheepdog that needs a full-time job, Coke needs to be hitched often to keep her out of mischief. She will get that if she stays on the Amish farm.

Since all four horses were happily reunited, and I had the tough job of separating them again, I decided that I might as well give Karla a try. I brought her home on a ten-day trial basis. What I didn't see coming was that I was about to fall into the same ring-of-fire every man on the Bachelor show falls into. I fell in love with multiple girls and I can't have them all.

Over the next few days, I will have to give a rose to one of these two beautiful girls and say goodbye to the other. I am in a most wonderful and terrible predicament. Pray for me and I will let you know what happens in a week, or so.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Horse Reunion

Kallie, Karla, Karma, and Coke

Coke, Karma, Karla, and Kalley
My horses spent the past several months at a "horse reunion."

My Percheron draft horse mares, Karma and Coke, were born and raised on my Amish friend's farm.These four horses are all closely related, and they hadn't been together since I brought two of them to my place about 9 years ago.


When not squeezed together for a picture, these stalls are perfect for big teams.
 The middle two horses in these photos are full sisters. My friend (I won't mention his name for privacy sake) helped me squeeze three big girls into one stall so I could get a photo of them.

My Amish friend is an amazing horseman and one of the nicest men you could ever meet. He likes these horses every bit as much as I do. He kept Karm and Coke over the winter and was really excited to get all four mares together again. He used to drive the full-sisters as a team until I took Karm home with me years ago. He had an idea, he thought maybe we should try putting the two sisters back together and the other two horses actually match well. I decided to give it a try. We haven't traded horses, yet, but we are considering it.
Karm and her full sister Karla
So, after several months of all four horses spending time together on my friend's farm, the reunion is over. I now have Karma and her sister Karla at my place. They are so much alike! I do miss my good friend Coke and I can tell Karm does as well. It's a tough decision to make, and I will keep you updated on what we end up doing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dreaming of Spring


 Spring is my favorite time of year. The whole world is resurrected with a burst of new life after laying dormant through long winter months.

When spring arrives little Amish girls will run and play barefoot in Mommy's garden, pick raspberries and climb fences.

In Pennsylvania, little Amish girls don't wear coverings but usually have tight braids wound in coils behind their ears or tied together at the base of their neck.

Over the rest of Amish America, girls wear coverings from infancy. When working or playing on the farm they are often seen with headscarves. Don't rule out the possibility of seeing a little Amish girl with braids running around the yard. But rest assured, Mommy will tie on a scarf or pin on a covering before they leave the lane to go somewhere.

 These little girls are searching Grandma's raspberry bush for early fruit and helping themselves to a snack.

Just looking at these pics, taken two springs ago, makes me start dreaming of spring, again.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, garden tea, bees buzzing, baby lambs, and even dandelions seem welcome at this point.
(By the way, these are pictures of my own granddaughters, Lyla and Kinley, and were photographed with permission from their mommy) They were in these Amish made dresses for the purpose of a cover photo. If you want to see the finished product of the photo shoot, click on the link below.